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

  • Fail Mary: Senate rejects Keystone
  • NSA reform bill fails in Senate
  • NSA reform: what next?
  • Immigration: Obama going big Thursday?
  • Govt spending / immigration / shhhutdown
  • Acting Secret Service head on Hill today
  • Synagogue attack: Netanyahu vows “settle the score”
  • UN urges Muslims to denounce ISIS
  • Senator: Pentagon to speed up Syrian rebels’ training
  • WH spox: GOP hyping Gruber comments
  • 15th woman accuses Bill Cosby of rape

Fail Mary: Senate Rejects Keystone

• Sen Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) bid to pass a Keystone XL pipeline bill fell short 59-41 Tuesday, leaving the $8 billion pipeline still on the table for the GOP to push the project to President Obama’s desk in January (Politico, NYT, WaPo, TRNS, Fox, Hill, me)

• The defeat deals a(nother) blow to Landrieu’s campaign ahead of her 6 Dec runoff against Republican Rep Bill Cassidy, whom polls show running comfortably ahead. Cassidy’s campaign quickly knocked Landrieu, saying in a statement that her “supposed ‘clout'” never actually existed (she’s going down)

• “This will be an early item on the agenda of the next Congress,” incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters minutes after the vote

• “This was ridiculous for us to
[get] 59, one short. It really was uncalled for,” said centrist Sen Joe Manchin (D-WV), who had urged his colleagues to vote for the bill in a closed-door meeting. “And those were some passionate conversations that we had in there.” (fly on wall)

• Landrieu’s path to victory ultimately appeared to come down to one of the Senate’s most liberal members, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), though he voted no in the end. President Obama and his aides spent most of the week signaling that he’d reject the legislation, though he never issued a formal veto message. Greens were disgusted with the vote

• President Obama might be open to using Keystone as leverage with Republicans if they cooperate on other aspects of his long-stalled domestic agenda, such as investing in infrastructure, closing tax loopholes or reducing carbon emissions (Reuters)

NSA Reform Bill Fails in Senate

• The USA Freedom Act, a bill introduced last year that sought to end the NSA’s ongoing daily collection of practically all U.S. phone calls, failed in the Senate Tuesday night to reach a 60-vote threshold to cut off debate and move to passage. Vote was 58-42 (Guardian, me)

• The bill had been warily backed by the Obama admin, technology giants and most civil libertarian groups. Although the domestic data dragnet hasn’t thwarted any terrorist attacks, critics savaged the bill. “God forbid we wake up tomorrow and ISIL is in the United States,” said Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) (probably here – regardless)

• The WH signaled its “strong support” for the bill on Monday. But that support came only after admin officials substantially weakened privacy protections and transparency additions in the House counterpart, all after a key House committee approved it

• Both the admin and the intel agencies fear that the defeat of the USA Freedom Act will result in the House declining to reauthorize broader domestic surveillance powers for the NSA and the FBI next year. The NSA and its allies accordingly opted to back the bill, despite having publicly expressed their reservations (got it – good)

NSA Reform: What Next?

• The failure of the Senate vote will pivot the surveillance debate in the next, GOP-dominated Congress to the question of reauthorizing Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That fight is likely to be chief amongst the priorities of the NSA and FBI next, year, backed by the WH (they want it – bad)

• In October, Sen Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) House partner on the USA Freedom Act, Rep James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), predicted that the House of Representatives will not renew the expiring provision (though Sensenbrenner – literally – wrote the Patriot Act)

• Another open question is whether the Obama admin will seek from the secret FISA court another 90-day extension of the bulk domestic phone records dragnet when its existing authorization expires on 11 December

• Privacy advocates lamented that the bill voted on Tuesday night no longer prevented the NSA or FBI from warrantlessly sifting through international communications databases for Americans’ identifying information, and that a public advocate created on the FISA Court would have been insufficiently empowered

Immigration: Obama Going Big Thursday?

• President Obama plans to grant a reprieve from deportation to undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, part of an order that would let 4 to 5 million people stay in the U.S., according to people familiar with the proposal (Bloomberg)

• The WH is also likely to include an expansion of a program Obama started in 2012, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has given reprieves to 600,000 child immigrants. The admin’s move may come as soon as tomorrow, 20 November, the people said

• Obama’s order is expected to stop short of including the parents of children brought to this country illegally, called Dreamers, according to the people – anonymous before a formal announcement. Senate Democrats were pressing the WH to cover this group under the current plan

• A Democratic aide said the idea is to cover categories of immigrants that would be difficult for Republicans to successfully oppose since it would involve separating parents from their children. Rep Mo Brooks (R-AL) has introduced legislation authorizing a lawsuit against the Obama admin for any executive action on immigration (Hill)

• WH Chief of Staff Denis McDonough plans to huddle on Thursday at the policy lunch with Senate Democrats “to discuss the economy and priorities in the lame duck.” A clue. WH spox Josh Earnest said Tuesday that immigration is “something that’s on his [Obama’s] agenda this week. The president is nearing a final decision on this.” (WaPo, Politico, TRNS, me)

