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

  • DHS: Edging beyond deadlock?
  • In Miami, Obama pushes GOP buttons
  • Conservatives come to the Capitol
  • FCC vote today: Net neutrality
  • U.S. / Israel tensions rise
  • 3 Brooklyn men charged: Supporting ISIS
  • Mother refused passport to one man
  • Loretta Lynch: AG vote scheduled today
  • Clinton Foundation in hot water over funding
  • SCOTUS: Headscarf ban
  • SCOTUS: Fisherman wins with fishy tale

DHS: Senators Move to End Funding Deadlock

• Senate Democrats added to the pressure on House Republicans Wednesday by saying they’d support a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to consider a bill that deals only with providing funding for the dept. The legislation cleared a procedural hurdle 98-2. A vote could take place today (NYT, TRNS, me)

• The dispute over money to keep the dept running has emerged as a proxy fight about President Obama’s immigration policies, as well as a major test for Republicans to show they can function as a governing party in Congress. (not be “scary”) But the plan emerging for the Senate is already being criticized by House Republicans

• Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told his GOP conference at a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning that he and McConnell hadn’t spoken in two weeks, something several lawmakers said they found surprising. Boehner also hasn’t taken a position publicly on the Senate proposal, though the two men met privately for 40 minutes Wed afternoon

• Rep Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), majority leader, told his members to keep their schedules “flexible,” and to expect a lot of late nights and early mornings, as well as maybe a weekend session. Another option emerging Wed was a short-term funding measure, either for a few months, or at least a few days until lawmakers figure out a plan

• But if Boehner and his leadership team do ultimately try to pass a “clean” bill with no immigration-related amendments, the Republican base “would be extremely angry,” said Rep John Fleming (R-LA). “So this is very, very delicate territory for our leadership.” DHS funding expires Friday…

 

In Miami, Obama Pushes GOP Buttons

• “Instead of trying to hold hostage funding for the Dept of Homeland Security, which is so important for our national security, fund that, and let’s get on with actually passing comprehensive immigration reform,” President Obama told about 270 people at a town-hall style meeting for Telemundo Wednesday at Florida International University in Miami (NYT, me)

• Obama was referring to Republican plans to prevent any money, whether through the appropriations process or through fees collected from immigration applications, from being used for any of the president’s existing or future executive actions on immigration. Funding for DHS expires Friday

• Obama tangled at times with moderator Jose Diaz-Balart of MSNBC, who read a question from a participant charging that both parties had used the immigration issue for political gain. “That’s just not true, the notion that Democrats and Republicans played political Ping Pong,” Obama shot back (errrr)

• “The blockage has been very specific on one side,” Obama added. “Let’s not be confused about why we don’t have comprehensive immigration reform right now. It’s very simple: The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, refused to call a bill.” (he didn’t)

• Obama said voters must push presidential candidates for 2016. “When they start asking for votes, the first question should be, ‘Do you really intend to deport 11 million people?’ ‘And if not, what is your plan to make sure that they have the ability to have a legal status, stay with their families and ultimately, contribute to the United States of America?'”

 

• 54% of Republicans answered “Muslim” when asked which religion describes President Obama’s “deep down” beliefs, according to a newly released poll by the University of California at Merced. Options were “Muslim, Christian, atheist, spiritual or I don’t know.” 10% of Democrats and 26% of Independents answered “Muslim” as well (Vox)

 

Conservatives Come to the Capitol

• All the top-tier potential Republican presidential contenders are slated to speak over the three day annual Conservative Political Action Conference starting today in National Harbor MD. It’s an annual ritual that tests ambitious Republicans’ ability to speak to and inspire the party’s most conservative members (FT, Hill, me)

• The audience poses a special test for former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL), viewed with suspicion by party activists for his views on immigration and education. Fox News host Sean Hannity will interview Bush on Friday. Bush is planning to use his time at the podium Friday to take questions rather than give a speech – good plan, his speeches have been wooden

• Conference organizers have also planned, in a new format, to have others take questions after giving their speeches. The event will give Gov Scott Walker (R-WI) a chance to hone his message to the party’s base. Will he address the controversy over his refusal to say that President Obama loves America? Most in the audience probably don’t think he does, either

• Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) is likely to do well because the audience is usually thick with young people. (it’s a massive hook-up event) Last year and in 2013, Paul came out on top (pardon pun) of the presidential straw poll that’s conducted every year at the conference

• Other candidates will use the occasion to try to break out of the pack as Walker did last month in Iowa. Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ), Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gov Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL), former Gov Rick Perry (R-TX), former Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA), Gov Mike Pence (R-IN), Dr Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina will all speak. Mike Huckabee’s skipping

• Donald Trump says he’s “more serious than ever” about pursuing a run for the WH in 2016. In recent days, Trump says, he’s hired staffers in key primary states, retained an election attorney and delayed signing on for another season as host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice because of his political projects (WaPo)

 

FCC Vote Today: Net Neutrality

• The FCC is expected today to approve regulating internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the internet. Republicans on Capitol Hill say they’re unlikely to pass a legislative response that would undo perhaps the biggest policy shift since the internet became a reality (NYT, AP, Politico, me)

• FCC chair Tom Wheeler made some last minute revisions after Google and public interest groups pressed for changes. They asked for revised language they said could unintentionally allow internet service providers to charge websites for sending content to consumers. The exact scope of the changes isn’t clear. Don’t appear to alter the main thrust of the order

• The FCC plan would let the agency regulate internet access as if it’s a public good. It would follow the concept known as net neutrality or an open internet, banning so-called paid prioritization – or fast lanes – for willing internet content providers. The rules are likely to be tied up in a protracted court fight with cable cos and internet service providers

• In addition, it would ban the intentional slowing of the internet for companies that refuse to pay broadband providers. The plan would also give the FCC the power to step in if unforeseen impediments are thrown up by the handful of giant companies than run many of the country’s broadband and wireless networks

• The FCC hasn’t proposed regulating internet content or controlling access to websites. The new rules won’t apply new fees or taxes. The Internet Tax Freedom Act bans taxes on internet service and that law should still apply. Broadband providers will not have to get their rates approved ahead of time by the FCC. The FCC can investigate consumer complaints

• President Obama on Wednesday authorized the creation of a new govt agency for cybersecurity. It’s intended to combine cybersecurity data from across the intelligence community to give the govt a more holistic picture of various cyber threats (Hill, TRNS)

 

U.S. / Israel Tensions Rise

• Trading barbs, the U.S. and Israel escalated their increasingly public spat Wednesday over Benjamin Netanyahu’s GOP-engineered congressional speech next week. The Israeli PM lashed out at the U.S. and other usual staunch allies of Israel (AP, Hill, TPM, Times of Israel, me)

• “It appears that they have given up on that commitment and are accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, will develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons. They might accept this but I am not willing to accept this,” Netanyahu said in remarks delivered in Hebrew in Israel and translated

• SecState John Kerry, testifying on Capitol Hill in DC, dismissed Netanyahu’s worries. “Israel is safer today with the added time we have given and the stoppage of the advances in the nuclear program than they were before we got that agreement, which by the way the prime minister opposed. He was wrong.”

&&&

• Two more Democrats joined the list of those skipping Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next Tuesday. Sen Tim Kaine (D-VA) said the speech was “highly inappropriate” given its proximity to Israel’s 27 March elections. Rep Jan Schakowsky (R-IL), who is Jewish, said in a statement, “If the talks are to fail, let Iran be the party that walks away from the table rather than the U.S.”

• The WH has been weighing ways to counter Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, as well as his separate speech to the annual policy conference of AIPAC. There are no plans for President Obama to meet with Netanyahu and both VP Joe Biden and SecState John Kerry will be out of the country during Netanyahu’s visit

• Meanwhile, in Israel Wednesday, politicians traded accusations over who was to blame for the country’s housing crisis and vowed to fix the problem, in the wake of a state report that placed the blame for runaway housing costs squarely on govt agencies. Netanyahu held power for four of the five years studied and came under fire from opponents (politics = local?)

