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

  • Former Speaker Hastert indicted: Lying
  • Judge skeptical in House GOP lawsuit
  • Draw Muhammad cartoon contest: Phoenix
  • FIFA vote today amid corruption scandal
  • Baltimore bloodier/arrests drop – why?
  • WH: Iraq must step up
  • Putin declares soldiers’ deaths secret
  • Live anthrax sent to 18 labs?
  • GOP’s Pataki is IN
Former Speaker Hastert Indicted: Lying (Buzzfeed, Buzzfeed, NYT, WaPo, TRNS, me)

• Dennis Hastert (R), former Speaker of the House of Representatives, has been charged with lying to the FBI and making cash withdrawals from banks in a way that was designed to hide that he was paying $3.5 million to someone for his “misconduct” from years ago, a federal indictment released on Thursday said

• U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon agreed to withhold details of the alleged “prior misconduct,” two sources familiar with the case told Buzzfeed News. Fardon had originally been prepared to move forward with a much more explicit indictment of Hastert, who prior to serving in Congress was a high school teacher and wrestling coach for 15 years in Yorkville, IL

• The indictment claims that Hastert agreed to make the payments during “2010 meetings and subsequent discussions.” in at least one of those meetings, according to the indictment, Hastert and the individual “discussed past misconduct by

[Hastert against the individual] that had occurred years earlier.”

• When the FBI interviewed Hastert on 8 Dec 2014, he was asked whether the purpose of the withdrawals was related to his lack of trust in the banking system, which he confirmed. According to the indictment, Hastert said: “Yeah, I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”

• The indictment counters that Hastert “then well knew, this statement was false,” because he had agreed to provide the individual with $3.5 million “to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” the person

Doc: Dennis Hastert indictment (Chicago Tribune)

• Hastert allegedly made $50,000 cash payments to “Individual A,” without reporting them to the govt. You have to report cash transactions exceeding $10,000. When a bank asked about it, he allegedly reduced the amount of money to below $10,000 to avoid reporting rules. This is called “structuring.” Confronted by the FBI (tip off?), he allegedly lied about it

• Hastert spent 20 years in the House representing Illinois, and was elected Speaker in 1999 after former Speaker Newt Gingrich retired and heir apparent, former Rep Bob Livingston (R-LA), abruptly retired amid charges he had carried on adulterous affairs in the past

• In 2006, Hastert faced criticism that he and top aides failed to respond to warnings about the behavior of Rep Mark Foley (R-FL), whose sexually explicit electronic messages to former Congressional pages sparked a scandal that contributed to the GOP losing their House majority. Hastert chose not to seek reelection in 2008

• Hastert has become a prominent lobbyist in Washington DC since leaving office, becoming co-leader of law firm Dickstein Shapiro. By Thursday night, Hastert had resigned and his bio had been taken down from its website

• Reax in Washington was primarily one of astonishment as Republicans tried to absorb the news that Hastert, elevated in some respects for his upright image, was in trouble. “It has come out of left field and is pretty shocking,” said John Feehery, a spox for Hastert in his days as speaker

• All 24 Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee wrote to new AG Loretta Lynch Thursday, asking her to respond to the panel’s 2014 request to charge former IRS official Lois Lerner for possible crimes. (Good luck with that, GOP) Lerner has denied any wrongdoing in the targeting of conservative groups scandal (Hill, me)


Judge Skeptical of Obama Admin: House GOP Lawsuit (Reuters, AP, Hill, me)

• A U.S. judge on Thursday blasted the Obama admin’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Republicans in the House of Representatives over the implementation of the Democratic president’s signature healthcare law. House Republicans filed a lawsuit in November, saying admin officials unlawfully bypassed Congress

• At issue are executive changes authorizing Treasury payments to healthcare insurers without the funding being agreed by Congress and delaying implementation of the law’s employer mandate, which required employers with more than 50 employees to provide healthcare coverage. (In reality, the GOP was so furious that it couldn’t overturn the law that it sued)

• “You don’t really believe that, do you?” U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, a President George W. Bush appointee, interrupted DoJ lawyer Joel McElvain to ask in the opening moments of his argument, as he tried to assert that the House hadn’t suffered a particular injury in the case and therefore lacks any basis for suing

• “I have a very hard time taking that statement seriously,” Collyer said. She ended the hearing without ruling, telling both parties: “I have lots of ideas. I just haven’t decided yet.” (sure about that?)

