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

  • GOP balancing act: Govt funding/shutdown
  • Conservatives seek to punish Obama
  • Obama’s Ferguson trip idea
  • Obama: Ferguson a “national problem”
  • House may move tax extenders bill
  • Did North Korea hack Sony?
  • Obama to push for Ebola funds today
  • SCOTUS: Free speech vs illegal threats
  • SecDef candidate list shortens
  • Lebanon detains wife, son of ISIS leader


GOP Balancing Act on Govt Funding/Shutdown
• House Republicans gather this morning for a closed-door meeting in the basement of the Capitol to discuss the “cromnibus.” That’s a combination of a broad-based spending bill that would keep the govt funded through Sept 2015 and a stopgap funding measure to pay for ops of Homeland Security, the agency most responsible for carrying out immigration action

• The idea behind the short-term measure is that Republicans could revisit it next year when they’ll control both chambers of Congress and, they believe, have more leverage in negotiating with President Obama over immigration. (dunno – he’s feisty now) Congress must pass a broad spending bill before 11 Dec to prevent a govt shutdown (NYT, AP, Politico, me)

• A problem for the cromnibus is that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is financed entirely through fees collected from immigration applications and therefore can’t be defunded in the appropriations process. However, the Congressional Research Service has written a memo to Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL) indicating that may be possible

• House Republicans also are considering legal action, either adding immigration to the lawsuit Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) filed last month against the Obama admin or filing a new suit

• The pressure’s on Boehner and his leadership team today to convince the conservative rank and file to channel their anger at a mostly symbolic immigration bill. Can Boehner make the pitch and close the deal? (Politico, me)
Conservatives Seek to Punish Obama
• Sens Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have promised to subject Loretta Lynch – Obama’s choice to replace Eric Holder as AG – to tough scrutiny over her views on the constitutionality of Obama’s executive action. Republicans could also block all nominations

• A handful of conservative Republicans are so incensed at Obama’s immigration action that they refuse to take any option off the table, including a shutdown, and have also floated the idea of censuring or even impeaching the president

• Meanwhile, another group of House Republicans, including Rep Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), are quietly continuing to work on their own step-by-step immigration legislation. They’d most likely start with border security measures, but also address other issues, including illegal immigrants already in the country

Today, both the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Judiciary Committee have scheduled hearings on Obama’s executive action, with DHS Sec Jeh Johnson set to testify before the Homeland Security Committee. He’ll be grilled and barbecued on Obama’s executive order (popcorn, mai tai)

• “The reality is that, given our limited resources, these people are not priorities for removal,” Johnson said in prepared written testimony. “It’s time we acknowledge that and encourage them to be held accountable.”

• Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is threatening – – recess! “I urge all senators to work hard to complete our work in a timely and efficient fashion. We may have to be here the week before Christmas .. and hopefully, not into the Christmas holiday,” he said Monday. (eeeek) (happy birthday today, Harry)
Obama’s Ferguson Trip Idea
• The WH dropped an idea to send President Obama directly into riot-torn Ferguson to address the racially charged aftermath of the decision not to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson. A visit would be too difficult to get right, at least at this point, the WH thought, with concerns ranging from police resources to where Obama would speak

• Instead, the president stayed in DC for what the WH is promoting as a concerted effort to effect real change around community policing and to address the underlying issues that contributed to the unrest spurred by the August killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and a grand jury’s decision not to file charges (Politico, NYT, Hill, TRNS, Reuters, CNN, me)

• Obama on Monday appointed a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which is intended to report within 90 days on ways to “promote crime reduction while improving public trust.” Chaired by Philadelphia police chief Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a professor at George Mason University (more on Obama’s Monday actions below)

• Also Monday, AG Eric Holder said he would release guidelines soon to limit racial profiling by federal law enforcement, a move long awaited by civil rights advocates

• Protests took place around the country Monday, most of them peaceful. Many walked out of their jobs and classrooms with their hands raised, the gesture that’s become a symbol for the death of Michael Brown. Demonstrators blocked streets in many cities, including in Washington DC
Obama: Ferguson a “National Problem”
• President Obama asked federal agencies on Monday for concrete recommendations to ensure the U.S. isn’t building a “militarized culture” within police depts. “This is not a problem just of Ferguson, Missouri. This is a national problem,” Obama said (AP, TRNS, Hill, me)

• Obama spoke after meeting with mayors, civil rights leaders and law enforcement officials at the WH to discuss a recently completed review of federal programs that provide military-style equipment to local police depts, such as the kind used to dispel protests in Ferguson after Michael Brown was shot dead

• Although Obama didn’t call for those programs to be pulled back, he said there was a need to create accountability, transparency and trust between police and the communities they serve. Obama referred to “simmering distrust.”

