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Rational Security

The “You Want Her in The Line—You NEED Her in The Line” Edition

This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott were joined by Lawfare Legal Fellow Anna Bower fresh from the Miami court system to discuss the week's yuge national security news story—and one more for good measure:

  • “Aileen, Aileen, Aileen, Aileen! Please don’t take this case just ‘cuz you can.” Former President Donald J. Trump was arraigned in federal court on Tuesday, the first step in a criminal trial expected to be overseen by none other than our old friend Judge Aileen Cannon. Will the charges for unlawful retention or obstruction of justice stick? And where is the trial likely to go from here?
  • “It’s Arraignin’ Men.” The indictment of Trump in the Mar-a-Lago investigation is the first of its kind. But will it be the last? What else is the special counsel investigating? And are there other charges he might pursue, against Trump or others?
  • “Xi Guevara.” Washington is up in arms over a spy station China is setting up in Cuba—or might have been operating for years. How big a deal is this? Are the reactions high-minded or hyperbole?

For object lessons, Alan stuffed his chubby little face with Turkish delight. Quinta recommended the new climate change publication Heatmap. Scott urged listeners to try a version of one of his favorite recipes for farmer market season, the unlikely spicy mushroom larb. And Anna recommended that anyone who finds themselves in Miami in serious need of a coffee fix try out a colada coffee.

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  • The “Sara-FIN” Edition

    This week, Quinta and Scott were joined by Lawfare colleagues Eric Ciaramella and Saraphin Dhanani, the latter for her last episode of RatSec before departing Lawfare, to break down the week’s big national security news stories, including:“UNGA UNGA Party.” President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy made back-to-back addresses to the U.N. General Assembly, which is gathered in New York for its annual summit this week. What should we make of their statements? Might this be a turning point for the conflict—and, if so, in which direction?“Et Tu, Modi?” Canada has leveled a serious allegation against the government of India: that it was directly involved in the recent assassination of a Sikh separatist leader (and Canadian citizen) on Canadian soil—something that promises to complicate U.S. efforts to bring India into the fold as a balance to China. How credible are these claims and what might they mean?“Ransomwhere?” The Biden administration has struck a deal with the government of Iran, exchanging several imprisoned Iranian nationals and $6 billion in frozen oil revenue for five U.S. nationals held by Iran and their spouses. Is this negotiating with terrorists, a new opening for Iran negotiations, or something else entirely?For object lessons, Quinta recommended Tyler Austin Harper’s penetrating review of Richard Hanania’s “The Origins of Woke.” Eric also went the critic’s route and passed along Gary Shteyngart’s withering review of Walter Isaacson’s new Elon Musk biography. Scott urged anyone with a junior mycologist at home to run out and find Elise Gravel’s charming “The Mushroom Fan Club.” And Saraphin gave a double-headed finale: BBC’s controversial documentary “India: The Modi Question,” which has been banned in India; and David Brooks’ recent article, “How America Got Mean.”
  • The “We Need to Talk About Kevin ... Again” Edition

    This week, with Scott traveling, Quinta and Alan were joined by Lawfare Senior Editor Molly Reynolds to break down the week’s big national security news stories, including:“What is Impeachment, Really?” Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has announced an impeachment inquiry against President Biden seemingly with the goal of finding something to impeach him over. Will this do anything to hold back the right flank of McCarthy’s caucus from coming for McCarthy’s speakership? “The Investigation of the Investigation of Donald Trump.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman and fearless Trump defender Rep. Jim Jordan has fired back against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over the Georgia state indictment of Donald Trump, announcing that he’s planning to investigate Willis for engaging in what he terms a politically motivated prosecution. Willis has responded by accusing Jordan of seeking “to obstruct a Georgia criminal proceeding.” What kind of authority, if any, does Congress actually have to conduct this kind of oversight?“Still Musky.” A new biography of Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson has sparked controversy thanks to Isaacson’s description of a decision by Musk to turn off Starlink coverage near Crimea to block a Ukrainian maneuver. Isaacson has already walked back his own reporting … but the incident still raises questions about Musk’s power on the global stage and his ability as a private actor to shape the course of war. For object lessons, Alan recommended the novel “Song of Achilles.” Molly shared a PBS documentary series about the Troubles called Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland, and Quinta shouted out the HBO documentary series Telemarketers.
  • The "2nd Anniversary Hot Take Takedown" Edition

