• We The People Podcast

Airstrikes, “Imminent Threats,” and the Constitution

January 07, 2020

In light of the recent U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani – we’re sharing this program from fall 2017 on war powers and the Constitution. John Yoo of Berkeley Law, Deborah Pearlstein of Cardozo Law, and Ben Wittes, Editor-in-Chief of Lawfare, discuss the president’s ability to order unilateral airstrikes, the definition of “imminent threats”, and other topics that lend context to the current controversy. NCC President Jeffrey Rosen moderates.




John Yoo is the Emanuel Heller Professor of Law at Berkeley Law School where he is also the director of the Korea Law Center, the California Constitution Center, and the Program in Public Law and Policy. Yoo is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. He previously served as general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee and as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice.

Deborah Pearlstein is Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at Cardozo Law. Before joining Cardozo, she was a research scholar in the Law and Public Affairs Program at the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and held visiting appointments at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Georgetown University Law Center. From 2003-2007, Professor Pearlstein served as the founding director of the Law and Security Program at Human Rights First. Before embarking on a career in law, Pearlstein served in the White House from 1993 to 1995 as a Senior Editor and Speechwriter for President Clinton.

Benjamin Wittes is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He co-founded and is the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, is a contributing writer at the Atlantic and a law analyst at NBC News and MSNBC. He is the author with Susan Hennessey of Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office (January 2020). His previous books include The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones-Confronting A New Age of Threat (2015), coauthored with Gabriella Blum; Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor After Guantanamo (2011); and Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror (2008). Between 1997 and 2006, Wittes served as an editorial writer for the Washington Post specializing in legal affairs.

​​​​​​Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.” 

Additional Resources

This episode was engineered by Greg Scheckler, Kevin Kilbourne, and Jackie McDermott and produced by Jackie McDermott and Tanaya Tauber.

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