• She seemed to have one bright idea. Collyer questioned whether impeachment could be an alternative remedy rather than suing. She then quickly added, addressing the spectator gallery filled with reporters: “I don’t mean to suggest … Don’t anyone write that down.” (tap, tap, scribble, scribble)

• The Dept of Housing and Urban Development is developing new rules that would prohibit federally funded Native American housing projects from turning away people because of their sexual orientation or gender identify (Hill)


Draw Muhammad Cartoon Contest: Phoenix (Phoenix New Times, me)

• A guy called Jon Reitzheimer plans to hold a rally and “draw Muhammad” cartoon contest tonight to coincide with Friday evening prayers outside the mosque in Phoenix that the two Garland TX gunmen and alleged ISIS sympathizers attended. Reitzheimer will also be selling black T-shirts that read “F*ck Islam.” The event is about freedom of speech, Reitzheimer says

• The winner of the draw Muhammad cartoon contest will be selected during the after-party at Wild Bills biker saloon (totally there). There will be at least “two state militia groups to provide security,” but Reitzheimer’s encouraging folks to bring guns “just in case our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.” (I anticipate no probs)

• Members of the group Wave of Action plan a counter-protest at the event. Member Murray Bookchin wrote in an email, “Everyone is entitled to free speech and as long as they will proclaim Islam is a devils cult we will scream this is what fascism looks like.” (what could go wrong)

• “What speech are they trying to protect? The freedom of speech of what?” said Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center, where the event will take place. “They’re trying to scare a segment of the community, trying to intimidate. To me, they are a group of racist, bigoted, ignorant individuals.” (say what you mean)

• Reitzheimer, an atheist, said he’s not a racist. “I’m the furthest thing from a racist. We’re not trying to oppress a race, we’re trying to tame down an ideology.” “I know I’m an extremist. Some people have tried comparing me to Martin Luther King, but that’s not me. I’ve never claimed to be Martin Luther King.” Everyone’s meeting at Denny’s down the street first (sooo there, eggs over easy)

• The Washington DC transit system banned all “issue-oriented” ads from Metro stations and buses on Thursday, after receiving a request to run ads showing depictions of the Prophet Muhammad from Pamela Geller, the head of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (Hill, TRNS)


FIFA Vote Today Amid Corruption Scandal (BBC, NYT, TRNS, TRNS, me)

• Sunil Gulati, the president of U.S. Soccer, will today instruct the U.S. delegate to vote against longtime incumbent president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, as 209 members vote for their new leader at a congress in Zurich amid a massive corruption scandal. Blatter, the favorite, is seeking a fifth term – UEFA, the Euopean delegation, also oppose Blatter

• The vote comes two days after seven top officials were held in Zurich in a U.S. fraud inquiry that indicted 14 people. Blatter, 79, says, “I cannot monitor people all the time. If people want to do wrong they will also try to hide it.” He insisted it fell to him to “fix things.” (impossible – he’s tainted and incompetent or crooked – FIFA will also be tainted as long as he’s at the top)

• Challenger Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, 39, says: “I am a straightforward person with straightforward ideas and ethics.” The U.S. investigation accuses those indicted of bribery, racketeering and money-laundering involving tens of millions of dollars over 24 years since 1991

