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: Way out of the dead end?
  • GOP vows to fight net neutrality rules
  • IRS: “Potential criminal activity”
  • Red meat at CPAC
  • “Jihadi John” identified
  • GOP accuses HHS of hiding Obamacare plan
  • Netanyahu speech: Boehner weighs in
  • Cuba talks today: Embassies
  • Obama admin moves to ban bullet
  • Llamas on the llam: Llassoed
DHS: Way Out of the Dead End?

House Republicans on Thursday presented a plan for a stopgap bill that would fund the Dept of Homeland Security for three weeks, raising hopes of averting a looming shutdown of the agency. House Democrats decided to marshal support against it (WaPo, Politico, TRNS, me)

• Facing a Friday-night-into-Saturday-morning shutdown deadline, the plan might ultimately win support from lawmakers today. But its passage would only kick the can down the road for the next three weeks. Separately, the Senate was moving toward a final vote on a funding bill that wouldn’t go after President Obama’s immigration directives

• Exiting a closed-door GOP meeting, Republican members said the leadership presented the plan as a way to allow time for the House and Senate to try to go to conference on their competing bills. But Senate Democratic leaders have rejected the idea of a conference

• The Senate’s measure could face final passage today. But Speaker Boehner (R-OH) declined to say whether he’d take up the Senate bill in the House. He accused Senate Democrats of “blackmail to protect the actions of the president.” Meanwhile, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) called Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) a “coward” on the floor! Apology accepted

• Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) declined to say whether he would try to block a short-term stopgap bill if the House passed one. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued that a short-term bill isn’t an ideal solution. And there we are, folks, headed into today with funding running out at midnight…

• In case you missed John Oliver’s brilliant breakdown of net neutrality a couple of months ago, here it is again. He got so many people to contact the FCC, they may have broken its website

GOP Vows to Fight New Net Neutrality Rules

• Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) vowed that congressional Republicans would continue plans to thwart the FCC’s net neutrality rules approved Thursday. “More mandates and regulations on American innovation and entrepreneurship are not the answer,” he said in a statement (Hill, WaPo, TRNS, TRNS, me)

• The rules would dramatically expand the FCC’s oversight of the country’s high-speed broadband providers, regulating them like a public utility in an attempt to make sure the web remains a level playing field. They were adopted by a 3-2 margin with only the commission’s Republican members voting against them

• Under the rules, it will be illegal for companies such as Verizon or Cox Communications to slow down streaming videos, games and other online content traveling over their networks. They also will be prohibited from establishing “fast lanes” that speed up access to web sites that pay an extra fee

• And in an unprecedented move, the FCC could apply the rules to wireless carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint – a nod to the rapid rise of smartphones and the mobile internet

• Senate Commerce Committee chair John Thune (R-SD) has floated the idea of blocking the rules through the appropriations process or through the Congressional Review Act. He also said Thursday “there will be some interest” in a resolution of disapproval. A group of 21 House Republicans on Thursday urged leadership to take up a resolution that would block the regs


• The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 21-8 Thursday to move Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, to the Senate floor for a final confirmation vote. Republican Sens Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Orrin Hatch (UT) joined all the committee’s Democrats in voting yet (Politico, TRNS)


IRS: “Potential Criminal Activity”

• The IRS watchdog Thursday night said it’s probing whether there could be criminal activity involving the way IRS handled the lost-then-found emails of ex-official Lois Lerner, but it cautioned lawmakers not to jump to conclusions, as the investigation is ongoing (so why a hearing now?) (Politico, Hill, me)

• The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Admin, J. Russell George and a deputy, told lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee that the IG is working with an outside data recovery expert to examine several methods to capture the emails of Lerner, the official mired in the tea party scandal. The IRS had said the emails were not recoverable

• In addition, TIGTA learned two weeks ago that there were more than 400 more additional back-up tapes that IRS didn’t disclose to the agency for examination when it opened its probe last summer and asked for all the relevant back-ups. They believe those could include more Lerner emails from 2011

“Believe Some Tapes Were Erased”

• “There is potential criminal activity,” Deputy IG for Investigations Timothy Camus said, when pressed. When ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked if he received an answer from the IRS about why they withheld the docs, Camus responded, “That’s the most important part of the investigation at this point – whether there was any ill intent in it.”

