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 NowS
  • San Bernardino shootings: 14 dead
  • Dems reject GOP initial funding bill
  • Secret Service: “In crisis”
  • Prostitution scandal: “Swag cologne”/”pimp gear”
  • ISIS fight: Brits on board
  • Govt report detects probs: Asylum fraud requests
  • Confidential GOP memo: Trump as nominee
 
San Bernardino Shootings: 14 Dead (NYT, LAT, AP, me)
• Dressed in black masks and tactical gear, armed with long guns and pistols, a man and woman entered a holiday party for county health workers in San Bernardino as it was in full swing. Before they fled, they had killed 14 people and wounded 17 others. They led police on a manhunt that left the shooters dead. “They looked as if they were on a mission,” authorities said
 
• Chief Jarrod Burguan of the San Bernardino PD identified the two suspects as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashween Malik, 27. Farook was born in the U.S. Family members say they were romantically involved and had a 6-month-old daughter. Burguan said it wasn’t clear if a third person taken into custody after the shootout was involved. A few months ago, the office held a baby shower for Farook
 
• Farook, an environmental inspector, had been employed with the county health dept for five years. Wednesday morning he attended a holiday party for the dept at the Inland Regional Center which provides services for thousands of people with disabilities. He left “angry” after a dispute of some sort, the chief said, and returned with Malik around 11 am heavily armed

• Dramatic video shows police storming site of shooting. Dorothy Vong, a nurse, at the center, recorded it – people initially thought it was a drill (LAT)

• “There had to be some degree of planning that went into this,” Burguan said. “I don’t think they just ran home and put on these tactical clothes.” “We have not ruled out terrorism.” The couple were armed with .223-caliber assault rifles and semiautomatic handguns – four guns were recovered from the scene. Police have determined that two were bought legally
 

• While shots rang out, others in the building cowered and hid, sending out texts. The attackers left three explosive devices behind, and authorities were only starting to process the scene and couldn’t identify any of the victims late Wednesday. Residents were told to remain indoors
 
• Late in the afternoon, dozens of heavily armed police officers in tactical gear descended on a residential neighborhood in pursuit of the attackers. Witnesses described a wild scene as dozens of officers closed in on a vehicle, with hundreds of shots fired as the people in the vehicle battled the police. At least 20 officers were involved in the gun battle, Burguan said
 
• Burguan said a third person fled the scene and was taken into custody, but the police didn’t know his role, if any. San Bernardino joined a tragic roster this year that includes Charleston SC; Roseburg Ore; and Colorado Springs Colo, where just five days earlier a gunman killed three people and wounded nine at a Planned Parenthood clinic

• Watch: President Obama speaks about the shooting and about mass shootings with CBS News, as the shooting unfolds. He calls for action on guns. Republicans, including 2016ers, called for prayers for the victims and police – no action on guns. Democrats – mostly – called for prayers, but also called for more restrictions on access to guns (round and round we go)

• One senior American official said Farook hadn’t been the target of any active terrorism investigation, and he wasn’t someone the bureau had been concerned about before Wednesday’s shooting. Other officials said the FBI was looking into a possible connection between Farook and at least one person who was investigated for terrorism a few years ago


 
• President Obama in an interview with CBS News again called for better background checks and new restrictions on access to guns for people who might pose a danger. “We should come together in a bipartisan basis at every level of govt to make these rare as opposed to normal,” he said (yeah, well – we won’t)
 
• Jamille Navarro, who works with special needs children at the center, called her mother, Olivia, saying that there were gunmen in the building. “She was hiding in her room,” Olivia Navarro said, crying. “They turned off the lights. She was whispering because she didn’t want to be heard. I told her to stop talking. I said, ‘All right, I’ll be right there.'”
 
• Gabriel Torres said his wife, Carina, a social worker who works at the center, spent half an hour or more on the phone with him as she hid under her desk, crying. Her mother, Maria Hernandez, said: “We know she is OK. I’m going to be OK, I can tell you, I’m going to pass out. These feelings – I cannot tell you.”
 
• Graphic: Maps, pics, diagrams – how the shootings unfolded (NYT)

 

Dems Reject GOP Initial Funding Bill (Hill, Hill, me)

• Citing dozens of “poison pill” riders, House Democrats have rejected the Republicans’ initial year-end govt funding bill and plan to respond with their own alternative package. Congress is scrambling to fund the govt and prevent a shutdown ahead of a looming 11 Dec deadline (ho ho ho)
 

• But Democratic leaders said more than 30 GOP policy amendments made the package unacceptable. The Democrats accused the Republicans of trying to ram through a partisan package crafted exclusively by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), in lieu of negotiating with Democratic appropriators
 

• Those appropriators are now working on a counter-offer to the GOP bill, a Dem aide said. The GOP offer followed a 30-minute call between Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) Tuesday. During the call, Ryan urged Pelosi to consider the offer put forth by GOP Appropriations Committee negotiators, a source said
 

• Among the rejected riders are provisions scaling back environmental regulations and undoing parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law of 2010, the aide said. The Dems also rejected a GOP amendment to toughen the screening process for refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq. GOP leaders had pushed that bill through before Thanksgiving (all impossible for Dems..)
 

