The Looming Crisis of Emergency Powers and the 2020 Election

President Trump and AG Bill Barr
President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr.

(This article was first published in Just Security)

By Mark Medish and Joel McCleary

The future of electoral democracy in the United States is, without exaggeration, at risk. While a global pandemic and economic meltdown could provide a pretext for this threat, it does not come from abroad. Instead the threat comes from our own elected leader, the President of the United States—and those who know him best, know this to be true.

President Donald Trump has made a series of comments that convey casual disregard, if not outright contempt, for our constitutional order. Last year, he told a conservative group, “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” On February 18 of this year, he boasted, “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country,” which even if technically true no president would dare assert in defiance of the independence of the Justice Department. On March 12, in the same breath as mentioning the availability of “strong emergency powers,” Trump declared, “I have the right to do a lot of things that people do not know about.” A week later he asserted, “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s got to be.”

In the spirit of total authority, Trump has claimed the power to adjourn Congress during the Covid-19 crisis to give him, among other things, free rein to make recess appointments. Despite bipartisan opposition, he has dismissed inspectors general in several departments because they dared expose fraud, waste, and political abuse that implicated him. He has claimed the emergency authority to open or close the country. He has undermined the authority of governors by inciting civil disobedience, urging citizens to “liberate” their states from pandemic shutdowns and making supportive statements of armed agitators who do so. Trump has also threatened to put the U.S Postal Service, on which mail-in voting depends, out of business. This pattern of overstepping authority and undermining institutions is too consistent – and the subject matter too serious – to be dismissed as innocent frivolity or ignorance.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has stated his concern about Mr. Trump’s intentions in regard to the elections in November. The presumptive Democratic nominee said he believed that the president might “kick back the election somehow, come up for some rationale for why it can’t be held.” The White House rejected the charge, yet Biden’s concern is warranted. Indeed, the threat is broader still. It includes the possibility of Trump’s abusing emergency powers to suppress voting in general, using other means to interfere with opposition party organizing, or adopting extraordinary measures to contest an election that he loses.

After years of fulminating against an imaginary “deep state,” Trump has waged war on the professional civil service in favor of a cabal of loyalists. He has shown a worrying preference for an executive-dominated state without meaningful checks and balances. He has stacked the courts, stonewalled Congress during his impeachment trial, and stymied all forms of accountability. His attorney general brushed aside clear findings of obstruction of justice by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump is testing the limits of our well-developed democratic system. His willingness to break taboos, even in off-hand remarks, should be taken as a grave warning sign that he may break the constitutional order around the election and simply say “sue me.”

Legal scholars correctly point out that the Constitution firmly sets the date of national elections and also the date and time of the end of the president’s and vice president’s term. Does a president have the authority to ignore or modify this electoral calendar? As Professor Cass Sunstein has written, “The answer is clear. He does not.” Unfortunately, the risk in this cutthroat world of practice does not end with that crisp analysis.

Before we proceed, it is important to underscore one point. The issue here is not whether Trump has a sound legal basis for asserting some of these authorities. In many of the scenarios, all he needs is for courts to draw out the resolution of an issue or for five of the conservative Justices to break in his favor. Hence, the “sue me” strategy, which he has practiced throughout his private and public career, could succeed with catastrophic consequences.

We see three potential pathways to perdition at the whim of President Trump and his cohort of constitution-benders led by Attorney General William Barr.

A Reservoir of Emergency Powers

First, the president could invoke some form of emergency powers to respond to a national crisis and thereby declare the election a physical impossibility or otherwise impose severe constraints on how some Americans can vote. Such powers are constitutionally inherent in both the executive and legislative branches, and many have been delegated to the president by Congress. Most presidential emergency powers have been harnessed under a series of statutes such as the National Emergencies Act of 1976  and the International Emergencies Economic Powers Act of 1977.

