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

  • 113th Congress: Laast gaasp this week?
  • Grand juries: Protests continue for fifth day
  • Race relations: What they’re saying
  • CIA torture report expected this week
  • Energy firms and GOP state AGs in secret alliance
  • DoD won’t review rescue policy after Yemen raid
  • Pakistan Taliban chief “repatriated”
  • Iran nuke deal: 3 pols – 3 views
  • McCartney: “Shock” of Lennon’s death


113th Congress: Laast Gaasp This Week?
• After several days of hectic whipping, arm-twisting and legislative bargaining between Republican and Democratic congressional leaders and the WH this week, the House and Senate are expected to pass a govt-funding bill and renew a terrorism insurance program this week just before – phew – the 11 December funding deadline (Politico, TRNS, me)

• The final chapter kicks off today, when House GOP leaders are expected to unveil their govt-funding bill, the “cromnibus.” The legislation will keep most of the govt open through Sept 2015 but extend Dept of Homeland Security funding only until Feb. Goal: Pressure (punish) President Obama over his recent immigration executive action

• All eyes will be on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and the rest of GOP leadership as they try to corral enough Republican support to get the bill over the finish line. Dozens of House Republicans have expressed various levels of unease because the bill doesn’t specifically bar Obama from freezing deportations

• (Cue bugles:) Democrats are expected to come to Boehner’s rescue again, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hasn’t so far signaled that she’ll whip her members against the bill. Wild card: If Republicans try to load the bill with controversial riders on labor or environment, Democrats will vote against and the WH will issue a veto threat (could get exciting)

• Down to the wire: If the bill is unveiled on time today, it could hit the House floor by Wednesday, which would give the Senate one day to pass it to avoid a govt shutdown. Clearly having its priorities in the right place, the House has canceled its votes tonight for its WH Christmas party, so GOP leadership has just two days to get its troops into line…

Grand Juries: Protests Continue for Fifth Day

• Following decisions by grand juries in New York and Missouri not to indict white police officers involved in the deaths of two black men, demonstrations persisted in major urban areas over the weekend, including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Berkeley, Seattle and Boston (WSJ, NYT, Reuters, SFGate, AFP, me)

• A crowd of about 300 people – some chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” – disrupted traffic Sunday night near Manhattan’s Union Square as dozens of police officers stood guard. Demonstrators protested in midtown Macy’s and H&M stores, as well as at a Toys R Us store

• In Philadelphia, protesters stages a brief “die-in” at a major intersection near Lincoln Financial Field shortly after the Philadelphia Eagles’ football game against the Seattle Seahawks. A police spox said on Twitter that it was a peaceful demonstration

• Protesters in northern CA hurled objects at police, who responded by firing gas for a second consecutive night, as demonstrations continued over the death of Eric Garner after he was put in a chokehold by a police officer in NYC

• Several NFL players joined other stars Sunday to support the “I can’t breathe” protests sweeping the U.S. demanding justice for black men who have died at the hands of white policemen. Saturday, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose wore a T-shirt bearing the words and Davin Joseph, a St Louis Rams guard, wrote the same words on his cleats and tweeted it
Race Relations: What They’re Saying
• Eric Garner’s widow, Esaw, said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that her husband was “murdered unjustly” when a police officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest attempt. She said police “harassed us. They said things to us … ‘Hi, cigarette man. Hey, cigarette man wife.’ And I would say, ‘Eric, just keep walking, don’t say anything, don’t respond.'”

In an interview with BET to air this evening, President Obama says the distrust between minority communities and law enforcement “isn’t going to be solved overnight. This is something that’s deeply rooted in our society, deeply rooted in our history. But the two things that will allow us to solve it: Number one: – – – (Hill, WaPo, Politico, me)

• – – – “Is the understanding that we have made progress and so it’s important to recognize that as painful as these instances are, we can’t equate now with what was happening 50 years ago. If you talk to your parents, grandparents, uncles, they’ll tell you that things are better.” Obama cited “progress” in “steps” as the second step

• Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Rush Limbaugh said, “I don’t think things are perfect and rosy in America,” before adding that Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio ignored centuries of racial progress in their recent reactions. “You would think it’s 200 years ago.”

