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

  • WH: New counter-terrorism steps
  • WH: Changes to visa waiver program
  • Obama brings US support to climate summit
  • Planned Parenthood rampage: Suspect in court
  • Warrants sealed / Had been arrested for rape
  • Obamacare repeal: For real?
  • Baltimore cop trial / Online threat: U of Chicago
  • Black pastors demand apology from Trump
  • Clinton document dump
WH: New Counter-Terrorism Steps (Politico, Hill, me)
• From Paris, President Obama on Monday named Rob Malley, already his coordinator for the Middle East as part of the National Security Council, to be “senior adviser to the president on the counterinsurgency campaign against ISIL” to facilitate coordination and communication – what could be called a “czar” but WH doesn’t like the word – (gets pushback from right wing)

• The WH also announced a change to give more frequent updates to governors about refugees who’ve been resettled in their states. Those steps are in addition to the Dept of Homeland Security’s announcement Monday to increase the visa waiver program (see story below)

• In Paris, WH spox Josh Earnest on Monday called on Congress to act quickly to make changes to the visa waiver program that the WH has laid out, saying that would be a real step to improve security, as opposed to the refugee restrictions the House passed before leaving town for Thanksgiving

• Earnest also called for Congress to pass more funding for screening travelers coming into the country and to confirm Adam Szubin to be Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, after letting his nomination languish for the better part of a year. He would tackle ISIS financing. “Republican obstruction of Mr Szubin’s nomination is inexcusable,” Earnest said

• Earnest repeated his call for Congress to ban people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns and renewed his call for Congress to pass the admin’s proposed new Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF), which has also stalled among political divisions, saying that “for more than a year, Congress has been AWOL on their responsibility to pass” an AUMF

WH: Changes to Visa Waiver Program (Reuters, Hill, me)
• Under the changes to the visa waiver program, announced by the WH on Monday, the Dept of Homeland Security would immediately start to collect more info from travelers about past visits to “countries constituting a terrorist safe haven,” the WH said. Travelers from 38 countries are allowed to enter the U.S. without obtaining visas before they travel

• The DHS would also look at pilot programs for collecting biometric info such as fingerprints from visa waiver travelers, a WH statement said (is “looking at” going to cut it? why not just do it?)

• The DHS would also ask Congress for additional powers, including the authority to increase fines for air carriers that fail to verify passport data (mega pushback from airlines on the way), and the ability to require all travelers to use passports with embedded security chips, the WH said

• The WH also wants to expand the use of a “preclearance program” in foreign airports to allow U.S. border officials to collect and screen biometric info before visa waiver travelers can board airplanes to the U.S.

• A task force in the House would meet today to discuss the program and wants to craft legislation to pass “by the end of the year,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) told reporters Monday. He said lawmakers were interested in requiring all countries in the program to issue “e-passports” with chips and biometrics (nervous about high-speed bills)


• Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) has invited President Obama to deliver his final State of the Union address before Congress on Tuesday 12 January. “We both have an opportunity and an obligation to find common ground to advance the nation’s interests at home and abroad,” Ryan wrote (TRNS)

Obama Brings US Support to Climate Summit (AP, Hill, AP, TRNS, me)
• President Obama on Monday told a UN climate  conference in Paris, “I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second largest emitter, to say that the USA not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”
• Obama has pledged that the U.S. will cut its greenhouse gases by 26 to 28% by 2025, though the pledge isn’t legally binding and is simply a total of the cuts that he believes could be achieved with existing laws
• “We’re well aware of the fact that there is an abiding hostility in the Republican conference to facts and science and evidence,” WH spox Josh Earnest told reporters Monday in response to a question about the GOP effect on Obama’s promises at the UN conference. “But that has not prevented the admin from moving forward using the president’s executive authority.”
• The House is planning to pass a pair of resolutions aimed at overturning new stricter power plant rules this week, following the Senate’s action on them earlier this month. Obama has promised to veto the legislation

• And House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) said Monday the House will not go along if Obama tries to commit taxpayer money to support a climate accord reached in Paris. McCarthy suggested a must-pass year-end spending bill currently in the works could become the vehicle for language blocking any such expenditure (sooo – all in this together lol)

• Interactive: Short answers to hard questions, like: How much is the planet heating up? How much trouble are we in? Is there anything I can do? What’s the optimistic scenario? What’s the worst-case scenario? (NYT)


