7-28-15 News Notes

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.

News Now

  • Highway: House GOP’s 3-month push
  • Senate GOP’s “combative” session
  • Obama slams Huckabee et al…
  • GOP chair: IRS commissioner must go
  • Gun purchases: Recent mass shootings
  • NATO: Rare emergency meeting – Turkey
  • Ethiopia: Obama pushes for South Sudan peace
  • State Dept human trafficking report row: TPP
  • No summer Olympics for Boston
  • Family detention social worker speaks out
  • Trump’s lawyers threaten Daily Beast: “Rape”

 

Highway: House GOP’s 3-Month Push (Politico, TRNS, me)
• House Republicans are pushing a three-month extension for federal highway funding until 29 October, but Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his top lieutenants are still refusing to yield on reauthorizing the Export Import Bank. A draft bill GOP leaders circulated Monday night also allows the troubled Veterans Affairs Dept to shift $3 billion in funds to cover a shortfall

• The House could vote on the draft legislation by Wednesday, GOP and Democratic aides said. The House is scheduled to adjourn Thursday for the long August reeeecessss. It’s unclear if Democrats will support the highway funding-VA package without the Ex-Em Bank provision, Democratic aides said. Republicans may be on their own

• House GOP aides added that the Senate leadership signaled it would accept the new package rather than see highway funding lapse or the VA run out of money and begin to turn veterans away (a cave by McConnell? maybe not so fast)

• But Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) and other top Republicans haven’t budged so far on allowing the Ex-Im Bank’s authorization to expire, despite heavy pressure from President Obama and Democrats. In addition, House leadership doesn’t support the Senate version of the highway bill

• The Senate voted 64-29 Monday night to tack a renewal of the Ex-Im Bank to a long-term highway funding bill, putting even more pressure on House GOP leaders. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) wants to push through a six-year highway bill before the recess (this is looking very messy, indeed)
Senate GOP “Combative” Session (Politico, AP, me)
• Drama! Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) got his hands on an email from an aide to Sen Mike Lee (R-Utah) to conservative activists, plotting to use an Obamacare vote as a political weapon. So McConnell quickly summoned the GOP to a closed-door session Monday night

• And he made sure his caucus read the email, placing a copy on every Republican senator’s chair before they arrived. A lawmaker in the room described the mood as “combative.” One GOP senator after another objected to the Lee aide’s tactic and called for GOP unity. Conservative firebrand Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stayed notably quiet. Lee was quick to apologize (fly on wall)

• Rachel Bovard, a senior aide on the conservative Senate Steering Committee that Lee chairs, wrote to conservative activists Friday and detailed how Lee planned to push for a vote to repeal Obamacare and effectively circumvent a filibuster. “That’s the real vote that should be scored,” she wrote – meaning it should be a mark against senators in their next election (mean)

• Lee spox Conn Carroll said his boss apologized to McConnell when he learned of the email. “This email is not how Sen Lee does business,” Carroll said. “As soon as Sen Lee found out about the email he contacted McConnell, met with him and apologized.” (anyone looking for a gig as a senior GOP aide? job soon available…)

• Sen John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Mnday night on Twitter promised a vote to defund Planned Parenthood “as soon as this week.” Momentum is also growing in the House to defund the organization. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood confirmed Monday that anti-abortion hackers have infiltrated the organization potentially exposing data ((Hill, Hill, TRNS)

Obama Slams Huckabee, Trump, Cruz et al… (NYT, Politico, Breitbart, TRNS, me)

• At a presser in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday, President Obama defended the Iran agreement and he bristled at the assertion by former Gov Mike Huckabee (R-Ark) that the president’s policy would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” Then he let loose – and how

• “The particular comments of Mr Huckabee are just part of a general pattern we’ve seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” Obama said. “We’ve had a sitting senator call John Kerry Pontius Pilate. (Sen Tom Cotton R-Ark) We’ve had a sitting senator, who also happens to be running for president, suggest that I’m the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) These are leaders in the Republican Party.” – said incredulously

• Huckabee fired back in a statement: “What’s ‘ridiculous and sad’ is that President Obama does not take Iran’s repeated threats seriously. For decades, Iranian leaders have pledged to ‘destroy,’ ‘annihilate,’ and ‘wipe Israel off the map’ with a ‘big Holocaust.'” (Obama has been clear that he doesn’t trust Iran)

• Presidential contenders former Gov Jeb Bush (R-Fla) and Hillary Clinton both weighed in on Huckabee’s remarks on Monday. “The use of that kind of language is just wrong,” Bush said. “I find this kind of inflammatory rhetoric totally unacceptable,” said Clinton. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said, “These are not words that I would use or think are appropriate.”
Obama Lays Into Trump

• Obama laid into Donald Trump without even being asked. “Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr Trump out of the headlines.” Obama went on to say it was offensive of Trump to “challenge the heroism of Mr

[John] McCain (R-Ariz), somebody who endured torture and conducted himself with exemplary patriotism.”

