Ahead of Latest WikiLeaks' Release, State Dept. Warns Allies

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photo Courtesy - BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the website WikiLeaks set to release a new trove of sensitive information, the U.S. government is already bracing for the worldwide fallout, pre-emptively warning allies in the hope of lessening the blow once classified documents go public.

WikiLeaks and its controversial founder Julian Assange are reportedly prepared to publish a cache of information including hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables that could embarrass the U.S. government as well as other governments around the world. WikiLeaks said its next release will be seven times the size of its last leak in October, which contained some 400,000 Pentagon documents about the war in Iraq. Last July, WikiLeaks also published roughly 70,000 documents about the war in Afghanistan.

Senior U.S. officials warn that the next round of WikiLeaks documents would be considerably more damaging than the two previous WikiLeaks document dumps.

"This is outrageous and dangerous," a senior U.S. official told ABC News. "This puts at risk the ability of the United States to conduct foreign policy. Period. End of paragraph."

Although the State Department said it did not know specifically what could be released, the scope of the documents goes far beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, essentially detailing day-to-day operation of U.S. foreign policy, including summaries of confidential discussions with foreign officials and intelligence sources, and dissidents and opposition figures.

The big worry among U.S. authorities is that the documents would reveal names and detailed discussions with individuals who expected that their conversations with U.S. officials would be kept confidential. In the case of intelligence sources and dissidents in oppressive countries, this could put lives of U.S. sources at risk.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama Wants to Refocus on Economy, But International Events Linger

Photo Courtesy - The White House/ Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- As President Obama tries to shift the focus back to the economy and jobs after a blistering defeat in the mid-term elections, a spate of international events threaten to distract the country from his message.

It's not unusual for an administration to fall victim to unfolding events and crises.  But this is a time when anxiety among Americans is boiling over, as unemployment continues to hover at record levels, and the economy remains the foremost concern.  Unforeseen events in Korea, Afghanistan and elsewhere are hampering the White House's efforts to set its own agenda.

Concerns about war in Korea remain high after North Korea launched an artillery attack on a South Korean territory Tuesday.  North Korea also unveiled a more sophisticated nuclear plant last week, demonstrating to the world and the United States that it is not about to back down from its nuclear ambitions.

The U.S. also faced embarrassment in Afghanistan after reports emerged that Afghan and U.S. officials were engaged in talks with an imposter they assumed to be a key Taliban leader.

A new Department of Defense report this week painted a somber picture of the war in Afghanistan, and while there were gains in some areas, challenges continue to surpass the advances.  Additionally, officials in Pakistan and Afghanistan are warning of another WikiLeaks document dump that might reveal more unpleasant facts about U.S. policies in the region.

In the past, many international crises have given presidents a political lift.  John F. Kennedy's approval rating peaked in 1962 with the Cuban missile crisis, as did President Dwight Eisenhower's in Cold-War 1956.  But Obama hasn't had similar luck so far.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


On Thanksgiving, Obama Asks for Bipartisan Approach to ‘Give Back’

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – President Obama offered a Thanksgiving greeting in his weekly address Thursday and asked Americans to give back to their country this holiday season.

“Even as we speak, there are countless Americans serving at soup kitchens and food pantries; contributing to their communities; and standing guard around the world,” Obama said.

The Obamas took time out this week to do some volunteering of their own. The First Family, along with 29 family members, distributed food baskets at Martha’s Table Wednesday, a D.C. area organization that provides food and shelter for the less fortunate.

He also took time to address public concern over the economy and jobs, asking for a bipartisan effort to move forward.

“We’ve got to do it as one people.  And in the coming weeks and months, I hope that we can work together, Democrats and Republicans and Independents alike, to make progress on these and other issues,” Obama said.

“This is not the hardest Thanksgiving America has ever faced.  But as long as many members of our American family are hurting, we’ve got to look out for one another.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


GOP Hails ‘New Breed of Leaders’ in Washington

Photo Courtesy - ScottForGA dot com(WASHINGTON) – A new Republican face took the podium Thursday to introduce a new class of Republican representation in Washington.

U.S. Congressman-Elect, Austin Scott (R-GA), hailed a ‘new breed of leaders for a new majority and a new Congress’ in the weekly GOP address.

“The American people have sent 85 new Republicans to Washington with a clear message: listen up, stop the job-killing policies, stop the runaway spending, and focus on getting our country back on track,” Scott said.

Although Scott gave thanks during the Thanksgiving-day address, he said Washington must turn its attention to those Americans who are struggling. 

“As much as we have to be thankful for, too many Georgians and too many Americans have been out of work for far too long.  Our new Republican majority is ready to focus on creating jobs and putting a stop to the runaway spending in Washington, DC.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Former Senator Tom DeLay Found Guilty

Photo Courtesy - Ben Sklar /Getty Images(AUSTIN, Tx.) -- Former Republican House Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay was convicted of illegally funneling 190-thousand dollars in corporate money to fund his favorite candidates for the Texas state legislature.

Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb spoke outside the courtroom after the verdict was pronounced saying, “It's the outcome we expected; we thought the citizens of Travis County would see this case for what it was: a corrupt politician who was caught violating the laws of the state.”  Chief Prosecutor Beverley Matthews had this to say of the guilty verdict: “This case is a message from the citizens of the state of Texas that the public officials they elect to represent them must do so honestly, ethically and if not they'll be held accountable.”