• On CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, former President George W. Bush said he hadn’t delved into why a New York grand jury declined to indict last week, but “it’s sad that race continues to play such a, you know, a kind of emotional, divisive part of life.”

• President Obama Friday hailed the strong November jobs numbers as “a very welcome sign for millions of Americans.” There were 321,000 jobs added in November. The 2.65 million jobs created this year is more in 11 months than in any entire year since 1999. Unemployment stayed at 5.8% (Hill)
CIA Torture Report Expected This Week
• Rep Mike Rogers (R-MI), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that foreign govts and U.S. intel agencies are predicting that the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report examining the use of torture by the CIA will cause “violence and deaths” abroad

• A 480 page summary of the still classified 6,000 page report is expected to be released as early as Tuesday. A U.S. intelligence official – anonymous – said Congress had been warned “of the heightened potential that the release could stimulate a violent response.” (NYT, LAT, AP, Hill, me)

• Friday, SecState John Kerry urged Senate Intel Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to delay the release. Making the report public now would threaten the security of American personnel overseas, Kerry said. Feinstein hasn’t responded to reports of the Kerry call

• However, she told LAT in a Sunday story, “We have to get this report out,” even if she had to give in on some of her demands for transparency. The interrogations undermined “societal and constitutional values that we are very proud of. Anybody who reads this is never going to let this happen again.”

• Feinstein and the WH have been in a fight over redactions to the report. The WH presented Feinstein with a declassified version of the summary in August, in which 15% was blacked out. Feinstein was angry. The redactions obscured the roles of key CIA officers. “They redacted our argument,” Feinstein said. Ultimately, about 5% has been blacked out – pseudonyms for CIA


• U.S. officials who have read it say the report includes disturbing new details about the CIA’s use of such techniques as sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces, humiliation and the  simulated drowning process known as waterboarding. President Obama has acknowledged: “We tortured some folks.”

• The report also says the torture failed to produce life-saving intelligence, a conclusion disputed by current and former intelligence officials, including CIA director John Brennan. CIA, Republican members of the Senate Intel committee and former Bush officials are expected to rebut parts of the report

• Former President George W. Bush said on CNN Sunday, ‘We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf. These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base.” President Obama also referred to the CIA officers as “patriots” in his remarks referred to above

• Rogers questioned why the report needed to become public, given that the Justice Dept investigated and filed no criminal charges

• (i) The report needs to become public because the American public and the world have a right to know when we don’t live up to our standards and that we’re big enough to say so. (ii) If there’s violence, it’s not the release of the report that’s responsible for it, it’s whats was done that’s reported on in the report

• About 100 Pearl Harbor and WWII survivors attended Sunday’s 73rd anniversary ceremony with the help of canes, wheelchairs and motorized scooters. Keynote speaker Gen Lori Robinson, commander of Pacific Air Forces, told the crowd of several thousand of sacrifice and survivors (AP, me)


Energy Firms and GOP State AGs in Secret Alliance
• Energy firms have secretly been behind efforts by Republican state attorneys general to fight Obama administration environmental initiatives, NYT reported Sunday, having reviewed thousands of emails and legal documents and undertaken dozens of interviews  (NYT, Hill, ThinkProgress, me)

• Using Oklahoma as an example, open-records requests revealed that AG Scott Pruitt delivered a letter to the EPA in 2011 accusing the agency of significantly overestimating the air pollution caused by fracking. Pruitt didn’t mention that the letter was originally written by reps of Devon Energy, one of the state’s largest oil and gas companies – “only a few word changes”