• “The Republican Party is shocked, and yet that arises out of a culture where those kinds of outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace and get circulated nonstop through the internet and talk radio and news outlets,” Obama said (on a real roll now)

• “And I recognize that when outrageous statements are made about me, a lot of the same people who were outraged when it’s made about Mr McCain were pretty quiet.” (having time of his life)

• “The American people deserve better,” Obama said. “In 18 months, I’m turning over the keys. I want to make sure I’m turning over the keys to someone who’s serious about the serious problems the country faces and the world faces.”

• Three amigos: SecState John Kerry, Energy Sec Ernest Moniz and Treasury Sec Jack Lew will get grilled on the Hill today by the House Foreign Affairs Committee (should be very, very lively – mega snax) (AP, me)
GOP Chair: IRS Commissioner Must Go (AP, WaPo, me)
• Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee, which has investigated the IRS for more than two years, sent a letter Monday to President Obama, asking him to remove IRS Commissioner John Koskinen

• “Throughout his tenure, Commissioner Koskinen obstructed these congressional investigations,” Chaffetz wrote. ” His obstruction takes the form of failure to comply with a congressional subpoena, failure to testify truthfully and failure to preserve and produce up to 24,000 emails relevant to the investigation.” (ouch)

• Treasury Dept said in a statement, “His [Koskinen] decades of experience turning around both public and private institutions continue to make him the right person to lead the IRS during a critical time for the agency.” The IRS said in a statement, “Koskinen has been cooperative and truthful  with the numerous investigations underway.”

• The Senate confirmed Koskinen after the IRS acknowledged that the agency had mistreated tea party and other groups when they applied for tax-exempt status. Last month, the IRS IG told Congress that two IRS workers at a computer center had erased backup tapes that could have contained up to 24,000 emails to and from Lois Lerner, a central figure in the scandal

• The IG said the workers might have been incompetent, not deliberate. Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking committee member, said calls for Koskinen to step down were “nothing more than an attempt by Republicans to manufacture a political crisis based on allegations that have already been debunked.”
• Joyce Mitchell, the New York prison worker accused of smuggling hacksaw blades in frozen hamburger meat to two killers who later broke out will be arraigned this morning in county court on charges of first-degree promoting prison contraband and fourth-degree criminal facilitating (AP)
Gun Purchases: Recent Mass Shootings (WaPo, Hill, me)
• Rep David Cicilline (D-RI) on Monday formally asked AG Loretta Lynch to open a formal probe of how John Russell Houser, the suspect in a shooting at a Lafayette, La, movie theater, and Dylann Roof, who allegedly opened fire at a black church in Charleston, managed to slip through the background check system despite histories of mental health problems and a drug arrest

• But Houser was able to legally purchase a gun despite a judge’s order sending him to a mental hospital in 2008 because he was never involuntarily committed for treatment, a county probate judge and a state official told WaPo

• “If he had been adjudicated in need of involuntary treatment, I would have reported that to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who would then sent it to the FBI,” said Muskogee County Probate Judge Marc D’Antonio, who was the county’s chief clerk at the time. “I clearly would have known. That did not happen.”

• An involuntary commitment would have forever banned Houser from buying a gun under the sweeping federal gun law passed after the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007. But Houser never reached the crucial stage of having a judge rule on his mental competence, D’Antonio said

• As a result, Houser’s purchase of a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun at a Phenix City, Ala, pawnshop last year was perfectly legal, setting up a tragedy in Lafayette, La, and exposing what gun control advocates say is a troubling loophole in the federal law that governs who may legally acquire firearms

• Vid: The Boy Scouts of America officially ended Monday night its highly controversial policy banning openly gay men and women from serving as adult leaders and employees of the organization, with some exceptions (Hill)
NATO: Rare Emergency Meeting – Turkey (AP, TRNS, me)
• For just the fifth time in its 66-year history, NATO ambassadors will meet in emergency session in Brussels today to gauge the threat ISIS poses to Turkey, and the debated actions Turkish authorities are taking in response

• The extraordinary meeting at NATO HQ was requested by Turkey under Article 4 of the treaty that founded the U.S.-led alliance, which empowers its 28 member states to seek such consultations when they consider their “territorial integrity, political independence or security” to be in jeopardy

• After months of reluctance, Turkish warplanes last week started striking militant targets in Syria and entered a long-awaited agreement which allows the U.S. to launch its own strikes from Turkey’s strategically located Incirlik Air Base

