President-elect Joe Biden plans to prioritize federal student loan debt forgiveness on the first day of his presidency, but questions still remain on the likelihood of carrying out his forgiveness plans. Last week, Biden’s transition official David Kamin told reporters that Biden will direct the Department of Education on day one to extend the student loan forbearance program, which is the first direct promise the president-elect has made in combating the $1.6 trillion student debt crisis. Kamin also said in the press call that Biden supports Congress canceling $10,000 of federal student loan debt per person — an idea that Biden had previously supported as proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and her Democratic colleagues…There is a discrepancy among Biden and lawmakers on whether Biden can use his executive powers to cancel debt – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said to reporters last month, “You don’t need Congress; All you need is the flick of the pen.” And in a letter to Warren from attorneys from Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center, they said that under the Higher Education Act, the president could direct the secretary of education to cancel student debt.
An op-ed by Noah Feldman: Can the Senate try President Donald Trump after he leaves office? The answer to that question lies with, you guessed it, the Senate. In reaching a decision, the Senators may choose to be guided by a precedent: that of William W. Belknap, Ulysses S. Grant’s Secretary of War. Belknap resigned mere hours before the House of Representatives impeached him. The Senate tried him anyway — although a substantial number of senators insisted throughout that they had no authority over a government official who had already resigned. As a consequence the Senate did not convict Belknap by the constitutional two thirds requirement. Belknap’s story is a wild one. There are few scholarly articles about him, although there is a highly instructive, detailed master’s thesis on which I’ve relied. Belknap was born in Newburgh, New York, along the Hudson River. He graduated from Princeton and studied law at Georgetown. As the proverbial young man he went West to Iowa, enlisting in the 15th Iowa Volunteer Regiment not long after the Civil War broke out. He served under General William Tecumseh Sherman during his March to the Sea and showed notable bravery in battle, most famously by capturing a Confederate colonel at the Battle of Atlanta. The episode involved him, then a Colonel himself, leaping over some breastworks into enemy fire. The public lauded him as a hero.
The final days of the Trump presidency are being marked by both a challenge to the US from within by the far right and the administration’s efforts to combat perceived external threats from China. Our Washington bureau reports the US commerce department has just finalised new rules to make it easier for the federal government to block Americans from importing technology from China and other US adversaries that it decides could threaten national security. The rules cover software, such as that used in critical infrastructure, and hardware that includes drones and surveillance cameras. It gives new powers to the commerce secretary to issue licences or block imports…In an FT opinion piece, Jesse Fried, Dane professor at Harvard Law School, says US interests are being sacrificed for anti-China grandstanding, citing the delisting of China’s three leading telcos. “The idea that barring purchases of these telecom companies’ stock will affect China’s military is laughable, but their US investors are not laughing,” he says. “The purchase bans and delistings have temporarily depressed prices as American stockholders run for the exits. Hong Kong and other foreign traders are buying up these shares on the cheap. American investors lose; China’s investors win — and its military continues to grow unimpeded.”
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.
An op-ed by Jonathan Zittrain: The majority staff of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives has issued a report to accompany the resolution for today’s second impeachment of President Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection. Earlier this week, my former colleague Alan Dershowitz argued in Newsweek that First Amendment protections against a criminal conviction for incitement to riot make impeachment over the president’s role in last week’s events at the Capitol unconstitutional. I want to explain why this claim carries no weight. Dershowitz wrote that Trump’s speech last week, “disturbing as it may have been—is within the core protection of political speech.” He pointed to Brandenburg v. Ohio, where the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot prohibit speech unless it is specifically “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and “is likely to incite or produce such action.” (In Brandenburg, the Court found that a short speech by a Ku Klux Klan leader at an Ohio farm saying that there might have to be “some revengeance taken” and referencing a march to take place later in Washington, D.C. was protected by the First Amendment from a state charge of “criminal syndicalism” because any lawless action incited was not imminent.) There are a number of ways that the president’s speech, in which he told his supporters that “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore” and to march to Congress at that very moment in the hopes of disrupting the Electoral Vote count, differs from the facts of Brandenburg. But more importantly, the question at the moment isn’t whether the president could be charged with incitement to violence in criminal court. It’s whether the president can be impeached for his actions, both arising from the speech and from his actions (and inactions) as the crowd stormed the Capitol and he was implored to help.
