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
  • GOP debates: Trump won’t play in sandbox
  • GOP debate talks in disarray
  • GOP debate tantrum letter
  • One night only: Barack O, comedy act
  • TransCanada suspends permit request: Keystone
  • Election Day: Issues today
  • Pentagon: $43 million on Afghan gas station
  • SCOTUS: Racial discrimination on juries
  • Anonymous / KKK feud heats up
GOP Debates: Trump Won’t Play in Sandbox (WaPo, Politico, NYT, me)
• Donald Trump and his advisers have decided to work directly with TV execs and take a lead role in negotiating the format and content of primary debates, which have become highly watched events in the 2016 race, according to Republicans familiar with their plans
• Trump has rejected a joint letter to TV network hosts regarding upcoming primary debates drafted Sunday at a private gathering of operatives from at least 11 presidential campaigns. A Trump spox denied their policy had changed. “As we have for the three previous debates, the Trump campaign will continue to negotiate directly with the host network.”
• While two of Trump’s aides attended the Sunday meeting, they were far from ready to sign a letter, and they left the session unconvinced that a cooperative push on the debates would be helpful to protecting Trump’s front-runner status, or providing him with the most possible air time on primetime stages (sooo not interested in being cooperative actually)
• The campaigns for Chris Christie and John Kasich confirmed they wouldn’t sign the letter. “As the governor stated on TV this morning, ‘Stop complaining. Do me a favor, set up a stage, put podiums up there and let’s just go. OK?” Christie spox Sam Smith said in an email


• For the second time in a week, Ben Carson took the lead in a national poll, drawing 29% in an NBC News/WSJ survey out Monday night. Donald Trump had 23%. Marco Rubio had 11%, Ted Cruz had 10% and Jeb Bush had 8%. Hillary Clinton was at 62%, with Bernie Sanders at 31% (WSJ)

GOP Debate Talks in Disarray (Politico, NYT, me)

• A day after about a dozen GOP presidential campaigns came together to protest the debate process, their fragile consensus collapsed Monday, with Donald Trump, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina refusing to sign on to a group letter intended to compel TV networks to bow to their demands (basically, they couldn’t run a bath)
• The defections threw the talks into disarray and by late Monday some senior advisers to candidates were beginning to doubt whether their pact would hold up at all. The advisers said they were beginning to consider handing back negotiating power to the Republican National Committee – seized just 24 hours earlier (grow a pair, maybe?)
• “Things are sinking fast,” said one adviser. “Things sound wobbly,” said another. Those involved in the discussions said they expected a final decision on whether to send a letter to come this evening. Even if the group decided to back off, some advisers said, the campaigns had achieved the objective of getting the ear of the RNC (didn’t have to have tantrum to do it…)
• The shakeup came to a head after reps of most campaigns held a meeting Sunday night at a Hilton in Alexandria, Va, to discuss taking greater control of the RNC’s debate process. They agreed to reduce the committee’s role and to convey several other demands (below for a good laugh) to TV networks in a letter to be drafted by lawyer Ben Ginsberg
• Monday began with Christie blasting the effort as spineless. Then Carly Fiorina told Fox and Friends, “We need to understand that the media is not going to be fair.” Later Monday, Ginsberg circulated a draft of the letter. It leaked immediately (can see why). Trump’s aides refused to sign, as WaPo first reported, though they denied their policy had changed (see above)

• No matter the shortcomings of the CNBC debate (I would argue that Becky Quick was correct about Carson’s tax plan and about Trump’s website and is being trashed), what’s going on is nothing less than an attempt by the GOP campaigns to bully the press while they have the advantage and control and mould the media. No. What kind of “president” does that? (me)

