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

  • After deadly ambush, NYPD on alert
  • Pols: blame, pain, outrage
  • Civil rights leaders reax
  • North Korea back on terror list?
  • U.S. asks China for help
  • What could the U.S. do to North Korea?
  • WH / Sony spat / Crackle
  • Cuba: Obama defends actions
  • Bergdahl report moves forward
  • Dem strategy: Attack Jeb as Mitt
  • Gas prices lowest since May 2009
  • Guantanamo grinds on
After Deadly Ambush, NYPD on Alert
• Police leaders ratcheted up precautions for the patrol force on Sunday as officials described the predatory final moments of a gunman bent on killing officers. “Watch what I’m going to do,” the man told two strangers on a Brooklyn street moments before moving toward a marked police car, armed with a silver handgun (NYT, NYP, NYDN, AP, me)

• The man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, circled the car before approaching from behind. He fired four shots through the closed window of the passenger side and fled, pursued by two Consolidated Edison utility workers who happened to witness the attack (heroes). Both officers died in the fusillade

• Brinsley ran into a G train subway entrance and fatally shot himself on the subway platform. He was found by officers lying on the silver semiautomatic gun, nine bullets left, two metrocards in his pocket. His last shot was a bullet to his temple

• On Sunday, some of those who had been protesting days before held a candlelight vigil in Harlem, while in Brooklyn, police commissioner William Bratton visited the memorial emerging at the site where Officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, were shot dead


• President Obama, on vacation in Hawaii, called Bratton on Sunday to offer condolences as Sec of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson visited the Brooklyn precinct where the slain officers worked

• Brinsley, a Brooklyn native with a troubled past and a series of arrests in GA and OH, had made a series of similar online threats before the killings. He drifted in and out of jail. His relatives told the police of undiagnosed mental problems. Hours before he killed the officers, he shot an ex-girlfriend in Maryland, police say

• NYC officers going out on foot patrol were directed to work only in pairs. Sentries were posted at station houses. The dept suspended patrols by auxiliary officers. Detectives, who usually operate alone or in pairs, were told by the head of their union to go out in teams of three

• A flurry of notices by union leaders stopped short of urging members not to respond to calls for help, but prescribed steps for putting their own safety first, whether that created a deployment problem for commanders or not


• The messages followed a stunning display of disapproval and disrespect as several police officers, led by Patrick Lynch of the patrolmen’s union and Edward Mullins of the sergeant’s union, turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio as he entered a presser late Saturday at Woodhull Hospital

• Meanwhile, the 13-year-old son of Officer Ramos, Jaden, wrote on Facebook: “This is the worst day of my life. It’s horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer. Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help.”

• For weeks before the shootings, Brinsley frequently posted, to his Instagram account, antigovt, antipolice messages. At the same time, he shared thoughts of personal despair, the chief of detectives said Sunday. Investigators found no ties to gangs or extremist groups

• Once he arrived in New York after shooting his ex-girlfriend, Brinsley promised greater violence. In Instagram postings, he said: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today.” “They Take 1 Of Ours. Let’s Take 2 Of Theirs. #ShootThePolice”

• Vid: NYPD officers turn their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio as he arrives at the hospital Saturday for a presser

Pols: Blame, Pain, Outrage
• “We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Fox News Sunday. “The protests are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence, a lot of them lead to violence, all of them lead to a conclusion: The police are bad, the police are racist.”

• President Obama unconditionally condemned the shooting deaths of two NYC police officers. “Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that there is no justification,” he said in a statement. Obama asked for a rejection of “violence and words that harm” and said people should instead “turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue”

• “This was an unspeakable act of barbarism, and I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of these two brave officers in the line of duty,” AG Eric Holder said in a statement. “On behalf of all those who serve in the U.S. DoJ, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the officers’ loved ones and colleagues.” (Hill, WaPo, Politico, Roll Call, Buzzfeed, me)


• Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Assn, said Saturday, “There’s blood on many hands tonight.” “That blood starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor. When these funerals are over, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”

• De Blasio praised the officers: “These officers were shot execution-style, in a particularly despicable act, which goes to the very heart of our society and democracy. When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. It is an attack on all of us. It’s an attack on everything we hold dear.”

• Rep Peter King (R-NY) on Fox News Sunday cited the deaths as reasons for Obama, de Blasio and many in the media to “stop the cop bashing and anti-police rhetoric.”

