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Jack Goldsmith

  • Man sitting at desk cluttered with papers

    In Memoriam: Philip B. Heymann 1932 – 2021

    December 2, 2021

    When asked what he wanted to be remembered by, longtime Harvard Law Professor and former Watergate prosecutor Philip B. Heymann ’60 replied: “Speaking truth to power.” Heymann, a beloved colleague and distinguished public servant, died Nov. 30 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.

  • Trump strategist Steve Bannon indicted on contempt charges in Jan. 6 investigation

    November 12, 2021

    Steve Bannon, former President Donald Trump’s political strategist, was indicted by a grand jury Friday on two charges of criminal contempt for defying a House subpoena. ...Biden told reporters Oct. 15 he hoped the committee “goes after” people who defy subpoenas “and holds them accountable criminally.” Asked whether they should be prosecuted, Biden replied: “I do, yes.” Biden told a CNN town hall Oct. 21 that what he said wasn’t appropriate. He said the department would make its own decision about whether to prosecute. “I did not, have not, and will not pick up the phone and call the attorney general and tell him what he should or should not do in terms of who he should prosecute,” Biden said. Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor, tweeted that any prosecution of Bannon, which he considered legally justified, “will be tainted by Biden’s remark.”

  • Garland vs. Bannon Is Bidenism vs. Trumpism

    October 27, 2021

    Few people have made their names in Washington more differently than Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Republican political operative Steve Bannon. ... In the days and weeks ahead, Garland must decide whether to criminally prosecute Bannon, a step that could result in one of Trump’s top allies being sent to jail. Last Thursday, the House held Bannon in contempt for refusing to testify before its select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. ... Until now, the Justice Department has generally declined to prosecute former Administration officials who defied Congressional subpoenas... Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who served as a senior Justice Department official during the George W. Bush Administration, predicted that Garland will be criticized for whatever action he takes, saying, “Both prosecuting contempt and not doing so have downsides and will invite criticism.”

  • Inspector General Reform on the Table

    October 6, 2021

    An article by Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith: At the top of the list of those responsible for executive branch accountability in the 21st century are the statutory inspectors general that now populate every major executive branch agency. On Wednesday, Oct. 6, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs will consider three bills—the Securing Inspector General Independence Act of 2021, the IG Testimonial Subpoena Authority Act and the IG Independence and Empowerment Act—that would expand the independence and power of inspectors general in important respects. This post reviews the central reforms, urges the passage of one of them, and assesses the others.

  • Congress Should Seize This Chance to Get Its Power Back

    October 5, 2021

    An op-ed by Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith: House Democrats late last month introduced the Protecting Our Democracy Act — a bill to curb presidential power that has been widely characterized as a “point-by-point rebuke of the ways that President Donald J. Trump flouted norms,” as the New York Times put it. Trump did indeed aggressively flout norms, but this is a misleading lens through which to view many of the important reforms to the presidency in the bill. The truth is that the bill’s central tenets address problems that arose during recent presidencies of both parties, and that Congress as an institution should want to check. Consider the bill’s proposals to qualify the presidential pardon power by making it a crime to offer a pardon in exchange for a bribe. Trump issued a number of politically and personally self-serving pardons that many commentators thought might rise to the level of bribery. But former President Bill Clinton faced these criticisms at the end of his term after he pardoned Marc Rich, whose wife had previously donated $450,000 to the Clinton Foundation. In fact, the Southern District of New York instituted a federal criminal investigation. The PODA provision would have a powerful and salutary effect in prohibiting pardons as part of a bribery scheme involving presidents.

  • L.O. Natt Gantt

    Gantt named executive director of Program on Biblical Law and Christian Legal Studies at HLS

    September 13, 2021

    L.O. Natt Gantt, II ’94 has been appointed the inaugural executive director of the Harvard Law School Program on Biblical Law and Christian Legal Studies and a lecturer on law at HLS.

  • Afghanistan Collapse and Strikes in Somalia Raise Snags for Drone Warfare Rules

    August 30, 2021

    The Biden administration has nearly completed a policy to govern counterterrorism drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional war zones, but the abrupt collapse of the Afghan government and a recent flurry of strikes in Somalia have raised new problems, according to current and former officials. ... But creating any bureaucratic system and planning for drone strikes cut against Mr. Biden’s repeated statements that he wants to end the forever war, said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who frequently writes about national security legal policy. “I don’t blame them because I think real threats persist,” he added. “It’s better to have a system for dealing with them than just letting the Pentagon do whatever it wants. But creating a system for drone strikes doesn’t sound like the path to winding down the forever war.”

  • The front page of the New York Times on a printing press

    The Pentagon Papers case today

    June 21, 2021

    Does the First Amendment still protect the press when it lawfully receives classified information unlawfully obtained?

  • Sean Quirk and Seungyeon Lee

    ‘We’re both so thankful’ for Harvard Law School

    May 25, 2021

    Navy veteran Sean Quirk found a home for his interest in U.S.-China relations as a student at HLS — while one of its clinics supported his wife Sue's immigration process.