The thrust of these statutes has been to define and limit emergency powers, for example, by requiring formal declaration of emergencies by the president and mandating certain procedures for implementation. Yet as a 2020 Congressional Research Service report notes, “in the American governmental experience, the exercise of emergency powers has been somewhat dependent on the Chief Executive’s view of the presidential office.”  Thus, despite statutory limits, there is room for maneuver with or without congressional assent. An example was Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency and redirection of funding to allow military construction of the wall at the Southern border over strong, but not veto-proof, bipartisan congressional objection.

Writing in early 2019, Liza Goitein, a leading expert on emergency powers mapped, in great detail, how President Trump could tap into these authorities to interfere with Americans’ ability to vote in the presidential election. She noted how the president could manufacture a national security crisis—e.g., hostilities with Iran—for those emergency powers that require such a military threat. But the coronavirus pandemic could offer Trump a ready pretext as well for a subset of those authorities. The menu of policy options, according to Goitein’s analysis, includes shutting down or selectively controlling internet communications, sending troops to suppress alleged rioting and angry mobs, detention of “subversives,” and imposing mandatory curfews—each of which could at least be enough to suppress voter turnout to historic lows to win reelection.

In addition to existing authorities, the Justice Department recently sought new emergency powers to ask a chief judge to detain people indefinitely without trial “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.” Sure, the department’s effort involved going to Congress, but that’s hardly reassuring. That DOJ would seek congressional approval for this aggressive expansion of powers would amount to a sweeping suspension of habeas corpus.

Even more concerning, it appears that President Trump is correct that some claims to emergency powers are highly classified such that his lawyers have likely reinforced his confidence that he has “the right to do a lot of things that people do not know about.” As two legal experts have recently reported, these secret claims to authority “consist of draft proclamations, executive orders and proposals for legislation that can be quickly deployed to assert broad presidential authority in a range of worst-case scenarios. They are one of the government’s best-kept secrets. No presidential emergency action document has ever been released or even leaked. And it appears that none has ever been invoked.” It has also been reported that a set of highly classified emergency contingency plans relates to continuity of government in the case of “extraordinary circumstances” and these plans include some form of martial law. Goitein also references martial law options.

Overcoming Posse Comitatus

A second and related avenue of danger has to do with the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. The Reconstruction-era statute generally prohibits the use of the U.S. military as a “posse comitatus,” literally a group of armed sheriffs, to execute the laws domestically. But it is not a complete barrier. The act expressly allows the U.S. armed forces to carry out a range of domestic missions, including law enforcement functions, when authorized by Congress or by the President if he determines that it is required to fulfill his constitutional obligations to respond promptly in time of war, insurrection, or other serious emergency.

Other legal scholars have explained that Trump could find a way past the Posse Comitatus limitations by invoking the Insurrection Act as the source of congressional authority if there were a breakdown in civil order in the course of the coronavirus. No one should take solace in the idea that such a breakdown will not occur. As we noted, the question is whether this president would claim it – enough to tie his opponents down in litigation.

Legal challenges for violation of Posse Comitatus, for example with respect to admissibility of evidence at criminal trial, have rarely been successful. A 2018 Congressional Research Service report concludes that “as a practical matter compliance is ordinarily a result of military self-restraint.”

An antecedent for this kind of emergency executive power grab was launched decades earlier and peaked under Vice President Dick Cheney who after 9/11 helped advance the radical theory of the “unitary executive,” a revisionist interpretation of the Constitution that would essentially subordinate the Article One legislative powers of Congress (including the “necessary and proper powers”) to the President’s Article Two “executive powers.” (Bill Barr is a notorious proponent of the most extreme version of it.) If followed, the theory would eviscerate the tripartite separation of powers in favor of a permanent national security state. The unitary executive theory cannot be correct, but this has not stopped the constitution-benders from pursuing their agenda.

Naked Power Grab

Third, a power-hungry president – in this case, one who does not enjoy a popular vote majority and faces uncertain reelection — could act first and take a gamble on the courts. Executive overreach is subject to legal challenge, but the question of enforceability of court judgments would remain. As Trump’s hero President Andrew Jackson supposedly quipped, the court can rule against the president but how will it enforce its judgment?