Planned Parenthood Rampage: Suspect in Court (WaPo, AP, Hill, Hill, NYT, me)
• Robert Lewis Dear, 57, who is accused of opening fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Friday, killing three people and injuring nine others, made his first court appearance Monday as he was charged with first-degree murder
• Dear appeared in court through a video feed. Victims’ relatives watched from a courtroom. Dear’s hands were cuffed and he wore what appeared to be a white, protective vest. When the judge asked if he had any questions, Dear replied slowly, seemingly slurring his words, “No questions.” (medicated maybe? dunno)
• Dear is accused of fatally shooting a university police officer who responded to the attack, as well as an Iraq war veteran, who apparently went back into the clinic to help people, and a mother of two inside the clinic. Nine other people were wounded. DA Dan May said later on Monday that Dear could face other charges, but he didn’t elaborate
• Police have declined to speculate on a motive for the attack. An anonymous law enforcement official said Dear told authorities, “no more baby parts” after being arrested. Planned Parenthood has said witnesses believe the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion
• The Colorado DA said he has been in touch with U.S. Attorney John Walsh’s office about the case. Walsh said investigators have been consulting with the DoJ’s civil rights and national security divisions, a move that suggests authorities could pursue federal charges in addition to state homicide ones. He didn’t elaborate


Warrants Sealed / Dear Had Been Arrested: Rape
• Prosecutors asked that the search warrant and application be sealed along with the arrest warrant and application, saying in their request that if these docs “were to be released, it could jeopardize the continuing investigation.” The order states they’ll be sealed until the conclusion of the case or by another court order (absurd, public has right to know – troubling trend)
• Also Monday, court records surfaced showing that Dear had been arrested in 1992 and accused of raping a South Carolina woman. The police alleged that Dear had shown up at a woman’s apartment door, put a knife to her throat and sexually assaulted her. Authorities have no record of Dear being convicted for the crimes
• Two days before the shooting, NARAL Pro-Choice America delivered a petition formally asking the Obama admin to label attacks against abortion providers “domestic terrorism.” For weeks, NARAL had been collecting signatures on a petition calling on the FBI to investigate recent threats and suspected arson targeting PP as acts of domestic terrorism
• House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) said Monday said that the work of a GOP-organized and led committee investigating PP would go on, noting that Democrats are represented on the panel as well. Sen Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) called for the committee to be disbanded


• Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest online shopping day ever, likely racking up more than $3 billion in sales, according to research firm comScore. You were pretty much out of luck if you were trying to shop online at Target. Their site was down for much of the day, driving shoppers nuts (AP, me)
Obamacare Repeal: For Real? (Hill, Politico, me)
• Senate Republican leaders are moving ahead with an Obamacare repeal package, and they think they may actually have the 51 votes needed to pass it under reconciliation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) Monday evening floated a proposal to strengthen a House-passed repeal bill by phasing out the expansion of Medicaid over two years
• A Senate GOP leadership aide said the bill would be strengthened in other ways but declined to reveal specifics. Senate conservatives have been told the bill will repeal as much of Obamacare as possible under the special budgetary rules known as reconciliation, implying leaders want to repeal all the law’s tax increases as well as subsidies (oh great – knock people off!)
• Members of the GOP leadership team expressed confidence Monday that they would send the package to President Obama’s desk. Sen Mike Lee (R-Utah), who vowed to oppose the House-passed package, said he was “very encouraged.”
• McConnell will bring the House package straight to the floor and offer a substitute amendment to address procedural problems created by the so-called Byrd rule, which is a litmus test for what can pass the Senate under reconciliation with simple majorities instead of 60 votes. Sens Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla) said the bill didn’t go far enough
• If GOP leadership can get 51 of the 54 Senate Republicans to support the repeal plan, a final vote could come on Thursday. The bill will be subject to an unlimited number of amendments. An all night vote-a-rama is possible. Then Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) would have to hold another vote on whatever the Senate approves in order to send the bill to Obama’s desk
Baltimore: Cop Trial / Online Threat: U of Chicago (Reuters, AP, Reuters, TRNS, me)
• Jury selection began on Monday in the trial of the first of six police officers in the case of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died from an injury in police custody that set off rioting in Baltimore and inflamed the U.S. debate on race and justice. Gray’s death followed police killings of black men in other cities
• Officer William Porter, 26, faces charges including manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office for Gray’s death, the result of a spinal injury suffered in the back of a police van after he was taken into custody for fleeing an officer and possessing a knife
• Porter, who is black, is accused of ignoring Gray’s requests for medical aid and not putting a seatbelt on him, even though he was shackled and handcuffed. He could face more than 25 years in prison if convicted of all charges


