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William C. Banks Discusses Trump Impeachment Trial on KPCC

Impeachment Latest: Dems Prepare To Make Opening Arguments After Senate Sets Trial Rules

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(KPCC AirTalk | Jan. 22, 2020) The U.S. Senate plunged into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with Republicans abruptly abandoning plans to cram opening arguments into two days but solidly rejecting for now Democratic demands for more witnesses to expose what they deem Trump’s “trifecta” of offenses.

Trump himself said Wednesday he wants top aides to testify, but qualified that by suggesting there were “national security” concerns to allowing their testimony. He appeared to break with Republicans efforts to block Democratic motions to immediately call witnesses and subpoena documents. Instead, Trump said he’d like to see aides, including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, testify as witnesses. Trump said he’d leave the “national security” concerns about allowing their testimony to the Senate.

Tuesday’s daylong session started with the setback for Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the president’s legal team, but it ended near 2 a.m. Wednesday with Republicans easily approving the rest of the trial rules largely on their terms. With the rules settled, the trial is now on a fast-track. At issue is whether Trump should be removed from office for abuse of power stemming from his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter as Trump was withhold aid to the country, and for obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

Today on AirTalk, we get the latest on impeachment as opening arguments are set to begin.

GUESTS:

  • Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News.
  • John Malcolm, vice president of the Institute for Constitutional Government and director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.
  • William C. Banks, professor emeritus of law at Syracuse University, he’s the co-author of “Constitutional Law: Structure and Rights in Our Federal System,” (Carolina Academic Press, 2018)
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Iran & LOAC: William C. Banks Joins ABA National Security Podcast

Iran and the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) with Bill Banks & John Bellinger

(ABA National Security Law Podcast | Jan. 6, 2019)

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Newsweek Quotes Professor William C. Banks on Iran Retaliation

IRAN’S SUPREME LEADER SUGGESTS FURTHER RETALIATION AGAINST U.S., SAYING STRIKES ON IRAQ BASES ‘NOT ENOUGH’

Newsweek | Jan. 8, 2020

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested Wednesday that Iran would take further steps to escalate tensions with the U.S., saying military strikes carried out against bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq were not enough.

“They were slapped last night, but such military actions are not enough,” Khamenei wrote in a tweet.

However, the Iranian leader’s post appeared to counter previous remarks by Iran’s Foreing Minister Javad Zarif, which suggested that his nation did not plan to further retaliate against the U.S. at the present time …

… William Banks, a professor of law, public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University, cautioned against further escalation in comments emailed to Newsweek.

“This is an escalation for sure but retaliation, revenge, or reprisals are unlawful at international law, not that Iran abides by international law,” Banks said. “The risks are that the U.S. will play along and some escalatory act will be disproportionate to the circumstances, leading to something far worse,” he said …

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Corri Zoli’s Expertise in Demand as Media Make Sense of Iran Crisis

Corri Zoli, Director of Research for the Institute for Security Policy and Law, helped local media make sense of the Jan. 3, 2019, assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the subsequent Iran Crisis, and what this US military action means for the security of an already volatile Middle East region.

SU Professor: “Something Had to be Done” to Stop Gen. Soleimani’s Influence in Middle East Conflicts

WAER | Jan. 6, 2020

“Something had to be done. Former General David Petraeus was in the news the other day saying, listen, we had to reestablish deterrence somehow because the moves were getting more and more audacious. Closer and closer to US civilian populations, closer and closer to armed forces.”

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SU Counterterrorism expert: Soleimani death may be more significant than Osama bin Laden

CNYCentral | Jan. 3, 2020

… Zoli says Soleimani had even greater military reach throughout the region. He was a man, Zoli says, who helped support unrest in Yemen, Syria and was a key figure behind insurgencies against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The IEDs were as a tactical strategy in the field was pioneered by Soleimani. So many American service members think of him as responsible for these,” Zoli said.

She says Soleimani was covert but calls him an operational mastermind who built an enormous infrastructure of terrorist groups throughout the Middle East …

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What Led to Airstrike That Killed Iranian Military Commander?

Spectrum News | Jan. 3 2020

“I think everyone is holding their breath in the Middle East right now, there’s significant concern that there will be increased conflict, escalation, dynamics that will involve retaliation,” said Zoli. “There’s no doubt that the US is preparing for that.”

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Professor William C. Banks Comments on FISA Reform for USA Today

A report on FBI surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser shows dysfunction, not political bias. That’s still a problem.

President Donald Trump has used the words spying, political bias, even treason to describe the FBI’s controversial surveillance of a former campaign aide.

“All the politics that surrounded the headlines of this story would rear their ugly head again … It could end up with more amendments to FISA that do more harm than good.”

