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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. An updated edition of her book, “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues,” will be published soon. Visit her website:
Will Congress Write the President a Blank Check for War?
The Constitution places the power to declare war exclusively in the hands of the Congress. However, for the past 75 years, Congress has allowed that power to drift toward the executive branch. The new bill, should it pass, would effectively make the transfer of the war power from Congress to the president complete. It is hard to imagine a worse time in American history for this to happen.
Thursday, April 12, 2018(2 comments)
Trump's Rush to Judgment on Syrian Chemical Attack: Illegal and Deadly
Donald Trump says the United States is about to bomb Syria, and Russia has vowed to shoot down US aircraft with missile defenses in response. With John Bolton, the new national security adviser and infamous enemy of the United Nations by Trump's side, diplomacy is not in the cards.
Saturday, April 7, 2018(1 comments)
In Wake of Gaza Massacre, Israeli Leaders Should Be Prosecuted for War Crimes
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power has a legal duty to protect the occupied. Grave breaches of the convention constitute war crimes. They include willful killing; willfully causing great suffering or serious injury; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population; and intentionally launching attacks with knowledge they will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians.
Sunday, April 1, 2018(3 comments)
Trump Finds Fellow Bully in Bolton
President Donald Trump's appointment of John Bolton as his national security adviser is his most dangerous move yet, argues Marjorie Cohn. As Stormy Daniels and Robert Mueller close in on Trump, the president will seek to create a major distraction. With bully Bolton egging him on, that may well be a military attack on North Korea or Iran. The consequences would prove disastrous.
Sunday, March 25, 2018(17 comments)
Is Trump Trying to Fire Mueller or Preemptively Discredit His Findings?
Trump has been champing at the bit to end Mueller's investigation, apparently restrained by his lawyers' promises that the probe is coming to an end. In addition, GOP heavyweights like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) warned that firing Mueller would spell "the beginning of the end of [Trump's] presidency."
Thursday, March 15, 2018(5 comments)
The Terror of a New Cold War
On March 1, 2018, in his annual state of the nation speech to the Russian Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin declared that his country has developed an "invincible" intercontinental cruise missile resistant to US missile defense systems. Putin claimed the new weapon can operate at very high speeds and has unlimited range.
Friday, February 23, 2018(2 comments)
Trump Sets Deadly Precedent by Hiding Rationale for Bombing Syria
Besides being illegal, a preemptive strike on North Korea would be catastrophic. Nevertheless, Trump continues his provocative threats against Pyongyang. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in October that Trump's dangerous threats could put the United States "on a path to World War III."
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Trump Makes the Crisis Worse for Palestinian Refugees
Trump appears unfazed by the disaster his actions have created. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, Trump said he would suspend aid to the Palestinians "unless they sit down and negotiate peace." The plan -- which reflects the wishes of Israel, with no Palestinian approval or even input -- would allow Israel to annex 10 percent of the West Bank area.
Friday, February 9, 2018(5 comments)
Pentagon to Allow Nuclear Responses to Non-Nuclear Attacks
The new NPR states that the United States could use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks, including cyberattacks, in "extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies and partners." This new strategy opens the door to first-use of nuclear weapons, which is prohibited under international law.
We Cannot Expect a President With Racism "in His DNA" to Save DACA
Trump ended temporary protected status for 200,000 people from El Salvador, effective September 2019; many of them have been in the United States for 20 years. In November, Trump had halted temporary protected status for 59,000 Haitians, who are still reeling from the earthquake and cholera epidemic that have devastated that country.
Monday, January 8, 2018(8 comments)
Trump's Nuclear Threat Warrants Removal From Office
The 25th Amendment provides for the vice president to assume the presidency when he and a majority of the president's cabinet declare in writing that the president "is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." If the president challenges that determination, two-thirds of both houses of Congress are required to affirm that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
Saturday, December 30, 2017(2 comments)
Trump's "America First" Security Strategy Imperils the US
Documentation of poverty in the United States is conspicuously absent from Trump's National Security Strategy (NSS). In fact, Pillar II of the NSS cites "unnecessary regulations" as problematic. Deregulation serves the interest of the wealthy. Since he took office, Trump has eliminated hundreds of regulations that protect health, safety and workers.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Trump Apologists Are Gunning for Mueller
Two Florida GOP congressmen, who flew with Trump on Air Force One to a Roy Moore rally, are gunning for Mueller. Rep. Matt Gaetz said the United States is "at risk of a coup d'etat" by Mueller. Gaetz introduced a resolution calling for Mueller's firing. And Rep. Ron DeSantis is sponsoring legislation to terminate Mueller's funding.