• He later opened up even more questions, telling lawmakers that “I believe some tapes were erased but I am not at the point in my investigation that I can explain, without jeopardizing the investigation, about whether that was done on purpose.”

• The IRS noted in a statement that it remains committed to cooperating with Congress regarding the controversy. There was no IRS official testifying at the hearing to respond to the specific comments

• Rep Gerry Connolly (D-VA), among other Democrats, called George’s integrity into question. They’ve asked an IG to probe whether the watchdog, a former President George W. Bush appointee and former Republican staffer on the House Oversight Committee, is biased in his work

Red Meat at CPAC

• Gov Bobby Jindal (R-LA), an Indian American, said, “There is nothing wrong with saying, ‘If you want to come to America, you should want to be an American.. There is nothing wrong with saying that English is our language, and we’re going to teach American exceptionalism to our children in civics. I’m tired of hyphenated Americans.” (TPM, Hill, Politico, me)

• Dr Ben Carson opened CPAC with a professorial speech that slammed progressive govt programs and policies. “It really is not compassionate to pat people on the head and say, ‘There there, you poor little thing, I’m going to take care of all of your needs.’ That’s not compassion. That’s the opposite of compassion.”

• Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who laid off nearly 18,000 workers during her tenure at the company, challenged Hillary Clinton during her speech. “Mrs Clinton, name an accomplishment.” “Hillary likes hashtags,” Fiorina said. “But she doesn’t know what leadership means.”

• Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ) blasted the media during a Q&A with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham. He touted his anti-abortion record. “People make certain assumptions because you’re from New Jersey, because you’re a Republican from New Jersey. Don’t believe what the media will tell you,” he said

• Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) is slated to say today: “We need to return to our founding principles and stand up for the entire Bill of Rights. Our future can include a road back to prosperity – back to respect at home and abroad. It should include a balanced budget and a simple, fair tax system.”


• Vid: OMG! Gov Scott Walker (R-WI) at CPAC claimed that if he can take on 100,000 (peace-loving American) union protesters, he can take on “the world” – meaning ISIS. Because – they’re the same? Pesky? Brandishing swords? Cutting off heads?

“Jihadi John” Identified

• Mohammed Emwazi, 26, was identified Thursday and first named by WaPo as the masked ISIS fighter called “Jihadi John.” He was 6 when his parents moved to West London from Kuwait. His journey from computer student to a murderous spox for ISIS is only beginning to come clear (not very) (NYT, WaPo, me)

• He came to the attention of the British intel services in May 2009, detained as he landed in Tanzania with two friends on what he described as a celebratory safari for graduation. British officials thought he and his friends were headed to Somalia to fight with terrorist group Al Shabab, and allegedly tried to recruit him as an informant before shipping him back home

• How and when he was radicalized, and whether the British intel services were at fault – either dealing with him too harshly or not identifying him as a serious threat soon enough – is already the subject of hot debate

• Given important constitutional and legal protections, how do Western counterterrorism and police officials draw the line when they find enough evidence to suspect someone, but don’t have enough to prosecute them, or even to keep them under legal surveillance?


• Emwazi appears in 2011 court docs, obtained by the BBC, as a member of a network of extremists who funneled funds, equipment and recruits “from the UK to Somalia to undertake terrorism-related activity.” He’s alleged to be part of a group from West and North London with links to Al Shabab, organized by a person who had returned to London in Feb 2007

• Another person associated with that group fought in Somalia and was killed in a drone strike in 2012. Another member of the group said he was going on safari and eventually made it to Somalia. So it’s likely that Emwazi’s safari set off alarms with the British security services and that he’d started on the road to radicalization before his encounter with MI5 in 2009

• Asim Qureshi, research director at CAGE, a controversial British advocacy organization opposed to what it calls the “war on terror,” met with Emwazi in the fall of 2009. Emwazi was very angry at his treatment at the hands of British security services, Qureshi said, and the two stayed in contact for two years


