The Week That Was

The Week That Was: All of Lawfare in One Post

By Alex Potcovaru
Saturday, August 5, 2017, 7:26 AM

Jack Goldsmith reflected on the increasingly fractured nature of the executive branch: key administration officials frequently oppose or contradict President Donald Trump despite his considerable power to fire them. In a telling example, Benjamin Wittes noted acting DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg’s willingness to speak out against Trump’s abusive vision of law enforcement.

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared recently to be in danger of losing his job, it appears he will hold on for now. John Bies discussed who would step in to act as attorney general if Sessions is eventually fired by Trump.

After transcripts of conversations between the president and world leaders were leaked on Thursday, Paul Rosenzweig urged individuals to stop leaking. On Friday, Sessions held a news conference at which he announced new efforts by the Justice Department to crack down on leaks. Quinta Jurecic posted the livestream of the press conference.

Bob Bauer argued against recent suggestions to limit the president’s ability to fire the special counsel and criticized Congress’s “impeachment anxiety syndrome.” Matthew Kahn posted two bills introduced in the Senate on Thursday aimed at creating additional protections against the removal of the special counsel. And Rick Pildes considered whether Congress could simply codify the DOJ special counsel regulations.

Elizabeth McElvein reviewed polling data suggesting that public concern about the Russia investigation differs across party lines. Quinta Jurecic discussed the House Judiciary Committee’s recent, Reddit-fueled “resolution of inquiry” on a wide range of matters.

Benjamin Wittes also posted the latest episode of Rational Security, the “Send in the Adults” edition, in which the gang discussed John Kelly’s new role as White House chief of staff, Republican senators’ support for Jeff Sessions and the Trump Tower meeting. Plus, #BabyCannon has a new sibling.

After Christopher Wray was confirmed and sworn in as FBI director this week, Wittes and Nora Ellingsen analyzed the initial decision he will have to make about what to do with his deputy, Andrew McCabe.

Susan Hennessey and Wittes posted an excerpt from their open letter to Vice President Mike Pence, published in full on the Lawfare@FP feed, in which they urged him to “prepare to be Gerald Ford” in the case of Trump’s resignation or impeachment.

Keith E. Whittington examined the possibility of Congress impeaching an executive-branch official who is not the president.

Wittes, Mieke Eoyang and Ben Freeman introduced a new polling project on public confidence in government on national security matters and explained the initial results.

Ed Stein provided an overview of legislation signed into law Wednesday by President Trump that imposes new sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea. Jurecic posted Trump’s signing statement and public statement on that bill, H.R. 3364, known as the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.”

In this week's Foreign Policy Essay, Robert Litwak explained state-based strategies to deter nuclear proliferation among non-state threats.

Matthew Kahn posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Susan Hennessey’s conversation on FISA Section 702 with FBI General Counsel Jim Baker and Executive Assistant Director of the National Security Branch Carl Ghattas.

J. Dana Stuster posted the Middle East Ticker, covering the winding down of protests on Temple Mount, a Libyan cease-fire, the intersection of Hajj season and Gulf diplomatic crisis politics, and the Lebanese prime minister’s visit to Washington, D.C.

Stuster also interviewed Alex Vatanka, author of Iran and Pakistan: Security, Diplomacy and American Influence, on the history of the Iran-Pakistan relationship.

Elena Chachko analyzed judgments by the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the EU in two appeals regarding EU counterterrorism sanctions against Hamas and the Tamil Tigers.

Jurecic posted the White House’s letter to Sen. Bob Corker outlining the legal basis for U.S. airstrikes in Syria in May and June.

Kahn posted a statement from Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Mark Martins on the proceedings this week in the Abd al Rahim al Nashiri case.

Steve Vladeck discussed the D.C. Circuit’s approach to military commission mandamus.

Bobby Chesney and Vladeck posted this week's National Security Law Podcast, which covered writ of mandamus litigation in the D.C. Circuit, the recent Transatlantic Dialogue on International Law and Armed Conflict, and a discussion of civil-military relations.

Sarah Tate Chambers reviewed the Department of Justice’s seizure of the largest criminal web marketplace, AlphaBay, and the Dutch government’s similar seizure and takedown of the marketplace Hansa.

Randy Milch and Nicholas Weaver both assessed the “Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017,” a bill introduced on Tuesday by Sens. Mark Warner, Cory Gardner, Ron Wyden and Steve Daines. Weaver proposed three additions to the bill.

Peter Swire argued that online technology companies should not be regulated as public utilities, as White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has suggested.

Russell Spivak outlined the process by which Trump or Defense Secretary Jim Mattis might turn Trump’s tweet calling for a ban on openly transgender people from serving in the U.S. military into actual policy. The full post on Lawfare@FP is here.

Adam Segal introduced his paper on China’s increasingly activist cyber diplomacy and Mei Gechlik provided her paper, "Appropriate Norms of State Behavior in Cyberspace: Governance in China and Opportunities for U.S. Businesses." Both works are part of the Hoover Institution’s Aegis Paper Series.

Will Sellinger reviewed Power Without Victory: Woodrow Wilson and the American Internationalist Experiment by Trygve Throntveit.

And that was the week that was.