A massive report released this week by the Justice Department’s watchdog didn’t back up any of those claims. But it did expose errors that hint at systemic problems with how the FBI conducts surveillance on American citizens suspected of working on behalf of foreign powers.

When investigators asked judges for permission to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, they provided documents that didn’t back up their assertions. A supervisor said he didn’t necessarily review the full documents to make sure they supported what the agents claimed, according to the report.

Investigators overstated the reliability of a former British intelligence officer whose information they used to justify the warrants. They described Christopher Steele as someone whose information had previously been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,” the report said. That wasn’t true.

These “basic and fundamental errors,” as the report described them, were made by investigators handpicked to work on a case that was sure to be scrutinized. They raise questions about the accuracy of more than 1,000 wiretap applications processed every year under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA …

… During Horowitz’s testimony Wednesday, several Republicans expressed horror at the FISA process, with some suggesting the law needs to be changed.

William Banks, a Syracuse University law professor who studies FISA, said congressional action could further insert politics into a process that should be free of it.

“All the politics that surrounded the headlines of this story would rear their ugly head again,” he said. “It could end up with more amendments to FISA that do more harm than good.”

Aside from the inspector general, who has promised more oversight of the surveillance process, Banks said the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, another independent agency that vets policies and regulations, can review the FISA process.

Still, some say Congress should take action.

“The system requires fundamental reforms, and Congress can start by providing defendants subjected to FISA surveillance the opportunity to review the government’s secret submissions,” Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said in a statement.

Aftergood agreed.

“This is a case where the existing procedures were not adequate,” he said. “The FBI needs to do some of that. I would say Congress needs to do a lot of it.”

Congress must renew certain provisions of FISA in March. If lawmakers want to rewrite laws in response to the inspector general’s report, that would be the time to do it, Banks said …

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Sinclair Speaks to Professor William C. Banks About Horowitz Report, FISA Reform

Amid partisan warfare over Russia probe, lawmakers agree FISA reforms needed

(Sinclair Broadcasting Group | Dec. 12, 2019) The release of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s long-awaited report on the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and its surveillance of a former aide to President Donald Trump’s campaign has fueled a heated partisan debate over the extent to which the 480-page document refuted the president’s claims of a politically-motivated conspiracy to spy on his campaign.

“For many of us who’ve been FISA people for a long time, it came as a surprise and a disappointment.”

But the political theater on Capitol Hill this week threatened to overshadow a central point of Horowitz’s report: that safeguards put in place to protect Americans from inappropriate government surveillance appear to have utterly failed multiple times and need to be fixed …

… Investigators obtained a FISA order to wiretap Page in October 2016 and the permission for surveillance was renewed three times in the following year. Horowitz’s review provided an unusually in-depth look at the applications and the evidence within them, and the results were troubling for national security experts, civil rights advocates, and many members of Congress.

“For many of us who’ve been FISA people for a long time, it came as a surprise and a disappointment,” said William Banks, founding director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and professor emeritus at Syracuse University.

When concerns have been raised about FISA in the past, proponents have often stressed how thoroughly FISA applications are vetted before they are submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. However, Horowitz identified at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” in the four Page FISA applications …

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SPL, CSIS Host Panel on the Future of US-Iran Relations

On Nov. 19, 2019, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, the Syracuse University Institute for Security Policy and Law (SPL) convened a panel of distinguished experts on US foreign policy to discuss the question of US-Iran relations. 

Titled, “Learning from the Past to Inform the Future of US-Iran Relations: On the 40th Anniversary of the Iranian Revolution and Hostage Crisis, What Lies Ahead?” the panelists were:

  • Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State and US Ambassador to Jordan, Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, the UN, India, and Russia
  • Thomas L. Ahern Jr., former intelligence officer and CIA Station Chief in Tehran
  • Osamah Khalil, Associate Professor of History, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University

The conversation—moderated by the SPL Director the Hon. James E. Baker—was timed to address the latest developments in US-Iranian relations and to mark a significant anniversary.

Referring to current events, the panel addressed President Donald J. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the “Iran Nuclear Deal”); the attacks in May and June 2019 on international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz; the Sept. 14, 2019, attack on two Saudi oil fields (widely attributed to the Iranian government); and the continuing humanitarian crisis in the Saudi-Iranian proxy war in Yemen.

November 2019 also marked the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran (Nov. 4, 1979). The embassy seizure began a 444-day hostage crisis, which ended in 1981 with a diplomatic resolution brokered by the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known as the Algiers Accords.

The insightful commentary from these experts, as well as a fruitful back-and-forth with the audience of foreign policy professionals and Syracuse alumni, explored the lessons that we can learn from the past in order to inform the future of this critical bilateral relationship.