• Rep Gregory Meeks (D-NY) said on ABC Sunday, “This heinous act, as the mayor said, it tears away at the fabric of our society. And so we stand with the police dept. We want the police to be protected. We don’t want mayhem going on in the communities.”

Civil Rights Leaders Reax
* “To link the criminal insanity of a lone gunman to the peaceful protests and aspirations of many people across the country, including the attorney general, the mayor and even the president, is simply not fair,” NAACP President Cornell Brooks said on CBS on Sunday (WaPo, Hill, AP, me)

• “I’m standing here in sorrow about losing those two police officers,” said Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, whose choking death at the hands of a NY officers this year sparked national outrage when that officer wasn’t indicted. “Those two officers lost their lives senselessly.”

• “We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement. It cannot be tolerated. We must work together to bring peace to our communities,” the family of Michael Brown said in a statement posted on their attorney, Benjamin Crump’s Twitter page

• Rev Al Sharpton was quick to condemn the killings. “From the beginning, we have stressed that this is a pursuit of justice to make the system work fairly for everyone.” “This is not about trying to take things into our own hands. That does not solve the problem of police brutality.”
North Korea Back on Terror List?
• President Obama said he would “review” whether to return North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, part of a broader govt response to a damaging cyberattack on Sony’s Hollywood studio. “We don’t make those judgments just based on the news of the day,” Obama said in an interview on CNN broadcast Sunday

• Obama said he was “pretty sympathetic” to the fact that Sony has business considerations to make. “And, you know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what that story was.”

• “What happens if, in fact, there is a breach in CNN’s, you know, cyberspace?” Obama asked. “Are we going to suddenly say, well, we’d better not report on North Korea?” He said the nation has to “adapt to the possibility of cyberattacks.” “We have to do a lot more to guard against them.”


• Obama said he didn’t consider the attack an act of war. “I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously.” He reiterated his earlier stance that the U.S. will “respond proportionately.”

• Sen John McCain (R-AZ) said on CNN Sunday, “The president does not understand that this is a manifestation of a new form of warfare. When you destroy economies, when you are able to impose censorship on the world and especially the U.S.A., it’s more than vandalism. It’s a new form of warfare.”

• The president understands perfectly well what it is. He’s made a decision as to how he’s going to speak about the matter publicly, starting by ridiculing Kim Jong un as insecure during the end of year press conference Friday and by continuing to downplay North Korea’s importance. This doesn’t mean that the U.S. response will be minimal – or that we’ll see what it is
• Warning of “serious consequences” if the U.S. retaliates against it over the damaging cyberattack on Sony Pictures, North Korea insisted Saturday that it wasn’t behind it, and it offered to prove its innocence by taking part in a joint investigation with Washington to identify the hackers. Admit it and pay up, Washington said in response (NYT, WaPo, me)
U.S. Asks China to Help Rein in Korean Hackers
• The Obama admin has sought China’s help in recent days in blocking North Korea’s ability to launch cyberattacks, the first steps toward the “proportional response” President Obama vowed to make the North pay for the assault on Sony Pictures – and as part of a campaign to issue a broader warning against future hacking (NYT, Reuters, me)

• China opposes all forms of cyberattacks and cyber “terrorism,” foreign minister Wang Yi told SecState John Kerry in a telephone call Sunday, according to a statement posted on the foreign ministry’s website. The call included the cyberattack on Sony, but the statement made no direct mention of North Korea (is that a no?)

• China’s cooperation would be critical, since virtually all of North Korea’s telecommunications run through Chinese-operated networks. And they might not help, anyway, since the DoJ in May indicted five hackers working for the Chinese military on charges of stealing sensitive info from U.S. companies

• Obama has asked the military’s Cyber Command to come up with a range of offensive options that could be directed at North Korea

• For now, the WH appears to have declined to consider what one DoD official termed a “demonstration strike” in cyberspace, which could have included targets such as North Korean military facilities, computer network servers and communications networks

• “Our toughest counteraction will be boldly taken against the WH, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland, the cesspool of terrorism, by far surpassing the ‘symmetric counteraction’ declared by Obama,” North Korea’s powerful National Defense Commission said late Sunday (AP, me)
What Could the U.S. Do to North Korea?
• The admin’s restraint grows out of a concern over the risk of escalation with North Korea, since the U.S. has far more vulnerable targets, from its power grids to its financial markets, than North Korea. “We live in a giant glass house,” said one official involved in the high-level debates