The constitution has poorly understood implications for a failed or unresolved national election due to implementation problems. Several scenarios for throwing a spanner in the works have been mooted. And we should not assume that Trump will try to thread the needle of invoking a congressional statute or using a specific loophole left in the Posse Comitatus Act. He may simply act outside the boundary of law or ethics.

The case of Bush v. Gore (2000) set a perilous precedent of the Supreme Court effectively deciding a disputed national election. A technical ballot glitch in Florida opened the door for the third branch to cast the deciding electoral vote. In that 5-4 decision, the constitutional calendar for seating the electors became the basis for suspending the Florida recount and certifying an incomplete and incorrect state result, thereby throwing the entire election. It was a case of conflicting constitutional precepts. The narrowest majority of the high court allowed the form of the electoral process to trump the substance of election integrity.

Bush v Gore was an accident waiting to happen. The next iteration may not be an accident. An unscrupulous president could grab first – for example, declaring an emergency that suppresses voting in key states – leaving others to litigate later. This would have profound implications for an election. Assuming judicial review were still possible, the ultimate check on such a bad faith overreach would hinge on the highest court, which we know from cases such as Bush v. Gore is fallible under pressure. The country cannot afford another judicial failure on that scale.

Call to Democratic Action

In the aftermath of Watergate and President Nixon’s resignation in disgrace in 1974, Congress launched a series of key investigations to shed light on the anti-democratic abuses of a secret state both at home and abroad. The Church Committee in the Senate and the Pike Committee tried to restore accountability and public trust that had been eroded during the Cold War under cover of national security exigencies. Congressional participants in those historic hearings viewed their mission as a check on the surreptitious but steady power grab by the executive branch. Our late friend Ambassador William Miller, who served as a senior staffer on the Church Committee, liked to remind us that the fight against absolutism and secret powers went back to the English civil war and “the party of parliament vs. the party of the king.”

There are many constitutional debates about “original intent” of the American founders — including whether the idea of original intent makes any sense at all. What is absolutely clear is that the drafters’ intent could not and did not advocate presidential tyranny. The spirit of 1776 and the bill of particulars against the abuses of King George III would not allow it. The system of checks and balances was designed to prevent it. The supervening purpose of the constitutional contract among the new states was precisely to guard against despotism at any level.

Exiting the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was supposedly asked by fellow citizens, “What do we have, a republic or a monarchy?” He replied with a warning: “a republic, if you can keep it.” Of the American presidency, Franklin further observed, “The first man put at the helm will be a good one. Nobody knows what sort may come afterwards… The executive will be always increasing here, as elsewhere, till it ends in monarchy.”

We still have the chance to take Franklin’s warning not as a prophecy but as a call to democratic action.

Safeguard Americans’ Right to Choose the Next President

Could our analysis be overstating the risks and seeing ghosts? After all, President Trump has said many outrageous things before only to back down. We believe it is safer to take him at his word and fall prey to a degree of alarmism than to be complacent and sleepwalk into authoritarianism.

What is to be done? In a sense, our republic’s immune system of checks and balances urgently needs a booster shot. On our view, a civic action plan should include the following elements:

Education of the public and political leaders of the coming risks, including briefing the House, Senate and Governors alike on plausible, worst-case scenarios and urged to begin planning

High-level bipartisan statement of opposition to unbridled emergency powers

Congressional hearings on the Church Committee model to reveal any classified executive powers

Congressional action to ensure a free and fair election including prohibition of voter suppression and protection of the United States Postal Service

Convening leading legal scholars to prepare for a Bush v. Gore-style court challenge.

All small-d democrats and small-r republicans should take the present danger with utmost urgency and start to prepare for it.