For his part, DeLay remained defiant saying “I'm not gonna blame anybody.  This is an abuse of power; it's an abuse of justice...and I still maintain that I am innocent.”

The man who was once the second most powerful House Republican now faces five years to life in prison on the money laundering count and two to 20 on a conspiracy charge.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin Takes On Barbara Bush, Entire Bush Family

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Calling the entire family “blue bloods,” Sarah Palin Wednesday dismissed criticism from former first Lady Barbara Bush who suggested that Palin should stay in Alaska instead of running for president.

During a recent interview with conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham, Palin said that critics like Bush don’t understand the importance of competitive primaries.

"I think the majority of Americans don't want to put up with the blue bloods -- and I say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes -- but the blue bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition to pick and choose the winners,” Palin said.

Palin was responding to comments the former first lady made during a recent appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” in which she offered her unvarnished take on Palin’s possible presidential ambitions.

“I think she's very happy in Alaska,” Bush said, “and I hope she'll stay there.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


ABC Exclusive: Obama Focused on Being 'Best Possible President'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News/Handout(WASHINGTON) -- In an exclusive White House interview with Barbara Walters, President Barack Obama says he's not giving much thought to the 2012 election, but is focusing instead on being "the best possible president."  And, he said, he certainly isn't focused on a potential challenge from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

When asked specifically if he thinks he can beat Sarah Palin in 2012, the president told Walters "I don't think about Sarah Palin."

"Obviously Sarah Palin has a strong base of support in the Republican Party and I respect those skills," Obama said.  "But I spend most of my time right now on how I can be the best possible president.  And my attitude has always been, from the day I started this job, that if I do a good job and if I'm delivering for the American people the politics will take care of itself.

"If I falter and the American people are dissatisfied, then I'll have problems," he said.

The interview, which also included first lady Michelle Obama, covered a wide range of topics including the recent events in North Korea, the latest controversies over TSA screenings in airports, the "shellacking" his party took in the 2010 midterms, the economy, and, of course, Thanksgiving traditions.

The full interview, A Barbara Walters Special: A Thanksgiving Visit with President and Mrs. Obama, will air Friday, Nov. 26 on ABC at 10 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Republicans Gain More House Seats; Two Races Still Undecided

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As freshman lawmakers chart out the course for the next Congress, incumbents are holding their breath in two House races around the country that could determine whether Republicans will gain a greater advantage in the next Congress.

On Tuesday, Republicans won two additional seats in the House, bringing the GOP's count to 242, with Democrats holding 190 seats.

Republicans emerged victorious in Texas Tuesday when incumbent Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz conceded to his Republican challenger, Blake Farenthold.  Like many of his counterparts, Ortiz, a 28-year veteran of the House, faced heavy anti-Washington sentiment.  He lost by a mere 800 votes.

Democrats suffered another blow in New York's 25th District, where incumbent Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei conceded to Republican Ann Marie Buerkle.  Maffei trailed Buerkle by 567 votes.

Two races -- one in California and one New York -- remain undecided, both with Democratic incumbents' jobs on the line.

Democrats hope to get some respite in New York's 1st District, which includes Long Island, where four-term congressman Tim Bishop is in a neck-and-neck race with Republican Randy Altschuler.

In California, Republican candidate David Harmer has refused to concede in the state's 11th District, even though he is trailing well behind Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Leading House Democrat: Tax Bill Won’t Extend Cuts for ‘Very Top’

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Even as the White House mulls a compromise that would temporarily extend all of the expiring Bush tax cuts, leading Democrats on Capitol Hill are pushing back, urging President Obama to keep his pledge to allow tax cuts for higher-income Americans to expire.

In an ABC News interview Tuesday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who holds the leadership post of assistant to the House speaker for policy, said the tax bill Democrats will bring to the House floor next month “will not include tax breaks for the folks at the very top.”

“I'm going to vote in favor of the bill that we're gonna have in front of the make sure that we provide middle-class tax relief,” said Van Hollen, D-Md. “It will not include tax breaks for the folks at the very top.”

Van Hollen said that Democrats -- who maintain control of the House through the end of the year, including during the lame-duck session at which the expiring tax cuts will be considered -- continue to back the president’s commitment to allow tax cuts for couples making more than $250,000 a year to come to an end.

“I think the position of the great majority in the House of Representatives is the position the president took going into the election,” he said. “We need to make sure, No. 1, that the middle class has tax relief -- that 98 percent of the American people continue to have that tax relief, we don't want to see their taxes going up.”

“At the same time, we don't want to add $700 billion to our deficit by providing tax breaks for the folks at the very top, when we know, No. 1, that that does not contributed to job creation -- in fact, we know the end of that movie. And No. 2, the notion that these are somehow the small businesses has been shown to be untrue…”

“So let's get the deficit under control,” Van Hollen added. “We're gonna have a vote on that in the House when we get back. We'll have to see what the Senate does after that.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


White House Advisor Axelrod Leaving White House Earlier Than Expected

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza | White House(WASHINGTON) -- White House senior advisor David Axelrod will leave the White House in late January or early February 2011 to prepare for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012.

A White House source explained the change of date, saying that Axelrod calculated how much time he needed for rest and family before the next project heats up, and he decided to accelerate his schedule a bit.

Axlerod originally planned to leave and prepare for the campaign in spring 2011.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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