  • Mark Gillespie

    Faith and fellowship

    May 18, 2021

    Growing up with a father in the Air Force, Mark Gillespie ’21 moved around a lot as a child. But far from this being a negative, Gillespie says it gave him the sense that life’s possibilities were endless.

  • United States Supreme Court in Washington DC

    President Biden appoints 16 Harvard Law School faculty and alumni to panel studying Supreme Court reform

    April 14, 2021

    President Biden appointed 16 members of the Harvard Law School community — seven faculty and nine alumni — to a new presidential commission on the Supreme Court of the United States.

  • Here’s Merrick Garland’s Orientation Memo for the Trump-Era Hangover on Press Freedom

    March 10, 2021

    When President Biden announced the nomination of Merrick Garland as the next attorney general, Biden criticized incendiary rhetoric against the press as contributing to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. A new president—and new leadership at the Department of Justice—will mean turning a corner on a strenuous four years, in which the Justice Department was repeatedly drawn into then-President Trump’s attacks on journalists and First Amendment rights...Though the concern over politicized regulatory actions will wane with Trump’s departure, we urge the Biden administration to support concrete steps to prevent antitrust or other common regulatory tools (for instance, the securities laws, tax audits by the IRS, or oversight of the telecommunications industry) from being misused in this way. In their recent book “After Trump,” which was published by the Lawfare Institute, former White House counsel Bob Bauer and Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith propose amending the Inspector General Act to empower inspectors general to investigate official acts that constitute a “reprisal against or an attempt to harass or intimidate” news media organizations or journalists. Given the Justice Department’s resistance to permitting discovery into facts that might support selective enforcement defenses, the Bauer-Goldsmith proposal would be a welcome check against executive branch overreaching in any administration.

  • Due Process

    February 17, 2021

    As recently as 10 years ago, Jeannie Suk Gersen was still telling people that the area of law she specialized in—sexual assault and domestic violence—didn’t hold much interest for the general public. A quiet corner of the profession, she thought. Remembering that now, she laughs. “But, you know,” she adds, “every area of law does end up moving into focus. Because, in the end, law is really about every aspect of our lives.” Which is partly why Gersen, J.D. ’02, has always taken it so seriously. “Words don’t just describe things,” she explains. In the law, “words actually do things.” ... “Jeannie is intellectually fearless,” says Bemis professor of international law Jonathan Zittrain. That’s a common sentiment among her colleagues... “There are a lot of people who are afraid to say things in our business,” says Learned Hand professor of law Jack Goldsmith, “and she’s not afraid to say what she thinks.” ... “Her whole response to Title IX has been very, very striking—and I think completely correct,” says Beneficial professor of law Charles Fried, who was Gersen’s teacher before he was her colleague ... Says her former teacher, Loeb University Professor emeritus Laurence Tribe, “I was always impressed by how both meticulous and yet unconventional her insights were. She would often come at issues in a kind of perpendicular way. Rather than finding a point between A and B, she would say that maybe that axis is the wrong axis.” ... “She has one of those amazing brains,” says Williams professor of law I. Glenn Cohen, who worked on the Harvard Law Review with Gersen. “She was a year ahead of me in law school, and we all regarded her more like a faculty member, even back then. She just seemed to know everything.”

  • Black and white photo of the White House

    How Donald Trump illustrated the need for more curbs on presidential power

    February 12, 2021

    As the trial of Donald Trump takes place in the Senate on charges of inciting the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, renowned journalist Bob Woodward wondered during a Harvard Law School-sponsored webinar on Wednesday whether Trump also could have been impeached for his role in the COVID-19 crisis.

  • How to Think About Chinese-Owned Technology Platforms Operating in the United States

    February 12, 2021

    An op-ed by Gary Corn and Jack GoldsmithToday the technology and law programs that we supervise at the American University Washington College of Law and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, are publishing a report entitled “Chinese Technology Platforms Operating in the United States.” The report sets forth a framework for understanding the various threats posed by Chinese-owned technology platforms operating in the United States (e.g. TikTok), and for assessing the various costs and benefits of proposed responses to these threats. The report is a joint-product by a group of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives on these matters: Jennifer Daskal, Chris Inglis, Paul Rosenzweig, Samm Sacks, Bruce Schneier, Alex Stamos, Vince Stewart and the two of us. Some background and elaboration: Among the many challenges the Biden administration has inherited, a frayed U.S.-China relationship figures prominently. The Trump administration's approach to China was driven by China’s emergence as a great power competitor, and frictions inherent in that recognition manifested across a range of issues not the least of which were trade and regulation of Chinese technologies. The Trump administration took direct aim at a number of technologies, from Huawei’s 5G to Chinese manufactured small drones. In late 2020 and early 2021, it took steps to effectively ban TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese-owned apps from operating in the United States, at least in their current form.

  • Michael Horowitz testifying on Capitol Hill

    ‘Our job is to bring accountability, and oversight, and transparency to government’

    February 10, 2021

    Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz ’87 recently spoke to Harvard Law Today about his work to ensure the integrity of the DOJ and beyond.