• Trying to avoid a shutdown, GOP leaders are eyeing an alternative proposal designed to strengthen the current visa waiver program, making it tougher for some foreigners to visit the U.S. in the name of national security. WH spox Josh Earnest told reporters on Wed, “Congressional Republicans are whistling past the graveyard of a govt shutdown.”

 

• Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) has introduced an amendment to the Obamacare reconciliation bill that would make it illegal to sell or give a gun to someone who has been charged with blocking, or trying to block, someone with getting reproductive care with force or the threat of force – expected to push for a vote today (Hill)
 

Secret Service: 143 Breaches in 10 Years (AP, me)

• There have been 143 security breaches or attempted breaches at facilities secured by the Secret Service in the last 10 years, according to a lengthy House Oversight and Govt Reform Committee report critical of the agency released early today (averages at more than one a month – it’s appalling – it’s actually the norm, not even an aberration)
 

• The committee concluded that the Secret Service is an “agency in crisis” after a series of high-profile embarrassments over several years, including a South American prostitution scandal and multiple security breaches involving President Obama and the WH
 

• The report faults both leadership failings within the agency and budget cuts imposed by Congress that have led to what the committee concluded was a “staffing crisis.” The committee is chaired by Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and has been investigating the agency since the April 2012 prostitution scandal became public
 

• Three directors have led the Secret Service in the last three years and multiple agents and officers, including senior officials, have been fired, transferred or diisciplined in the last several years as details of scandals and security breaches have become public

 

Prostitution Scandal: “Pimp Gear,” “Swag Cologne”

• Most recently, it was revealed that dozens of agents used a secure govt database to view Chaffetz’s decade-old, unsuccessful job application starting 18 minutes after the start of a hearing focused on another scandal involving allegations of drunken driving involving two senior officials. (18 minutes? lol) The yearlong investigation also found new info
 

• The report said that the Secret Service’s own investigation of the Colombia prostitution incident uncovered multiple emails sent between agents and officers discussing the trip and alluded to plans to enjoy their surroundings. One email described the motto of the trip as “una mas cerveza por favor,” or one more beer please (um – trip actually was to protect President Obama)
 

• A check list of things to bring included “swag cologne,” “pimp gear” and cash for prostitutes. (what did female agents think?) The committee also found that agents failed to properly vet multiple armed security guards who were near Obama during a Sept 2014 visit to the CDC in Atlanta. During the trip Obama rode an elevator with an armed contractor who hadn’t been vetted
 

• Then-director Julia Pearson was fired after details of the incident were published by WaPo. The report also found that the agency is understaffed and officers are overworked: the staffing crisis started in 2011 amid the govt-wide budget sequester, the report said (it’s a lot of work coming up with those drinking, whoring lists)

• From the report: “A man masquerading as a member of Congress walked into a secure backstage area without being properly screened and spoke with Obama at an awards dinner last fall. Five days later,, a woman walked backstage unchecked at a gala dinner where Obama was a featured guest.” Months after that, two people strolled onto the first layer of the WH grounds unnoticed…

• A South African appeals court has convicted double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius of murder, overturning a lower court’s conviction on the lesser charge of manslaughter for shooting his girlfriend to death in 2013. The judge said regardless of who might have been behind the door in his home, Pistorius should have known someone could have been killed if he fired (AP)

 

ISIS Fight: Brits on Board (BBC, Reuters, Hill, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• British MPs have overwhelmingly voted by 397-223 to authorize UK air strikes against ISIS after an impassioned 10-hour Commons debate, and 66 Labour MPs (29% of the party) sided with the Conservative majority govt as PM David Cameron secured a larger than expected win. Cameron said they had “taken the right decision to keep the country safe.”
 
• Four RAF Tornado jets have since carried out their first air strikes against ISIS. The strikes focused on six targets in an oil field under ISIS control in eastern Syria (didn’t waste much time)
 
• Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that the case for war “does not stack up” – but his party was split, with senior Labour figures siding with the govt. Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn was applauded by MPs from across the House, particularly Conservatives, when he urged his own side to “confront this evil” posed by ISIS (debate was one of those raucous Brit ones)
 
• In the U.S., Army Col Steve Warren, spox for the U.S.-led military campaign against ISIS, said a new force of special ops troops being deployed to Iraq will be “probably around 100, maybe a little less. It’s really going to be a majority support personnel, everything from … aviators to collectors.”
 