• Qureshi blamed Emwazi’s treatment for his radicalization, describing harassment by police officers at airports, pressure on Kuwait to cancel a visa and on one occasion, Emwazi being “roughed up” and “strangled by a police officer” before being sent home

• There’s a conflicting set of interpretations. Some see a young Muslim man treated badly, put into a headlock, barred from traveling and induced to betray his friends, and those who say that such treatment is not any reason for repeatedly cutting off the heads of civilians taken hostage

• Further, there are others who are wondering how security services can identify potential terrorists like Emwazi, but then fail to recognize what risk they pose

• J.M. Berger, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and co-author of a new book on the history of ISIS, said that the narrative of police harassment doesn’t explain it. “Malcolm X and MLK got a lot more pressure from police, and neither decided that decapitating people is the right response,” he said


• Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Thursday told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “When the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been compiled.” (TRNS)


GOP Accuses HHS of Hiding Obamacare Plan

• Rep Joe Pitts (R-PA), chair of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, is accusing the Obama admin of secretly preparing a fallback strategy if the Supreme Court strikes down a major part of the healthcare law later this year, even as officials publicly maintain that no plan exists (Hill, me)

• Pitts said federal officials are hiding their roughly 100-page doc on the looming court case. The case, King v. Burwell, could cut off Obamacare subsidies in three quarters of states and potentially collapse the national marketplace

• HHS Sec Sylvia Mathews Burwell said, “This is a document I’m not aware of,” in response to Pitts’s questions, before moving on to outline the negative effects of a ruling against the law. “We believe we do not have any administrative actions.”

• Rep Joe Barton (R-TX) pressed Burwell: “I take you at your word that you haven’t seen the plan, but don’t you think it’s prudent that there should be a plan? I hope I don’t have a primary opponent, I hope I don’t have a general election opponent, but I have a plan in case I do.”

• Burwell repeatedly held her line. “We don’t have an administrative action that we could take so the question of having a plan, we don’t have any administrative action that we believe could undo the damage.” (astonishing)

Netanyahu Speech: Boehner Weighs In

• House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Thursday said, “The president’s national security adviser says it’s destructive for the prime minister of Israel to address the U.S. Congress. I couldn’t disagree more. The American people and both parties in Congress have always stood with Israel and nothing, and no one, could get in the way.” (Reuters, me)

• SecState John Kerry met behind closed doors with Senate Democrats on Thursday. Lawmakers said he wasn’t overly optimistic about the Iran negotiations but he opposed new sanctions and a proposal to have Congress vote on any nuclear agreement

• There was one sign of bipartisanship Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that PM Netanyahu would meet with him and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) after the speech next Tuesday. Several Democratic lawmakers are skipping the speech, as they say it’s too close to the Israeli elections and was a snub to the president

• The WH said national security adviser Susan Rice and UN Ambassador Samantha Power would address the annual convention next week of the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby group, where Netanyahu is also speaking. President Obama, VP Joe Biden or SecState John Kerry are not going to address the event

• Boehner expressed doubts about the nuclear talks as he defended the invitation to Netanyahu. “What is destructive in my view is making a bad deal that paves the way for a nuclear Iran. That is destructive.” Boehner broke precedent by inviting Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the WH or Democratic lawmakers

• Vid: Sesame Street does a “House of Cards” parody – and it’s goood: “House of Bricks” – based on Three Little Pigs. Season 3 “House of Cards” (American) is released in its entirely on Netflix TODAY. We know why you’re not at work


Cuba Talks Today: Embassies

• The second round of U.S.-Cuba talks, to be held today at the State Dept, is expected to be a nuts and bolts negotiating session to restore diplomatic ties between the two nations. During the historic first meeting on 22 Jan, both sides laid out their positions and it was clear there were differences (Miami Herald, me)

• A senior State official said this round will be devoted entirely to matters related to opening embassies – unlike the Havana talks, which also included discussions about human rights and areas of mutual cooperation such as the fight against Ebola, environmental protection and combating human and narcotics trafficking