    This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott celebrated the second anniversary of Rational Security 2.0 by bringing back everyone's favorite game show edition: the Hot Take Takedown! But this year, instead of being contestants, they sat in judgment on the following hot takes from their Lawfare colleagues:Molly Reynolds, on whether there will be a government shutdown this month;Tyler McBrien, on what should happen with overseas U.S. troop deployments; andBenjamin Wittes, on who will be held accountable first, Russian President Vladimir Putin or former President Donald Trump.Which of these hot takes will be deemed too cold, which too hot, and which just right? Listen in to find out!Meanwhile, for object lessons, Alan shared one of his new favorite uses for superfluous fruits. Quinta shared just the sort of story you expect to hear out of Burning Man: alleged Jan. 6 co-conspirator and criminal defendant Jeffrey Clark casting judgment on former Deputy Solicitor General (and beanie-wearing Burning Man attendee) Neal Katyal. And Scott urged even non-vegetarian listeners to check out the new, updated edition of Peter Singer's classic work on animal rights, "Animal Liberation Now!"
  • The “Gone ‘Til September” Edition

    This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott reunited to talk through the week’s big national security news, including:“Pack Your Knives and Go Home.” Vladimir Putin’s top chef has been eliminated. Wagner mercenary chief and Kremlin caterer Yevgeny Prighozin was killed in a plane crash this past week alongside a number of associates, in what the government has conceded might have been a deliberate act. If this was Putin’s revenge, what led him to take this step now? And what will it mean for his Wagner mercenary group—and the stability of Putin’s regime?“The Down Mexico Way.” At the first Republican presidential primary debate last week, there was surprising unity around one point: using the military to go after drug cartels in Mexico, whether it cooperates or not. What should we make of the villainization of America’s southern neighbor? And how realistic are these sorts of proposals?“(Re)Movin’ On Up.” Mark Meadows spent this past Monday trying to move his prosecution for crimes relating to 2020 election interference from Fulton County, Georgia, to federal court, so he can claim a form of immunity stemming from the Supremacy Clause. And some of his co-defendants are not far behind. What should we make of these arguments? Are they likely to succeed?For object lessons, Alan recommended literary puzzle box and joy to read " Trust" by Hernan Diaz. Quinta shared the HBO show, "How to with John Wilson." And Scott dug into the historical archive to endorse Stanley Karnow's "Vietnam: A History." 
  • The “Damn Danville!” Edition

    This week, Quinta and Scott were joined by Lawfare Executive Editor Natalie Orpett to break down the week’s big national security news stories, including:“Home to Roost.” A judge in the military commission trying Abdul Raheem al-Nashiri, a suspect in the 2000 USS Cole bombing, has ruled that his confession is inadmissible on the grounds that it was tainted by his prior torture and interrogation at the hands of U.S. officials, even though the confession itself was extracted from a non-coercive “clean team.” What does this mean for the future of the Nashiri trial? And of the military commissions as a whole? “Disqualification, Qualified.” A pair of leading conservative constitutional scholars has reignited the discussion surrounding Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, arguing that it is self-executing and excludes former President Trump from the presidency. How persuasive are their arguments? And what impact will they actually have on the 2024 election?“A Distinctive Musk.” The New Yorker has run a profile of Elon Musk, focusing in substantial part on the complicated but central role he and his company SpaceX have come to play in Ukrainian military efforts, despite his frequent flirtations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. What should we make of Musk’s important role in national security affairs? And are there better ways for the U.S. government to approach it?For object lessons, Quinta shared a profile of the weirdest Jan. 6 co-conspirator to date. Scott endorsed the new true spy thriller podcast series, “Spy Valley.” And Natalie shouted out her most recent favorite delicious treat, Nightingale ice cream sandwiches.
  • The “Donny with the Gold Hair” Edition

    This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott were joined by Fulton County correspondent Anna Bower to talk through the week’s big news down south, including: “Waiting on a Midnight Complaint in Georgia.” Late on Monday night, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis finally indicted Donald Trump alongside eighteen co-conspirators for attempting to interfere with the state of Georgia’s 2020 election results. What does this fourth criminal indictment mean for the universe of legal cases against the former president?“Hunter Becomes the Hunted.” Earlier this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland took the unexpected step of appointing Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss as a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden. What led to this move? And what does it mean for the investigation into the president’s son?“Why So CFIUS?” President Biden has finally issued a long-expected executive order installing some controls on outbound U.S. investments, particularly in relation to China and certain sensitive technology sectors. How big a deal is this new policy?For object lessons, Alan shouted out his latest favorite thriller about a bunch of falsely accused Brits, “Suspicion.” Quinta brought the listeners’ attention to an entertaining court transcript about “fleets.” Scott celebrated the late Paul Reubens’ legacy as Pee-Wee Herman, including his phenomenal 1979 debut on “The Dating Game.” And Anna endorsed her latest courtroom treat, Papa John’s Pizza.
  • The “Dog Days” Edition