The Dangers of a Trump Loyalist as Director of National Intelligence 

Joseph-Maguire DNI

Last week’s appearance of Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), highlighted the importance of an obscure position. Maguire deferred to the Trump Justice Department’s tortured argument for withholding a whistleblower’s complaint from Congress but insisted he was following the law, not covering up. Democrats were unconvinced.

Trump ousted the previous DNI, Dan Coats, because he did like Coats’s endorsement of intelligence community findings on Iran (that it was complying with the 2015 nuclear deal) and North Korea (that it was unlikely to fully denuclearize).

In Lawfare Austin Carson argues the DNI position can be used to thwart election security measures that Trump opposes.

It is hard to know how a new director more closely aligned with the White House might use this agenda-setting power. Easier to anticipate, though, is that existing initiatives that were not White House priorities—but that Coats chose to act on—could be in jeopardy. After all, agenda-stopping power is the flip side of agenda setting.

A case in point is election security. One of the last acts Coats took as DNI was to create a new position for “overseeing and coordinating election security,” called the Election Threats Executive. According to Coats, the individual would “coordinate and integrate all election security activities, initiatives, and programs.” He also ordered the various intelligence agencies to appoint their own senior officials to oversee foreign influence attempts in the run-up to the 2020 election.
It’s too early to know whether this particular initiative is meaningful or mere window dressing. What is clear is that Trump and key aides are no fan of such efforts

Source: The Dangers of a Loyalist Director of National Intelligence – Lawfare

Axis of Trump: Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia Campaign for the President

Benjamin Netanyahu
Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar (Credit: Creative Commons)

After the Israeli government’s decision to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting Israel and Palestine, the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders rallied around the two congresswomen, and the Israeli government did not favor to its supporters in the party.

With a blatant show of support for President Trump’s strategy of racial polarization, Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu not only signaled his government’s support for Trump in the 2020 election. He also served to unify an often-fractious Democratic party around a more anti-Israel message that resonates across the party’s left-center spectrum.

Israel’s early intervention in the 2020 campaign is not like the more subtle underhanded approaches that President Putin and his Russian agents used to help the Trump campaign in 2016. Netanyahu’s gambit isn’t the IRA troll factory exposed by Robert Mueller. In Israel’s case, the prime minister is troll factory.

The social media binary tends to divide Democrats into two hostile camps on the question of foreign interference in the 2020 election. Centrists and their cable TV spokesmen, see Russia state interference as the primary threat, while leftists deprecate Russia’s secret and extensive efforts to help Trump and complain that Saudi and Israeli interference is actually much greater.

The partisans of this war do their best to convince each other and the public that the differences in the party are apocalyptic: Rachel Maddow is “Russia conspiracy theorist.” No, Tulsi Gabbard is “a Russian agent.” In reality, there’s less of a contradiction than the rhetoric suggests.

It should now be clear that the Russian, Israeli and Saudi governments are all authoritarian regimes that are seeking to keep authoritarian Trump in power. All of these governments–and their intelligence services–intend to “interfere” in the United States 2020 presidential election, that is to say, they will take secret action in order to secure a second term for Trump.

The Pro-Trump Axis

Bibi Tweets

It is not “anti-semitic” to say that Netanyahu is scheming against American democracy. It is not a “hoax” to say Putin (and operatives like Yevgeny Prigozhin) want to hobble Democrats and help Trump. It is not a “conspiracy theory” to say the Saudis run influence operations in Washington. Rather, there is abundant evidence that the three pro-Trump powers will likely extend covert assistance to the man in the White House.

To be sure, Israeli, Russian, and Saudi interests diverge in some areas. Russia has no interest in the U.S-Saudi-Israeli campaign against Iran. When Trump claimed Iran shot down a U.S. drone in international air space, Russia sided with Tehran. Russia state media promotes Tulsi Gabbard. Israeli and Saudi media demonize her.

Putin Vacation
Russian President in Tuva, August 2018.

But the pro-Trump axis has enough commonalities that Democrat need not bicker about the details. Putin and Steve Bannon, apostle of Trumpism, are making common cause with the populist right in Europe. So is Netanyahu.