• Federal authorities said an online threat that led the University of Chicago to cancel classes Monday targeted whites and was motivated by the police shooting of a black teenager, video of which was released last week and sparked protests. Jabari Dean, 21, of Chicago, threatened to kill 16 white male students or staff at the school, according to the criminal complaint
• Dean, who is black, was arrested Monday morning. He didn’t enter a plea later in the day on a charge of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce in court. Dean is a freshman studying electrical engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago
• The threat was posted Saturday, just days after the city released a shocking video of Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, shooting Laquan McDonald, 17, who was black, 16 times. Van Dyke is charged with first degree murder. His bond was set for $1.5 million on Monday. Late Monday, he posted $150,000 and was released as protests continued

Black Pastors Demand Apology From Trump (NYT, Politico, AP, me)

• Dozens of black pastors pressed Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Monday to address what some called his use of racially charged rhetoric, with several describing a meeting that became tense at times as attendees raised concerns about his blunt language. (sounds icy) In an interview after the meeting, Trump described “great love in the room.” (for himself)
• Bishop Orrin Pullings, from Richmond, Va, said that when Trump began to defend the treatment of a Black Lives Matter protester by explaining there were 10,000 people at the rally and he didn’t know the race of the man, he was interrupted by Bishop Michael Freeman, Md, who told him, “I have 10,000 members. If someone yells out in my crowd, I don’t have them thrown out.”
• Pressure to endorse Trump hovered over the meeting, according to attendees, who said that cards pledging support were handed out for them to sign while Trump was in the room (sounds like that was a bust) Trump’s campaign initially boasted that 100 black ministers would gather. But photos showed a group half that size – including Trump staff members
• Trump said he received “many, many endorsements” from the ministers. But the campaign declined to offer a list of either the ministers who attended or those that endorsed him. After the meeting, a single religious leader, Darrell Scott from Cleveland – who helped organize the meeting – publicly endorsed Trump
• After the meeting, the Trump campaign said it would connect a reporter to an attendee would could testify to Trump’s sincerity. At that point, Bruce LeVell of Atlanta got on the phone. “It was very successful…There was no tension,” LeVell said. Turns out LeVell isn’t a minister – he’s a local Republican politician in Georgia. The campaign later apologized for the confusion…


• Democratic 2016er Bernie Sanders supporters released a new anthem to help them “Feel the Bern.” Kind of late 60s, early 70s, singer/songerwriter smooth and catchy choon. Separately, Sanders underwent an elective outpatient hernia repair procedure on Monday and is doing fine. He won’t be feeling the bern (Hill, me)


Clinton Document Dump (NYT, AP, me)

• State Dept on Monday released 7,800 pages of emails Hillary Clinton sent and received while SecState, including one that Intelligence Community IG Charles McCullough III and State Dept IG Steve Linick deemed classified in July. It was between a State spox and a NYT reporter concerning decisions NYT had made about publishing info from Wikileaks docs

• Another email is one from Clinton to senior aide Philippe Reines. Under the subject line “Stupid question,” Clinton asks Reines to help her find the channel of the Showtime network. “Because I want to watch ‘Homeland,'” she explains (can’t get enough of the office atmosphere actually at the office?)

• Another email contains a list of 94 countries Clinton hadn’t visited as SecState. The subject line was “100 and counting…” – an apparent reference to the countries she had visited. “With 7ish months left, plenty of time to run up the score on total countries,” Reines writes. “110 is a reasonable goal.” (color me cynical, Hill…)

• Clinton followed the 2012 election closely. In Jan, during the heat of the Florida GOP primary, she refers to Mitt Romney as “Mittens” and Newt Gingrich as “Grinch.” “If Mittens can’t beat Grinch in Florida, there will be pressure on state Republican parties to reopen or liberalize ballot access,” she writes to confidant Sid Blumenthal

• Many emails are heavily redacted. One exchange between Clinton and close aide Huma Abedin has the subject line “Koch,” an apparent ref to either David H. or Charles G. Koch, the billionaire brothers who have helped finance conservative causes. Other than the subject, the entire email is redacted (now that’s intriguing)


• What’s this? A “hunting beard?” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis-py) was showing off some facial hair on Monday that he began growing Saturday at “deer camp.” He’s the first speaker to sport (the beginnings of) a beard since Joe Cannon (R-Ill) 1903-1911. Is the baby-faced Ryan, 45, trying to get a whisker of facial gravitas?

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Luke Vargas, Nicholas Salazar and Ryan Prete contributed to this report


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