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 throws down gauntlet to GOP
  • GOP Congress takes the reins
  • GOP plans to block Obama agenda
  • Silent protest of NYC mayor as officer laid to rest
  • Boston Marathon bombing trial begins today
  • Palin’s PETA pout
  • Huckabee quits Fox News: 2016 run?
  • Afghan president: Maybe “reexamine” withdrawal deadline
  • Iran: Corker warns of new sanctions
  • Prince Andrew “emphatically” denies sex allegations

Obama Throws Down Gauntlet to GOP

• President Obama plans new steps to help more Americans buy a home and attend college, part of a 2015 agenda to build on his high-profile moves on immigration and Cuba – he hopes. His approach appears to look straight past newly emboldened Republicans who take full control of Congress on Tuesday (AP, NYT, WSJ, me)

• Obama heads out of Washington on Wednesday to promote broad themes from his State of the Union address scheduled for 20 January. He plans stops in Michigan (jobs), Arizona (housing) and Tennessee (higher education). He’ll lay out new executive actions and legislative policy proposals (uh oh)

• Lacking a Democratic majority in the Senate to stop them, GOP lawmakers convening Tuesday intend to start chipping away on health care, immigration and the environment, flashing their power as Obama enters the last years of his presidency and the 2016 race starts to unfold

• Obama has appeared energized by the end-of-the-year actions on immigration and Cuba, despite Democratic losses on Election Day. Of the issues the WH said Obama will emphasize in coming weeks, none was among the areas that Democrats and Republicans have cited as ripe for dealmaking – trade, taxes, public works (compromise – err so 2013)

• Obama spox Eric Schultz said, “There are a number of issues we could make progress on, but the president is clear that he will not let this Congress undo important protections gained – particularly in areas of health care, Wall Street reform and the environment.”

• New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on CNN Sunday that the “bourbon summit” between him and President Obama “will happen.” “We’re going to have some kind of draw it out of a hat selection for the bourbon,” McConnell said (Hill)
GOP Congress Takes the Reins
• When the new Congress takes the reins Tuesday, Republicans will run both the House and Senate for the first time in eight years. GOP leaders want to showcase their legislative priorities, mixing accomplishments with showdowns with President Obama but avoiding govt shutdowns and other chaotic standoffs (where’s the fun in that) (AP, Politico, Hill, me)

• Another priority is minimizing distractions like the recent admission by the No. 3 House leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) that he addressed a white supremacist/Neo-Nazi group in 2002. “Serious adults are in charge here and we intend to make progress,” incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told the AP recently

• McConnell says the Senate’s first bill would force construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which Republicans call a job creator but Obama and many Democrats say threatens the environment. The bill’s scheduled to be marked up on Thursday. Democrats plan numerous amendments when it hits the floor

• The House leads off with legislation letting small companies sidestep some requirements of Obama’s health care overhaul by hiring veterans, followed by other measures weakening that law and pushing the Keystone pipeline

• During the second week in session, the GOP will look to pass Rep Mike Pompeo’s (R-KS) Pipeline Permitting Bill, which would expedite the govt’s consideration of natural gas projects and Rep Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA) Regulatory Accountability Act, an attempt to curb what Republicans consider overburdening govt regulations

• Rep Louie Gohmert (R-TX) will challenge House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for the top spot in House GOP leadership (yippee). Rep Ted Yoho (R-FL) put his own name forward Saturday (goody). The election is Tuesday. Boehner looks like he has the votes (TPM, Hill, Politico, me)
GOP Plans to Block Obama Agenda
• In Congress’ second week, House Republicans will seek to pass a bill to fund the Dept of Homeland Security, which runs out of money 28 Feb. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) are working with Senate leaders to craft a package that also includes reforms to the nation’s immigration laws

• One strategy under consideration is to include a border security package in the funding bill. That could set up a major confrontation with Obama. The GOP idea is to punish Obama over his executive action late last year on immigration

• Other bills likely early would block Obama’s executive actions on immigration and ease environmental and business regulations that the GOP contends stifle job growth. Additional bills would cut spending, squeeze Medicare and other benefit programs, revamp tax laws, finance highway construction and speed congressional approval of trade treaties

• “We’re focused on job creation,” said McCarthy, and running “a more efficient, effective, accountable govt.” (and punishing Obama for – whatever)

