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 tackles violent extremism
  • WH, tech companies to tackle ISIS
  • WH accuses Israel of leaking Iran nuke details
  • Netanyahu wants to destroy Iran talks: U.S. officials
  • Obama names new Secret Service chief
  • DoJ to sue Ferguson: sources
  • Jeb Bush: “I am my own man”
  • Clinton Foundation raised nearly $2 billion
  • Ukraine: Poroshenko calls for UN peacekeepers
Obama Tackles Violent Extremism

• For weeks, the WH has sidestepped the question of whether deadly terror attacks in Paris and other Western cities amount to “Islamic extremism,” wary of offending a major world religion or lending credibility to the “war on terror” that President Obama’s predecessor waged (AP, NYT, TPM, TRNS, me)

• But as he hosted a WH summit on countering violent extremism on Wednesday, the president said some in Muslim communities have bought into the notion that Islam is incompatible with tolerance and modern life. “We are not at war with Islam,” Obama said. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

• While putting the blame on ISIS and similar groups – Obama said the militants masquerade as religious leaders but are really terrorists – the president also appealed directly to prominent Muslims to do more to distance themselves from brutal ideologies

• Today, Obama will speak at the State Dept, where reps of some 60 countries are scheduled to meet on countering terrorism. The WH declined to release a list of attendees in advance, but reps from the UK, Jordan, France, Egypt, the UAE and Kuwait are expected to attend


• “Just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam,” Obama said. Issuing such a direct challenge to Muslims marked a clear departure from the cautious language Obama and his aides have used in the past

• In the days after last month’s shootings at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, Obama avoided calling the attack an example of “Islamic extremism,” and instead opted for the more generic “violent extremism.” Wednesday, Obama referred to ISIS’s “barbarism” and talked of the “murder” of “Egyptian Christians.”

• The argument over terminology has increasingly become a distraction, including this week. In his remarks, Obama acknowledged it was a touchy subject but insisted it was critical to tackle the issue head-on.” “Too often, folks are understandably sensitive about addressing some of these root issues, but we have to talk about them honestly and clearly.”


• Rudy Giuliani said at a dinner Wed night: “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” (most hateful political speech of 2015 so far) (me, Politico,)


WH, Tech Cos to Counter ISIS

• The WH plans to work closely with tech companies to counter groups like al Qaeda and ISIS online, part of a new campaign unveiled Wednesday to counter “violent extremist messaging.” (Politico, me)

• The U.S. govt will organize “technology camps” alongside social media companies, which will “work with govts, civil society and religious leaders to develop digital content that discredits violent extremist narratives and amplifies positive alternatives,” according to the WH (so finally our own propaganda – we’ve been lame and late)

• The U.S. will also partner with the UAE to create a “digital communications hub that will counter ISIS’s propaganda and recruitment efforts, both directly and through engagement with civil society, community and religious leaders.”

• The announcements followed President Obama’s speech at a WH-led summit on countering violent extremism. Google, Facebook and Twitter each confirmed they attended Wednesday

• The Obama admin and tech companies have struggled to stamp out violent content and messages shared by groups like ISIS, which has posted several videos of beheadings on the internet. The content often proliferates so quickly that social media companies can’t keep up with it

• Hundreds of people in Arizona held a vigil Wednesday night to honor American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who died in Syria while being held hostage by ISIS militants. “You are in God’s hands now. You do not have to suffer anymore,” Kayla’s brother, Eric, said (BBC, me)


WH Accuses Israel of “Cherry-Picking” Iran Nuke Leaks

• In extraordinary admissions that reflect increasingly strained ties between the U.S. and Israel, the WH and State Dept said Wednesday they weren’t sharing everything from the Iran nuke negotiations with the Israelis and complained that Israeli officials had misrepresented what they had been told in the past to try to scuttle the talks

• The comments came as a late March deadline to forge the outline of an Iran nuclear deal looms. PM Benjamin Netanyahu has angered the WH by his open opposition to a deal he believes threatens Israel’s existence, and by accepting a GOP invitation to address Congress about Iran in early March without consulting the WH – a breach of diplomatic protocol

• When asked, WH spox Josh Earnest told reporters, “The U.S. is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the U.S.” (AP, TRNS, me)

• State Dept spox Jen Psaki went further, confirming that one of the steps the admin takes to ensure that “classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors” is to withhold them from Israel. “I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli govt is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks.”