Their methods can be lethal. Two GRU officers were dispatched to assassinate turncoat agent Sergey Skripal; Saudi intelligence officers were involved in the liquidation of regime critic Jamal Khashoggi. The Israelis assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists.

And they have infrastructure. Just as Israel has a burgeoning spy ware industry fostered by the Israeli intelligence services, so Russia’s GRU has created at least two hacking units to wage cyber war. Both act in their own national interests, against Trump’s opponents in the United States.

(See my piece, “Spooks for Hire: How Mossad Seeds the Private Intelligence Industry.”)

Mohammed bin Salman.

Israel’s banning of the congresswomen, like the indictment of the Russian troll factory, and the whitewashing of Khashoggi’s murder, exposes the intent of foreign powers to thwart American democracy.


Thanks to Netanyahu, it has never been more respectable for Democrats to criticize Israel. From the corporate Obama-Clinton center to the progressive and bleeding-edge socialist left, Israel is now under fire. The disgrace of a president and a prime minister who prevented an American representative from visiting her 90 year old grandmother for the sake of racist political advantage is something that Democrats can agree on.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders, geopolitician.

To be sure, the Israel lobby remains powerful in the party. Many Democrats in Congress are on record with doubts about the legitimacy and the viability of the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) movement. But after Omar and Tlaib’s exclusion, the critical tone about Israel grew notably harsher this week.

The travel ban undermines Democrats who say the Israeli government policy isn’t racist. The only two U.S. representatives forbidden from visiting Israel/Palestine are women of color. How do the 41 Democratic representatives who have travelled to Israel explain that? They suddenly face the question: will they stand up to Israel racism?

Maybe. Maybe not. Nonetheless, the party’s rhetoric is gravitating, once again, toward the formulation of a certain plainspoken Jewish guy from Vermont “Opposing Netanyahu’s policies is not ‘hating the Jewish people,” Bernie Sanders tweeted Thursday.

The Israel-friendly Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand denounced the Israel’s action as “dangerous.” Booker emphasized the danger of Trump’s racist rhetoric. Gillibrand called it “un-American.”

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg: The P Word

Pete Buttigieg used the p-word–Palestine–rarely heard in the party’s pro-Israel discourse in 2016. When Buttigieg went to Gaza in 2018, he repeated the talking points of the Israel lobby and the Israeli security forces. Now he speaks, like Sanders, of reconciling the interests of America, Israel, and Palestine..

The banning of Omar and Tlaib was “appalling,” said Julian Castro. “An affront to American values,” said Kamala Harris. Jay Inslee called it “state-sanctioned Islamophobia.” No one among the Democrats uttered the a-word-=-“apartheid.” But they’re saying American and Israeli values are distinct, which is new.

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris: ‘Affront’ (Credit: Wikipedia)

Two of the weakest tweets came from Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke. They responded to Trump’s claim that Israel would be showing “weakness” by admitting the two congresswomen. The Minnesota Senator and former El Paso congressman countered that Trump is showing “weakness” by (in Gillibrand’s words) “exporting intolerance.” It’s more convoluted than convincing.

Joe Biden, who has a been getting a lot of grief for his gaffes, didn’t distinguish himself with the claim that Israel “shares our democratic values.” The banning of Omar and Tlaib was a very clear statement that the current Israeli government does not share the democratic values of the Democratic party in 2020.

That’s the issue, whether Biden likes it or not, and it’s not cutting Israel’s way. To the contrary, the Democratic party is more anti-Israel than it was a week ago, and the triple threat of Israeli-Russia-Saudi interference in 2020 is clearer than ever.

Bill de Blasio: Amazon Crucial to International Community

Bill de blasio

NYC Mayor de Blasio hasn’t discussed much of international affairs and security while on the 2020 campaign trail, although his record in public service has some telling incidents.

De Blasio has mostly framed his response to foreign policy in terms of immigration and climate change.

