TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

In the News

  • Obama about to act on immigration?
  • At last: Congress to vote on Keystone
  • Obama warns of Myanmar “backsliding”
  • Obama seeks new Syria strategy review
  • Republicans furious at Obama’s climate deal
  • Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, NATO says
  • Judge strikes South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban
  • SCOTUS: Black lawmakers challenge Alabama’s redistricting
  • WH throws Obamacare economist under bus


Obama “Nearing a Final Decision” on Immigration
• President Obama is “nearing a final decision” on which executive actions addressing immigration he’ll undertake, but still hasn’t received final recommendations from his top advisers, the WH said today. Hours earlier, Fox News reported that Obama could act as soon as next Friday (Hill, Fox, AP, me)

• WH spox Josh Earnest said Obama met with Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson in the past week to discuss possible executive actions, and that Obama still planned to act by the end of the year. But the WH said the president won’t make any final decisions before he returns from his Asia trip on Sunday

• Earnest also said that House Republicans shouldn’t allow the lame-duck session to keep them from taking up the issue. (snark) And, Earnest said, Obama would allow legislation that did manage to pass through both chambers of Congress to supersede any executive action he took&&&

• According to Fox News, the admin is weighing a 10-point plan that could defer deportations for as many as 4.5 million immigrants who are illegally in the U.S. More individuals brought to the country illegally as children would be eligible for the program, as would the parents of American-born children

• The admin could also increase the number of technology visas available for skilled workers and provide a discount on naturalization applications. And, according to Fox, the admin was considering raising the pay of immigration officers. A WH official said Wednesday that Obama hasn’t yet received final recommendations from Homeland Security

• Meanwhile, more than 50 House Republicans have signed a letter saying that language barring the president from acting alone should be attached to legislation needed to keep the govt operating after 11 December, when its current funding expires

• Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and House Republicans all select their party leaders today. House Democrats wait until next week. No big surprises are expected. A bit snoozy, really (famous last words)
At Last: Congress to Vote on Keystone
• Long-stalled legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline got new life on Wednesday after Senate Democrats suddenly abandoned efforts to block the measure in hopes of helping endangered Sen Mary Landrieu keep her seat in energy-rich Louisiana (but they’re not spending any money on ads for her) (AP, me)

• Republicans responded swiftly to Landrieu’s maneuvering, scheduling a vote in the House today on an identical bill sponsored by Rep Bill Cassidy, Landrieu’s Republican rival in a 6 Dec runoff

• Speaking in Myanmar, WH spox Josh Earnest stopped short of directly threatening a veto, but said, “the admin has taken a dim view of these kinds of legislative proposals in the past. … It’s fair to say that our dim view of these kinds of proposals has not changed.” (do you have a dim view of this?)

• Casting herself as an independent willing to challenge Democrats and Republicans, Landrieu said to reporters, “I’ve stood against my leadership and I’ve stood up to the Republicans.” On the Senate floor, she said: “I want to say yes to Majority Leader – new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The time to start is now.”

• The GOP sponsor of the bill, Sen John Hoeven (ND), said the measure has the support of all 45 Republicans and 11 Democrats. It will be incumbent upon Landrieu to persuade four more Democrats to back the measure to reach the 60-vote threshold. One senior Democratic aide said Reid wouldn’t attempt to defeat Landrieu’s effort
• Iran and six major powers are unlikely to meet a 24 Nov deadline to lift international sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, officials say. They’ll probably settle for another interim agreement when they meet next week in Vienna (Reuters, me)



Obama Warns of Myanmar “Backsliding”
• President Obama is in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, for the East Asia Summit. In a frank interview with the Irrawaddy magazine, he wrote, “Even as there has been some progress on the political and economic fronts, in other areas there has been a slowdown and backsliding in reforms.” Obama is going to Myanmar now only because it’s the host for two Asian regional summits

• Obama cited restrictions on political prisoners, the arrest of journalists and the ongoing plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority displaced in Rakhine state after anti-Muslim violence. Today, he called President Thein Sein to press him on the pace of constitutional reforms and on the treatment of Muslims

• Obama joined world leaders this morning for a pair of Asia-Pacific summits, then met with members of parliament and civil society leaders. He has a meeting planned tonight with Thein Sein. Obama plans to meet with democracy hero and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon at the end of his trip – and hold a joint presser with her – not with the president

• In a call to Suu Kyi, Obama talked about the “need to ensure an inclusive and credible process for conducting the 2015 elections,” according to the WH. She’s currently ineligible to seek the presidency because the Constitution bars people with spouses or children who hold foreign citizenship from the top job (husband, children – British)

• While in Yangon, formerly Rangoon, Obama will also hold a town-hall-style meeting with young people, similar to one he held in Kuala Lumpur in April. That will give him a platform to speak publicly about political reform and the need to curb the violence against the Rohingya – but the Rohingya are deeply resented in Myanmar, so he must tread carefully
Obama Seeks New Syria Strategy Review: Sources
• President Obama has asked his national security team for another review of U.S. policy toward Syria after realizing that ISIS may not be defeated without a political transition in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al Assad, senior U.S. officials and diplomats say (CNN, me)