• The U.S. and Turkey on Monday were finalizing plans for a military campaign to push ISIS out of a strip of Syrian territory along the Turkish border. But in a series of cross-border strikes since Friday, Turkey has not only targeted ISIS but also Kurdish fighters affiliated with forces battling ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Syrian Kurds are among the most effective ground forces

• Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Monday he would spell out in detail the security threats his country faces. “There is no difference between PKK [Kurdish Workers’ Party] and Daesh. You can’t say that PKK is better because it is fighting Daesh,” Cavusoglu said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to ISIS (yes, you can say that PKK is better that ISIS)
• Once the NSA ends its bulk collection of tens of millions of American’s phone records later this year, it will also eliminate analysts’ access to the five years’ worth of old data, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said on Monday (Hill) (would have been an uproar – and quite right – from privacy types if they’d hung on to the stuff)
Ethiopia: Obama Pushes for South Sudan Peace (Hill, AP, me)
• President Obama launched a personal push for peace in South Sudan on Monday, convening African leaders for urgent talks in neighboring Ethiopia aimed at keeping the world’s newest nation from collapsing amid civil war. Also in Ethiopia, President Obama speaks to the African Union today

• “The possibilities of renewed conflict in a region that has been torn by conflict for so long, and has resulted in so many deaths, is something that requires urgent attention from all of us,” Obama said. Obama urged Ethiopia’s leaders to curb crackdowns on press freedoms and political opposition

• Ethiopia has been among the most active countries in East Africa seeking to end the crisis in South Sudan. South Sudan’s warring factions face a 17 August deadline to accept a regional peace and power-sharing deal

• South Sudan was thrown into conflict in December 2013 by a clash between forces loyal to former VP Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, and President Salva Kiir, a Dinka. The fighting has spurred a humanitarian crisis that threatens the country’s survival just four years after its inception

• President Obama met “Lucy,” the 3.2 million-year-old partial skeleton of a hominid discovered in Ethiopia. “That’s amazing,” Obama said of the bones, which he touched. A scientist told him, “It shows that every single person here, 7 billion people, including Donald Trump, came down through the [evolution] chain,” (Reuters)
U.S. Not Hopeful of Peace Deal
• U.S. officials have expressed pessimism about the prospects for a peace deal, saying the two sides are indifferent to the plight of the South Sudanese people. Even as they wait, officials say the U.S. is eying additional economic sanctions and perhaps an arms embargo to ramp up pressure on the warring factions

• Human rights groups have criticized Obama for visiting Ethiopia, saying his trip lends legitimacy to an oppressive got. There are deep concerns about political freedoms on the heels of May elections in which the ruling party won every seat in parliament

• Obama said he was frank in his discussions with Ethiopian leaders about the need to allow political opponents to operate freely. He defended his decision to travel to the East African nation, comparing it to U.S. engagement with China, another nation with a poor human rights record

• Obama diverged from top aides and most outside observers by declaring twice that he thinks Ethiopia’s govt was “democratically elected.” A senior admin official said later, “Had the president been asked was this a perfectly free, fair and democratic election, the answer would have been, ‘Absolutely not.'” (bit convoluted)
State Human Trafficking Report Row: TPP (Hill, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• The State Dept’s Trafficking in [Human] Persons (TIP) report released Monday gave Malaysia a boost to the Tier 2 Watch List from Tier 3, the lowest level, a move that could further complicate congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Lawmakers and human rights groups blasted the WH for the move

• Legislation handing President Obama authority to fast track trade agreements, approved last month, included language barring any Tier 3 nations on the trafficking list from participation in the TPP. Sen Bob Menendez (D-NJ) called the upgrade “a clear politicization of the report” and said he’d use hearings and bills to challenge the move

• Sarah Sewell, State’s undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, said Monday that Malaysia has made significant efforts since being downgraded last year to comply with minimum standards through several channels, and insisted that Malaysia’s qualification to remain part of the TPP didn’t come into play (sure sure)

• Recently, a bipartisan group of lawmakers – including several who support fast track – wrote to SecState John Kerry asking him to keep Malaysia as a Tier 3 country. U.S. negotiators are in Hawaii this week seeking to complete TPP – lots of issues could derail it, including shoes and cheese (separately, not together)

• Rev Dr J. Herbert Nelson, director, Presbyterian Church, USA, said: “Human trafficking is etched into the DNA, the growth of the economy and nation of Malaysia. [We] are calling on the admin to step back for a minute and look very closely at Malaysia’s participation in TPP.”