• A cap on the number of U.S. forces authorized to operate in Iraq, currently at 3,500, would be raised by about 100, Warren said. Rep Adam Schiff (D-Calif), ranking member on the House Intel Committee, said Wed, “the addition of another small number of special operators is probably not enough to maintain that kind of tempo to change the dynamic on the ground very much.”

 
• Iran carried out only preliminary steps to build a nuclear weapon in previous years, a report from the IAEA said Wednesday, and ceased the activities at least five years ago. Separately, The U.S. website 38 North says North Korea is building a new tunnel at its nuclear test site, though a nuclear test does not appear imminent (Hill, BBC)

Govt Report Detects Problems: Asylum Fraud Requests (AP, me)
• The Obama admin is having trouble detecting fraud in asylum requests from immigrants seeking to stay in the U.S. for their protection, according to a Govt Accountability Office report released Wed (so, this is going to go do well)

• The GAO report looked at asylum requests from immigrants who have already made it to the U.S. and are asking to stay to escape persecution. The report doesn’t address the refugee application process, which has become an issue in the debate over Syrian refugees

• The report concluded that neither U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services nor the Exec Office for Immigration Review, the DoJ agency that oversees immigration courts, conduct regular fraud risk assessments. GAO recommended that both do so. (ya think?) At USCIS, a paper filing system that doesn’t capture key fraud detection info electronically also is a problem

• The GAO review found that more than 4,500 people were awarded asylum in 2014 despite being associated with lawyers or document preparers arrested that same year in an immigration fraud investigation in New York. Unclear if any of those approved cases involved fraud. (oooh – guess…) USCIS revoked asylum in the cases of 374 people from 2010 to 2014, the GAO said

• The GAO made 10 recommendations for improving fraud detection at the USCIS, including hiring and training more asylum officers. Both Homeland Security and the immigration court agency said they agreed. Juan Osuna, who oversees the immigration court agency, is expected to be pressed about fraud during a House oversight hearing this morning

• After years of failed efforts, the House voted Wed, 359-64, to approve a sweeping bill to revise the contentious No Child Left Behind law, representing the end of an era in which the federal govt aggressively policed public school performance, and returning control to states and loval govts. The Senate is to vote early next week and President Obama is expected to (NYT) sign it (AP)

 
Confidential GOP Memo: Trump as Nominee (WaPo, Hill, me)
• In a seven-page confidential memo that imagines Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee urges candidates to adopt many of Trump’s tactics, issues and approaches – right down to adjusting the way they dress and how they use Twitter (dress? how about hair? Twitter? insults?)
 
• NRSC Exec Director Ward Baker says Republicans should embrace his tough talk about China and “grab onto the best elements of
[his] anti-Washington populist agenda.” Above all, they should appeal to voters as genuine and beyond the influence of special interests (both untrue if they take cash from special interests – they do – – and if they do it because of the memo)
 
• “Trump has risen because voters see him as authentic, independent, direct, firm – and believe he can’t be bought,” Baker writes. “These are the same character traits our candidates should be advancing in 2016. That’s Trump lesson #1.”

 

• Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) slammed GOP 2016ers Wed. “The simple fact is Republicans are running on a platform of hate, and every Republican who fails to speak out against this hateful, dangerous rhetoric being spewed by their party is complicit.” (Hill)
 
• The memo posits that Trump could build a powerful enough coalition to win the general election. But Baker warns with regard to his comments about women, “Houston, we have a problem,” before noting Trump “has said some wacky things about women.” (strange that he uses the word “wacky” – not “offensive” or “disgusting” – seems like he has the same problem)
 
• Baker calls Trump “a misguided missile” and said he “is subject to farcical fits.” Baker writes that he foresees a campaign year in which candidates repeatedly will have to fend off questions from reporters about the nominee’s comments and behavior
 
• “Don’t get drawn into every Trump statement and every Trump dust-up,” Baker warns. Democrats only need to flip five seats for outright control of the Senate and the vast majority of competitive races involve Republican incumbents
 

• Baker concludes: “Trump has been gaining Democrat adherents and he’s solidifying GOP cohorts who feel they’ve been totally ignored by the Washington Ruling Class. If the environment aligns properly, Trump could win. It’s not a bet most would place now, but it could happen.”


• Opening paragraph from a serious British newspaper’s Legal Correspondent, Paul Cheston: “A former banking lawyer who entered a woman’s bedroom wearing fishnet stockings and a purple G-string told a court he thought she was a giant panda. Desmond Moran, 53, slipped into the victim’s flat in Bayswater as she slept…” (why don’t we have stories like that here?)

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______________
Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Loree Lewis and Washington Desk contributed to this report

 

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