• The U.S. is considering financial sanctions. The North is under perhaps the heaviest sanctions on earth. Yet the one sanction in the past decade that caused the most pain to the North Korean leadership was the freezing of its accounts at a small bank in Macau, which held the money leadership uses to buy luxury goods

• Also: “One of the things people often overlook is the complexity and time it takes to launch an attack,” said Oren Falkowitz, a former analyst at the NSA, who now runs Area 1, a security company. “Most attacks take hundreds of days, if not years to plan.”

• Tom Kellerman, a former member of the presidential commission on cybersecurity, predicted a campaign of information warfare, in which the U.S. plays on North Korea’s worst fears by using its access to the North Korean domestic computer and radio systems to deploy propaganda inside North Korea’s closed media bubble
WH / Sony Spat / Crackle
• “You can’t release a movie unless you have a distribution channel,” Sony lawyer David Boies said Sunday on NBC. “Sony only delayed this. Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed. How it will be distributed, I don’t think anybody quite knows yet.” (WSJ, Vox, TRNS, WaPo, NYT, Fox, CNN, Hill, me)

• The weird thing about what Boies said is, as WSJ pointed out over the weekend, Sony owns online streaming site Crackle, something that’s not widely known. So couldn’t it find a way to make it work using its own product and show “The Interview” that way?

• Sony Pictures “made a mistake” by pulling “The Interview” from theaters, President Obama said at his year-end press conference Friday. “We can’t start changing our behavior — because there might be a terrorist attack. That’s not who we are. That’s not what America’s about.”


• “I wish they had spoken to me first I would have told them do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated,” Obama said. At the same time, “Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns they face.”

• Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton on Friday said on CNN, “A few days ago, I personally did reach out and speak to senior folks at the WH and talked to them about this situation and actually informed them that we needed help.”

• A WH official backed Obama’s statement. “As the president said today, the WH was not consulted about Sony’s distribution decisions. Per standard practice, and as was the case with Sony, the federal govt and agencies communicate with private sector entities to bolster their cyber defenses on a regular basis.”
Cuba: Obama Defends Actions
• “The whole point of normalizing relations
[with Cuba] is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence wit that govt.” “Change is going to come to Cuba. It has to,” President Obama said Friday at his year-end presser. “I share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people.”

• “We cannot unilaterally bring down the embargo,” Obama said. “Ultimately, we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in. But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away.” (WSJ, Roll Call, Hill, WaPo, Fox, NYT, me)

• On Saturday, Cuban President Raul Castro said, “The Cuban people are grateful” for Obama’s decision “to remove the obstacles to our relations.” But, “No one should believe that improving relations with the U.S. means Cuba renouncing its ideas.”

• Rep Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who was part of the delegation that flew to Cuba last week to pick up jailed American contractor Alan Gross, said Sunday on CBS, “The idea is more direct communication with the Cuban people will, over time, create more personal freedom and, over time, create the conditions for more political freedom.”

•  “There isn’t going to be any political opening,” Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Sunday on CBS. “This change is entirely predicated upon the false notion that engagement alone automatically leads to freedom.”

• President Obama took questions from all women reporters at his year end presser at the WH Friday. Seven print and one radio. NO TV. I can vouch for the fact that there was high-fiving among women reporters as we left the presser and grumbling from some men – not all. #naughtyandnice
Bergdahl Report Moves Forward
• The U.S. Army is expected to announce today that it has forwarded the results of its investigation into the 2009 disappearance of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl from an Afghan outpost to a military commander who will determine what punishment the soldier will face, defense officials said (WSJ, TRNS, me)

• The Army won’t announce the results of the investigation today. Army officials said investigators found that Bergdahl acted improperly in leaving his post but wouldn’t say the exact nature of the infraction

• Army Lt Gen Perry Wiggins, the commander of U.S. Army North, will have wide latitude in how to handle the case and whether he takes the case to court-martial or pursues some other kind of punishment

• SecDef Chuck Hagel was briefed on Friday on the results, officials announced. Hagel won’t weigh in on the investigation. If Bergdahl deserted his Army outpost, it could theoretically lead to imprisonment and a death sentence. But throughout, defense officials have said they believe a lengthy prison sentence is unlikely