• Devon Energy is a major supporter of the Republican Attorneys General Assn, whose mission is electing Republicans to the office of Attorney General. Pruitt is head of the RAGA, which has collected $16 million this year – nearly four times the amount it collected in 2010

• Doc: Letter from Oklahoma’s AG, written almost entirely by energy officials (NYT)
• According to NYT, at least a dozen states now have attorneys general working with “energy companies and other corporate interests” that are in exchange providing them with unheard of amounts of political funds. Possible result: this year’s elections results – Republicans will hold 27 AG offices in Jan – the first time they’ve had a majority in recent history

• The establishment of a new Federalism in Environmental Policy task force by the offices of 19 state attorneys general has bolstered attempts to push back on federal actions to reduce ozone pollution, protect endangered species, regulate fracking and limit greenhouse gas emissions. The scale of this coordination with corporate interests is unprecedented

• Pruitt changed 37 words out of 1,016 when repurposing a letter drafted by Devon lawyers for submission to then head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, about the agency’s methane regulations. The Times published 80-plus pages of notes and documents showing the extent to which Devon and other energy cos have been working with state AGs to fight federal actions

• Interactive: A window into a secret alliance (NYT)


• In responding to questions about his involvement with industry lobbyists, Pruitt said that “it is the content of the request not the source of the request that is relevant” He also said that Devon is an important job creator for Oklahoma and that overreach of the govt into the regulation of fracking is bad for Devon and the citizens of the state

• A recent study in the journal Science found that nearly all of the more than 2,500 small earthquakes that have hit Oklahoma in the past five years can be linked to the process of drilling for oil and gas

• In another example, NYT found that West Virginia AG Patrick Morrissey backed legislation aimed at making it easier for the state to fight federal pollution rules after similar draft legislation was sent to him by an energy lobbyist. The bill passed

• Raw vid: Prince William and Kate Middleton arrived in New York City Sunday night. William meets President Obama in the Oval Office this morning and later speaks at the World Bank against wildlife trafficking. Kate, who is pregnant with No. 2 (heir and a spare), stays in NYC. What will Kate wear? Nets-Cavaliers game for them in Brooklyn tonight. Meeting with Jay-Z/Beyonce? (TRNS, me)


DoD Won’t Review Rescue Policy After Raid
• The Pentagon isn’t reviewing the use of special-operation forces to rescue hostages despite a weekend mission that led to the deaths of two men held by militants in Yemen, defense officials said (WSJ, NYT, me)

• American Luke Somers and South African teach Pierre Korkie, who had been held by al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, were killed by their captors Saturday as U.S. forces moved on the compound where they were held. The mission was the third failed U.S. attempt this year to rescue hostages held captive in Syria or Yemen – second aimed at helping Somers

• English relatives of Somers expressed concern on Sunday about how little info authorities had shared with the family. An aid group in South Africa said Korkie was on the verge of being released through the payment of $200,000 to local tribal leaders. A U.S. official says the U.S. didn’t know about talks on freeing Korkie (what a mega-mess that is)

• U.S. officials Sunday emphasized the difficulty of raids undertaken this year, and said the most recent attempt to rescue Somers would likely have succeeded if the element of surprise hadn’t been lost in the final moments. The U.S. acted out of a belief that Somers, a photographer, was about to be killed

• In Afghanistan, SecDef Chuck Hagel said, “The real question is how much risk do you think the hostage is in. Is the hostage’s life in danger? Is it imminent? How much time do we have? Are there other ways we can get the hostage back? There is an immense amount of time that goes onto each of these operations.”
• In-depth: Military Times has the first of a three-part series: “America’s Military: A force adrift: how the nation is failing today’s troops and veterans. Chapter 1, After 13 years of war, troops feel burned out and without a sense of mission. More doubt their leaders and their job security.”
Pakistan Taliban Chief “Repatriated”
• A senior Pakistani Taliban commander, Latif Mehsud, has reportedly been handed over to Pakistan by the U.S. from Afghanistan. The U.S. military confirmed it “transferred custody” of three Pakistanis, but didn’t reveal their identities. The Afghan govt wasn’t involved in the transfer, the U.S. said (BBC, NYT, me)

• The repatriation of a senior Taliban figure is considered extremely unusual. It could relate to attempts to improve Afghanistan-Pakistan ties. While the U.S. didn’t confirm Latif Mehsud was among those transferred, Pakistani officials said Latif Mehsud had been “released.”

