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Call it the second-term curse. Up until now, President Barack Obama has for the most part avoided getting caught up in scandals. But this month's triple whopper of the Benghazi debacle, the IRS fiasco and, now, the news that the Department of Justice seized the phone records of AP journalists puts the Obama administration in good company with other second-term presidents: Nixon, Clinton, Reagan, George W. Bush, and more. All suffered through scandals that would have threatened their re-elections, had they happened sooner.
"Part of it is just the odds catching up with you, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a dangerous place, you stay there long enough bad things happen," said CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. "You stay there long enough, someone, somewhere does something wrong."
Actress Angelina Jolie, an international superstar, revealed Tuesday that there is a tie that binds her to thousands of ordinary women. In a revealing New York Times op-ed, Jolie admits to having both breasts removed after learning she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which drastically increases the risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
In the article, Jolie states, "I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made." She goes on to write, "I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity."
With that last acknowledgement, Jolie touched on the inevitable discussion that came with her revelation, not about how the procedure could save her life or raise awareness for other women, but how the double mastectomy will affect her appearance.
Slate writer Amanda Hess calls it a "misplaced fascination" and called out Jolie's critics in a new article.
"I was really disappointed, but I was not surprised to see a lot of people really focusing on her breasts, instead of her life," Hess told CNN.
The Russians say they caught an American spy red-handed, and they are kicking him out of the country. Ryan Fogle - if that is his real name - works as a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. At least that's his day job, according to the Russians. The FSB - Russia's successor to the KGB - believes he is actually a CIA agent.
The Russians say they arrested him while he was trying to recruit a Russian official. Russian TV cameras were there when Fogle was hauled away. The Russians say he had a whole spy kit on him, complete with a wad of cash, a compass, maps, and wigs. The FSB also claims he had a letter on him addressed to a recruit, with instructions on creating a Gmail account for secret communications.
Former CIA officer Peter Brookes said the letter could have been planted, saying CIA agents would not be caught with such items in their pockets.
"There could be some theater here," said Brookes. "If they did get someone involved in espionage, they may want to deter further espionage, as well as Russians from participating in espionage."
Fogle was brought in for questioning, and later turned over to the U.S. embassy. But Russia has ordered him out of the country.
There has been no comment on this incident from the U.S. embassy.
As White House press secretary Jay Carney heard multiple times in Tuesday's press briefing, the Obama administration has been aggressive in pursuing leaks, and that's putting it lightly. Director Robert Greenwald took a critical look at the Obama administration's role in pursuing those who decide to go public with sensitive information in his latest documentary, "War on Whistleblowers"
"The impact of this administration's aggressiveness in the national security arena has had an extraordinary chilling effect. The number of people who have indicated to us that they wish they could talk but they can't because they're afraid of what could happen to them is a terrible thing for our democracy," Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, says in the documentary.
Greenwald said he was not surprised when he heard news that the Justice Department secretly collected two months of telephone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press.
"This is a systemic, continuing problem, it's not a one-off, and it's not an accident, sadly, it has been policy by the White House, by the administration, and it's an effort to silence, scare whistleblowers and to get the press to be quiet," said Greenwald, who is also the president and founder of Brave New Foundation.
The Justice Department on Tuesday defended its decision to subpoena phone records from the Associated Press, saying the requests were limited and necessary to investigate a leak of classified information. Attorney General Eric Holder argued it was a very serious leak that put the American people in harm's way.
This story has been updated from its original version.
CNN's Jake Tapper reports:
CNN has obtained an e-mail sent by a top aide to President Barack Obama about White House reaction to the deadly attack last September 11 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that apparently differs from how sources characterized it to two different media organizations.
The actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whoever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department's desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department.
Rhodes, White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri, and White House press secretary Jay Carney, could not be reached for comment.
In the e-mail sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 9:34 p.m., obtained by CNN from a U.S. government source, Rhodes wrote:
The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
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