Sunday, December 3, 2017
Israel and US Hide Names of Companies Supporting Israeli Settlements
Israel seeks to suppress the identities of the companies that support the settlements because it is feeling the pinch of the BDS movement. The United States thinks publication of the list would be "counterproductive" because it would fuel BDS, thereby negatively impacting Israel, the leading US client state and biggest recipient of US foreign aid.
Sunday, November 26, 2017(6 comments)
The Duty to Disobey a Nuclear Launch Order
There is cause for concern that Donald Trump may order a nuclear strike on North Korea. Trump has indicated his willingness to use nuclear weapons. In early 2016, he asked a senior foreign policy adviser about nuclear weapons three times during a briefing and then queried, "If we have them why can't we use them?"
Friday, November 17, 2017(2 comments)
US Military and CIA Leaders May Be Investigated for War Crimes
If a full investigation of US officials proceeds as requested, it "would send a clear signal to the Trump administration and other countries around the world that torture is categorically prohibited, even in times of war, and there will be consequences for authorizing and committing acts of torture," according to Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program.
Friday, November 10, 2017(7 comments)
Robert Mueller Is Moving Toward Donald Trump
NBC News reports that Trump Jr. is "under scrutiny by Mueller." It's quite possible that Mueller is investigating both Trump and Trump Jr. for conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act. In this case, the president could potentially be named as an unindicted co-conspirator.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017(8 comments)
Mattis, Tillerson Want Blank Check To Wage Illegal War
Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on October 30 that the Trump administration has all the legal authority it needs to kill people anywhere in the world. Congress must retain the power to authorize war, which is what the framers intended. They should refrain from relinquishing it to an unpredictable and volatile president.
Wednesday, November 1, 2017(4 comments)
Trump Is Killing Record Numbers of Civilians
We can expect to see increasing numbers of civilian deaths as Trump continues the "war on terror" he inherited from his predecessors. Since Bush launched this war after 9/11, we have become more vulnerable to terrorism. Civilian killings heighten anger toward the United States and lead to stepped-up recruitment of those who would do us harm.
Friday, October 20, 2017
Trump and Netanyahu Walk in Lockstep on Iran
In spite of the fact that the IAEA has affirmed eight times -- most recently in August -- that Iran is meeting its obligations under the deal, Trump refused to certify Iran was in compliance and he decided the deal is not in the US national security interests.
Monday, October 9, 2017(3 comments)
The Vietnam War Is Not History For Victims Of Agent Orange
Agent Orange/dioxin was an herbicidal chemical weapon manufactured by U.S. chemical companies like Dow and Monsanto and sprayed by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971. Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind. Approximately 3 million Vietnamese and thousands of U.S. and allied soldiers were exposed to Agent Orange/dioxin.
Saturday, September 30, 2017(3 comments)
Trump Threatens Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea
By threatening to attack North Korea, Trump is endangering the lives of countless people. In the past, he has indicated his willingness to use nuclear weapons and Kim Jong-un has threatened to retaliate. The rapidly escalating rhetoric and provocative maneuvers on both sides has taken us to the brink of war. By stating the intention to totally destroy North Korea, Trump has threatened genocide.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017(3 comments)
Will Judge Overturn Arpaio Pardon?
Before he pardoned Arpaio, Trump told a crowd of supporters in Phoenix that rather than violating the law, Arpaio was "doing his job." But "no President till now has proclaimed that a public official who violated the Constitution and flouted orders was 'doing his job,'" three lawyers write.
Saturday, September 16, 2017(1 comments)
Will the Courts Save the Dreamers?
The Muslim Ban case could serve as a bellwether of DACA's fate in the high court. In a temporary order, the Court left parts of the ban in place pending its decision on the merits. Three justices -- Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch -- would have allowed the ban to continue in its entirety. They would also probably defer to Trump in the DACA case.
Thursday, September 7, 2017(1 comments)
Sessions Is Wrong: There Is No Legal Justification for Ending DACA
More than 400 chief executives, many from the nation's largest corporations, signed an open letter urging Trump and Congress to protect the Dreamers. They predicted, "Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions" if DACA is ended.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017(1 comments)
Trump's Arpaio Pardon Signals to White Supremacists: "I've Got Your Back"
Perhaps most significant is what the pardon says about the president. It demonstrates beyond doubt that Trump and Arpaio share the same values. Both men are racist to the core. Neither has any respect for the law. And both retaliate against those who criticize their actions. Like Trump, Arpaio attacked judges who ruled against him.
Monday, August 21, 2017(2 comments)
Time to Impeach Trump
The president's reprehensible behavior in this moment creates a new sense of urgency. We cannot postpone consideration of impeachment until Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishes his criminal investigation. It is time to pressure the House of Representatives to bring articles of impeachment against Trump for his abuse of power. We must stop this president before he launches a new civil war and/or nuclear war.