• The WH also announced that it wants more police to wear cameras that capture their interactions with civilians. The cameras are part of a $263 million spending package to help police depts improve their community relations. Congress must approve the funding (cameras need to be switched on, too)

• Pushing back on concerns the task force would be all talk and no action, Obama said this situation was different because he was personally invested in ensuring results. “In the two years I have remaining as president,” Obama said, “I’m going to make sure we follow through.”

• Eight EPA employees who racked up a total of more than 10 years’ worth of paid “admin leave” between 2011 and 2014 apparently did so because they were involved in “cases of alleged serious misconduct” – nature of which not reported. Cost: more than $1,096,000 (Fox News)
House May Move Tax Extenders Bill
• The House is moving toward a vote, as soon as this week, to restore a slew of expired tax breaks, though only through the end of the year, according to aides and lobbyists

• The vote would come after a veto threat from President Obama derailed a developing deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) that would have extended some tax breaks indefinitely, as well as others for two years. More than 50 tax breaks in all expired at the end of 2013

• The deal that Obama threatened to veto would have extended priorities of both parties for good, including a tax break for state and local sales taxes that’s especially important to Reid’s home state of Nevada (Hill, me)

• Business-friendly priorities like the research credit and an incentive for expensing would have also been revived indefinitely, as would tax breaks for commuters using mass transit and for families to help pay college costs

• Democrats’ main problem with the agreement was that it didn’t lock in expansions of the incentives for the working poor – the Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit – that are set to expire in 2017. Republicans claim taxpayers and illegal immigrants fraudulently claim those credits (no businesses committing fraud?)

• Somali al Shabab Islamist militants have shot dead 36 non-Muslims quarry workers near the north Kenyan town of Mandera after separating them from Muslims (BBC)
Did North Korea Hack Sony?
• Investigators into a hack that knocked Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer systems offline last week have a hunch that North Korea played a role in the breach, one of the largest in the U.S. Tools used were very similar to those used last year to attack South Korean TV stations and ATMs, people briefed say (WSJ, Reuters, BBC, me)

• The FBI issued a private warning to U.S. businesses late Monday to be on the lookout for a certain type of destructive malware that can make data on hard drives inaccessible, according to someone who had seen it. “Overwriting of the data files will make it extremely difficult and costly, if not impossible, to recover the data using standard forensic methods” – report

• Sony Pictures is set to release this month “The Interview,” a comedy in which U.S. spies enlist a TV host played by James Franco and his producer, played by Seth Rogen, to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong un. In June, a spox for Pyongyang threatened a “strong and merciless countermeasure” if the U.S. govt “patronizes the film”

• North Korea has refused to deny involvement in the cyber attack on Sony Pictures. When asked about it, a spox for Pyongyang’s UN mission said: “The hostile forces are relating everything to the DPRK. I kindly advise you to just wait and see.” (grow up and get a sense of humor much?)

• Employees at Sony have been forced to work with cell phones and personal email accounts since images of a skull appeared on company computers last week along with the message “Hacked by #GOP.” Five high-quality copies of Sony movies have been released onto the internet, including “Fury,” “Annie,” and “Mr Turner”

Obama to Push For Ebola Funds Today
• President Obama today will press Congress to approve $6.18 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and prepare U.S. hospitals to handle future cases. He’ll speak at the NIH as he touts progress on a much-needed Ebola vaccine that’s shown promise in early trials (Hill, Reuters, me)

• Most of the request is aimed at the immediate response to the disease at home and abroad. But the package also includes $1.5 billion in contingency funds – money that could become a target if lawmakers decide to trim the bill (likely)

• While lawmakers recognize that the U.S. had to take action to arrest the deadly disease, some are wary of giving the admin leeway in investing money in public health systems in West Africa. The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed at least 5,987 people since March, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

• The Obama admin came under fire in September after a series of missteps with a man who traveled to Dallas from Liberia and later died of Ebola. Two nurses contracted the disease while caring for the man. Screening and treatment procedures have since been tightened

• Elizabeth Lauten, the GOP staffer who resigned Monday for lecturing Sasha and Malia Obama was arrested at age 17 for misdemeanor larceny after she allegedly stole from a Belk dept store in NC, according to records reviewed by Smoking Gun. Charges dismissed – first-timer and didn’t get into more trouble… (glass houses – stones….) (Smoking Gun, TPM, TRNS, me)