• The review is a tacit admission that the initial strategy of trying to confront ISIS first in Iraq and then take them on in Syria, without also focusing on the removal of Assad, was a miscalculation. (as many said) In the past week, the WH has convened four meetings of the president’s national security team

• With the Free Syrian Army struggling in a two-front battle against Assad’s forces and extremists from both ISIS and other extremist groups like al-Nusra, U.S. officials recognize the “Iraq first” strategy is untenable – they may not have time for Iraq first

• Among the options being discussed are a no-fly zone on the border with Turkey and accelerating and expanding the Pentagon program to vet, train and arm the moderate opposition. The admin has asked Congress for $500 million to train and equip 5,000 vetted rebels within one year (against around 30,000 ISIS fighters)

Rebel Vetting Hasn’t Started
• But it’s slow and complicated to vet the Syrian fighters. Pentagon spox Rear Adm John Kirby said the vetting process hadn’t even begun and logistics are still being worked out with the Turks and Saudis, who are hosting the training

• “The vetting hasn’t started. Once it does start, that will be about a three- to five-month process and then it’s about 8-9 months of training after that,” Kirby said last week. The review comes as the military starts meeting with more than 30 countries to “further develop and refine military campaign plans to degrade and defeat” ISIS – CentCom

• The U.S. is also trying to preserve a fraying anti-ISIS coalition. Many Arab states have expressed frustration with what they perceive as an ambivalence by the U.S. toward getting rid of Assad. Key allies like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Turkey are calling for a framework for a political transition in Syria

• Now officials and diplomats said SecState John Kerry has in recent months intensified discussion with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey and Russia about the possibility of a diplomatic tract to transition Assad and his inner circle out of power, while maintaining large parts of the regime and institutions of the state. But any transition could take time

Russians “Are Not Our Friend Here”
• American officials and Arab diplomats said that while Russia has tacitly endorsed the idea of a Syria free of Assad, Moscow has done little to effect change on the ground. “The Russians are not our friend here,” a senior admin official said. “They are still arming Assad and providing him direct support.”

• Kerry has also raised the topic with Iranian FM Javad Zarif. officials said. Last month Obama sent a letter to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei describing a shared interest in combating ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but it was unclear whether the letter made mention of the Syrian civil war in which Iran has backed Assad

• Former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who left his post in February out of frustration with the admin’s policy, said the admin “needs to have an honest assessment of whether or not … the manner in which it has conducted airstrikes in eastern Syria has empowered or disempowered the same moderate opposition upon which it will depend.”

• “The air campaign so far has infuriated the Syrians fighting the regime,” Ford said. “For the first time since the Syrian uprising started in 2011 they are burning American flags because they think we are helping the regime instead of helping them.” (#whatamess)

• President Obama has privately conveyed “real heart-driven concern” about the prospect of another round of violence in Ferguson. He’s urged a small group of the nation’s top civil rights leaders and their organizations to keep the peace while ensuring protesters’ free speech rights – grand jury decision expected soon (Politico)
Top Republicans Furious at U.S.-China Climate Deal
• Fresh off their victory in last week’s midterm elections, GOP leaders in both the House and Senate accused President Obama of ignoring the will of the voters, circumventing Congress and cutting a deal on climate with an unreliable foreign partner that will raise the cost of energy for millions of Americans (WSJ, Hill, Politico, TRNS, me)

• “The American people spoke against the president’s climate policies in this last election. They want affordable energy and more economic opportunity, both which are being diminished by overbearing EPA mandates,” Sen Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said in a statement. He’s a longtime climate skeptic and likely chair of the Senate Environment Committee

• The deal includes major commitments from both countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions. China, for the first time, agreed to stop increasing its carbon emissions by about 2030. The agreement doesn’t require congressional approval, though lawmakers could act to undo some of the commitments

• “The House will continue to fight this admin’s cavalier approach of jamming through harmful regulations without regard to economic consequences. Next week, the House will vote on the Secret Science Reform Act that makes the science behind new rules and regulations transparent and reproducible,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

• Many Democrats rallied to Obama’s defense. “The biggest carbon polluter on our planet, China, has agreed to cut back on dangerous emissions, and now we should make sure all countries do their part because this is a threat to the people that we all represent,” said Sen Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who currently heads the Senate Environment Committee

• Pics: The Rosetta spacecraft’s Philae robot probe touched down on the surface of Comet 67P Wednesday – first time ever done. After failing to attach to the surface, the probe’s now stable (BBC, NYT)

Russian Troops Crossing Into Ukraine, NATO Says
• A senior NATO official confirmed Wednesday what Ukrainian military officials and monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been saying for days now: Russian troops and military equipment are crossing the border into Ukraine, seemingly preparing for renewed military action, though what exactly remains unclear (NYT, Time, me)

• The assertion drew stern and dismissive denials from Moscow, which for months has denied any military intervention in eastern Ukraine, though it’s acknowledged publicly that Russian “volunteers” have crossed into Ukraine to support the separatists. Sporadic fighting has continued from virtually the moment that the truce agreement was signed on 5 Sept

• Meanwhile, at an emergency UN Security Council meeting in New York on Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power blasted Moscow for “fueling war” in southeastern Ukraine. “Russia has negotiated a peace plan, and then systematically undermined it at every step,” she said

• The NATO official, Gen Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, said at a presser in Bulgaria that they had seen Russian equipment, Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops entering Ukraine. Unsure of intent, but first guess to stabilize the area “in order to then hold onto it long-term.”