Debate Tantrum Letter
• The letter, drafted for the campaigns by veteran GOP attorney Ben Ginsberg asks network to commit to, among other things, 30 second opening and closing statements, pre-approval of on-screen graphics, not asking candidates to raise their hands in answer to a question, not holding a lightning round, keeping the temp below 67 degrees (whoa – that’s man temps)
• They also don’t want candidate-to-candidate questioning. For the networks, the debates have been ratings gold. (if they don’t havec andidate/candidate questioning, must have tough followups)   But approval of on-screen graphics or what kind of camera shots can be shown are never going to be agreed to (are you kidding me? prior restraint – this is theater of absurd)
• In the letter, they’re concerned about the networks showing their empty podiums after commercial (bathroom) breaks, leaving their mics on during those breaks and camera shots “of the candidates that show their notes.” (pathetic) They seek to prevent props or pledges by the candidates and don’t want audience members to wear political paraphernalia (oh grow up)
• Meanwhile, within hours of the Republican National Committee’s decision on Friday to suspend a scheduled 26 February debate hosted by NBC News and Telemundo, the Spanish language station was on the phone with the Democratic National Committee, pushing for a greater role. Dems already have a Univision debate – so, two chances to reach Hispanic voters?


• Jeb Bush launched his “Jeb Can Fix It” slogan and campaign Monday in Florida, and takes it on the road this week. But in Britain, it’s drawing derision, coming too close to “Jim’ll Fix It,” the slogan of once-beloved national icon, since disgraced, now dead, child molester BBC DJ Jimmy Saville, who used to grant wishes to very ill children – and molest many, too (me, Independent)
One Night Only: Barack O, Comedy Act (NYT, Hill, AP, me)
• “Have you noticed that every one of these candidates says, ‘Obama’s weak. Putin’s kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he’s going to straighten out’?” President Obama asked a crowd of Democratic donors at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City Monday night, referring to President Putin of Russia
• “And then it turns out they can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators at a debate,” he added to huge applause. “I mean, let me tell you,” he added with gleeful scorn, “If you can’t handle these guys, you know, then I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you.”
• “They occupy a different reality,” he said. “According to them, everything was going really great in 2008 when we were going through the worst economic crisis … This apparently was the golden age, that I messed up,” he said. “And Obamacare, and immigrants, and taxes and deficits all just messed everything up. And they’re really so glum. They really are so frustrated.”
• Republicans who question climate change: Obama likened it to having 99 out of 100 doctors tell someone they have diabetes and having that person brush it off as a conspiracy. “All 99 of those doctors got together – with Obama – to try to prevent me from having bacon and doughnuts,” Obama said to laughter
• Obama wished he had been able to see “Hamilton,” which is based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, again with the donors. “Michelle and I love this show,” he said. “It also happens to be the only thing Dick Cheney and I agree on.” (you know, GOP 2016ers are glum. Only Bush isn’t glum – and he gets hammered for it. what’s up with that?)


• A monthly record of 218,394 refugees and migrants reached Europe by sea in October, the UN says, almost as much as the total number of arrivals in 2014. Many are refugees from Syria. At least 70 have drowned trying to reach Greek islands in the past week. Most head north via the Balkans to Germany, hoping to get asylum (TRNS, BBC)
TransCanada Suspends Permit Request for Keystone (NYT, WSJ, me)
• TransCanada, asked the State Dept Monday to suspend its yearslong review of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal until after the state of Nebraska had completed its own review of the project, which could take seven to 12 months. Opposition in Nebraska to a planned route through the state has delayed the process
• Instead of granting a delay, said Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmental activist, President Obama should “immediately reject” the pipeline. Friends of the Earth said Obama should kill the pipeline “for the sake of the climate and the people along the route, whose lives would be impacted by this project.”
• Before TransCanada announced its request, WH spox Josh Earnest withheld judgment on when a decision might come. “The president will make a decision before the end of his admin on the Keystone pipeline.” People familiar with the matter expected State to reject the permit as soon as this week
• TransCanada’s request appeared to intensify pressure on Obama from crucial Democratic constituencies to reject the pipeline or risk being blamed for punting to another president. A delay would keep the issue alive in the presidential campaign. The pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels a day of carbon-heavy petroleum from Canada to the Gulf Coast
• Republicans, the oil industry and some Democrats have demanded that Obama approve the pipeline, arguing that it would create jobs and stimulate economic growth. In Feb, Dems joined Republicans in sending Obama a bill to speed approval of the project, but he vetoed the measure, saying it impinged on the president’s authority to make the final decision