• Democrats say the GOP’s goal is cutting taxes on the rich while crippling Obama’s accomplishments, including expanded health coverage and restrictions on financial institutions. “In the minority, your role is to play defense and stop the worst from happening,” said Sen Dick Durbin (D-IL), the No. 2 Senate Democrat
• The U.S. Postal Service is set to move forward today with controversial plans for closing and consolidating many of its mail-processing centers – to save money. Critics say the program will slow down delivery times and harm the agency’s brand (WaPo)

Silent Protest of Mayor as Officer Laid to Rest

• For the second time in just over a week, a river of pressed blue uniforms filled the streets of a NYC neighborhood on Sunday as law enforcement officers from across the country paid respects to a slain colleague (NYT, me)

• And for the second time, hundreds of those officers made a silent show of protest against Mayor Bill de Blasio. As he began his eulogy for Officer Wenjian Liu, the protesting officers pivoted away from the funeral parlor

• Coming after a week in which the mayor sat down with police union leaders to try to defuse tensions; in which stats reflected a de facto slowdown by officers across the city; and in which the police commissioner explicitly asked officers not to turn their backs, it showed a willingness by the rank and file to disregard the leadership

• Officers Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, were shot in their parked patrol car in Brooklyn 20 Dec by a man who had announced on social media his intention to kill police officers, and who killed himself in a nearby subway station shortly after the shooting

• Their murders shook a city already roiled by weeks of protests over policing practices, particularly after a grand jury declined to indict an officer whose chokehold contributed to the death of a black Staten Island man

Police / City Hall at Odds
• Police union officials, already upset with the mayor for, in their view, seeming to condone criticism of the police, said after the shooting that the “blood on the hands” started at City Hall. Last week, the mayor sat down with police union leaders, and though the talk was cordial, neither side acknowledged turning a corner

• Friday, Commissioner Bill Bratton sent a memo across the Police Dept asking officers not to turn away from the mayor on Sunday, calling it an “act of disrespect” that distracted from the memory of the two killed officers. But he didn’t make the request an order, and he said no one would be punished for not heeding it

• After the funeral on Sunday, the mayor’s office declined to address the issue of turned backs. But Edward Mullins, president of the sergeants’ union, said the turned backs represented a “real problem that exists between the police and City Hall.” He expressed surprise at the memo from Bratton

• After the eulogies, at a private family ceremony, incense was lit and family and friends carried it to the cemetery; by Chinese tradition, the incense embodies the spirit of the deceased and stays lit during the entire trip. The family then stuck the incense in the ground at the grave site

• Officer Liu had begun paying the mortgage on his parents’ home. “He called me every day before he finished work,” his father said in Cantonese through an interpreter, “to assure me that he is safe, and to tell me: Dad, I’m coming home today. You can stop worrying now.”
Boston Marathon Bombing Trial Begins Today
• Jury selection for the death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, accused in the Boston Marathon attacks, begins today. Those chosen from a pool of about 1,200 will decide whether Tsarnaev planned and carried out the twin bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260 near the finish line of the race on 15 April 2013 (AP, me)

• Tsarnaev’s lawyers tried in vain for months to get the trial moved, arguing the Boston jury pool was tainted because of the number of locals with connections to the race and drawing parallels to the Timothy McVeigh Oklahoma City bombing case, which was moved to Denver for similar reasons. But the judge has been unmoved

• Tsarnaev has a strong legal team behind him. Attorney Judy Clarke touts a strong record of persuading juries to spare her high-profile clients the death penalty, including Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph; and Jared Loughner, who killed six people and wounded former U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)


• Prosecutors say 21-year-old Dzhokhar and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev – ethnic Chechens who had lived in the U.S. for about a decade – carried out the bombings as retaliation for U.S. actions in Muslim countries. Tamerlan, 26, died after a firefight with police several days after the bombings

• Dzhokhar was captured later that day, wounded and bloodied, hiding inside a boat stored in a suburban yard. Prosecutors said he described a motive in a note written in the boat: “The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians” and “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.”

• Tsarnaev’s lawyers may lay the groundwork for some kind of mental health explanation – such as persecution his family may have suffered as ethnic minorities in Kyrgystan. Dzhokhar’s defense team has been pushing to show that he may have been intimidated by his brother. Prosecutors say Dzhokhar showed signs before the bombing of becoming radicalized

• NJ Gov Chris Christie’s brother Todd ranted on Facebook Sunday night: “To all of those non Cowboy fans who have their panties in a ringer because the Governor of NJ is a Cowboys fan – GET A LIFE!!!” Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions 24-20. Christie was seen on TV awkwardly hugging Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in a skybox at AT&T Stadium in Texas (Politico)

Palin’s PETA Pout
• Sarah Palin posted a lengthy, rambling message on her Facebook page Sunday after PETA criticized photos she posted last week showing her son Trig stepping on the spine of the family dog to reach the kitchen sink. “Dear PETA, Chill. At least Trig didn’t eat the dog,” Palin wrote (WaPo, TPM, Politico, me)

• Palin posted the photos of Trig, who is six and has Down’s Syndrome, on New Year’s Day: “May 2015 see every stumbling block turned into a stepping stone on the path forward.” PETA said in a statement that it was “odd that anyone – let alone a mother – would find it appropriate to post such a thing, with no apparent sympathy for the dog in the photo.”