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William C. Banks Comments to China Daily on Impeachment, 2020 Elections

Impeachment Seen as Impacting 2020 Election

(China Daily | Dec. 11, 2019) As the US House Democrats sought on Monday to bolster the case for impeaching President Donald Trump, analysts said the move would have political repercussions on the campaign trail even if the result is “impeached but not removed”.

Trump “constitutes a continuing threat to the integrity of our elections and to our democratic system of government,” Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said after the panel heard from House Intelligence Committee staff members on their investigation of Trump on Monday.

“Such conduct is clearly impeachable. This committee will proceed accordingly,” said Nadler, a New York Democrat …

… William C. Banks, a Syracuse University College of Law professor, said the scenario that Trump is subjected to a trial and ultimately acquitted may help him politically, but “only time will tell how voters react”.

“For those who believe in the rule of law and the importance of constitutional norms, his impeachment is nonetheless important because it upholds and reinforces the importance of those norms,” Banks said.

Banks, who co-authored National Security Law and the Power of the Purse, a 1994 book about tensions between the executive and legislative branches over security and spending, said there will undoubtedly be an impact on the 2020 campaign.

“Biden is of course central to the Ukraine scandal, and his testimony will be more damning of the president than harmful to Biden,” Banks said.
Banks also said it is impossible to know the immediate repercussions of the impeachment for Democrats in next November’s election.

“Trump continues to have a constant 40 percent approval rating, but given the electoral system, he could win again with less than a majority of votes. It’s too soon to tell,” Banks said …

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David M. Crane Publishes “Every Living Thing: Facing Down Terrorists, Warlords, and Thugs in West Africa”

David M. CraneDavid M. Crane L’80, Syracuse University College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence, has published a memoir of his time as Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL). Every Living Thing: Facing Down Terrorists, Warlords, and Thugs in West Africa—A Story of Justice is drawn from Crane’s personal journals and is the first ever detailed account written by a chief prosecutor of an international war crimes tribunal.

Appointed by then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, from 2001 to 2005, Crane—the first American since Justice Robert Jackson at Nuremberg in 1945 to be named the Chief Prosecutor of an international war crimes tribunal—worked with a team of intrepid investigators to unravel a complicated international legal puzzle. In doing so, he became the only prosecutor in the modern era to take down a sitting head of state for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Set in the ravaged West African country of Sierra Leone, Every Living Thing shows how multiple countries were devastated by an international criminal enterprise led by presidents Muammar Gadhafi of Libya, Charles Taylor of Liberia, and Blasé Compare of Burkina Faso, with an assist from a vast network of terrorists—including Al Qaeda—vying for the control of diamonds.

Following the creation of Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2002, a small band of lawyers, investigators, and paralegals changed the face of international criminal law with their innovative plan to effectively and efficiently deliver justice for the tens of thousands of victims, most of them women and children. Among those Crane indicted was Taylor, the first sitting African head of state to be held accountable in this way. Taylor was found guilty in April 2012 of all 11 charges levied by the SCSL, and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Writes Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “In Sierra Leone, David Crane masterfully built up a fully-fledged court, investigating and prosecuting some of the worst cases of international crimes and many of the most notorious war criminals of our era. He brought with him a deep commitment to justice, and genuine empathy for a country and people who had endured unbearable atrocities. The memoirs of this admirable and learned public servant will undoubtedly convey important lessons on how—and why—we must strive to deliver justice for all victims, even in the most challenging circumstances.”

 

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William C. Banks Reviews Impeachment Day 2 with KPCC

Impeachment Hearing: Day Two with Marie Yovanovitch

(KPCC Los Angeles | Nov. 15, 2019) On the second day of impeachment hearings, former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified before the House Intelligence Committee.

Yovanovitch was removed from her post in May by what she described as a “smear campaign” by the Trump Administration and the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yurij Lutsenko. Yovanovitch had clashed with Lutsenko over alleged corruption in his department, say Ukrainian officials.

Yovanovitch previously testified to Democrats behind closed doors last month that she was warned to “watch her back,” before being ousted as ambassador. She said that she was the victim of a “campaign of disinformation” by Trump’s allies working through “unofficial back channels.” She attributes her loss of position to her anti-corruption stance. Without sustaining any criticism from the State Department itself, Yovanovitch was removed from office in May.

Republican House members largerly wrote off the relevance of Yovanovitch’s testimony. California Representative Devin Nunes said she “is not a material fact witness.” But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff asserted that by removing Yovanovitch, Trump and his allies had “set the stage for an irregular channel” of foreign policy communication with Ukraine led by Rudy Giuliani to pressure Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden and the Democratic Party …

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