• “In making a decision to transfer a detainee, we take into account the totality of relevant factors relating to the individual and the govt that may receive him, including but not limited to any diplomatic assurances that have been provided,” the U.S. military said in a statement

• Separately, the U.S. transferred six detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Uruguay this weekend, the DoD announced Sunday. It was the single largest group of inmates to depart the wartime prison in Cuba since 2009, and the first detainees to be resettled in South America

• The transfer included a Syrian man who has been on a prolonged hunger strike to protest his indefinite detention without trial, and who has brought a high-profile lawsuit to challenge the military’s procedures for force-feeding him. The case may be moot, though a dispute over whether videotapes of the procedure must be disclosed to the public is expected to continue

• Vid: A criminal inquiry has been opened after chlorine gas sickened 19 at an annual furries convention at a suburban Chicago hotel – the Midwest Furfest – can’t make this stuff up. It’s a whole lifestyle – complete in ALL furry aspects – you understand me? (AP, me)


Iran Nuke Deal: 3 Pols – 3 Views
• Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, “Now we must use the time available to increase the pressure on Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons capability.” He spoke via videotaped message to a conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. Iran nuclear talks have been extended until July 2015, with a target of end March for a framework

• In remarks which followed Netanyahu’s speech, SecState John Kerry said to the same conference that it was his hope that the target of late March for a framework would be met with little need for further negotiation. “We have no intention of negotiating forever. Absent measurable progress, who knows how much longer this could go on.”

• On Saturday VP Joe Biden said at the same event that sanctions were working by slowing Iran’s economy and nuclear program. “It’s frozen the program, it’s given us a shot for a peaceful solution. I tell you I think it’s a less than even shot, but it’s a shot nonetheless.” (Reuters, AP, WaPo)

• Meanwhile, Jason Rezaian, WaPo bureau chief, who holds dual American-Iranian citizenship and has been detained in Iran for over four months, was charged Saturday, WaPo reported. The nature of the charges leveled at a daylong Tehran court proceeding were not immediately clear. Rezaian’s family has hired an attorney, but the lawyer hasn’t yet been allowed to visit him

• SecState John Kerry said Sunday, “Jason poses no threat to the Iranian govt or to Iran’s national security. We call on the Iranian govt to drop any and all charges against Jason and release him immediately so that he can be reunited with his family.”

McCartney: “Shock” of Lennon’s Death
• John Lennon was assassinated outside his Manhattan apartment 34 years ago today, on 8 December 1980. Paul McCartney has said he got an early morning phone call. “It was just so horrific, you couldn’t take it in and I couldn’t take it in.” (BBC, ITV, me)

• Lennon’s killer Mark Chapman (in jail) reportedly said he had heard voices in his head telling him to kill the musician. McCartney said: “The phrase kept coming in my head, ‘The jerk of all jerks.’ It was just like ‘this is just a jerk, this is not even a guy politically motivated, it’s just some total random thing.'”

• Referring to the Beatles’ break-up in April 1970, McCartney said, “We got to a point where we got really crappy over business.” They didn’t see each other for four years. McCartney said they became “good friends” again after becoming new fathers in the mid-1970s

• McCartney said the fighting between them had become “boring” and they bonded over “normal stuff” – being new fathers and bread-making recipes. “The story about the break-up, it’s true but it’s not the main bit, the main bit was the affection.” McCartney spoke on the Jonathan Ross Show on ITV. Here’s “Starting Over” – because John was at the time of his death

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Celina Gore 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.