Yesterday, January 13, the House of Representatives impeached President Trump a second time for encouraging the violent riot in the Capitol Building on January 6. And yet, the impeachment is probably less of a crushing blow to the president than something else that’s happened in recent days: the loss of his Twitter account. After a few very eventful weeks, Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation is back. Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Jonathan Zittrain, the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School, about the decision by Twitter, Facebook and a whole host of other platforms to ban the president in the wake of the Capitol riot. Jonathan, Evelyn and Quinta take a step back and situate what’s happening within the broader story of internet governance. They talked about how to understand the bans in the context of the internet’s now not-so-brief history, how platforms make these decisions and, of course, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Listeners might also be interested in Zittrain’s February 2020 Tanner Lecture, “Between Suffocation and Abdication: Three Eras of Governing Digital Platforms,” which touches on some of the same ideas discussed in the podcast.
Jonathan Freedland talks to Noah Feldman, who testified for the Democrats in the president’s first impeachment hearing. They discuss the various consequences for Trump after the House of Representatives voted to impeach him for the second time. On Wednesday, members from both sides of the House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump for allegedly inciting a violent insurrection against the government of the United States. This was a historic moment, as Trump became the first US president to be impeached twice. So what happens now? With less than a week to go before Joe Biden’s inauguration, will there be a trial in the Senate? Will Trump be barred from running for office again? Will this create an even bigger wedge between Republicans and Democrats? Freedland speaks to one of the commanding voices on constitutional law, Noah Feldman, who teaches law at Harvard University and hosts the Deep Background podcast. He was the first witness called for the Democrats in the first Trump impeachment hearing. Together, they run through the various scenarios that could now play out.
As armed supporters of President Donald Trump prepare to converge on state capitals and Washington, D.C., this weekend and Inauguration Day, some legal experts are calling on authorities to enforce longstanding laws outlawing organized groups that act as citizen-run, unauthorized militias. Federal law, constitutions in every state, and criminal statutes in 29 states outlaw groups that engage in activities reserved for state agencies, including acting as law enforcement, training and drilling together, engaging in crowd control and making shows of force as armed groups at public gatherings. Yet hundreds of armed groups, organized under the insignia of the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and others, do exactly that…Two constitutional law scholars said these laws should survive challenges to their constitutionality. “Properly interpreted and applied, the state laws banning organized, private militias would pass constitutional muster,” Laurence Tribe, a professor at Harvard Law School and co-founder of the American Constitution Society, wrote in an email. “Although these laws could be clumsily deployed in ways that would raise constitutional problems,” he wrote, “that hardly means they shouldn’t be part of the arsenal that law enforcement uses to prevent the forthcoming protests from turning into deadly riots.”
YouTube suspended President Trump from uploading new videos to his official account for at least a week, making the decision days after fellow social media giants Twitter and Facebook shut the president out of his accounts because of concerns his posts will incite violence. The Google-owned video site was the last of the major social media networks to suspend Trump after the attack on the U.S. Capitol…The resistance to removing videos completely has helped allow YouTube to fly under the radar as other social media sites take the heat for allowing misinformation to proliferate on their sites, said Harvard Law School lecturer Evelyn Douek…Researchers tend to focus on text-based Twitter and Facebook, Doueksaid, because video can be more time consuming and labor intensive to sift through. That doesn’t mean there is less misinformation floating around on YouTube, and, in fact, the company has been accused of allowing people to become radicalized on the site by promoting conspiracy theory videos, she added. YouTube’s policy of laying out rules and using a strike system to enforce them is better than ad hoc decision-making by executives, Douek said. “My view of content moderation is companies should have really clear rules they set out in advance and stick to, regardless of political or public pressure,” she said. “We don’t just want these platforms to be operating as content cartels and moving in lockstep and doing what everyone else is doing.”
On Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s “OutFront,” Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe explained why President Donald Trump’s imminent departure from office won’t save him from the Senate impeachment trial for inciting violence at the Capitol. “You’ve just written an op-ed in The Washington Post about this,” said anchor Erin Burnett. “You say President Trump can be tried and convicted after leaving office. Why? Explain.” “Well, basically, the Constitution’s text makes it clear that as long as you are an officer when you commit an impeachable offense, the ability to convict you and prevent you from repeating your dangerous activities doesn’t cease,” said Tribe. “If it were written otherwise, it would be crazy. The Secretary of War in 1876 thought he could game the system by resigning his office minutes before the impeachment was returned. But then the Senate, by a vote of 37-29 held understandably, you can’t get away with it that way. It’s not like when someone says you’re fired, so you can’t fire me, I’ve already resigned.” “The fact is that the Constitution was designed so that the most dangerous characters couldn’t escape the important remedy of being taken out of public office in the future simply by resigning. That won’t work,” continued Tribe.