• Palin in her post asked, “Did you go as crazy when your heroic Man-of-Your-Lifetime, Barack Obama, revealed he actually enjoyed eating dead dog meat?” In his autobiography, Obama wrote that he was “introduced to dog meat” while living in Indonesia. He wrote that it was “tough” but didn’t say whether or not he enjoyed eating it

• Palin ranted: “Aren’t you the same anti-beef screamers blogging hate from your comfy leather office chairs, wrapped in your fashionable leather belts above your kickin’ new leather pumps you bought because your celebrity idols (who sport fur and crocodile purses) grinned in a tabloid wearing the exact same Louboutins…” Then she went off about fish

• PETA hit back Sunday: “PETA simply believes that people shouldn’t step on dogs, and judging by the reaction that we’ve seen to Sarah Palin’s Instagram photo, we’re far from alone in that belief. And we’re a vegan organization, so we sit on pleather couches, wear stylish vegan kicks, and consider fish friends, not food.”
• Relations between the U.S. and Britain are so strong that President Obama “sometimes calls” PM David Cameron “bro.” In an exclusive Daily Mail interview, Cameron said Obama “has said the special relationship is stronger than it has ever been privately and in public, and I agree.” (Politico, Daily Mail)
Huckabee Quits Fox News: 2016 Run?
• Former Arkansas Gov Mike Huckabee announced Saturday night that he would be ending his Fox News talk show to gauge support for a possible presidential campaign. “I feel compelled to ascertain if the support exists strongly enough for another presidential run. So as we say in television, stay tuned!” he said (Politico, me)

• Huckabee, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2008 and hosted his show for more than six and a half years, has drawn renewed attention by criticizing former SecState Hillary Clinton last month after she said “smart power” also means empathizing and showing respect for enemies

• Huckabee came in a distant second to John McCain in the 2008 Republican primaries. Even though Huckabee faded quickly in 2008, his win in the Iowa caucuses left a big mark on the electorate that votes in that contest, which is a more conservative and more evangelical group than even other segments of the GOP primary electorate elsewhere

• But he didn’t run in 2012 and the former governor appears to have profited financially from being in the national spotlight – raking in money from paid speeches, for instance, and making expansive use of chartered planes – and many believe he’s unlikely to leave aside a life of relative comfort for a long-shot campaign

• Sources say Huckabee still has paid speeches scheduled in the coming weeks. Huckabee also has a book coming out later this month, titled “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” and speculation about a presidential run could add to the hype as he promotes the book. (Smells like a PR push, but you never know with massive egos)

Afghan President: Maybe “Reexamine” Withdrawal Deadline
• Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said in an interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday, “If both parties, or, in this case, multiple partners, have done their best to achieve the objectives and progress is very real, then there should be willingness to reexamine the deadline” for U.S. troop withdrawal from the country (Hill, WSJ, me)

• Ghani said: “President Obama knows me. We don’t need to …. tell each other,” when asked if he’d told the president his view. Obama had announced his plan to withdraw troops from the country by the end of 2016. There are currently about 10,000 troops remaining

• “There is a lot more talk, from – many of the senior leaders I deal with – on the Afghan Security Forces, about Iraq and Syria and what’s going on, and saying, ‘Hey, the coalition left Iraq, and a couple years later – look what happened. Don’t let that happen to us here in Afghanistan,'” U.S. Gen John Campbell told 60 Minutes

• “The fundamental difference is that the senior leadership, both on the military side and in the govt, want the coalition. The want the U.S. to stay here.” Campbell said small packets of al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan, adding that leadership is still targeted

