John Yoo

“Sometimes lawyers confuse what they think is moral versus what the law says, and those are different things.”

Professor John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general in Bush’s first term, sat down with Kate and Skip to discuss his path to law school, clerking at the Supreme Court, and his role in the torture and war powers legal debate.


John Yoo is the Emanuel Heller Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has been on the faculty since 1993. Yoo received his B.A., summa cum laude, in American history from Harvard University. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he worked at the Yale Law Journal. Professor Yoo clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit. From 2001 to 2003, he served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on issues involving foreign affairs, national security and the separation of powers.

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"I think in law you still have a connection to the great debates and the great ideas you are introduced to in college.” (5:00)

“[Clerking on the Supreme Court] left me with the idea of how important it was that judges constrain their role, that they try not to become philosopher kings who think it's their job to make and remake society as they see fit.” (6:00)

“Just because something is politically hard doesn’t mean we have to rewrite the Constitution or our understanding to fix it.” (9:40)

“That doesn’t mean that because members of Congress are politically reluctant that we have to therefore decrease presidential power.” (10:40)

“Members of Congress like to see the President take all the responsibility for the tough decisions in war, so they’re going to fund the military maybe even if they don’t agree with it because they don’t want to have to take responsibility for it.” (11:15)