Each week, NBN Politics recaps the top five news stories from the past week and brings you a look at the week ahead. Welcome to the Fast Five.
Edward Snowden: Russian spy?
Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, alleged that whistleblower Edward Snowden received assistance from Russia in revealing national security secrets. While a guest on NBC’s Meet the Press on Jan. 19, Rogers said he did not believe “it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB.” Snowden denied this in a rare interview through encrypted means with New Yorker writer Jane Mayer. The FBI still holds that Snowden did not receive foreign help.
Syria talks begin
The second round of talks in Geneva over the conflict in Syria began with tension Wednesday. The United Nations hopes to establish local ceasefires in the conflict, which has displaced millions and left more than 100,000 dead. Bashar al-Assad's government opened with fairly pointed statements aimed at the U.S. and other major participants in the conference. Given that the stated purpose of the talks is to oust Assad and create a new transitional government in Syria, it's hardly surprising that the current regime in Syria isn't interested in playing along. With even Syria's National Reconciliation Minister saying we shouldn't "expect anything from Geneva II," you probably shouldn't expect anything from Geneva II.
Bob McDonnell indicted
Former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell and his wife were indicted Tuesday for illegally accepting at least $165,000 in gifts and loans. They allegedly received money, luxury vacations, private plane rides and $100,000 in loans from Jonnie Williams Sr., the former CEO of Star Scientifc, a producer of dietary supplements. Star Scientific may have been pursuing research money and special consideration for its products. McDonnell, a Republican who finished his four-year term on Jan. 11, is the state’s first governor to face criminal charges.
U.S and Iran reach a deal, maybe
The United States and Iran may have reached a preliminary deal with world powers, but now that deal itself is raising controversy. Under this agreement, Iran will dilute all of its uranium that has been enriched to a fissile concentration of 20 percent in exchange for a reduction in economic sanctions. Uranium enriched to 20 percent is relatively close to the level needed for nuclear weapons. It will also stop building its heavy water reactor and cease uranium enrichment past the five percent level needed for power.
What exactly that means, however, is apparently up for debate. The White House has portrayed the deal as freezing Iran’s nuclear program, while Iranian officials insist that the White House is portraying the deal inaccurately. This discrepancy could prove to be vital when the deal goes up before Congress, which isn't very fond of Iran.
Israel prevents terrorist plot
Israel reported Wednesday that it had diverted an al-Qaida plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Three Palestinians, two from Jerusalem and one from the West Bank, have been arrested. They allegedly planned to carry out a suicide bombing on the embassy. Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, described the attack as “advanced.” According to the State Department, the U.S. has not yet verified this.
Pennsylvania voter ID law overturned
A Pennsylvania judge overturned a requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls. The law was passed in March 2012, but had not yet been implemented due to contestation. The case could now go to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in yet another step in the ongoing debate over voter ID laws. Democratic leaders in Pennsylvania argued that the law was intended to disenfranchise minorities, the elderly and other groups who tend to vote Democratic. The entire law was not ruled unconstitutional. As of Jan. 3, nearly three dozen states had some form of identification law.
The week ahead: the state of the union is probably "strong"
President Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 10 p.m. CST. If you're curious about what to expect, The Washington Post is running a series on issues Obama is likely to cover. Here's our short version: Expect Obama to say that the state of the union is "strong", expect Boehner to cry and expect Biden to do something GIF-able. If you need a little extra fuel to get through the address, there’s always this.