• Coca-Cola, Visa, Adidas, McDonald’s, Hyundai and Budweiser are pressing FIFA to take immediate action to restore its reputation. A UN spox said the world body will investigate its partnerships with FIFA. Separately, President Obama will meet with AG Loretta Lynch today at the WH. Lynch spearheaded the indictments

• Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Wednesday arrests “another blatant attempt by the U.S. to extend its jurisdiction to other states,” and suggested it was an effort to take away the 2018 World Cup from Russia. Swiss prosecutors have announced a criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar


• Hundreds of people fled areas near Texas rivers that overflowed their banks Thursday as the state reeled from severe storms this week that killed at least 17 people, flooded cities and set a record for the wettest month (Reuters)


Baltimore Bloodier / Arrests Drop  – Why? (AP, me)

• A 31-year-old woman and a young boy were shot in the head Thursday, becoming Baltimore’s 37th and 38th victims so far this month, the city’s deadliest in 15 years. Meanwhile, arrests have plunged: Police are booking fewer than half the number of people they pulled off the streets last year

• Arrests were already declining before Freddie Gray died on 19 April of injuries he suffered in police custody, but they dropped sharply thereafter, as his death unleashed protests, riots, the criminal indictment of six officers and a civil rights investigation by the DoJ

• At a city council meeting Wed night, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said, “What is happening, there is a lot of levels of confusion in the police organization.” He said there were officers who didn’t know whether they might be arrested if another officer did something illegal or if they themselves made a mistake


• Baltimore was already seeing a slight rise in homicides this year even before Gray’s death, but the 38 homicides so far in May is a major spike. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said her office is “examining” the relationship between the homicide spike and the dwindling arrest rate

• Batts acknowledged that “the service we’re giving is off-target with the community as a whole” and he promised to pay special attention to the Western District. Veronica Edmonds, who lives there, said: “If they focused more on criminals and left the petty stuff alone, the community would have more respect for police officers.”

• Meanwhile, lawyers for the six police officers facing criminal charges in the death of Gray are seeking to move proceedings outside the city, arguing that there’s no way the officers can get a fair trial after the intense media coverage and because all residents were affected by a city-wide curfew in response to rioting (think they have TV most places in the U.S., actually)


• Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sought to distance himself Thursday from an essay he wrote in 1972 that discusses rape fantasies. A spox called the essay a “dumb attempt at dark satire in an alternative publication.” The writing “in no way reflects his views or record on women” (Hill, CNN, Mother Jones)


WH: Iraq Must Step Up (Fox News, Hill, me)

• WH spox Josh Earnest on Thursday said to reporters, “The U.S. is not going to be responsible for securing the security situation inside of Iraq.” At the same time, the Pentagon is looking at ways to train and equip Sunni forces in Iraq faster after their embarrassing rout by ISIS in Ramadi last week

• “Our strategy is to support the Iraqi security forces in doing what we will not do for them,” Earnest said. “The U.S. is prepared to train them, to equip them, and to back them on the battlefield with coalition military air power as they take the fight to ISIL in their own country.”

• SecDef Ash Carter said Thursday that U.S. military leaders are looking for ways to better prepare Sunni tribes to join the fight. “That means training and equipping them,” Carter said, just days after he very publicly slammed Iraqi forces for showing “no will to fight” when they fled Ramadi even though they greatly outnumbered ISIS militants

• Iraqi officials have complained they’re not getting the heavy military equipment they need fast enough. Sunni fighters have complained they have never received money or equipment. A senior defense official said Carter isn’t considering providing weapons directly to the Sunnis, and still wants to work through the Iraqi govt (problem not solved, in that case)


Putin Declares Soldiers’ Deaths Secret (BBC, Reuters, BBC, me)

• Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to make losses of Russian troops in peacetime a secret. The amendment bans info about the deaths of Russian forces “during special operations” in peacetime

• The Kremlin has consistently denied sending regular troops and armor to help rebels in eastern Ukraine. (despite the fact that they’ve been clearly seen by journalists) But a new report from the Atlantic Council says Russia has been using training camps near the border as “launching points of Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

