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Alex Whiting

  • Trump’s lawyers are ‘playing poker with Mueller’ as they wage a war on 2 fronts in the Russia probe

    June 5, 2018

    If the special counsel Robert Mueller finds substantial evidence that President Donald Trump was involved in criminal activity, the fight could play out on one of two battlefields: Congress or the courts. And in recent weeks, Trump's defense team has made it clear that it is prepared to duke it out with the special counsel in either arena...Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Harvard Law School, pointed out that while the question of whether a president can be subpoenaed to testify in a criminal proceeding is unresolved, most legal experts believe he can and that a court of law would most likely come to the same conclusion. He also pointed to the memo's bombshell admission that Trump dictated a misleading statement his son, Donald Trump Jr., put out in response to reports about his meeting with a Russian lawyer at the height of the campaign.

  • Class Marshals hold HLS banner at Commencement

    Camera-ready: Harvard Law School Commencement 2018

    May 25, 2018

    On Thursday, May 25, the Harvard Law School Class of 2018 received their diplomas at a ceremony on Holmes Field, and celebrated their graduation with family, friends, and picture-perfect New England weather.

  • Alex Whiting portrait

    Last Lecture: Alex Whiting on lessons from an unexpected relationship

    May 21, 2018

    Professor of Practice Alex Whiting chose a personal story for his Last Lecture to the class of 2018, one about the development of, and lessons learned from, an unexpected relationship.

  • Carol Stieker portrait

    Carol Steiker: ‘Choosing wisely is more important — and less important — than you might think it is’

    May 17, 2018

    Carol Steiker '86 began her Last Lecture to the class of 2018 by sharing the questions she is frequently asked by students--what electives and classes to take, what summer job they should seek--and the advice she gives them: “It doesn’t matter that much.”

  • Process as well as Substance is Important in ICC’s Rohingya Decision

    May 16, 2018

    An op-ed by Alex Whiting. On April 9, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, asked the Pre-Trial Chamber for an advisory opinion declaring that the Court has jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of some 670,000 Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The issue arises because Myanmar is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, and therefore the ICC would not ordinarily have jurisdiction over crimes committed on the territory of Myanmar by Myanmar nationals absent the specific consent of the state or a referral from the U.N. Security Council, neither of which is likely to happen anytime soon.

  • There’s no scenario where Trump could come out unscathed from an interview with Mueller, experts say

    May 3, 2018

    The release this week of a list of 48 questions the special counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask President Donald Trump leaves very little wiggle room for the president. If Trump allows himself to be questioned, "he is walking into a classic 'perjury trap' that will likely end his presidency," wrote Andrew Stoltmann, an attorney and CNBC contributor...Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Harvard Law School, echoed that point, adding that the questions about obstruction pose a high risk for Trump because they relate directly to his conduct. Moreover, "they are about very specific acts and statements by Trump, and in many cases he has already spoken about them," Whiting said. "So either he reaffirms statements or conduct that indicates obstruction, or he contradicts other witnesses and in some cases himself."

  • What Mueller’s Questions to Trump Reveal About the Future of the Russia Investigation

    May 2, 2018

    An op-ed by Ryan Goodman and Alex Whiting. What do special counsel Robert Mueller’s 49 questions for President Donald Trump tell us about the state of the investigations into possible obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and Russian “collusion”? 1. Big picture: What do Mueller’s questions indicate about the state of the special counsel’s investigations? First, Mueller’s questions about collusion show that it is likely that Mueller has already identified crimes involving collusion–such as a conspiracy to defraud the United States through an evasion of the Federal Election Commission–and Mueller is asking here only about Trump’s possible knowledge and personal involvement. In other words, the questions indicate that there is a “there, there.” That said, we want to be cautious here.