 

3 Brooklyn Men Charged: Supporting ISIS

• Three Brooklyn men were charged Wednesday with aiding ISIS, which has been actively recruiting young people from around the world to aid in its fight. At least two of the men had threatened to carry out attacks in the U.S if they failed in their attempt to travel overseas, according to the govt (NYT, TRNS, me)

• Two of the men, Akhror Saidakhmetov and Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, appeared in federal court in NYC Wed afternoon and were ordered held without bail. Abror Habibov appeared in federal court in Florida and was also held without bail. One man was arrested as he tried to board a flight to Istanbul at JFK• In a speech earlier Wednesday, FBI director James Comey, said, “I have homegrown violent extremist investigations in every single state.” ISIS “is putting out a siren song through their slick propaganda through social media that goes like this: – – –
• “- – -Troubled soul, come to the caliphate, you will live a life of glory, these are the apocalyptic end times, you will find a life of meaning here fighting for our so-called caliphate, and if you can’t come, kill somebody where you are.” The men charged on Wednesday, appeared to fit that mold, according to court docs
• Vid: New Zealand’s parliament gets down to it in a debate over sending troops to fight ISIS. “Get some guts and join the right side!” PM John Key yells at the Labour opposition. Rousing stuff

 

Mother Refused Passport to One Man

• The men were influenced by videos posted online by ISIS, inspired by messages on social media and compelled to act after months of becoming increasingly radicalized. The court docs show young men driven to travel thousands of miles even as they clashed at home with family members they considered infidels (NYT, me)

• One court doc says Saidakhmetov, 19, called his mother to ask for his passport. When asked where he wanted to go, he responded that if a person has a chance to join ISIS and doesn’t go there, on judgment day he will be asked why and that it’s a sin to live in the land of the infidels. After he continued to ask for his passport, his mother hung up the phone (!)

• In August 2014, a person whose internet address matched Juraboev, posted to a pro-ISIS website: “I am in USA now but we don’t have any arms. But is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here? What I’m saying is, to shoot Obama and then get shot ourselves, will it do?”

• Soon after Saidakhmetov bought his ticket, he told the informer that “if they were detected at the airport, they could kill a police officer and use the officer’s gun to shoot other law enforcement officers that arrived on the scene,” the court papers say

• Juraboev is a permanent resident of the U.S. and a citizen of Uzbekistan. Saidakhmetov, also a permanent resident, is a citizen of Kazakhstan. Habibov is a citizen of Uzbekistan

 

• Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, said before the third anniversary of her 17-year-old son’s death that she still believes George Zimmerman got away with murder. “He took a life, carelessly and recklessly, and he shouldn’t deserve to have his entire life walking around on the street free.” (AP, me)

 

Loretta Lynch: Up for AG Vote Today

• Almost four months after Loretta Lynch was picked by President Obama to be the next attorney general, the longest wait in modern history, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to approve her nomination today, with at least three Republicans joining the committee’s Democrats in backing her (NYT, Politico, me)

• Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York, will then face a challenge on the Senate floor from Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other staunch conservatives. They’ve called on all Senate Republicans to reject her nomination, in part because she’s defended Obama’s executive actions on immigration

• She’s likely to squeak through. Under Senate rules engineered by the Democrats – and not changed by the new Republican majority – a simple majority vote of 51 can thwart a filibuster and confirm a nominee

• Lynch’s Republican critics will be allowed time on the Senate floor to lay out their objections, slowing the process. Lynch was asked to respond in writing to a whopping 850 questions after her confirmation hearing in January. She would be the first African-American woman to lead the DoJ

• “I would think as we approach the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma, that the Republicans should be more sensitive to what they’re doing to this woman,” said Sen Dick Durbin (D-IL), the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “She deserves not only to be reported out of Judiciary, but to be considered on the floor quickly.”

 

• Possession of small quantities of pot is now legal in DC as of 12.01 am today. Except: Map: Federal land where pot is still illegal – don’t toke (WaPo) and here’s Everything you need to know to stay out of jail (WaPo). Congressional Republicans threatened new DC mayor with jail if she went forward with the legalization – she did it anyway (WaPo, TRNS, me)
Clinton Foundation Accepted $$$$ from Foreign Govts / Clinton SecState

• The Clinton Foundation accepted millions from foreign govts when Hillary Clinton was SecState. Officials with the foundation disclosed the donations from seven countries, including Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Algeria, Australia, Norway and the Dominican Republic to WaPo on Wednesday (WaPo, Hill, WSJ, me)