    This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott beat back the heat to dig into the week's big national security news stories, including:“ECOWAShed?” We are now several weeks into a coup in Niger, a country once seen as one of the more reliable Western partners in the Sahel region and home to French and U.S. troops who have been helping the Nigerien military combat a local Islamist insurgency. Even as the Nigeria-led Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has threatened sanctions and intervention to unwind the coup, neighboring states like Burkina Faso and Mali with close ties to Russia and its Wagner Group have threatened a military response in kind. What might this coup mean for the future of the Sahel? And how should the United States be responding?“A Tale of Two Sittings.” Former President Donald Trump is now the subject of two different criminal indictments, each of which is being overseen by a very different judge in very different ways. What should we make of their divergent approaches thus far? And what does it mean for the effectiveness and legitimacy of the justice system in these highly polarizing cases?“KOSA, No Sir.” A bipartisan coalition in Congress has rolled out a new version of the Kids Online Safety Act, or KOSA, that seeks to respond to concerns raised by digital rights and civil liberty groups while still taking steps towards protecting children online. But many on the right and left aren’t having it. What should we make of this new proposal and the reactions it’s provoked?For object lessons, Alan invoked his father-of-a-son credentials to recommend Christine Emba's recent piece, "Men Are Lost. Here's a Map Out of the Wilderness." Quinta recommended the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett mash-up, "Good Omens" (the book, not the TV show). And Scott shared plans for his homemade improvised pizza oven, which he set up on his gas grill with just some fireproof bricks, two baking steels, and a heavy dose of grit.
  • The “Third Time’s a Charm” Edition

    This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott were joined by co-host emeritus Benjamin Wittes to talk through the week's YUGE national security news, including:“So THAT’s What the Insurrection Act is For.” Former President Trump has been indicted for conspiring to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, including through the insurrection on Jan. 6. And while they haven’t been charged, the indictment names six co-conspirators who were allegedly willing to go to the mat—including former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, who, in one of the darkest moments in the indictment, suggested that the Insurrection Act would be used to deploy the military against anyone who protests the Trump administration’s actions. What does this indictment mean, historically and politically? And where will the trial go from here?“The Spy Who Nagged Me.” The intelligence community is knocking on Congress’s door, hat in hand, asking once again for the renewal for the controversial-but-essential section 702 surveillance authority. But odds seem slimmer than ever this year, not least because the political dynamics around federal law enforcement and intelligence changed so dramatically over the course of the Trump administration. What are the odds of renewal? And what conditions are likely to come if it happens?“Hunter and the Fox.” President Biden’s son Hunter, who has wrestled with substance abuse and mental health issues, is back in the news for at least attempting to plead guilty to an array of criminal offenses—and for congressional testimony alleging that he parlayed access to his father into lucrative business deals. The stories have become a mainstay in conservative media circles and right-wing attacks on President Biden. But how much is smoke and how much is fire?For object lessons, Alan recommended the period thriller “Operation Mincemeat” and its focus on Colin Firth's double-breasted period suits. Quinta sang the praises of the Star Wars section at Disneyland, Galaxy's Edge. Scott endorsed “The Thief Collector,” a charming documentary about a real-world heist and a retired couple's dark double-life. And Ben celebrated his decision to bring "The Orb" out of retirement for the big Trump indictment.
  • The “Norpett Returns” Edition

    This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott were joined by the long absent Lawfare Executive Editor Natalie Orpett to talk through the week’s big national security news stories, including:“Next Fear in Jerusalem.” This week, Israel’s Knesset voted to abolish the “reasonableness doctrine” that had allowed its courts to review administrative decisions by the executive branch—a revolutionary move that triggered unprecedented protest around the country and a wave of resignations throughout the armed forces and other corners of the country. What is the significance of this change? And what does it mean for the future of Israeli democracy?“Rio Grandstanding.” The Biden administration sued the state of Texas this week for installing barriers across the Rio Grande river, purportedly to stymie the flow of unlawful immigration. Texas, meanwhile, maintains that it has the right to take these measures as part of its sovereign authority as a state. Who has the better of these arguments, and what does it tell us about the state of the law and politics surrounding immigration in the United States?“Gone Fishing.” Despite months of revelations regarding ethical shortcomings by its members, the Supreme Court has thus far resisted efforts to install stronger accountability mechanisms. But earlier this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted a measure (along party lines) that would force the Court to do so by directing it to adopt a Code of Ethics. Is this the right approach?For object lessons, Alan recommended that other weekend blockbuster, the new Mission Impossible movie. Quinta gave her (slightly qualified) endorsement to the Barbie movie. Scott wholeheartedly recommended the true winner in this year’s weird movie sweepstakes, the Dungeons & Dragons movie. And Natalie broke the movie streak to join the chorus of praise for the Libby app (hooray public libraries!) and to endorse Mirasa baby clothes, both of which she found a new appreciation of on family leave.