  • Pleading the Fifth Doesn’t Mean Michael Cohen Is Guilty

    April 27, 2018

    During a campaign rally in Iowa in 2016, Donald Trump criticized former Hillary Clinton staffers who had invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in the case involving her private email system. By pleading the Fifth, Trump suggested, they were admitting their guilt. “The mob takes the Fifth,” Trump told the crowd. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” Trump’s assessment has taken on new meaning this week, as his longtime attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen pleaded the Fifth in the civil case brought against him by adult-film star Stormy Daniels. But contrary to the president’s views, it should not be assumed that Cohen’s move is proof of criminal culpability...“People who assert the Fifth may be innocent, but may fear that the government might still find a way to use their words against them,” explained Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Harvard University.

  • A Trump-Mueller interview may be back on the table

    April 26, 2018

    An interview between President Donald Trump and the special counsel Robert Mueller may once again be in play. According to The Washington Post, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who is the newest member of Trump's legal team, broached the subject of a presidential interview with Mueller when he met with the special counsel on Tuesday...Mueller is mandated to provide reports of his findings to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed him as the special counsel in May 2017. But whether those findings are released to the public is Rosenstein's decision. Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Harvard Law School, said he found it "striking" that "Mueller seems to be preparing the report with an expectation that it will eventually become public."

  • Comey’s book swipes at Trump – but Mueller’s inquiry is the real threat

    April 15, 2018

    The first big interview with the fired FBI director James Comey is blazing toward a broadcast on Sunday night, but for the Donald Trump presidency, multiple meteors have already hit. In Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, obtained by the Guardian on Thursday from a bookseller in New York before publication, the former official casts Trump as both “unethical” and “untethered to truth” and compares his presidency to a “forest fire”...“There’s a clear pattern of the president seeming to think that the department of justice belongs to him,” said Alex Whiting, a Harvard Law School professor specializing in criminal prosecution issues. “And that’s deeply concerning. These threats to fire Sessions or fire Mueller or fire Rosenstein all fit into that."

  • Mueller has reportedly decided to move forward without an interview with Trump

    April 13, 2018

    The special counsel Robert Mueller's team is now moving forward on the assumption that it will not secure an interview with President Donald Trump, NBC News reported...Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Harvard Law School, said it wasn't surprising that Mueller will reportedly move forward without an interview with Trump. "I am sure that Mueller's team has enough evidence to draw conclusions on the obstruction prong without an interview with Trump," Whiting said. "An interview of the potential target of the investigation is always helpful, but most criminal investigations conclude without such an interview (because targets assert their Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify)."

  • Could Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Be Tried As A War Criminal? (audio)

    April 13, 2018

    NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Alex Whiting, a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Court and Harvard law professor, to get a sense of how war crimes charges against Assad could work.

  • Mueller is putting together a report in the obstruction case that could be as damaging to Trump as an indictment

    April 5, 2018

    The most important revelation in a Washington Post report out Tuesday night is not that the special counsel Robert Mueller told President Donald Trump's lawyers he isn't a criminal target of the Russia investigation. Rather, it's that Mueller is preparing a report about Trump's actions in office and potential obstruction of justice. Mueller is tasked with investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 US election, and a significant thread in the inquiry is whether the president sought to obstruct justice when he fired James Comey as FBI director last year...Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Harvard Law School, said he found it "striking" that "Mueller seems to be preparing the report with an expectation that it will eventually become public." He added: "Once the investigation is completed, I think it will be very difficult to keep Mueller's conclusions secret."

  • Here’s how Trump’s legal team may be falling short of the mark.

    March 30, 2018

    Talk has been circulating for some time now about President Trump’s legal team, with experts commenting that it appears to be inexperienced and hardly a match for the vaunted band of legal “killers” that special counsel Robert Mueller has assembled for the Russia probe...Good white-collar defense lawyers can see into the future — and that skill is only built by having done it before, said Harvard Law School Professor Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor whose career has also included leading prosecutions at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. “Complex federal criminal investigations are their own world,” he said. You need to know how these cases unfold. You need to know strategically how they may develop and how decisions you make today can affect other parts of the case.” Such cases can stretch out for years so the long-range view is key, Whiting said. “Every day you’re making decisions that will have impact one year, two years, and three years down the line.”