• Among the topics the U.S. delegation wants to discuss are ensuring the ability of its diplomats to travel freely throughout the island, unfettered access by Cubans to the future embassy and unimpeded deliveries to it

• During the Havana talks, the Cuban side said before embassies could be opened, the banking problem at Cuba’s missions in Washington and at the UN would have to be resolved. For the past year, no bank has wanted to handle Cuba’s accounts, putting the missions on a cash-only basis. One reason is that Cuba remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism

• Meanwhile, two bills have been introduced in Congress to lift the embargo and further expand Cuba travel for Americans, but anti-rapprochement forces in Congress, including the Cuban-American delegation, want to roll back the opening toward Cuba

• Vine: In an attempt to debunk global warming, Sen Jim Inhofe (R-OK) did an odd thing in the Senate Thursday. He threw a DC snowball onto the Senate floor.  Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) responded that you can believe every “major American scientific society,” the Navy, NASA and Pope Francis, or “the senator with the snowball” (ABCNews, me)


Obama Admin Moves to Ban Bullet

• President Obama’s admin has proposed banning the manufacture and sale of one of the most popular bullets used in AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, a move that has enraged gun rights advocates and caused a run on the ammunition at gun shops across the country (NYT, me)

• The ATF said this month that it planned to restrict the armor-piercing 5.56-millimeter “M855 green tip” rifle bullet because of new handguns that use the ammunition and pose a greater threat to the police. Gun control organizations said police had pushed for the new rule because the bullets can easily pierce bulletproof vests and new armor

• The NRA and other gun rights groups have sent out urgent alerts to their members accusing President Obama of seeking to enact by the backdoor gun control measures that he couldn’t pass in Congress in 2013. They said their members had sent tens of thousands of letters to Congress echoing that message and demanding the rule not be approved

• Patrick Rodenbush, a DoJ spox, said, “ATF is simply proposing and requesting public comment on a framework to enforce the law that Congress passed and provide guidance for the industry through a transparent process for making exemption decisions.”

• In the wake of failure to pass gun control legislation after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Obama pledged that it had been only “Round 1” in the gun control effort and repeatedly said that he would do whatever he could as president to fight for more gun restrictions

• This blew up the internet Thursday. What color is that dress? Buzzfeed breaks down (of course they do) whether it’s blue and black or white and gold (obviously, it’s blue and black, duh). #SchroedingersDress became a thing.. … Members of Congress (with not much to do) tweeted about it. Buzzfeed got 20m views for its original post of the pic of “that dress”


Llamas on the Lam: Lassoed

• A large, white llama and a smaller black llama darted through the streets of Sun City AZ during the lunch hour Thursday, dashing in and out of traffic, before they were captured by authorities. The fugitive llamas were part of a trio that were making a therapy visit to residents at a senior assisted living facility (lively morning for the residents) (AP, Buzzfeed, me)

• Sen John McCain (R-AZ) and the Arizona Cardinals got in on the fun. McCain tweeted he was “glad that #LlamaDrama 2015 has been peacefully resolved!” The Cardinals tweeted that team “agreed to one-year deals with the #llamasontheloose,” promising the animals a salary in hay

• Even the North American Aerospace Defense Command tweeted: “Llama had no known connections to ISIS. Appears to have self-radicalized.” For more than an hour, residents at the facility petted them and walked them up and down the halls. When they went outside for a bathroom break, one got startled and took off, with the second llama in pursuit

• The llamas got round the corner of the building and broke into a run down the street. The animals galloped along the sidewalk, through manicured yards and along street medians. The llamas thwarted numerous attempts by sheriff’s deputies and bystanders to round them up before they were roped into custody

• The black llama was captured first. The white one was nabbed after two men in the back of a moving pickup repeatedly threw out a lasso. It took three men to secure the rope. Buzzfeed secured an exclusive interview with White Llama, who revealed he wasn’t caught; instead he gave himself up to be reunited with Black Llama

• Here’s the Great Arizona Llama Chase of 2015 – the second Vine down is a scream. Here’s Buzzfeed’s important quiz: Which Runaway Llama Are You?

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar, James Cullum, Midori Nishida and Loretta Lewis contributed to this report

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