• Cool raw vid: Time lapse of the scaffolding going up at the Capitol (Architect of the Capitol) (AP)

Govt Spending / Immigration / Shhhhutdown

• A new option emerged Tuesday for House Republicans trying to find a spending compromise that would avoid a govt shutdown, but still smack down President Obama over immigration: pass an omnibus in December and later, after Obama issues his executive action, rescind funding for his specific federal programs being used to implement the order (Roll Call, me)

• That idea came from House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY). Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told members Tuesday that “all options are on the table.” Congress needs to come up with some sort of spending bill by 11 Dec when govt funding runs out, or it will trigger a govt shutdown

• Appropriators leaving a meeting said a slew of options were being considered. “To me, the most viable one is to seek a declaratory judgment action about whether the president is obeying the law, and if not, then to follow up with a writ of mandamus or injunctive relief to compel the president to obey the law,” said Rep Mo Brooks (R-AL)

• “Time will tell,” Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) said when asked if he thought momentum was building behind using a short-term stopgap spending measure next month. “I think a long-term omnibus or CR makes no sense. It hands the decision-making authority of Congress to the president.”

• “The president is not a monarch. He does not get to decree my way or the highway, and if the Congress doesn’t give me everything I want, I will impose it by fiat,” Cruz said. “That’s not the way the Constitution works.” Later, WH spox Josh Earnest said it’s still operative that Obama is not an emperor or a king

• Vid: New House members line up for class photo – much giggling and laughing (ah – but will it last) (AP)

Acting Secret Service Head on Hill Today

• Joseph Clancy, who became acting director of the Secret Service last month following a string of security screw-ups, plans to tell lawmakers today that his storied agency has “fallen short” of its high standards and that recent public attention has had “detrimental effects on workforce morale and operational security, both with potentially dire consequences.” (boo hoo)

• Clancy, the former head of President Obama’s security detail who came out of retirement following the abrupt retirement (” “) of director Julia Pierson, says in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee (deckchair, large drink) he’s conducting a “comprehensive, bottom-to-top assessment” to determine the “root cause” of the recent missteps (WaPo, me)

• Clancy describes an “unacceptable,” days-long delay between a November 2011 shooting and the discovery of bullet damage to the WH residence. Clancy calls “simply inexcusable” a 19 Sept incident in which a fence jumper was able to get inside the WH (#understatement)

• And Clancy said the agency has concluded that “lack of due diligence on the part of advance team members” allowed an armed private security contractor to get on an elevator with the president during his 16 Sept visit to Atlanta. Clancy says the violation was serious and remains under review

• Clancy says that the recent mistakes “suggest that while we strive for perfection, we have, on limited occasions, fallen short of that goal.” He adds, “Instead of remaining the organization that prides itself on operating silently and courageously behind the scenes, we are now in the public spotlight.” (nothing in the article about prostitutes or drunkenness – stay tuned)

Synagogue Attack: Netanyahu Vows to “Settle the Score”

• Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday vowed to “settle the score with every terrorist” and win a “battle for Jerusalem” after a deadly attack on a synagogue. Two Palestinians killed four rabbis in West Jerusalem before being shot dead. An Israeli policeman later died of his wounds. Jerusalem has ramped up security (BBC, Haaretz, CNN, TRNS, me)

• Netanyahu said those “who want to uproot us from our state and capital … will not succeed.” Jerusalem has seen weeks of unrest, partly fueled by tension over the disputed holy site known both as the Temple Mount and al-Haram al-Sharif. At least seven people were also seriously wounded in Tuesday’s synagogue attack

• Netanyauh ordered the homes of the attackers to be destroyed – at least one reportedly has been. He said that this was a “terrible attack at a time of prayer” and condemned what he termed the “shouts of joy” from the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip after the attack. There were reports of children in Palestinian areas handing out candy


• President Obama condemned the attack, saying: “There is and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.” Palestinian President Abbas issued a condemnation of “the attack on Jewish worshipers in their place of prayer and [of] the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it.”

• Netanyahu said this wasn’t enough. He accused Abbas and militant group Hamas of spreading “blood libel” that a bus driver who reportedly took his own life in East Jerusalem on Monday had been murdered by Jews

• Hamas had said the Jerusalem attack was in revenge for the death of the driver, who was found hanged inside a vehicle. His family didn’t accept the post-mortem findings of suicide. The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said it carried out the synagogue attack

UN Urges Muslims to Denounce ISIS

• The UN’s top human rights official called on the Muslim world to denounce the “monstrous” crimes of ISIS, calling its actions both a violation of international law and Islamic tenets. Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein is a member of the Jordanian royal family and the first Muslim to be named UN commissioner for human rights (NYT, me)

• Al Hussein urged the Security Council to back efforts to overturn ISIS’ “ideology of violence.” He said his office had concluded that ISIS had most likely violated three to five offenses that are listed under the crime of genocide. His speech was equally a message to the Muslim world

