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.

One person was killed and two others wounded Thursday night in a shooting on the campus of Tennessee State University in Nashville. The person killed wasn’t a student. Nashville police say the shooting was prompted by a dispute over a dice game in an indoor courtyard (AP)
France says at least 42 people, mostly senior citizens on a day trip, are dead after a bus and truck crashed and caught fire near Bordeaux (AP)
News Now
  • Benghazi: Clinton commits no gaffes
  • Ryan “ready and eager” to be speaker
  • US soldier killed in Iraq hostage rescue
  • Obama vetoes defense policy bill
  • Obama explains “Black Lives Matter”
  • Israel: Kerry calls for end to all violence
  • Probe: EPA error caused mine spill
Benghazi: Clinton Makes No Gaffes (NYT, NYT, AP, WaPo, Politico, Politico, LAT, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• Eleven hours. That’s how long Republican lawmakers spent aggressively questioning Hillary Clinton on Thursday, seeking to build a case that the former secstate had been derelict in her duty to secure the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi in the months before the 2012 terrorist attacks that killed four Americans. Did they succeed?
• Billed by GOP leaders of the select House committee as a critical moment in its inquiry, the long day of often-testy exchanges between committee members and their prominent witness revealed little new info about an episode that has been the subject of seven previous investigations (9/11 attacks in contrast had only two bipartisan investigations)
• Clinton’s discipline and steely demeanor, bordering on dismissive at times, disarmed and irritated congressional Republicans. As they grew more pointed and impassioned in their questioning, Clinton stayed the course. Rep Adam Smith (D-Wash) summed up the first five hours: “We have learned absolutely nothing.”

• Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and ranking member Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Md) get into a slugfest over the release of Clinton friend Sid Blumenthal’s committee transcripts early in the day. Clinton can be seen shaking her head and laughing. Gowdy doesn’t want the entire transcript released – it wasn’t

• Perhaps stung by recent Republican admissions that the pursuit of Clinton’s emails was politically motivated, Republicans on the panel mostly avoided talking about her private email server. But Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) went there. Clinton told one GOP lawmaker that most of her work wasn’t done on email, rather, phones, meetings, secure memos

• Committee Republicans focused mostly on accusations that Clinton had ignored security needs in Benghazi in the months before the attacks, a charge she repeatedly rejected
• Shortly before the lunch break, a shouting match erupted between chair Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Rep Adam Schiff (D-Calif) and ranking member Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Md) over the focus of Clinton’s email exchanges with friend Sidney Blumenthal. See above for sparks
• Late in the evening, Clinton had a coughing fit that stopped testimony for two minutes. She grabbed a lozenge. She responded testily to comments by Gowdy questioning the independence of a Benghazi review led by Thomas Pickering, a retired diplomat and Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I will not sit here and hear that,” she snapped

• Epic C-Span call: During a break from Clinton’s testimony, C-Span gets a call from “David in Glendale, Ariz, a Republican,” who wants to know why there isn’t a “white caucus” in Congress. Also says he’s watched the Clintons since they first got into politics “and they’ve never told the truth. It’s been a constant lie.” – host flummoxed


• During most of her testimony, Clinton sought to project an image of composure and authority. Alternately bemused and disdainful but never showing anger, Clinton recalled on several occasions the courage of Chris Stevens, the ambassador to Libya, and the three others who died at the mission in Benghazi (idea was to appear presidential)
• She again took responsibility for the attacks in which they died, but she insisted that as secstate, she had never personally approved or denied requests for extra security for the facility where they were based. And she told lawmakers that the U.S. must not back away from assertive diplomacy because of the episode – “not an option”
• “I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been racking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done.”
• Rep Mike Pompeo (R-Kan) asked Clinton why she hadn’t responded to more than 600 requests for security from State employees in Banghazi even though she often responded to Sid Blumenthal. Pompeo hammered Clinton during his rounds of questioning, with frequent references to folks back in his Kansas district – where he faces a tough primary

• Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, goes on a extended rant and essentially accuses Clinton of lying and blaming the attack on an anti-Islamist video. Clinton says they can’t speak to the individual motivations of those who attacked. “I’m sorry it doesn’t fit your narrative.” She says she still believes it played a role