SCOTUS: Free Speech vs Illegal Threats
• In a case over where to draw the line between free speech and illegal threats in the digital age, the justices Monday considered the case of a PA man convicted of posting violent threats on Facebook – in the form of rap lyrics – about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a school and slitting the throat of an FBI agent (Politico, Reuters, NYT, TRNS, AP, TRNS, me)

• Lawyers for Anthony Elonis say he didn’t mean to threaten anyone. They contend his posts under the pseudonym “Tone Dougie” were simply a way for him to vent his frustration over splitting up with his wife

• The govt argues the proper test isn’t what Elonis intended, but whether his words would make a reasonable person feel threatened. That’s the standard a jury used in convicting him under a federal law barring threats of violence. John Elwood, a lawyer for Elonis, said his client’s posts included elements of entertainment

• Justice Samuel Alito responded warily: “This sounds like a road map for threatening a spouse and getting away with it. You put it in rhyme and you put some stuff about the internet on it and you say, ‘I’m an aspiring rap artist.’ And so then you are free from prosecution.”

• Some justices seemed concerned the govt’s position is too broad. It seemed that many of the justices were looking for something between mere negligence and purposeful conduct. “How does one prove what’s in somebody else’s mind?” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked

• Vid: British conservative MP Penny Mordaunt loses bet and has to give naughty innuendo laden speech in House of Commons. “The fine was to say a particular word, an abbreviation of cockerel, several times, and mention all the names of the

[Royal Navy] officers present.” She does it. MPs, who had no clue, later blasted her… TPM, me)

SecDef Candidate List Shortens
• President Obama is considering a slim list of candidates to be his next U.S. defense secretary for the admin’s final two years and to replace the resigning Chuck Hagel. An announcement is expected in coming days, possibly this week or next week, a source said (Reuters, AP, me)

• Obama’s working from a short list that includes former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who is widely seen as the front-runner after former defense official Michele Flournoy unexpectedly dropped out last week – she may be interested in a place on a possible Hillary Clinton 2016 team

• Carter served as deputy secdef from Oct 2011 to Dec 2013 and was the Pentagon’s chief arms buyer before that. He has a reputation for being sharp and effective grappling with the Pentagon’s sprawling bureaucracy, but isn’t well known outside defense circles

• Among others believed to be under active consideration are current Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson, a former general counsel at the Pentagon; former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig and Kurt Campbell, a former assistance secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs who now heads the Asia Group, a strategy and capitol advisory group

• Issues facing next secdef: questions about the effectiveness of Obama’s military campaign against ISIS, Russian’s continued provocations in Ukraine, tensions between the WH and DoD over closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and concerns at the Pentagon with the impact of deep spending cuts – plus building a relationship with Obama
• Admin officials say they have not yet reached an agreement with Turkey on establishing a no-fly zone northeastern Syria to protect civilians from airstrikes by the Syrian govt, despite media reports (NYT, me)
Lebanon Detains Wife, Son of ISIS Leader
• Two senior Lebanese officials say authorities have detained one of the wives and a son of the reclusive leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Lebanese daily as-Safir reported that they were detained about 10 days ago using fake ID cards near a border crossing point with Syria, in coordination with “foreign intelligence agencies.”

• A joint intelligence bulletin Sunday night from the FBI and Dept of Homeland Security strongly urges current and former members of the military to scrub their social media accounts of anything that might bring unwanted attention from “violent extremists” or would help extremists learn individual service members’ identities

• Officials said they fear copycat attacks based on what happened in Canada last month, when two uniformed Canadian soldiers were killed in two separate incidents by young men who claimed they were ISIS followers (AP, ABC News, Reuters, Sunday Express, me)

• An airport security source tells the Sunday Express in the UK that terrorists are plotting to blow up five European passenger jets in a Christmas “spectacular.” The threat has been taken so seriously that it came close to an outright ban on all hand luggage

• Mobile phones and electronic devices could still be banned from plane cabins. Whitehall officials admit that a terror strike on the UK is now “almost inevitable” particularly with British jihadis, some of whom are blonde and blue-eyed and apparently difficult to spot, returning from fighting alongside ISIS

• Pics: Madonna poses topless at 56 (as you do) – and looks bloody good (have not yet had time to read interview) (Interview Magazine)

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Justin Duckham, Nicholas Salazar, Shane Farnan, Celina Gore and Paayal Zaveri 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.