• “It is also disturbing how few to nonexistent have been the public demonstrations of anger in the Arab and Muslim worlds over the crimes being perpetrated in Iraq – notwithstanding the clear condemnation by many Arab and Islamic govts,” al Hussein said

• Citing the opinion of Muslim clerics, he said the group had violated Shariah law in many instances, through conversions, the reintroduction of slavery and the killing of civilians. He said Islam also prohibited the killing of diplomats and emissaries, which could be extended to journalists and aid workers. Sunday, ISIS announced the beheading of aid worker Peter Kassig

Today, the Security Council is scheduled to discuss how to increase international cooperation against ISIS. It has already passed a measure calling on countries around the world to stop the flow of money and fighters to banned terrorist groups

Senator: Pentagon to “Speed Up” Syrian Rebels’ Training

• The Pentagon is accelerating plans to train and equip vetted Syrian rebel groups against ISIS, according to Sen Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I think it’s on track. And they’re going to try to speed it up, and I hope they can,” Levin said on Tuesday (Hill, me)

• Christine Wormuth, the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, will brief the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on U.S. efforts against ISIS later this week, where she may address the Syrian train and equip program, the Pentagon said later Tuesday (won’t have much choice)

• Congress in September approved a temporary Pentagon program to train and arm 5,000 moderate Syrian fighters. Defense officials said at the time it would take three to five months to vet rebel groups, and up to an additional eight to 10 months to complete training

• However, officials haven’t yet started vetting the rebel groups and authority for the program is due to expire on 11 Dec. There’s still no estimated start date. “What we’ve said from the very beginning, that the long pole on the tent here was going to be the recruiting and vetting process, and that process hasn’t begun yet,” said Pentagon spox Rear Adm John Kirby on 7 Nov

• The 2015 defense policy bill is expected to include a new authorization for the program and pass Congress before the end of the lame duck session. Moderate Syrian rebels are angry with the U.S., arguing that the program isn’t moving fast enough. The groups are being targeted by Syrian leader Assad’s forces, while U.S. airstrikes focus on ISIS

WH Spox: GOP Hyping Gruber Comments

• After saying that former Obamacare consultant Jonathan Gruber’s view that the healthcare law passed partly because of the “stupidity” of the American voter isn’t shared by “anybody at the WH,” WH spox Josh Earnest on Tuesday challenged claims that the law wasn’t passed in a transparent way. He also accused Republicans of hype

• “Some Republicans are fanning the flames of those old political arguments because it’s politically advantageous. It’s easier for them to talk about six- to eight-year-old videos than to talk about how the open enrollment period has gone smoothly so far, or the millions who have gotten health insurance.” (Hill, Fox, me)

• Meanwhile, Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) is calling for a probe of Gruber’s federal consulting payments. “How can we pay someone to be a consultant to govt who’s frankly admitting that they were dishonest?” asked Paul. “This is a disgrace,” he said

• Gruber may have visited the WH 21 times during the Obama presidency and met the president once in the West Wing. However, some of the visitor logs are incomplete – missing details about when Gruber entered or exited the complex – so it’s possible that some of those visits didn’t occur

15th Woman Accuses Bill Cosby of Rape

• On Tuesday, the 15th woman to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault came forward. Former supermodel Janice Dickinson told Entertainment Tonight that Cosby raped her in 1982. She says he flew her to Lake Tahoe, saying he would help her by offering her a job and to help with her career (Buzzfeed, NPR, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, Vox, me)

• The two went back to her hotel room, she said. “He’d given me wine and a pill.” “The last thing I remember was Bill Cosby in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me. And I remember a lot of pain.” “I remember before I passed out I had been sexually assaulted by this man.”

• Buzzfeed wasn’t able to get a comment from Cosby’s rep about Dickinson’s allegations. Sunday, the comedian’s lawyer issued a statement in response to the recent tsunami of stories about accusations that read in part, “Decades-old discredited allegations against Mr Cosby have resurfaced. The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true.”


• Since then, former publicist Joan Tarshis has come forward to allege that Cosby raped her twice in 1969. In 2006, Cosby settled a lawsuit with a woman, Andrea Constand, who claimed that he had drugged and raped her in 2004. Thirteen women who said they had similar stories agreed to testify had the lawsuit gone to trial

• When NPR’s Scott Simon asked Cosby to address the accusations in an interview that aired Saturday, Cosby wouldn’t say a word, but shook his head no. Cosby has recently canceled appearances on David Letterman and Queen Latifah, so SImon has been the only interviewer to get to ask Cosby himself the question

• A Netflix spox said late Tuesday night that “at this time we are postponing the launch of the new stand up comedy special Bill Cosby 77.” The special was meant to go live on the streaming site on 28 November. So far, NBC is silent about the Cosby sitcom it’s developing for 2015. (drip drip drip dooooom)

• Map! Top cities nationwide for dog attacks among postal workers. 1: Houston; 2: LA; 3: Cleveland; 4: San Diego; 5: Chicago

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ William McDonald, Celina Gore and Leah Schwarting contributed to this report


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