• White, middle-aged Americans are dying at a rising rate, a startling reversal. Suicide, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses and chronic liver disease largely drove the rise, which occurred between 199 and 2013, according to a report published Monday in the proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences (WSJ)
Election Day Issues Today (AP, me)
Governors: Kentucky – AG Jack Conway (D) opted not to appeal when a federal judge ordered Kentucky to recognize same sex marriage, a year before SCOTUS legalized it nationwide. Rival GOP businessman Matt Bevin, describes himself as a Christian conservative and defends county clerk Kim Davis who was jailed for not issuing marriage licenses to gay couples
Marijuana: Ohio – A ballot initiative would legalize the recreational use of pot by adults 21 and older and allow for medicinal use by others but would create a pot growing monopoly. Another measure, referred to ballot by legislators, seeks to nullify the marijuana proposal by adopting a ban on constitutional amendments that seek an economic monopoly
Gay rights: Houston – Voters will decide whether to grant non-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people. The referendum on a city ordinance passed last year has drawn support from the WH and Apple. Opponents include a coalition of conservative pastors who contend it would infringe on their religious beliefs against homosexuality
Housing: San Francisco voters will decide whether to limit the “sharing economy” services in which people rent rooms directly from others through internet bookings. A ballot measure would cap short term housing rentals at 75 days a year and require internet companies such as San Francisco Airbnb to pull listings that violate the limit – Airbnb pouring millions to oppose
Animals: A Washington ballot initiative backed by Microsoft founder Paul Allen and others would make it a state crime to buy, sell or trade products coming from certain wild animals. Targets endangered species. In Texas, a ballot measure would create a constitutional right for people to hunt, fish and “harvest wildlife,” (“harvest” – disgusting)


• Dates! Dates! Dates! We’re a year away from Election Day 2016. Here are some of the biggie dates to come in the next year. Debates – Caucuses – Primaries – Fall Campaign – Presidential Debates – Election Day 2016 for president (AP)
Pentagon Spends $43 million on Afghan Gas Station (Reuters, Hill, TRNS, me)
• What? Yup. The Pentagon spent nearly $43 million on a gas station in northern Afghanistan and has been unable to explain why it cost so much, a U.S. IG reported on Monday. The original contract for the station was $3 million, according to the report (well, the cash went somewhere – someone’s pocket or…)
• The Pentagon “charged the American taxpayers $43 million for what is likely to be the world’s most expensive gas station,” said John Sopko, head of the Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a congressionally mandated body. The amount was spent between 2011 and 2014 on construction and initial implementation of the station
• But the task force behind the station closed operations in March (oh boy) and for that reason, the report says, the DoD said it didn’t possess “the personnel expertise to address these questions.” SIGAR found a similar station in Pakistan would cost about $500,000 – making the Afghan station about 140 times as much as a station in Pakistan, the report says – 8,000%
• “Frankly, I find it both shocking and incredible that
[the DoD] asserts that it no longer has any knowledge,” the report said. It added that the task force reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and was an $800 million program. A Pentagon spox said the Pentagon continues to provide access to docs to SIGAR through a reading room (hmm – can’t take docs?)
• In response to the report, Sen Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) wrote Monday to SecDef Ash Carter. “There are few things in this job that literally make my jaw drop,” McCaskill said in a press release announcing her letter. McCaskill asked Carter for a whoooole load of info on the project – and she wants it by 23 November

• Egyptian President el SIsi says claims that ISIS brought down a Russian airliner are “propaganda.” He told BBC it’s too early to say what caused the crash over the Sinai peninsula on Saturday. Monday, the airline blamed “external influence.” But the head of Russia’s Federal Aviation Agency said that was “not based on any proper facts.” (sooo – rubbish at this point – no data) (BBC, me)