  • Watchdogs Appointed by Trump Pose Dilemma for Biden

    February 2, 2021

    Even as the Biden administration has moved aggressively to undo Donald J. Trump’s policies and dislodge his loyalists from positions on boards and civil-service jobs, it has hesitated on a related choice: whether to remove two inspectors general appointed by Mr. Trump under a storm of partisan controversy. At issue is whether the new administration will keep Eric Soskin, who was confirmed as the Transportation Department’s inspector general in December, and Brian D. Miller, a former Trump White House lawyer who was named earlier in 2020 to hunt for abuses in pandemic spending. Both were confirmed over intense Democratic opposition after Mr. Trump fired or demoted a number of inspectors general last year,saying he had been treated “very unfairly” by them...Still, Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who co-wrote a book proposing post-Trump reforms to government, said that no matter how well Mr. Biden might couch a justification to remove such an inspector general, it would further damage the notion that presidents ought not remove them without cause. “If Biden refrains from firing Senate-confirmed but disfavored inspectors general, that will buck up the norm of independence,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “The ostensible norm is not an actual norm if it doesn’t constrain the president in painful ways.”

  • Why Is Big Tech Policing Free Speech? Because the Government Isn’t

    January 26, 2021

    In the months leading up to the November election, the social media platform Parler attracted millions of new users by promising something competitors, increasingly, did not: unfettered free speech...The giants of social media — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram — had more stringent rules. And while they still amplified huge amounts of far-right content, they had started using warning labels and deletions to clamp down on misinformation about Covid-19 and false claims of electoral fraud, including in posts by President Trump...Why, for example, hasn’t Facebook suspended the accounts of other leaders who have used the platform to spread lies and bolster their power, like the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte? A spokesman said suspending Trump was “a response to a specific situation based on risk” — but so is every decision, and the risks can be just as high overseas. “It’s really media and public pressure that is the difference between Trump coming down and Duterte staying up,” says Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “But the winds of public opinion are a terrible basis for free-speech decisions! Maybe it seems like it’s working right now. But in the longer run, how do you think unpopular dissidents and minorities will fare?” ... “I’m afraid that the technology has upended the possibility of a well-functioning, responsible speech environment,” the Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith says. “It used to be we had masses of speech in a reasonable range, and some extreme speech we could tolerate. Now we have a lot more extreme speech coming from lots of outlets and mouthpieces, and it’s more injurious and harder to regulate.”

  • The Presidency Won’t Go Back to How It Was

    January 20, 2021

    An op-ed by Jack Goldsmith and Samuel Moyn: After years of Donald Trump’s boorish defiance of presidential norms, his incitement of the violence at the Capitol closed his term with a demented rave that shamed American democracy. Tomorrow Joe Biden will return the presidency to a more decorous and honorable choreography. But in important respects, Biden cannot restore normalcy. Trump’s most profound and least recognized contributions to the office he abused are a reorientation of some of the presidency’s important powers and responsibilities. Once-fringe understandings about the role of the president approached acceptance under Trump in ways that Biden cannot dismiss, and they could transform how the great office functions for years to come. True, Biden’s time in office will witness reversals by conservatives and progressives on some of the uses and limits of presidential power. The Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule predicted at the dawn of the Trump administration that the sides would reverse their positions about aggressive uses of presidential administration. He compared the pattern to two lines of dancers in a Jane Austen novel who move to opposite sides of the ballroom and then continue dancing as before. “The structure of the dance at the group level is preserved; none of the rules of the dance change; but the participants end up facing in opposite directions.”

  • Trump’s final pardons warped presidential powers for his own benefit

    January 20, 2021

    President Trump’s last-minute pardons betray what the Constitution’s pardon power is all about. While he has not decided to try to pardon himself (at least, not as far as we know), the pardons he issued during his term taken together serve as a microcosm for his presidency. They take a noble part of our Constitution and warp it in the service of Trump’s ego and future personal interests...These final pardons do not arrive shorn of history here. Trump’s prior pardons, like Tuesday’s, largely fall into two buckets. Bucket 1 is friends of Donald Trump — people like Roger Stone, George Papadopoulous, Paul Manafort, Charles Kushner (yes, Jared’s dad) and Michael Flynn. These folks never even bothered formally requesting a pardon; they got one through back channels to the Oval Office. Bucket 2 are rogues who aspire to be in Bucket 1 — people like Dinesh D’Souza and former Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff Joe Arpaio. The conservative Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith examined all of Trump’s pardons before his final days in office and found a whopping 91 percent of them went to people with personal or political connections to Trump. An outsize number of Trump’s pardons were for white-collar criminals, revealing again Trump’s proclivity to benefit those who look and act like him. For decades, criminal justice had been moving in the direction of greater parity between white-collar and other offenders, only to have Trump come along and reverse the trend.

  • The U.S. Presidency: Looking Forward

    January 15, 2021

    The latest episode of Reasonably Speaking brings together a panel of top scholars in U.S. presidency and political science to discuss the future of the U.S. presidency Post–Trump. In “The U.S. Presidency: Looking Forward,” ALI President David F. Leviis joined by David M. Kennedy and Terry M. Moe of Stanford University, and Jack Landman Goldsmith and Daphna Renan of Harvard Law School for a timely conversation on the most important office in our government.