• She chided the GOP-led panel for what she called a failure to pursue a bipartisan search for the truth. “In Beirut we lost far more Americans, not once but twice in a year.” “People rose above politics. A Democratic Congress worked with a Republican administration to say, ‘What do we need to learn?'” (is this probe about learning, was her real question)
• Gowdy pressed Clinton on why requests to get supplies to Libyans made their way to her, yet emails requesting more security from Stevens never reached her inbox. “He did not raise security with the members of my staff. He raised it with the security professionals. I know that’s not the answer you want to hear. But those are the facts,” Clinton said
• Challenged by another lawmaker that she didn’t care enough about the victims, Clinton choked up while recounting a conversation with a wounded Benghazi guard. “Please do everything you can so that I can go back in the field,” Clinton said he asked her. “I told him I would. He was determined to go back, to protect our diplomats, to protect you when you travel,” – to lawmakers
• Gowdy struggled when asked by reporters what new things he learned from the marathon hearing. “Uh, I think some of Jimmy Jordan’s questioning. Well, when you say new today, we knew some of that already, about the emails. In terms of her testimony? I don’t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous times she’s testified.” (so – the point exactly?)
• Get a grip, Martha: About nine hours into testimony a stone-faced, humorless Rep Martha Roby (R-Ala) asks Clinton if she was alone “the whole night” of 11 Sept 2012. There are giggles in the room. Clinton laughs out loud. “I don’t find it funny at all,” Roby scolds. Pity. “A little note of levity at 7.15,” Clinton says
Ryan “Ready and Eager” to be Speaker (Politico, WSJ, WaPo, TRNS, me)
• Rep Paul Ryan (R-Wis), chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said Thursday that he would run for speaker if he could be a unifying figure. This week, he’s won the support of the majority of the House Freedom Caucus, the Republican Study Committee and the Tuesday Group, which all represent different corners of the GOP
• The internal vote is scheduled for Wednesday, followed by a full House vote Thursday. Ryan is widely expected to win the speakership. In the letter confirming his candidacy Thursday evening, Ryan said the country is in a “very serious moment.” (it always is…) (Ryan said he’s “actually excited” – bit of a turnabout – some Koolaid at the breakfast table…)
• “Working families continue to fall behind, and they are losing faith in the American Idea: the belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead,” he wrote. “At the same time, a weaker America has led to a more dangerous world. Our friends and rivals alike wonder whether we will pull ourselves out of this stupor.” (blaming Obama for ISIS?)
• “We can make the House a more open and inclusive body – one where every member can contribute to the legislative process,” Ryan said, in a nod to complaints from some conservatives that they have been shut out of the process. “We can rally House Republicans around a bold agenda that will tackle the country’s problems head on.” (see how long it lasts)
US Soldier Killed in Iraq Hostage Rescue (NYT, AP, USA Today, TRNS, me)
• An American soldier was fatally wounded on Thursday as American and Kurdish commandos raided an ISIS prison in northern Iraq after learning that the prisoners faced imminent mass execution, the Pentagon said. The commando became the first American soldier killed in action in Iraq since the withdrawal in 2011
• The raid, near the town of Hawija, freed 70 prisoners, including more than 20 from the Iraqi security forces, the Pentagon said in a statement. A DoD official said there had been a heavy firefight. Five ISIS fighters were detained and several killed, and American officials said important intel about the terrorist group was recovered
• The prisoners who were freed said they had been told by the militants that they were to be executed at dawn Thursday after the morning prayer; a trench to bury them had already been dug, the official said. Initial reports said some hostages were Kurds, but Kurdish officials involved in the op said that none were
• The circumstances in which the U.S. soldier was killed were unclear, but one U.S. official said the American had been shot in a firefight at the scene. Pentagon spox Peter Cook said the service member was wounded during the mission and died after receiving medical care (a lot more to come out about this – see next bullet)
• A U.S. defense official said the U.S. role in the rescue mission was mostly: transporting Iraqi soldiers to the scene in five U.S. special ops helicopters; providing airstrikes before and after the mission; advising Kurdish fighters and Iraqi security forces; and providing the Iraqis with intel for the operation (doesn’t add up – how was soldier killed in firefight, then?)

Obama Vetoes Defense Policy Bill (Hill, TRNS, me)

• He actually did it. President Obama on Thursday took the rare step of vetoing a major defense policy bill, upping the stakes in a faceoff with Republicans over govt spending. “I’m going to be sending it back to Congress, and my message to them is very simple: Let’s do this right,” Obama said during an Oval Office photo-op

• It’s highly unusual for the president to veto the defense legislation, which typically becomes law with bipartisan support. The move amounts to a public rebuke of congressional Republicans, who warned that vetoing the $612 billion measure would put the nation’s security at risk. Obama also objects to language that requires the prison at Guantanamo to remain open

• Obama argues the bill irresponsibly skirts spending caps adopted in 2011 by putting $28 billion into a war fund not subject to the limits, a move he called a “gimmick.” “Let’s have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security,” he said

• Republican leaders expressed outrage with Obama’s decision to veto. “This indefensible veto blocks pay and vital tools for our troops while Iranian terrorists prepare to gain billions under the president’s nuclear deal,” speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. Congress must revisit the bill and send it back to Obama