Netanyahu Wants to Destroy Iran Talks: U.S. Officials

• But while Earnest and Psaki said limitations on info sharing were longstanding, U.S. officials – anonymous – more directly involved in the talks, said the decision to withhold the most sensitive details of the negotiations dated back only several weeks (AP, NYT, me)

• Those officials said the admin believes Netanyahu, facing a 17 March election at home, has made a political decision to try to destroy the negotiations, rather than merely insist on a good deal – hence the leaks – hence they can’t share all the details

• Senior U.S. officials have expressed consternation with reports in Israeli media as well as AP about the number of centrifuges Iran might be able to keep under a potential deal

• Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said on Wednesday in a speech that he didn’t believe that all sanctions against his country would be lifted, a move he had previously said was an essential condition for nuclear talks to succeed. Iran and the U.S. resume talks Friday

• It’s Latin America. VP Joe Biden and his wife Jill are heading to the presidential inauguration in Uruguay the first week of March and then to Guatemala for meetings on the violence that forced Central American children to flee to U.S. borders last year. This will put him out of the country while Netanyahu is to address Congress
• The Pentagon says the U.S. has screened about 1,200 moderate Syrian rebels who could participate in a new training program so they can eventually return to the fight against ISIS. They will continue to be screened as they go through the process (tick tock, people) (AP, me)


Obama Names New Secret Service Chief

• President Obama on Wednesday named his acting director and trusted former protective detail leader Joseph Clancy as the new permanent head of the Secret Service, choosing a longtime insider despite calls from Congress for fresh management of the agency (WaPo, TRNS, me)

• Clancy, 59, a 27-year veteran of the Secret Service, has been in charge for the past four months since Obama asked him to replace former director Julia Pierson, who resigned in October amid a series of major security lapses. He had emerged as the likely choice for the permanent role last week over several outside candidates (only last week, really?)

• Among the challenges: To determine how to secure the perimeter of the WH complex after an intruder burst past security last fall and a small drone landed on the lawn last month (umm – higher fence?). The new director also will be charged with overseeing the massive security operation of protecting the candidates in the 2016 presidential race


• Clancy’s selection, which doesn’t require congressional approval, goes against the advice of an independent panel appointed last fall to examine the security failures. That panel recommended an outsider for the first time in the agency’s 150-year history

• Since taking over as acting director, Clancy has enacted major changes recommended by the outside panel. He arranged the ouster of a number of top agency leaders who had been criticized as insular and lacking a strategy to address changing threats after 9/11. Many of the people Clancy pushed out were longtime co-workers, including former bosses

• Joe Hagin, a deputy chief of staff under President George W. Bush and a member of the independent panel, called Clancy a “consummate professional.” “He’s taken very difficult and tough personnel decisions. That’s what they need.”

• WH spox Josh Earnest on Wednesday said, “It is completely irresponsible to allow a political dispute to interfere with the ability of the U.S. Congress to fund the Dept of Homeland Security.” He said it raised questions as to whether the new GOP majority in Congress “is committed to actually being responsible.” Nine days to possible DHS shutdown… (Hill, me)

DoJ to Sue Ferguson: Sources

• The Justice Dept is preparing to bring a lawsuit against the Ferguson MO police dept over a pattern of racially discriminatory tactics used by officers, if the police dept doesn’t agree to make changes on its own, sources tell CNN

• AG Eric Holder said this week he expected to announce the results of the dept’s investigation of the shooting death of Michael Brown and a broader probe of the Ferguson PD before he leaves offices in the coming weeks

• DoJ is expected to announce that it won’t charge Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Brown, but it’s also expected to outline findings that allege a pattern of discriminatory tactics used by the Ferguson police

• Among the issues expected to be part of the DoJ’s lawsuit are allegations made in a recent lawsuit filed by a group of low-income people who claimed officers in Ferguson and nearby Jennings targeted minorities with minor traffic infractions and then jailed them when they couldn’t pay fines

• Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson said, “I have received nothing new. Everything they suggested in the past has been reasonable and we have tried to comply.”

Pussy Riot’s first English single “I Can’t Breathe” – dedicated to Eric Garner and the words he repeated 11 times before he died. Two members of the Russian collective are shown being buried alive


Jeb Bush: “I Am My Own Man”

• Jeb Bush pointedly sought to distance himself from his brother’s presidency on Wednesday in Chicago, even as he used his first major foreign affairs speech to call for an assertive American presence abroad that recalled George W. Bush’s own national security strategy (NYT, WaPo, TRNS, me)

• Bush noted that his father, the 41st president, and eldest brother “both have shaped foreign policy from the Oval Office,” and reaffirmed his love for them. “But I am my own man – and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences,” he said at a luncheon, adding: “New circumstances require new approaches.”