Back in 2012, as the public advocate for New York City, de Blasio instituted a watch list for Iran and encouraged city residents to boycott Iranian-manufactured cars and those who did business with Iran.

On the Campaign Trail:

On Israel:

In March 2019, de Blasio spoke at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC, where he spoke out against the BDS movement and declared his progressive support for Israel.

“Good morning, everyone. I want to say something straightforward. No honest person can deny the dangers that the Jewish people face all over this world. We woke this morning to news of this horrifying rocket attack on civilians in Israel, and my heart goes out, our hearts go out to the families. 

Our prayers are with them, but we have an obligation to tell our fellow Americans, to help them understand what it must be like out of nowhere to hear that siren go off, know your family is in danger, to innocent civilians. We have to help people to understand that. So there are threats all over this world. 

Now, I want to talk to you about how we address this because the threats are on the rise. The threats to the Jewish people are on the rise in Europe, here in the United States, and in the Middle East. And for me this is deeply personal. This is a community I represent, a community I love. 

As Mayor of the largest urban Jewish community on earth 1.2 million strong, I’ve been called to neighborhoods whose menorahs were smashed. I’ve spoken at shuls defaced with swastikas. I’ve sat with a mother whose son was attacked just for wearing a kippah. I know that anti-Semitism is dangerous, and I know it leads to violence, and that reinforces my commitment to the survival and the security of the state of Israel because the Jewish people cannot be safe without the state of Israel. 

As a progressive, here’s what I see when I’m in Israel. I see a multi-racial democracy. I see universal healthcare, free college, a strong labor movement. You’ve often heard it said that Israel’s America’s closest ally in the Middle East and a great center of innovation, and although that is true, I’m moved by something more than that. Israel at its core is there to shelter an oppressed people. That is why I am here to make a simple, clear, progressive case for the state of Israel. So here’s a straightforward definition for you. Progressives fight oppression. Progressives shelter those in danger. We embrace inclusion. We fight against exclusion. 

And now, here are the facts. The Jewish people have faced thousands of years of exclusion and expulsion and violence, and that history didn’t end in 1945. It didn’t end in 1948. Those anti-Semitic forces never went away, and in fact, they are growing. And just like racism and sexism and Islamophobia are antithetical to everything I believe as a progressive, so too are fascism and nativism and white supremacy and the anti-Semitism that goes with them. Every day we in New York City fight those dangers with everything we’ve got, and that fight has just begun. 

Now, as a progressive I have some real disagreements with the current Israeli government. I imagine many of you do too, but that does not detract, it cannot detract from the requirement that Israel must be defended. If I or anyone criticizes some policies of today’s Israeli government, it’s because I want the powerful and necessary idea of the Israeli nation to thrive forever. 

As a progressive Democrat and mayor of the most diverse city in the world, let me also say this. I deeply oppose the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. I believe BDS is contrary to the progressive imperative to protect all oppressed people everywhere and always. BDS doesn’t just seek to change a specific policy. 

It affronts the very notion of Israel as a guaranteed refuge for the Jewish people, and I fear that BDS could undermine the Israeli economy and thus undermine a two-state solution, a solution I believe is key to ending the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis alike, key to bringing peace to the region. So we must confront the threat to progress that is BDS, and Arthur Brooks is right. The way we confront it is every community, every college, every neighborhood, every city, let’s have this debate. Let’s prove that BDS is wrong. 

As I conclude, let me tell you about a moment I will never, ever forget. Once my family was invited to a Shabbat dinner in a Brooklyn home, and a wonderful older woman named Frieda was seated next to my daughter Chiara who was just then ten years old. And at one point the conversation turned to Frieda’s life, and it became profoundly serious. 