• “Are they at a level that they can continue to attack and plan for the U.S.? We’re doing everything we can today to make sure they don’t have that capacity,” Campbell said. “But I think we’re going to have to keep continued pressure on that. Once you take that pressure off – it’s only a matter of time before they continue to build that back up.”
• The search mission to find black boxes from crashed Air Asia flight QZ8501 has resumed in the ocean. Search teams have recovered 37 bodies. Indonesia’s transportation ministry announced harsh measures today against everyone who allowed the flight to take off without proper permits (BBC, AP)
Iran: Corker Warns of New Sanctions
• Incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN) said on Fox News Sunday, “There’s no question if the nuke deal falls apart, then there will be more sanctions.” Republicans have signaled they will take up a new Iran sanctions bill in January and some Senate Democrats will support them (Hill, Guardian, me)

• Speaking to an economic conference in Tehran Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani both countered hard-line critics worried Iran will give up too much while also attempting to signal his admin remains open to negotiations with the six-nation group leading the nuclear talks

• If “we are ready to stop some types of enrichment which we do not need at this time, does it mean we have compromised our principles and cause?” Rouhani asked. He responded: “Our cause is not linked to a centrifuge. It is connected to our heart and to our willpower.” (#ohplease)

• On 15 January, Iranian negotiators will meet with officials from the U.S., Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany, hoping to hammer out details of a final deal. The main conflict is over uranium enrichment, which can create both reactor fuel and the fissile core of nuclear arms

• Two diplomats told the AP in recent days that Iran and the U.S. tentatively agreed on a formula about shipping Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium to Russia, as well as drew up a catalog outlining areas of potential accord and differing approaches to remaining disputes. Saturday, Iran denied any tentative formula or catalog had been made
• North Korea on Sunday denounced the U.S. for imposing new sanctions on it after a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, calling them byproducts of American “hostility” towards the North. Pyongyang reiterated its denial of involvement in the hacking of Sony (NYT, TRNS)
Prince Andrew “Emphatically” Denies Sex Allegations 
• The Duke of York Saturday night emphatically denied having sex with the woman at the center of an alleged sex-slave scandal. Prince Andrew had been accused in court docs, lodged in the U.S., of sexually abusing 17-year-old Virginia Roberts who was allegedly supplied to him by friend and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

• Following a day of bruising headlines, a spox for Buckingham Palace said: “It is emphatically denied that HRH The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. The allegations made are false and without any foundation.” Buckingham Palace has now made three statements on the matter. It’s highly unusual to name the woman

• As well as accusing him of having slept with her at several locations, papers lodged by her legal team go on to accuse the prince of lobbying the U.S. authorities to ensure Epstein was given a “more favorable plea” bargain following a series of sex abuse allegations against him. In 2008, Epstein was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to one charge of soliciting prostitution

• As Prince Andrew flew home from a skiing holiday in Switzerland to prepare to face fresh allegations, Roberts’s father, Sky, claimed that she had met the Queen and been “so excited” by the introduction. A Buckingham Palace spox said, “There is nothing to suggest that this claim is true. We have no record of such a meeting.”

• Fresh allegations against Andrew surfaced over the weekend, including a claim that Roberts was paid about $15,000 by Epstein as a “reward” for sleeping with Andrew in 2001, and that he had sex with her after she gave him an “erotic massage” in New York (Telegraph, Guardian, Mirror, Sunday People, Independent, me)


• Andrew’s lawyers apparently view the claim of lobbying as “a speculative fishing expedition.” They are understood to believe that her lawyers don’t have proof that lobbying was conducted by the prince, but want to see if any paperwork that supports such a claim actually exists

• Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor and the lawyer who represented Epstein, has also been accused by Roberts of having “sexual relations” with her. He told the BBC the claims were false: “My only feeling is if she’s lied about me, which I know to an absolute certainty she has, she should not be believed about anyone else.”

• In a statement, Roberts, now 30, hit back, saying: “These types of aggressive attacks on me are exactly the reason why sexual abuse victims typically remain silent and the reason why I did for a long time. That trend should change. I’m not going to be bullied back into silence.”

• The remarkably sleazy news papers the Mirror and the Sunday People say papers filed against Epstein say he recorded “VIP orgies he threw at his luxury homes using cameras hidden in the walls”

• The suggestion is that Andrew may be in the pictures – but there’s no evidence provided in the articles and no suggestion that there is any evidence of pictures. The Mirror article also states: “there is no suggestion that Prince Andrew knew Roberts was being held as a sex slave by the tycoon.”


• Vid: ESPN’s amazingly powerful tribute to Stuart Scott. The longtime ESPN anchor died Sunday morning aged 49 after battling cancer. “Over the years, he entertained us, and in the end, he inspired us – with courage and love,” President Obama said in a statement (ESPN, me)

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Victoria Jones – editor & publisher

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar 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.