• The military will continue to operate under last year’s defense policy if lawmakers can’t reach an agreement. Republicans have pledged to override Obama’s veto, but it’s unlikely they have the votes. Democratic leaders said some members would switch their vote to avoid defying the president (nice little test for speaker-to-be Ryan – along with debt limit)


• House Republicans are backing away from a tentative plan to vote today on raising the debt limit with a package of conservative reforms, throwing into question how Congress is going to lift the borrowing limit before a 3 November deadline. A Wed night whip count showed them several dozen votes short, multiple sources say (Hill, Politico, me)


Obama Explains “Black Lives Matter” (Mashable, me)
• President Obama offered a forceful defense of the Black Lives Matter movement on Thursday, while also explaining in detail the frustration with the use of the phrase “all lives matter,” which has been used by some opponents. He was equally strong with his praise for police and other law enforcement officials
• Obama’s comments came during a WH forum on criminal justice as Congress is considering its most major criminal justice reform package in years

• “I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that’s happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”

• People, Obama said, should “understand the overwhelming majority of law enforcement is doing the right thing and wants to do the right thing.” “We’re sending them into really tough neighborhoods that sometimes are really dangerous, and they’ve got to make split-second decisions.”
• “But having said all that, we as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously. And one of the ways of avoiding the politics of this and losing the moment is everybody just stepping back for a second and understanding that the African-American community is not just making this up.”


• In a Quinnipiac survey of likely Iowa Republican caucus participants released Thursday, 28% said they would support Ben Carson, compared with 20% who said they backed Donald Trump. Carson’s lead stems in part from a big boost among women. Trump had led Carson last month 27% to 21% (TRNS, Reuters)

Israel: Kerry Calls for “End To All Violence” (NYT, BBC, me)

ˆ SecState John Kerry on Thursday called for Israelis and Palestinians to “end all incitement, to end all violence,” at the start of talks with Israeli PM Netanyahu in Berlin. The discussions came ahead of talks scheduled this weekend between Kerry and Palestinian President Abbas in Jordan (feels like the violence is bottom up, more than top down)

• An Israeli soldier killed a Jewish Israeli citizen in Jerusalem after each confronted the other thinking they were an Arab attacker, reports say. The man was shot after trying to grab the soldier’s gun during a scuffle. Also Thursday, two Palestinians were shot after stabbing and wounding an Israeli in central Israel, police say

• Kerry urged Netanyahu to tone down the harsh rhetoric that American and European officials believe is fueling the violence. The message, delivered Thursday to Netanyahu, who claimed this week that a Muslim cleric has inspired the Holocaust, will be repeated to Abbas, whose own comments Netanyahu and others have blamed for provoking attacks (they haven’t helped)

• At the center of the crisis is a long-running dispute over Israel’s management of an Old City holy site, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, and the country’s recent efforts to limit access to the area by young men who it says are instigating violence

• In a statement, State Dept spox John Kirby said the two men had discussed the security situation in the region and that a number of proposals had been suggested. The statement noted the men had discussed measures that Israel could take to maintain the status quo at the site, which allows Jews to visit but not to pray


• Nearly 4 million people in South Sudan face “severe food insecurity” with tens of thousands existing on the brink of famine, starvation and death, the UN warned in a report issued Thursday. Some families now endure on a single meal a day of fish and water lilies (Time)

Probe: EPA Error Caused Mine Spill (AP, me)

• Govt investigators squarely blamed the U.S. EPA Thursday for a 3 million gallon wastewater spill from a Colorado gold mine, saying an EPA cleanup crew rushed its work and failed to consider the complex engineering involved, triggering the very blowout it hoped to avoid (disastrous and appalling – and it was well-paid govt contractors)

• The spill that fouled rivers in three states would have been avoided had the EPA team checked on water levels inside the Gold King Mine before digging into a collapsed and leaking mine entrance, Interior Dept investigators concluded. The total cost of cleanup could top $50 billion, according to govt estimates

• The report has implications across the U.S., where hundreds of thousands of abandoned mines have yet to be cleaned up. EPA docs show its officials knew of the potential for a major blowout from the Gold King Mine near Silverton as early as June 2014. EPA officials described the blowout as “likely inevitable” because so much water had built up inside the mine

• The Interior report directly refutes that assertion and says the cleanup team could have used a drill rig to bore into the mine from above to gauge the danger of a blowout. The engineers stopped short of assigning blame to any individuals, despite claims from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that the probe would determine if any negligence was involved (hmmm)

• Members of Congress seized on the report to slam the govt’s handling of the spill. Sen Cory Gardner (R-Colo) focused his ire on the EPA, whereas Sen Michael Bennet (D-Colo) repeated his call for industry reforms to speed mine cleanups (novel idea, I know – how about fixing both)


• Rocking into the weekend with “Help!” – live 1965 – The Beatles, because why not

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar, Loree Lewis and Ryan Prete contributed to this report


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