• Russian govt spox Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov  dismissed Breedlove as unreliable and “alarmist.” “We have stressed repeatedly that there have never been and there are no facts behind the regular blasts of hot air from Brussels regarding the supposed presence of Russian armed forces in Ukraine.”
• Graphic: Ukraine crisis in handy maps (NYT)
Judge Strikes South Carolina’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban
• U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Wednesday struck down South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, opening the door to such marriages but also giving the state a week to appeal. AG Alan Wilson said he would do so immediately (AP, TRNS, me)

• Gergel also blocked any state official from interfering with the plaintiffs’ rights to be married. Wilson said in a statement, “Today’s ruling comes as no surprise and does not change the constitutional obligation of this office to defend South Carolina law, including, but not necessarily limited to, appeal to the 4th Circuit.”

• Wilson noted the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati recently upheld gay marriage bans in four other states, and the issue could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court

• But the 4th Circuit already has struck down Virginia’s gay marriage ban, a ruling that applies to other states in the circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that case last month and South Carolina is the only state in the circuit that has refused to allow such marriages

• Gergel wrote that the 4th Circuit decision is precedent in South Carolina and the court has “recognized a fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry and power of the federal courts to address and vindicate that right.”

• SCOTUS on Wednesday lifted a hold on same-sex marriages in Kansas, which became the 33rd state to legalize marriage equality (Hill)
SCOTUS: Black Lawmakers Challenge Alabama Redistricting
• The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared unsure how to resolve a challenge to a state legislature redistricting plan in Alabama that packed black voters into certain districts in a way that critics say diminishes their influence at the polls (Reuters, NYT, AP, TRNS, me)

• The case centers on the practice known as gerrymandering in which election districts are drawn in a way to provide one party an advantage in as many districts as possible while consolidating the other party’s voters into as few as possible

• Democrats say Alabama, a state with a past history of erecting hurdles for black voters, violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law by concentrating black voters, who tend to vote Democratic, into a small number of districts

• Several justices appeared sympathetic to the state in part because it had to consider race to some extent to comply with the Voting Rights Act, a federal law aimed at protecting minority voting rights. This is the first voting rights case heard by the court since its June 2013 ruling that struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – Alabama was bound by that

• But some also seemed to favor sending the case back to a lower court for further proceedings on the technical question of whether the plaintiffs’ allegations needed to be more specific. It seems unlikely the court will throw out the redistricting plan outright
• Terrifying (to me) pic: Two NYC window washers stuck on a collapsed cradle 69 floors above the ground, dangling outside the World Trade Center, were rescued Wednesday by firefighters. This pic shows them dangling – it’s pretty high (BBC, me)

WH Throws Obamacare Economist Under Bus
• The WH is publicly distancing itself from MIT professor Jonathan Gruber’s comments on the legislative process behind Obamacare and its “lack of transparency,” which have been seized on by conservatives this week, saying that they’re “simply not true.” (TPM, me)

• Gruber also invoked the “stupidity of the American voter” in 2013 comments unearthed last week about the Affordable Care Act. He’s since said that he regretted the comments and spoke “inappropriately.” (problem for him is that there’s a third video, from 2012)

• “Transparency is a key goal of the ACA: consumers now have more access to information about their health insurance than ever before,” WH spox Jessica Santillo said in a statement to TPM. “The ACA was publicly debated over the course of 14 months, with dozens of Congressional hearings, and countless town halls, speeches and debates.”

• “The tax credits in the law that help millions of middle class Americans afford coverage were no secret, and in fact were central to the legislation,” she continued. “Not only do we disagree with those comments, they’re simply not true.” (makes it a problem if SCOTUS strikes down the tax credits)

• An admin official also noted that – while Gruber is often described as an “architect” of Obamacare because he was a key consultant to the admin and was heavily involved in developing the Massachusetts health reform law – “he did not work in the WH or play the same role in developing the ACA.” (reverse bus – and run him over again)

• Pic! In case you managed to miss it, here’s Kim Kardashian and her very naked, very shiny bottom on the cover of Paper Magazine – the pic that “threatened to break the internet” (warning: naked bottom)

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______________Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar, Sushila Chanana and Leah Schwarting contributed to this report


The Talk Radio News Service is the only information, news booking and host service dedicated to serving the talk radio community. TRNS maintains a Washington office that includes White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon staffed bureaus, and a New York office with a United Nations staffed bureau. Talk Radio News Service has permanent access to every breaking newsevent in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.