Three stories in the key of: With Sons Like These

Last week, The New York Times reported that Trump had ordered his staff to grant a security clearance to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, despite objections from senior advisers.

The US president has the legal authority to grant security clearances to anyone he chooses, but the episode has raised fresh questions about whether the president's decision to empower Kushner on a host of sensitive briefs – in particular, relations with Saudi Arabia and broader Middle East peace efforts – threatens US national security.

But Trump isn't the only world leader whose kids (or kids-in-law) are creating headaches.

Here are three more examples:


In Turkey, strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year appointed his 40-year-old son-in-law Berat Albeyrak to oversee the treasury and finance ministry of the Middle East's largest economy. Like Kushner, Albeyrak has a background in business but is a policy newbie. Observers worry that he isn't prepared to push back against his father-in-law's demands to keep cheap credit and lots of cash flowing into the economy ahead of local elections later this month. That policy has stoked inflation and hobbled the currency as international investors lose confidence in Turkey.

In Brazil, right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro won the presidency in part because he promised to clean up corruption. But barely two months into his term, Bolsonaro's eldest son Flávio is under federal investigation for money-laundering. It seems that young Flávio, a senator from the state of Rio de Janeiro, has transferred suspiciously large sums of money to his personal driver and made questionable purchases of luxury apartments.

In Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, son of the oil-rich country's president, lives a life of excess, which you can follow – along with 115 thousand other people – on his Instagram account. But "Teodorin," as he's known, has also repeatedly been forced to surrender property to foreign corruption investigators.

Several years back, he reached a $30 million settlement with the US Justice Department over misappropriation of public funds that forced him to give up a mansion and a Ferrari. (He did manage to avoid handing over a prized crystal glove worn by Michael Jackson.) Last year, Brazil seized $16 million in cash and watches from his entourage. Just a few weeks ago, Swiss authorities closed a 2016 money laundering probe with a settlement that requires Teodorin to sell two dozen of exotic cars to fund social programs in his home country.

Political leaders often see family members as among the few they can trust. But whether the problem is inexperience, incompetence, or greed, sons sometimes burden their fathers with bad news.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Rome tomorrow ready to plant a flag in the heart of Europe. Italy is expected to break with most other advanced economies by formally signing onto Beijing's $1.3 trillion global Belt and Road (BRI) infrastructure initiative.

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China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative is one of the most ambitious geopolitical projects ever. By 2027, it aims to dish out an estimated $1.3 trillion in loans, around ten times what the US spent on the Marshall Plan in the aftermath of World War II. As China increases its investment in the West, will countries' loyalty shift toward Beijing? Here's a look at the already staggering scope of Beijing's agenda.

As you read this, US-backed Syrian and Kurdish forces are killing or capturing the last few Islamic State militants holding out in a fingernail-shaped sliver of riverbank in eastern Syria. It's all that remains of the caliphate declared by the Islamist extremist group across a swath of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014.

Despite being on the back foot territorially, here are three ways that ISIS will continue to rile global politics:

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What we are watching

A retiring strongman in Kazakhstan – Since 1989, one man has ruled the massive, oil-rich Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan. That is, until yesterday, when Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned as president and put a close ally in charge until new elections are called. The 78-year old Kazakh leader was rumored to have been planning a transition for more than two years, putting allies in key posts, weakening the power of the presidency, and bolstering the clout of the country's Security Council, which he will still head. But the exact timing came as a surprise. We're watching this story – not just because it's a rare example of a strongman leaving power of his own will, but because we suspect Vladimir Putin is watching, too. The hardy 66-year-old Russian leader needs to figure out what he'll do when his current term expires in 2024. The constitution says Putin can't run again. Is Nazarbayev charting a path that Putin can follow?

A suspicious death in Italy – Italian authorities are investigating the suspicious demise of Imane Fadil, a 34-year-old Moroccan model who died in Milan earlier this month – apparently with high levels of toxic metals in her blood that could indicate poisoning. Fadil was a frequent guest at ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's infamous bunga-bunga sex parties, and was a key witness in his 2013 trial on underage sex allegations. Adding to the intrigue, Fadil was due to testify at another upcoming court case. Apart from all of this, her death could have an immediate impact on Italian politics: Italy's right-wing Lega party is now less likely to call a snap election this summer, because the Fadil case taints Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, the group that Lega would ideally like to team up with in order to gain a majority in parliament.

What we are ignoring

The Scent of Fascism – In a new commercial out of Israel, a beautiful woman glides through arty black and white scenes like a model, purring about putting new limits on the judiciary, and spritzing herself with a perfume called "fascism." Hot stuff, right? But this isn't just a sultry model hawking a designer fragrance – it's the country's right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who has incensed the left with her bid to curtail the power of courts, which she says are too liberal. At the end of the spoof ad, which is meant to promote her New Right party ahead of upcoming elections, Skaked takes whiff of the perfume and tells viewers: "Smells like democracy to me." We are ignoring this bid to put her party's name back in the headlines because the fascism joke just isn't funny.

Devin Nunes' Mom – Devin Nunes, a Republican Congressman from California, has filed a lawsuit seeking $250 million in damages against a Twitter personality who goes by the handle @DevinNunesMom, other users of the popular messaging platform, and Twitter itself. According to a copy of the complaint uploaded by Fox News, Nunes, the ardent Trump supporter who used to chair the House Intelligence Committee, says @DevinNunesMom engaged in slander by calling him "presidential fluffer and swamp rat," and claiming he was "voted Most Likely To Commit Treason in high school," among other digital insults. The suit also accused Twitter of suppressing conservative viewpoints – an argument that other Republicans have used to put political pressure on the company. We'll be watching how that argument plays out, but we are ignoring @DevinNunesMom. Judging by the massive jump in followers that @DevinNunesMom has received since the case was filed, by the time this is all over, we're pretty sure Congressman Nunes will wish he had done so, too.