• The study claims to have tracked Russian involvement in the conflict using photos, videos and satellite images posted online. Putin’s move to ban info about peacetime military deaths comes amid fears of a fresh offensive by Russian-backed separatists. The authors say satellite images confirm the movement of Russian troops and camp buildups along the Ukrainian border

• Reuters reporters said they had observed this week Russia’s army massing troops and weaponry – including mobile rocket launchers, tanks and artillery – at a makeshift base in Kuzminsky, near the border with Ukraine. Reuters said servicemen had taken insignia off their fatigues and many vehicles had number plates removed

• Before the amendment was signed by Putin on Wednesday, the loss of troops was a state secret only in wartime. The decree gives no details of what is meant by “special operations.” For months there have been reports of secret burials of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine


• During a Twitter chat on climate change Thursday, President Obama went totally off topic and answered a question about the firing of coach Tom Thibodeau: “.@apat246 @chicagobulls love thibs and think he did a great job. Sorry to see him go but expect he will be snatched up soon by another team. @POTUS”

Live Anthrax Sent to 18 Labs? (WSJ, TRNS, me)

• Investigators believe live anthrax samples inadvertently may have been sent from an Army research facility to as many as 18 labs in nine states and South Korea, officials said Thursday. The U.S. military has ordered 22 service members and DoD civilians in South Korea who may have come near the live samples to take antibiotic Cipro as a precaution

• “There are no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infection in any of these personnel,” said Pentagon spox Col Steve Warren. In addition to South Korea, samples were also sent to labs in VA, MD, TX, WI, DE, TN, CA, NY and NJ

• The military sends both live and inactive anthrax samples by FedEx, sealed inside absorbent material and surrounded by dry ice, a military official said. The samples are also placed inside two containers to prevent any accidental leakage. Fedex said it’s “committed to the safe transport of all customer shipments.”

• At a briefing with reporters Thursday, Army chief of staff Gen Ray Odierno said the live anthrax spores survived the process that was supposed to kill the pathogen. “We followed all the procedures. The best I can tell, it was not human error.” (somebody’s error, anyway)


• Vanya Shivashankar, 13, of KS (“scherenschnitte” – scissor cuts in German), and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of MO (“nunatak” – exposed element of ridge or mountain), were declared co-winners of the National Spelling Bee. Second year in a row for a tie. There weren’t enough words left on the list for them to keep facing off until only one was left standing (CNN)


GOP’s Pataki is IN (Hill, C-Span, NYT)

• Former Gov George Pataki (R-NY) jumped into the 2016 race for the WH on Thursday, pitching himself as a “solutions guy.” “Washington politicians and bureaucrats think they know better than us,” Pataki said during a speech in Exeter NH, launching his campaign. “You are our servants, not our masters.”

• The long-shot candidate took aim at the Clintons’ wealth. “Unless by middle class they mean someone who left the WH dead broke and 10 years later had $100 million,” he said to cheers. “Unless by middle class they mean someone who charges a poor country $500,000 for a half hour speech. That’s their party’s candidate.”

• Pataki outlined issues he plans to push on the campaign trail, including repealing “oppressive laws like Obamacare and Common Core” and eliminating :excessive taxes that crush small businesses.” He also called for a simpler tax code. Pataki downplayed a new Quinnipiac poll showing that he didn’t register any support. “The polls have never bothered me,” he said

• Pataki appeared to get a bit lost for a moment during his speech, confusing Exeter with Nashua, an hour away. “…so too the dreams of a young child born today, whether in downtown Baltimore or here in Nashua, NH, can come true,” Pataki said as sweat poured from his forehead


• Rocking into the weekend with – it’s so hot that I was craving a “Summer Breeze” live 1972 – Seals and Crofts. Perfect for a day like today

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Luke Vargas, William McDonald, James Cullum and Washington Desk contributed to this report

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