FROM David Rivkin
Will Washington become a kleptocracy? Donald Trump promised to "drain the swamp" in Washington, but critics say he's creating a new swamp of potential conflicts of interest. The White House has opened a revolving door by appointing lobbyists and corporate leaders to regulate the businesses they formerly worked for. Public money's being spent at Trump properties, and family members have the chance to enrich themselves by making government policy. Ethics officials and reporters say the flood of possible violations is so great that a single scandal looks like it's just part of business as usual.
Is Donald Trump thumbing his nose at the Founding Fathers? The Constitution prohibits public officials — including the President — from financial conflicts of interest — domestic or foreign. Recent Chief Executives have sold off assets or placed them in blind trusts, but Donald Trump’s lawyer says there’s no way he could be “blind” to his very public investments. Trump may be violating America's basic law the moment he takes the oath of office a week from today. Many legal scholars -- and ethics watchdogs -- say he's failed to avoid financial conflicts as demanded by the Constitution. But as opponents whisper about possible impeachment, other experts insist he's done all that he can as the richest man ever elected to serve in the White House. We hear about Constitutional law -- and politics: is Trump right to say that most Americans don't care enough to make him change?
Secrecy versus the right to privacy in a dangerous world While Edward Snowden's in exile in Moscow, debate is raging: should President Obama grant him a pardon? Human rights groups, bolstered by Oliver Stone's latest movie , say Snowden performed public service by revealing the excesses of government spying. But others insist that, by breaking the law, Snowden has made it harder for law enforcement to prevent acts of terrorist violence. Meantime, bombs in New York and New Jersey and stabbings in Minnesota are raising all-too-familiar questions about national security. Incidents like these have a direct impact on public opinion about "striking a balance." Is there too much surveillance by government agencies -- or not enough?
Black Sites and Dark Days for the CIA In the first years after 911, the CIA allowed the torture of detainees and lied to the Bush Administration and Congress about the intelligence it produced. That's according to a massive 6,000-page report of the CIA's so-called “enhanced interrogation program” released today by the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by California Democrat, Dianne Feinstein. Congress is divided over the content and the impact of today's release. While some Republicans claim torture of prisoners “saved American lives,” others warn today's report will produce a backlash overseas.
Bradley Manning Not Guilty of Aiding the Enemy After Pfc. Bradley Manning confessed to releasing 700,000 classified documents, he was charged with “aiding the enemy.” Today, a military court judge found him not guilty of that crime but guilty of espionage. What are the consequences for Bradley Manning, government secrecy and investigative reporting?
The Trial of Bradley Manning for WikiLeaks Leaks PFC Bradley Manning has pled guilty to releasing 700,000 classified documents, which WikiLeaks then published on the Internet — the largest intelligence breach in American history. At the time, Manning worked in what's called a "Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility" at Forward Operating Base Hammer near Baghdad. He's now facing a court martial on espionage charges at Fort Mead, Maryland. Critics say he betrayed his country. His defenders are framing the case, in part, as a challenge to what they call excessive classification of information the public has a right to know. Is he a whistle-blower or a traitor who deserves life in prison?
FISA Court Allows Phone Records Collection Today, a new controversy may pit national security against personal privacy. The Guardian newspaper has published the order of a secret, so-called FISA court. It requires Verizon to provide the National Security Agency with records of every cell phone or land line call in its system, both international and domestic. Content will not be monitored. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirmed the report. Some say it's a massive invasion of privacy. The Administration and its allies call it "critical" for national security. Is it something new or an extension of what started during the Bush years? Will the publication produce another leak investigation?
Has Same-Sex Marriage Lost Its Political Power? In 1996, Congress passed the " Defense of Marriage Act ," which limited marriage to a man and a woman. In 2004, state ballot measures on same-sex marriage helped turn out Republican voters. In the first few months of his administration, President Obama's Justice Department supported DOMA. But last month, Attorney General Eric Holder called the law indefensible on constitutional grounds. So, where are the Republicans now? Members of Congress and potential presidential candidates have focused almost entirely on enforcing the law, but not on same-sex marriage itself. Have they decided that "it's the Economy, stupid," after all? We look at the law---and the politics.
Alberto Gonzales Preps for Senate Hearing Advance copies of what Alberto Gonzales will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow have failed to silence his critics. Alberto Gonzales has released the 25-page opening statement he plans to read tomorrow to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. It says he has "nothing to hide," that no US attorney was fired "for an improper reason," and that he "never sought to mislead the Congress or the American people." Republican Senator Arlen Specter questions whether Gonzales is "capable of administering the Department of Justice." Democrat Charles Schumer says the hearing will "make or break" the Attorney General. It's all about Gonzales' role in firing US attorneys. What did politics have to do with it? What about Karl Rove and missing White house e-mails?
Is Our Government Keeping Too Many Secrets? Bill Clinton's Attorney General, Janet Reno, ordered that government agencies should tell American citizens what they wanted to know, as long as it would "do no harm." After September 11, John Ashcroft changed the standard to tell the public less, rather than more, saying he would defend in court any legal argument against releasing information. While the argument is that, especially in times of war, it's best to err on the side of caution, critics contend that too much secrecy is counterproductive and destroys the openness that leads to trust in representative government. Last week, the House passed what's called "sunshine" legislation . If it passes the Senate, the White House threatens a presidential veto. We talk about privacy, national security--and political embarrassment.
President Bush Renews Focus in the War on Terror President Bush today repeated his challenge to Congress to give him the tools he says he needs to try notorious suspects in the war on terror. In his fourth speech of a series leading up to September 11, he referred again to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the attacks on New York and Washington five years ago. The President may be trying to divert attention from the war in Iraq, but he was full-throated today about the need to "stay the course." Just nine weeks before the November elections, Democrats and Republicans now have to talk about something other than the war in Iraq. Will the latest White House version of military tribunals guarantee fair trials? What's the difference between what the President calls an "alternative set of interrogation procedures" and torture? Will the CIA be held to the same standards as military personnel?
The longest US war: Will Trump send more troops to Afghanistan? The Trump White House is divided over the Pentagon's request for more troops in Afghanistan—where the US has been fighting for the past 16 years. Is there a formula -- either for "victory" or a political settlement? Is there an end in sight for America's longest war?
Replacing Obamacare: Now you see it… now you don’t As the Senate deliberates replacing Obmacare, health coverage for millions of people is at stake. There've been no public hearings, and a draft measure won't be made public. Is the House version so unpopular that that Senate is hiding a version that looks much the same?