Previously unreported data about 61international agreements raise questions about the use of secrecy in U.S. foreign relations.
Ryan Scoville is an associate professor at Marquette University Law School and a managing editor for AJIL Unbound, the online companion to the American Journal of International Law. In 2018, he was a Fulbright Scholar at Sophia University in Tokyo.
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President Trump’s personal lawyer—former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani—appears to have played a pivotal role in orchestrating the president’s designs with respect to Ukraine. Assuming the part of an unofficial diplomat, Giuliani reportedly met with a Ukrainian prosecutor and with a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in order to press for an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Since its enactment in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has served as a significant source of transparency in government, allowing anyone to access official records that would otherwise be unavailable to the public. Legal academics have analyzed the statute in numerous law review articles, most of which seem to embrace FOIA’s underlying goals. Yet the actual use of FOIA and its state-law equivalents in legal academia has been quite limited.
Since the 1950s, presidents have consistently allocated roughly 30 percent of ambassadorial appointments to individuals who are not career diplomats. This practice, atypical among advanced democracies and a recurrent source of controversy, is currently on track to expand: Over the first two years of the Trump administration, more than 40 percent of appointments to bilateral ambassadorships went to presidential supporters who are not foreign service officers. For example, Robert Wood Johnson IV—the ambassador to the United Kingdom—co-owns the New York Jets.
Last week featured significant developments in the law and policy of congressional foreign travel. On Thursday, Jan. 17, President Trump refused to allow Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to use U.S. military aircraft for a congressional delegation to Belgium, Egypt and Afghanistan, purportedly because the trip would have been an improvident use of resources during the government shutdown and because Pelosi’s absence from Washington would have interfered with the progress of negotiations over the border wall.
A recent story from Bryant Harris at Al-Monitor reveals growing tension between the Trump administration and House Democrats over congressional travel to parts of the Middle East and South Asia.