Sunday, August 13, 2017(3 comments)
A Preemptive Strike on North Korea Would Be Catastrophic and Illegal
As we stand on the precipice of a disastrous war, these are the right circumstances for Trump to meet with Kim Jong-un. If Trump were to successfully negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea, he would receive plaudits for being a real diplomat. The unthinkable alternative is military action that would cause the deaths of untold numbers of Koreans, Japanese people and Americans.
Friday, August 4, 2017(2 comments)
Donald Trump vs. The Rule of Law
Rather than acting to fulfill his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws, Trump is violating or advocating violation of many of them. His law-breaking renders him vulnerable to criminal indictment and perhaps eventually to impeachment.
Sunday, July 16, 2017(9 comments)
Trump Jr. Emails and Meeting With Russian Lawyer Are Probable Cause of Federal Crime
On June 9, Trump Jr., then campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor, met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, at Trump Tower. Trump Jr. arranged the meeting with the expectation of receiving negative information the Russian government supposedly had about Hillary Clinton.
Friday, July 14, 2017(3 comments)
Courts Must Hold Executive Branch Accountable for Drone Strikes
No one from the Bush, Obama or Trump administrations has been held legally accountable for their unlawful killing of thousands of civilians. Although Bush used armed drones, the targeted killing program reached its zenith during the Obama administration. It took three years for Barack Obama to make good on his pledge to be transparent about the United States' lethal drone program.
Thursday, June 29, 2017(2 comments)
Gorsuch Leans Far Right in Muslim Ban Case
The travel-ban issue is still alive. We will see whether the Supreme Court decides the issue on its legal merits and defines the scope of executive power in national security matters, or dismisses the case as moot. Meanwhile, we would do well to note the significance of Gorsuch's affirmation of unbridled executive power.
Monday, May 29, 2017(8 comments)
The Meaning of Assange's Persecution
The long legal ordeal of Julian Assange -- and the continuing threats against the WikiLeaks founder -- make a mockery of the West's supposed commitment to press freedom and the public's right to know
Israel Hits Back Against Boycott
Israeli officials are attacking on several fronts against people who support the BDS movement as a nonviolent way to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian human rights, writes Marjorie Cohn.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Neil Gorsuch and the Deconstruction of the Administrative State
Gorsuch is a staunch, longtime conservative judge who, in spite of his refusal to tip his hand about his ideology, has taken positions that confirm his right-wing bona fides. His right-wing ideology and Bannon's frightening agenda would dismantle important protections and endanger us all.
Friday, March 17, 2017(1 comments)
Evaluate New Travel Ban in Light of International Law
International law principles require courts to reject any attempt by the President to define classes based on national origin or religion. The EO makes a distinction based on religion. All six of the listed countries have majority Muslim populations. As the brief says, "the EO does not suspend immigration from any state with a non-Muslim majority."
Friday, February 17, 2017
The Toxic Policies of "President Agent Orange"
Since taking office, Trump has moved systematically to unravel protections for immigrants, workers, the environment, Native Americans and other people of color, as well as the right to healthcare. He has moved to deregulate Wall Street, incurring a real risk of another financial meltdown. And his Muslim ban created worldwide chaos, pain and insecurity for untold numbers of people.
Sunday, February 5, 2017(4 comments)
Though Blocked for Now, Trump's Unconstitutional Muslim Ban Deserves Total Destruction
None of the 9/11 hijackers came from any of the seven countries. There have been no fatal terrorist attacks on US soil by anyone from those countries. Therefore, there is no compelling state interest for treating the two classes differently. This is particularly true in light of Trump's statements that his order would prioritize "Christians" seeking asylum over "Muslims."
Monday, January 30, 2017
Remembering People's Lawyer Len Weinglass
Tobocman's unique book is required reading for all who seek to learn about the remarkable legal career of Leonard Weinglass. It also provides a valuable history lesson of people's struggles that will inspire a new generation of political activists as we face the daunting task of resisting Donald Trump's dangerous, frightening, mean-spirited, downright cruel agenda.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017(2 comments)
The Injustices of Manning's Ordeal
For exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pvt. Chelsea Manning suffered nearly seven years in prison, an ordeal President Obama finally is ending but without acting on the crimes she revealed, says Marjorie Cohn.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Smooth-Talking Jeff Sessions Can't Hide Disturbing Record
A long-time prosecutor before joining the Senate 20 years ago, Jeff Sessions supports draconian mandatory minimum sentences that remove discretion from judges to tailor sentences to the individual and fuel mass incarceration that disproportionately targets people of color.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Obama Belatedly Says No to Israel
If President Obama had confronted Israel over its illegal settlements earlier, he might have really achieved something, but his U.N. abstention as he heads out the door is better than nothing, observes Marjorie Cohn.
Saturday, December 31, 2016(3 comments)
A Year Of U.S. Militarism
Trump favors expanding U.S. nuclear capability until the "world comes to its senses." He pledged to build a wall on the US-Mexico border to keep out immigrants he has called "criminals" and rapists." And he continues to reiterate his pledge to ban Muslims from the United States and build a Muslim "registry." Anybody for war?
Sunday, December 4, 2016(5 comments)
The Remarkable Story of Fidel Castro
Since Fidel Castro's death, the mainstream U.S. news media has been on a flashback to the Cold War presenting one-sided denunciations of the "communist dictator," but there is another side to the story, explains Marjorie Cohn.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016(6 comments)
Tom Hayden, Courageous Warrior for Peace
The death of Tom Hayden at age 76 marked the passing of a major progressive leader who championed causes from civil rights to Vietnam War opposition to the environment, as Marjorie Cohn recalls.
Monday, October 3, 2016
Trump's Blindness Toward Slavery, Jim Crow
Donald Trump's remarkable comments about American blacks never being worse off demonstrated a stunning ignorance of or callousness toward the grotesque evils of slavery and Jim Crow, writes Marjorie Cohn.
Friday, September 30, 2016(1 comments)
President Obama: "Patron" of the Israeli Occupation
Obama increased the amount of money the U.S. provides Israel each year from $3.1 to $3.8 billion. Obama put his money where his heart apparently is with the unprecedented allocation of military assistance to Israel. The annual $3.8 billion, more money than the U.S. gives to any other country, will fund the continuing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, now in its fifth decade.
Iraqi Woman Uses Chilcot Report in War Crimes Lawsuit against George W. Bush
Sundus Saleh, an Iraqi woman, first filed her lawsuit against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz in September 2013. Alleging that the Iraq War constituted an illegal crime of aggression, Saleh filed the suit on behalf of herself and other Iraqis in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
Sunday, August 28, 2016(1 comments)
Abu Zubaydah: Torture's "Poster Child"
The ugly legacy of George W. Bush's torture program continues to haunt U.S. foreign policy as the "poster child" for waterboarding, Abu Zubaydah, makes an appeal for his release from Guantanamo, writes Marjorie Cohn.
Saturday, August 27, 2016(1 comments)
California May Abolish the Death Penalty
There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime. Capital punishment has been applied arbitrarily due to inherent bias, local political pressures on prosecutors and judges, and lack of access to quality defense attorneys by those convicted. According to Death Penalty Focus, the race of the victim and the race of the defendant are major determinants in who is sentenced to death in this country.
Thursday, July 28, 2016(1 comments)
The Content of Donald Trump's Character
Though some anti-war Americans see hope that Donald Trump would pull back from foreign wars, they also must face his undeniable record of racial and sexist bigotry, writes Marjorie Cohn.
Monday, July 25, 2016(4 comments)
Killing with robots increases militarization of police
the Dallas police chose to execute Johnson with their killer robot. This was an unlawful use of force and a violation of due process. Due process means arrest and fair trial. It is what separates democracies from dictatorships, in which the executive acts as judge, jury and executioner.
Monday, July 4, 2016(1 comments)
Numbers in Obama's Drone Deaths Report Just Don't Add Up
Like his predecessor, Obama defines the whole world as his battlefield, reserving for himself the role of judge, jury and executioner. Compliance with due process (arrest and fair trial), which the U.S. Constitution guarantees all persons, not just U.S. citizens, has not been a priority in the Obama administration's "war on terror."
Wednesday, June 22, 2016(5 comments)
US Bombing Syrian Troops Would Be Illegal
Secretary of State Kerry met with dissident State Department "diplomats" to hear their call for U.S. airstrikes on Syrian government troops, but the plan is both dangerous and illegal, writes Marjorie Cohn.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016(1 comments)
The Racial Divide Between Sanders and Trump
Sanders has cited Trump's demagoguery, which, the former thinks, is a reaction to fear and anger that many people feel, leading them to embrace scapegoating. "Don't go to the dark side," Sanders implores. He advocates building a strong, progressive movement. "Real change," he told us yesterday, "has never taken place from the top on down, only from the bottom up."
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Michael Ratner's Death Is a Loss for Freedom, Peace and Justice
Michael will probably be best remembered for his victory in gaining the right to habeas corpus for U.S. detainees held in Cuba at Guantanamo. Michael was lead counsel in the 2004 case of Rasul v. Bush, in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of those detained as "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo to have their petitions for habeas corpus heard by U.S. courts.