• The Clinton Foundation’s fundraising practices have attracted scrutiny as Hillary Clinton prepares for a 2016 presidential bid. The foundation during Clinton’s tenure was under a self-imposed ban on accepting contributions from foreign govts, meant to address concerns from the Obama admin about ethical issues

• Under the agreement, State Dept ethics officials had to approve donations. But exceptions to that agreement allowed the foundation to continue accepting some funds, according to WaPo, including a provision allowing govts that had previously donated to continue (hmmm)

• Foundation officials said that in one case, State Dept approval wasn’t sought for a $500,000 donation from the Algerian govt, which was spent on relief work in Haiti after a deadly 2010 earthquake. The Post says that at that time, Algeria’s govt was lobbying State Dept officials on human rights issues

• The Clinton Foundation said that the donations were used for humanitarian work around the globe. Last week, WSJ reported that the Foundation had dropped the ban after Clinton left State. A report in WaPo last week noted that many donors were also contributors to political groups backing the Clintons. Conservative groups have pounced on those reports

 

• The WH threatened Wednesday to veto a Republican bill to overhaul the widely criticized No Child Left Behind law, calling the effort “a significant step backwards.” The veto threat came as lawmakers began debate on the measure in the House. A vote is expected on Friday (Hill)
SCOTUS: Headscarf Ban

• A majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices Wednesday signaled support for a Muslim woman, Samantha Elauf, who filed a lawsuit after she was denied a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store in Tulsa Oklahoma because she wore a headscarf for religious reasons when she was 17 in 2008 (Reuters, TRNS, me)

• The legal question is whether Elauf was required to ask for a religious accommodation in order for the company to be sued under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which, among other things, bans employment discrimination based on religious beliefs and practices

• Elauf was wearing a headscarf, or hijab, at the job interview but didn’t specifically say that, as a Muslim, she wanted the company to give her a religious accommodation. The company denied her the job on the grounds that wearing the scarf violated its “look policy” for members of the sales staff, intended to promote the brand’s East Coast collegiate image

• During oral argument, it seemed the court’s four liberal justices are likely to vote in Elauf’s favor. Conservative Justice Samuel Alito seems set to follow suit. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg criticized the company’s argument that its decision not to hire her was based on the “look policy” and whether Elauf was a Muslim was irrelevant

• Ginsburg said the civil rights law required certain people to be treated differently to other applicants if they have a religious requirement. “They don’t have to accommodate a baseball cap. They do have to accommodate a yarmulke,” Ginsburg said in reference to the cap worn by some Jewish men

 

SCOTUS: Fisherman Wins With Fishy Tale

• A Florida fisherman narrowly defeated the govt 5-4 at the Supreme Court Wednesday, in a ruling that said that the three undersized red grouper he threw overboard to avoid an inspector were not covered by an obstruction of justice provision in a financial fraud statute (Politico, NYT, TRNS, me)

• Lawyers for fisherman John Yates convinced five justices that his fish caper didn’t run afoul of a provision of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law barring destruction of “any record, document, or tangible object” with the intent to interfere with a federal investigation

• Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg won the votes of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and liberals Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor for an opinion that found Congress would need to be more clear it intended to cover objects like fish if it really wanted them covered by a law targeting those cooking the books on Wall Street and at firms like Enron

• Democratic appointee Elena Kagan argued that fish fit within the plain meaning of “tangible object.” Alluding to a dictionary definition, she wrote: “A fish is, of course, a discrete thing that possesses physical form. See generally Dr. Seuss, One Fish two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960).” She also worked in a Mad Libs reference. Joined by Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy

• Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion. “The term ‘tangible object’ should refer to something similar to records or documents. A fish does not spring to mind – nor does an antelope, a colonial farmhouse, a hydrofoil or an oil derrick.”

 

• Gifs, pics: Madonna blames designer Armani for her fall down the stairs while onstage at the BRIT Awards – she says her cape was tied too tight. I know. We’ve all had that problem, Madge. Needless to say, it’s gone viral… (Buzzfeed, me)

 

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______________Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Shane Farnan, Mary Jarvis and William McDonald contributed to this report

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