And she talked about the loved ones she had lost, and my daughter asked her how it was possible that she had lost so many of her family. And Frieda then rolled up her sleeve, and there were the numbers they tattooed on her arm in Auschwitz. Watching my little girl confront the worst consequences of anti-Semitism was chilling, and I could tell she would never see the world the same again. That moment brought home a powerful truth to me. I think William Faulkner said it best. “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” 

My friends, never again means we must never forget the horrifying cost humanity has paid for anti-Semitism. We must never tolerate indifference and complacency with their lethal consequences. We must never listen to those who tell us we no longer need to worry. As a progressive, as a Democrat, as an American, I am here to say we must never, ever ask the Jewish people to defend their lives alone. 

We must all stand beside you, and America, our good and progressive America must always protect the state of Israel. Thank you.”


Steve Bullock: Judgement over Photo Ops

Steve Bullock

Governor Steve Bullock of Montana is the Democratic governor of a state that went for Trump in 2016. His foreign-policy views are unclear, as he has focused his campaign so far on campaign finance and free trade.

On the Campaign Trail:

On Israel and a Two-State Solution:

I support a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict which would provide Israel with security and the Palestinian people with a better future. Under the Trump Administration, efforts to reach a two-state solution have reached a standstill as the U.S. negotiating team does not have credibility with both parties. I would use the fresh start of a new Administration to reinvigorate efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table and consult closely with regional partners whose support would be necessary to implement a final status agreement.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Alliances:

On China and Human Rights:

China’s oppression of the Uighurs including the detention of a massive number in internment camps is a gross violation of their human rights. A fundamental component of American foreign policy must be to promote human rights and democracy. That means having a president who has the moral authority to encourage our allies to share in the job of speaking up and hold China accountable for these human rights violations. We must speak out about any nation’s abuse of its minority populations or infringement upon the civil liberties of its citizens. The U.S.–China relationship is complex and touches security, trade, human rights and climate change. We need to confront China on both human rights and unfair trade practices, while at the same time pursuing our mutual interests on combatting climate change. A foreign policy that prioritizes working with our partners and allies will put pressure on China to improve its treatment of the Uighurs and ensure that it keeps its word to the people of Hong Kong.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Iran:

On Russia and Ukraine:

Russia’s unwarranted and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine demonstrates its lack of regard for the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors and the extent to which it is willing to go to maintain its so-called “sphere of influence.” Such action has set a dangerous precedent for several of our allies in Central and Eastern Europe, and we must work closely with these allies to ensure that they have the necessary military capabilities to deter future Russian aggression. We must coordinate with our NATO allies to ensure there is adequate military preparation and readiness in the case of such an incident, particularly in the Baltic region. Simultaneously, we must also continue, in coordination with our allies and partners, effective sanctions against entities connected to the ongoing occupations of Crimea and the Donbas to make it explicitly clear to Russia that its unlawful infringements of Ukrainian sovereignty is unsustainable and counter to its long-term interests.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Afghanistan:

On North Korea:

Any agreement with North Korea must include credible commitments – and verifiable progress – toward significant reductions in its nuclear weapons arsenal. North Korea is an irresponsible
 regime whose nuclear capabilities pose a threat to not only the security of the United States and our allies, but to every nation around the globe. A nuclear North Korea would pose an immediate and existential threat to our security if left unchecked, and that’s why we must work with our regional allies to ensure that this situation is properly monitored and managed. While President Trump has legitimized the Kim regime in North Korea and on the international stage without anything in return, I would work to ensure that North Korea provides more than hollow promises but demonstrates real progress towards denuclearization.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Venezuela:

Venezuela has gone from one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America to one of the poorest due to decades of governmental incompetence, corruption, and indifference towards the suffering of its own people. Maduro is a dictator whose regime has lost legitimacy in the eyes of both the Venezuelan people and the world. His corruption and abuse of human rights are completely unacceptable. The U.S. must support Juan Guaidó as the Provisional President of Venezuela and his National Assembly colleagues as they advance a constitutional transition that includes new elections and the restoration of democracy in Venezuela. As part of that support, the U.S. must work closely with our allies and partners to apply diplomatic and economic pressure on the Maduro regime in order to facilitate that transition.

Council on Foreign Relations interview

On Greenland: