Benjamin Wittes

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Benjamin Wittes
Wittes in 2013
Born (1969-11-05) November 5, 1969 (age 54)
Alma materOberlin College (BA)
Known forLawfare
SpouseTamara Cofman Wittes

Benjamin Wittes (born November 5, 1969) is an American legal journalist. He is editor in chief of Lawfare and senior fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution, where he is the research director in public law, and co-director of the Harvard Law School–Brookings Project on Law and Security.[1] He works principally on issues related to American law and national security. Wittes was number 15 on the Politico 50 of 2017, described as "Bard of the Deep State".[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Wittes was born in 1969 in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended a Jewish day school in New York City,[3] and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College in 1990.[4]


After a stint covering the United States Department of Justice and federal regulatory agencies for Legal Times,[1] he worked as an editorial writer for The Washington Post, concentrating on legal affairs from 1997 to 2006. Wittes has written for The Atlantic and The New Republic, and has contributed columns to Slate, Wilson Quarterly, The Weekly Standard, Policy Review, and First Things.[citation needed]

In 2010, Wittes, along with Robert Chesney and Jack Goldsmith, co-founded Lawfare, a blog dedicated to analyzing how the actions of the American government to protect the nation interact with American law.[5] The website was radically modernized [clarification needed] in June 2013.[6]

In a January 2017 blog post, Wittes characterized the Trump administration as "malevolence tempered by incompetence."[7] This description was echoed by others.[8][9] [10]

In May 2017, Wittes contacted New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt to tell him about a conversation he’d had with former FBI Director James Comey when they had lunch together in March 2017. Wittes said President Trump had asked Comey for a loyalty oath, and that Trump had allegedly tried to influence Comey when the FBI was investigating possible ties between Trump's associates and Russia.[2] Schmidt asked Wittes why he was disclosing this information. Wittes said he wasn't doing it at Comey's request, but had decided that the public should know about it.[11] Wittes contributed to the Lawfare podcast called The Report.[12]

In 2020, Wittes launched the show In Lieu of Fun with journalist and law professor Kate Klonick. Conceived as an alternative to the presidential briefings on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the show aired live daily with Klonick and Wittes vowing to continue streaming until the pandemic was over. The show altered its format in 2021 to air only within the weekday and added Scott J. Shapiro and Genevieve DellaFerra as co-hosts. The show featured guests and audience participation and was often political in nature.[13]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Tamara Cofman. Like Wittes, she has been a fellow at the Brookings Institution for many years. She is a writer and former diplomat who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the United States Department of State from November 2009 to January 2012.[citation needed]



  • Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office (2020), with Susan Hennessey
  • Notes on the Mueller Report: A Reading Diary (2019)
  • Speaking the Law: The Obama Administration's Addresses on National Security Law (2015) with Kenneth Anderson
  • The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones – Confronting A New Age of Threat (2015) with Gabriella Blum.
  • Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor after Guantánamo (2010), details how U.S. detention policy is a tangle of obfuscation, rather than a conscious serious set of moral, legal, and policy choices.[14]
  • Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror (2008) [15]
  • Confirmation Wars: Preserving Independent Courts in Angry Times (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006) addresses transformations of judicial confirmation process has undergone. Wittes argues that these changes should not be understood principally in partisan terms, but as an institutional response on the part of the legislative branch to the growth of judicial power over the previous five decades.[16]
  • Starr: A Reassessment, Yale University Press (2002). Through ten hours of interviews with the former United States Office of the Independent Counsel, Wittes examines the role that Ken Starr played in implementing the Ethics in Government Act and investigating the Clinton scandals. Wittes argues Starr should be best understood as a decent man who fundamentally misconstrued his function under the independent counsel law.[17]


  • Rauch, Jonathan & Benjamin Wittes (March 2018). "Boycott the GOP". Disptaches. Politics. The Atlantic. 321 (2): 13–16.


  1. ^ a b "Benjamin Wittes". Brookings Institution. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "#15 Benjamin Wittes - POLITICO 50 2017". POLITICO. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  3. ^ Benjamin Wittes (November 22, 2010). "Thoughts on Being Groped by TSA". Lawfare.
  4. ^ Benjamin Wittes, Editor-in-Chief, Lawfare, Accessed February 29, 2024.
  5. ^ "About Lawfare: A Brief History of the Term and the Site". Retrieved September 8, 2021.
  6. ^ "Welcome to Lawfare's Shiny New Website". Lawfare. June 28, 2023. Retrieved January 9, 2024.
  7. ^ Wittes, Benjamin (January 28, 2017). "Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence: Trump's Horrifying Executive Order on Refugees and Visas". Lawfare. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  8. ^ Post, David (May 2, 2017). "The 'sanctuary cities' executive order: Putting the bully back into 'bully pulpit'". Washington Post. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  9. ^ Roberts, Jeff John (February 6, 2017). "Trump's Travel Ban: The Supreme Court and What Happens Next". Fortune. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  10. ^ Krugman, Paul (February 13, 2017). "Ignorance Is Strength". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  11. ^ "What James Comey Told Me About Donald Trump". Lawfare. May 17, 2017. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  12. ^ Page, Martin (September 13, 2019). "Making the Mueller Report Digestible: On Lawfare's The Report". Podcast Review. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  13. ^ Jurecic, Quinta. "Livestream: Panel Discussion of Trump Financial Documents Cases on 'In Lieu of Fun'". Retrieved September 8, 2021.
  14. ^ Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor after Guantánamo
  15. ^ "Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror", Brookings Institution, June 23, 2008.
  16. ^ Confirmation Wars, Hoover Press. Accessed February 29, 2024.
  17. ^ "Starr: A Reassessment", The Washington Post. Accessed February 29, 2024.

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