• But nearly all of the 21 names his campaign-in-waiting announced as supporters and advisers served in high-level positions in the admins of his father and his brother


• In a Q&A session, Bush didn’t indicate whether he’d support sending American ground forces to confront ISIS militants. “Taking them out is the strategy,” Bush said, adding that “it has to be done in concert first with the folks in the region.” (hmmm the Obama strategy). Bush acknowledged “there were mistakes made in Iraq, for sure” during his brother’s presidency

• He was a bit vague on some other issues, too. Discussing NATO’s aggressive stance in the Baltics, Bush explained that “I don’t know what the effect has been because, you know, it’s really kind of hard to be out on the road, and I’m just a gladiator these days, so I don’t follow every little detail.”

• Bush admitted that his foreign policy was still in the training phase. “Look, the more I get into this stuff, there are some things
[where] you just go, you know, ‘Holy schnikes.'”


• HHS Sec Sylvia Mathews Burwell argued Wednesday that 11.4 million signups (not yet enrollments) show Obamacare “is now an important part of everyday lives of millions of Americans.” She also said that Americans are “tired of the back and forth here in Washington” about the law, which she stressed was here to stay (Hill, me)

Clinton Foundation Raised Nearly $2 Billion

• The Clintons have raised nearly $2 billion for their foundations since 2001. The sum for the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation includes donations from foreign govts and top Wall Street executives that could draw scrutiny as Hillary Clinton prepares for a 2016 presidential bid (WaPo, WSJ, me)

• There’s an overlap between donors to the foundation and contributors to political groups supporting the Clintons, including Ready for Hillary, a super-PAC formed to encourage her candidacy. Nearly half of the top donors and nearly half of the top donors to the super-PAC have given at least $10,000 to the Clinton Foundation directly or through other entities

• There’s a strong reliance on big foreign donors. Foreign donors make up a third of those giving over $1 million and over half of those whose contributions top $5 million. Polls show Clinton to be the clear Democratic frontrunner, but the foundation’s fundraisng prowess could leave her facing tough questions – particularly if she faces a challenge from the left

• A conservative group, America Rising PAC, is launching a petition calling on the Clinton Foundation to return money donated from foreign govts. “Remember – the Foundation spends a LOT of their money on flying the Clintons around the world and paying future and former Hillary political advisers. This is wrong,” their petition says in part

• Saudi Arabia, the UAE and a Canadian govt agency backing the Keystone XL pipeline project were among the group’s contributors. The foundation is defending its fundraising. “The Clinton Foundation is a philanthropy, period,” the foundation’s chief communications officer Craig Minassian said


• Fed officials at their most recent policy-making meeting, in January, worried that economic growth remained fragile, and that raising rates prematurely could undermine recent gains, according to an official account released Wednesday. Also greater concerns about the sluggish pace of inflation than they’d previously disclosed (NYT, me)

Ukraine: Poroshenko Calls for UN Peacekeepers

• President Petro Poroshenko has called for UN peacekeepers to be deployed to eastern Ukraine to enforce a ceasefire. At an emergency security meeting, he said such a force would help guarantee security “in a situation where the promise of peace is not being kept.” (BBC, me)

• His comments came after almost 2,500 Ukrainian troops withdrew from the strategic city of Debaltseve after intense fighting. The rebel advance on Debaltseve, which came in spite of the ceasefire agreed last week, has been widely condemned

• Poroshenko said the withdrawal had been organized, but that at least six soldiers were killed at more than 100 wounded. Earlier, Ukraine said 22 Ukrainian soldiers had died in Debaltseve over the past three days. Rebel claims of a much higher figure have been dismissed by the govt

• The ceasefire, which came into effect Sunday, has been broadly observed elsewhere in eastern Ukraine and some heavy weaponry is said to have been withdrawn by both sides. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the rebels’ offensive had put the wider peace agreement at risk

• The WH said both the rebels and Russia had failed to live up to the terms of the agreement signed in Belarus last week. But Russia insisted the rebels’ actions in Debaltseve had not violated the ceasefire because it was a rebel-held city at the time of the agreement


• Philip Morris apparently didn’t think John Oliver’s takedown of big tobacco on Last Week Tonight was very clever or funny (I did)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Justin Duckham, Mary Jarvis and Midori Nishida contributed to this report

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