  • Revelations that Trump’s lawyer may have dangled pardons to Flynn and Manafort leave a huge question unanswered

    March 30, 2018

    The revelation this week that President Donald Trump's lead defense lawyer may have offered pardons to two key witnesses in the Russia probe raises significant questions. What was the motive behind the alleged offer? What was the response, if any? And most importantly: was the lawyer acting of his own accord? Or was it with the knowledge, and possibly at the direction of, the president?...Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Harvard Law School, said it was "unimaginable" that Dowd would have acted without the president's knowledge. "First, this isn't just any client and any case Dowd was handling," Whiting said. "You're talking about defending the President of the United States, and there's going to be much more care of what you do on behalf of your client."

  • Why Dangling a Pardon Could Be an Obstruction of Justice—Even if the Pardon Power is Absolute

    March 29, 2018

    An op-ed by Alex Whiting. While acting as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd reportedly discussed the possibility of presidential pardons for Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort in separate conversations with their lawyers. Reports by the New York Times and Washington Post on Wednesday suggest that Dowd’s intent might have been to influence Flynn and Manafort’s decisions on whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigations, but that legal experts are divided on whether Dowd’s offers could constitute obstruction of justice.

  • Trump doesn’t take anyone’s advice but his own, and now it’s coming back to bite him in the Russia probe

    March 27, 2018

    President Donald Trump is having a tough time finding new lawyers to represent him in the ongoing Russia investigation, and it may be because of his own doing. The turmoil started when Trump lost his top defense attorney last week..."Lawyers who might ordinarily [represent him] are unwilling because they see that Trump is unprepared to listen to the advice of his lawyers," said Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Harvard Law School. He added that Trump has "shown that he can turn on his staff and lawyers at any moment. It is hard to have confidence that you could represent Trump effectively under those circumstances."

  • HLS students explore public service and international law on a global stage

    HLS students explore public service and international law on a global stage

    March 26, 2018

    In February, five students from Harvard Law School were selected to join their peers from 10 other leading U.S. law schools in Washington, D.C. to explore the future of public and private international law at the sixth annual Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program.

  • Expert Q&A: The International Criminal Court’s Afghanistan Probe and the US

    March 26, 2018

    An interview by Laura Dickinson and Alex Whiting. In November, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, sought authorization from a panel of ICC judges to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan in relation to the armed conflict there. This request is of particular significance to the United States. That’s because although the bulk of the activity that is the subject of the request concerns the Taliban, along with some alleged conduct by Afghanistan government officials, the request also encompasses alleged crimes committed by U.S. military personnel and CIA officials.

  • Salisbury Response Option: Take Putin to Int’l Criminal Court

    March 14, 2018

    An op-ed by Ryan Goodman and Alex Whiting. What legal options are open to the United Kingdom in its response to the alleged Russian assassination attempt in Salisbury? A separate piece at Just Security will discuss whether the Salisbury assassination attempt triggers the United Kingdom’s right of self-defense to use force in response. That question has garnered the most attention of legal experts. There is another strong option to consider: referring the Russian agents, potentially including President Vladimir Putin himself, to the International Criminal Court.

  • Erik Prince may have lied to Congress about his Seychelles meeting

    March 12, 2018

    A shady meeting in Seychelles between a Trump associate and a Russian businessman is emerging as a focus in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — and raising questions about whether one participant lied to Congress about it. Erik Prince, a Trump booster who is the founder of private security firm Blackwater, met with Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian wealth fund manager with ties to President Vladimir Putin on January 11, 2017, in the Seychelles, an island chain off the coast of East Africa...Mueller, in the investigation so far, has charged others (former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos) with lying to federal investigators — not with lying to Congress. But the special counsel could use this as a chance to advance his case, and potentially win cooperation, says Alex Whiting, a professor of law at Harvard University. “I would not predict it,” Whiting added, “But it’s possible that that would happen.”