• In light of the fact that Bergdahl endured years of captivity, admin officials expect any potential punishment to be more lenient. Bergdahl could also face demotion, a dishonorable discharge, or the loss of $300,000 in pay he earned while in captivity

• House Speaker John Boehner on Friday formally invited President Obama to deliver the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress – date is 20 January 2015. Phew – for a little while we weren’t sure if he’d get an invitation (TRNS, me)

Dem Strategy: Attack Jeb Bush as Mitt Romney

• Talking points from a private Friday conference call hosted by the Democratic National Committee to prepare Democrats going on the Sunday shows indicate that Dems plan to attack former FL Gov Jeb Bush as an out-of-touch representative of the 1%, more conservative than he lets on (Politico, me)

• “Jeb Bush has spent his career doing what would benefit himself and people like him – certainly not looking out for working Americans,” the talking points say. “Bush spent recent years cashing in on Wall Street as Americans were hit by financial crisis. Since leaving public office, Bush has been involved in several problematic business deals”

• “But we also know what to expect from a Bush presidency because we’ve seen it before: policies that wreck the economy, that give massive tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, and that are out of step with American people including women, LGBT Americans, Latinos and people of color,” the talking points say

• Friday evening, Bush responded on Facebook, in part: “Everywhere I go, people tell me how tired they are of the dysfunctional, squabbling silliness of politics today. These silly talking points, misleading and misinformed as they are, show you just how void of ideas the Democrats have become after six years of poor results”

• Pic: The Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple has put up its “Snaketivity Scene” on the Michigan Capitol grounds – competing with a Christian Nativity scene featuring baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Loverly

Gas Prices Lowest Since May 2009

• The average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. fell 25 cents in the past two weeks to $2.47, taking prices down more than $1.25 a gallon since a recent peak in May this year. “This is mostly driven by crude oil prices, and absent a sudden spike we very well may see a drop of a few pennies more,” Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the Lundberg survey said Sunday

• Meanwhile, Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters in Abu Dhabi that if countries outside OPEC “want to cut production, they are welcome: We are not going to cut, certainly Saudi Arabia is not going to cut.” He said was “100% not pleased” with prices but they would improve, although it was unclear when (Reuters, me)

• The determined tone of his remarks, that he would prefer to allow the market to stabilize on its own, was echoed by some other Arab oil ministers at a conference in the UAE capital, including from Kuwait and the UAE

• Naimi said that OPEC’s decision would ultimately help the world’s economy. “Current prices do not encourage investment in any form of energy, but they stimulate global economic growth, leading ultimately to an increase in global demand and a slowdown in the growth of supplies.”

• Naimi denied politics played a role in the kingdom’s oil policy. The market slide has triggered conspiracy theories, ranging from the Saudis seeking to curb the U.S. oil boom (likely), to Riyadh looking to undermine Iran and Russia for their support of Syria

Guantanamo Grinds On

• President Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he would be doing everything he could to close the prison camp at Guantanamo, but didn’t say that he’d succeed on closing the controversial facility by the end of his presidency. “It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world.” (Hill, NYT, me)

• Saturday, the Pentagon announced it had transferred four additional detainees back to Afghanistan, bringing the total population there down to 131. “We are going to continue to place those who have been cleared for release or transfer to host countries that are willing to take them,” Obama said on CNN

• He acknowledged a “certain irreducible number.” “We know they’ve done something wrong and they are still dangerous, but it’s difficult to mount the evidence in a traditional Article 3 court, you know, so we’re going to have to wrestle with that.”

• Full closure of the prison has been complicated by Congress’s repeated refusal to authorize moving prisoners to facilities on U.S. soil. The $585 defense authorization bill Obama signed on Friday included similar language, prompting a signing statement from Obama

• Sen John McCain (R-AZ) said on CNN Sunday that Obama is acting in a “most imperial fashion” and “continues to violate the law” with his steps to release prisoners from Guantanamo and work to normalize relations with Cuba

• Vid: Have you been wracking your brains trying to figure who that person was singing “Well Meet Again” on The Colbert Report” – you know, that one? Slate’s put together the definite list. Watch the song again – and get yourself some relief, for goodness sake – h/t Gigi

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar and James Cullum contributed to this report


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