SCOTUS: Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection (AP, TRNS, me)
• At least six of the nine justices on Monday signaled support for Timothy Tyrone Foster, a black death row inmate in Georgia who claims prosecutors improperly kept African Americans off the jury that convicted him of killing a white woman and sentenced him to death in 1987. Foster could get a new trial if the court rules his way
• Justice Elena Kagan said the case seemed as clear a violation “as the court is ever going to see” of rules the Supreme Court laid out in 1986 to prevent racial discrimination in the selection of juries. The decision in Batson v. Kentucky set up a system by which trial judges could evaluate claims of discrimination and the race-neutral explanations by prosecutors
• Georgia deputy AG Beth Burton had little support on the court for the proposition that prosecutor Stephen Lanier advanced plausible “race-neutral” reasons that resulted in an all-white jury for Foster’s trial. Foster was convicted of killing 79-year-old Queen Madge White in her home in Rome, Georgia


• Georgia courts have consistently rejected Foster’s claims of discrimination, even after his lawyers obtained the prosecution’s notes that revealed prosecutors’ focus on the black people in the jury pool. In one example, a handwritten note headed “Definite Nos” listed six people, of whom five were the remaining black prospective jurors. The jury convicted Foster
• In 2006, the jury issue was revived when the state turned over the prosecution’s notes in response to a request under Georgia’s Open Records Act. The name of each potential black juror was highlighted on four different copies of the jury list and the word “black” was circled next to the race question on questionnaires for the black prospective jurors
• Three of the prospective black jurors were identified in notes as “B#1,” “B#2,” and “B#3.” An investigator working for the prosecutors also ranked the black prospective jurors against each other in case “if it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors.” Still, Georgia courts weren’t persuaded (sounds legit…)


• Volkswagen used devices to cheat air pollution tests in diesel luxury models, including Porsche, the EPA said Monday, in a new blow to the automaker already reeling from similar allegations regarding smaller diesel engines. VW took issue with the EPA’s findings, saying no software had been installed in its 3.0 liter V6 diesel engines “to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner.” (Reuters)

Anonymous / KKK Feud Heats Up (Vice, HuffPo, International Business Times, TechCrunch, me)

• In the latest move in an ongoing feud, the online hacktivist collective Anonymous announced plans to reveal the identities of 1,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan last week. Beginning Sunday, the group began publishing dozens of email addresses and phone numbers on textsharing site Pastebin that it says are tied to the KKK

• The info hasn’t been independently verified, but the group says it plans to release even more data around 5 November – Guy Fawkes Day. Anonymous began targeting the KKK last November after the hate group’s Missouri chapter purportedly called for the use of “lethal force” against protesters in Ferguson

• So far, Anonymous has released 23 email addresses and 57 phone numbers, along with the message: “There is no place for racism now we’re more connected, the time to cooperate and better the world is now

• Just before the release, a Twitter user named “Amped Attacks” – who has gained attention for targeting sites operated by the KKK – tweeted a link to a Pastebin article accusing several U.S. senators and mayors of being affiliated with the KKK or “racist related” groups. Amped Attacks told TechCrunch, “I am not involved with Anonymous or any other hacktivist group.”

• Anonymous said in a deleted tweet: “We wont release names w/out due diligence. We discourage the circulation of disinfo & will not promote an unverifiable list of politicians.” Some of the named pols, including Lexington, Ky, Mayor Jim Gray and Sen Dan Coates (R-Ind) have already denied any involvement with the KKK (tougher to verify if Anonymous drops names)


• Star Trek is boldly going where it’s been before – back to TV. The science fiction program that chronicled the voyages of the Starship Enterprise and its crew will return to TV in 2017, CBS said Monday, on the network, but primarily on its digital subscription video service. (they’d just better bloody get it right, all I’ve got to say. live long and prosper)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Loree Lewis, Brittany Gervais and Danielle Blevins contributed to this report


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