International Law and the 2020 Presidential Election: What is at Stake

The American Society of International Law is pleased to announce a free online series examining what the 2020 Presidential Election will mean for the future of international law. The six hour-long sessions will feature discussions with current and former public officials, campaign representatives, and leading experts from academia, private practice, and non-governmental organizations.

The series will explore the following topics:

  • Cyber Threats & Election Interference (streamed August 19, 2020)
  • Trade & Investment (streamed September 2, 2020)
  • Climate Change & the Environment (streamed September 24, 2020)
  • Immigration & Asylum (streamed October 8, 2020)
  • Use of Force & Counterterrorism (streamed October 14, 2020)
  • Multilateralism & International Institutions (streamed October 30, 2020)
All sessions will be recorded and available to the public via links from this page after they have aired live.


Streamed: October 30, 2020

This is the final installment of the International Law and the 2020 Election Series.

  • Tess Bridgeman, Just Security
  • Pierre-Richard Prosper, Arent Fox
  • David Sullivan (moderator), World Bank

This session features remarks from U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and former Coordinator for Cyber Issues at the U.S. Department of State Christopher Painter. They share their thoughts and insights on the role of cyber security in the upcoming 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and the threats potentially facing the United States as it heads to an historic election.

Streamed: October 14, 2020

The challenges to contemporary U.S. national security do not easily fit within the established international norms governing the use of force, which were largely developed to address conventional, inter-State conflicts. New types of actors and new forms of technology have led the United States and other countries to use military force in innovative, and some would say legally questionable or even unlawful, ways. Critics contend that the United States and its allies have tested the limits of the international legal order in their long-running effort to combat terrorists, militias and other non-state and state-sponsored actors in the Middle East and beyond. At the same time, the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, and the resurgence of geopolitical rivalries with Russia and China continue to, and perhaps increasingly, stress existing frameworks. Should the existing rules change and if so in what ways and how? The panel will focus on the use of drones, targeted killings (such as that of Qasem Soleimani), cyber weapons, forms of surveillance, and remote warfare (including the "unwilling or unable" doctrine). How do the presidential candidates approach the limits placed by international law on the use of force? How do the candidates differ from each other and from previous administrations?

  • Monica Hakimi (moderator), University of Michigan Law School
  • Oona A. Hathaway, Yale Law School
  • Thomas H. Lee, Fordham University School of Law

Streamed: October 8, 2020

This panel will discuss the U.S. immigration system and laws, as well as recent executive actions, in light of international laws and norms. Panelists will focus particular attention on the positions and policies of the two U.S. presidential candidates and their respective parties, as they seek to "fix" U.S. immigration law, policy, and practice. Topics for discussion will include immigration enforcement matters, including especially extraterritorial detention centers, refugee camps, border walls, biometric screening and surveillance, family separation practices, and deportation practices. The panel will also discuss the implications of international law and norms for U.S. refugee and asylum law, policy, and practice.

  • Leon Fresco, Holland & Knight LLP
  • Enrique Gonzalez, Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP
  • Sandra Grossman (moderator), Grossman Young & Hammond

Streamed: Thursday, September 24, 2020

This session examines how a Trump or Biden administration will deal with the global phenomenon of climate change. Climate change is a defining issue of our time, representing a fundamental threat to the earth’s citizens and even the existence of certain states. The international community has mobilized in different ways in response to this challenge, and states vary in their ambitions for future initiatives.  Speakers will address what specific laws, regulations, strategies and plans the two U.S. presidential candidates aim to put in place. Do they aim to adhere closely to the multilateral system of mitigation and adaptation initiated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change? Will they reassess the United States’ relationship with the Paris Agreement, including the general commitment to take continuing efforts to adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects? How will a Biden or Trump administration take into account different national and international interests when formulating and implementing U.S. climate change policy? What partners from different sectors could be most usefully engaged to limit or reduce global emissions? Finally, the panel will assess how a Trump or Biden administration plans to engage with the national and international scientific community over the next four years.

  • David Banks, Chief Strategist for the Minority, Policy & Communications, Climate Select Committee, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Daniel Bodansky, Professor, Arizona State University College of Law
  • K. Russell LaMotte (moderator), Principal, Beveridge & Diamond, LLP
  • Allison Starmann, General Counsel, American Chemistry Council

Streamed: Wednesday, September 2, 2020

This session in the American Society of International Law’s series on “International Law and the 2020 Presidential Election: What is at Stake” will address the difficult questions regarding trade and investment policy awaiting the next administration. At a minimum, a Trump or Biden Administration will need to decide what role trade and investment will play within its broader foreign and domestic policy. The next administration will also need to decide how to balance trade relations with protections for innovation, labor, the environment, and human rights. In a shifting geopolitical environment, the next administration will also need to conceptualize the national security implications of its trade policy, as well as the future of the WTO as an international forum for global trade questions and the ongoing impasse over its Appellate Body. Fundamental questions exist about the U.S. engagement with foreign investment, including the role that the USMCA might play as a template for future trade and investment agreements as well as the ongoing efforts to reform the investor-state dispute settlement system.

  • Alvaro Santos (moderator), Georgetown University Law Center
  • Kelly Ann Shaw, Hogan Lovells US LLP
  • Katherine Tai, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives

Streamed: Wednesday, August 19, 2020

This session will consider the legal and security implications of foreign interference in the U.S. elections, and will examine the 2020 U.S. presidential candidates' policies and perspectives.

On August 7, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center issued a threat update stating that "Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters' preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people's confidence in our democratic process. They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results."

This session will address these issues and discuss the impact that the result of the 2020 presidential election will have on how the U.S. Government responds to them.

  • Susan Benesch, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University
  • Carrie Cordero, Center for a New American Security
  • Jamil N. Jaffer, National Security Institute, George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School
  • Chimène Keitner (moderator), UC Hastings Law, San Francisco

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