• State Dept has agreed to release 5,000 pages of Benghazi docs to the House Benghazi Committee today. The document dump is part of a deal under which SecState Kerry’s chief of staff, Jon Finer, will not have to testify before the Benghazi committee until after a marathon string of hearings and briefings on Iran (Hill) (blackmail much? worked)
No Summer Olympics for Boston (Politico, NYT, me)
• The U.S. Olympics Committee has ended its effort to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston. “We have not been able to get a majority of the citizens of Boston to support hosting the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Scott Blackmun, chief exec of the USOC, said in a statement

• The decision followed a bombshell announcement Monday morning by Mayor Martin Walsh that he wouldn’t sign a host city contract with the USOC if it wanted him to do so by the end of the day. “I will not sign a document that puts one dollar of taxpayers’ money on the line for one penny of overruns for the Olympics,” the mayor said

• The USOC said it would consider other options for a 2014 bid. Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington were the other finalists for the American bid. It’s uncertain whether the USOC would find more support in any of those cities (NIMBY thank you very much) – but LA is a possible

• The USOC must formally submit its host city bid by mid-September to the International Olympic Committee. Organizers must now decide whether to try to scramble a last-minute bid from LA or allow the U.S. to forgo the chance at hosting the Summer Games, which is hasn’t done since 1996 in Atlanta – (that didn’t go so well with the bombing)

Family Detention Social Worker Speaks Out (McClatchy, Think Progress, me)

• Olivia Lopez, a social worker and whistleblower who worked at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes, Texas, will testify in DC today at a Judiciary Democrats Forum on Family Detention about the deplorable conditions she witnessed. The facility was built in response to the large increase in Central American migrants that came across the border last year

• Lopez will testify that she saw young children who regressed developmentally, detainees who were placed in isolation for speaking out, and superiors who wanted a “clean paper trail” because the facility was under constant audits

• Lopez indicated that if a migrant mother had a problem, Lopez was only able to write down what the detainee asked and give her info on how to access services. Because the facility was the subject of various audits, Lopez stated that she had to ensure a “clean” document. “The audit stops at the document,” Lopez said

• Last week, federal judge Dolly Gee ruled that the govt can’t hold families in detention centers because it violates a 1997 court settlement, the Flores Settlement, that requires the federal govt to hold migrant children in the least restrictive setting possible

• Gee’s ruling, which could take effect within 90 days, could have a major impact on whether the Karnes facility and two other major family detention centers located in Texas and Pennsylvania would remain open in their current form. Ahead of Gee’s ruling, federal immigration officials began releasing mothers and children deemed eligible for asylum or other relief

Trump’s Lawyers Threaten Daily Beast: Ivana’s Alleged “Rape” Comment (Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, me)
• Following Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants, in particular accusing them of being “rapists,” the Daily Beast reports that Trump’s ex-wife Ivana Trump used the word “rape” to describe an incident between the then married couple in 1989

• The Beast reports that Ivana Trump’s assertion of “rape” came up in the couple’s divorce case. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, pushed back, telling the Beast: “You’re talking about the front-runner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as private individual who never raped anybody. And of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.” (yes you can)

• Ivana’s graphic deposition is revealed in the book “Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald Trump” by Harry Hurt III. She said that the couple had a heated argument over a botched scalp reduction surgery Trump had had, and she described how Trump’s “violent assault” included tearing out clumps of her hair and then tearing off her clothes

• “Then he jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than sixteen months. Ivana is terrified … it is a violent assault .. According to versions she repeats to some of her closest confidantes, ‘he raped me.'”

Lawyer: “Tread Very Fu**ing Lightly”
• The 1990 divorce was granted on the grounds of Trump’s “cruel and inhuman treatment” of Ivana. The settlement involved a gag order that bars Ivana from talking about her marriage. Trump has previously denied the allegations in Hill’s book

• Cohen said to the Beast, “It’s not the word that you’re trying to make it into,” adding that “she felt raped emotionally … She was not referring to it [as] a criminal matter, and not in its literal sense, though there’s many literal senses to the word.” (what does that mean exactly)

• After being challenged on his claim about spousal rape – the marital rape exemption in New York was struck down in 1984, according to the Beast – Cohen threatened epic legal action if the story was published. “So I’m warning you, tread very fu*king lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fu*king disgusting. You understand me?” (got it, disgusting)

• “I think you should go ahead and you should write the story that you plan on writing. I think you should do it. Because I think you’re an idiot. And I think your paper’s a joke, and it’s going to be my absolute pleasure to serve you with a $500 million lawsuit, like I told [you] I did it to Univision.” (he and Trump are match made in heaven)


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___________________

Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, James Cullum, Sydnee Fried, Patrice Harris, Anna Merod and William Hadden contributed to this report

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