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

  • Ferguson: 2 police officers shot
  • GOP Iran letter: Kerry – “flat wrong”
  • Iran letter: GOP in defense crouch
  • Drunk Secret Service agents crash WH barricades?
  • Is Hillary Clinton ready for prime time?
  • AUMF has no oomf in hearing
  • Bbbudget time again
  • Pols: End gerrymandering
  • Are our nuclear reactors safe? Hint 🙁
Ferguson: 2 Police Officers Shot
• Two police officers were shot around midnight outside the Ferguson PD at a protest following the resignation of the city’s police chief, St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said today. He said a 32-year-old officer was shot in the face and a a 41-year-old officer was shot in the shoulder. Both taken to hospital. Injuries “very serious.” Unknown who shot the officers (AP, NYT, me)

• Ferguson Chief Thomas Jackson became the sixth city official to fall in the wake of a scathing DoJ report that accused the city of using its municipal court and police force as moneymaking tools that routinely violated constitutional rights and disproportionately targeted blacks

• Jackson took nearly a week to publicly identify Darren Wilson as the officer who shot black teenager Michael Brown and then further heightened tension in the community by releasing Wilson’s name at the same time as store security video that police said showed Brown stealing a box of cigars and shoving a clerk only a short time before his death

• In 2011, when Jackson reported to John Shaw, then the city manager, that court revenue for Feb 2011 was more than $179,000, the highest monthly total in four years, Shaw responded in an email, “Wonderful!” the DoJ report said

• A U.S. law enforcement official said Wednesday the DoJ had not pressured or encouraged Jackson to resign during meetings with him but had also not resisted the idea
• Very raw amateur video captures moment of police shooting in Ferguson – contains vulgarities
GOP Iran Letter: Kerry – “Flat wrong”
• SecState John Kerry, Washington’s senior representative in talks with Tehran, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he reacted with “utter disbelief” to a letter earlier this week signed by 47 Republican senators warning Iran’s leaders that an accord with President Obama’s team could expire the day he leaves office (AP, WSJ, Hill, me)

• “We’ve been clear from the beginning: We’re not negotiating a, quote, legally binding plan,” Kerry told the panel. “We’re negotiating a plan that will have in it the capacity for enforcement. We don’t even have diplomatic relations with Iran right now.” (as his head slowly exploded in frustration)

• Kerry said the letter posted Monday by freshman Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR) “ignores more than two centuries of precedent in the conduct of American foreign policy.” Whereas formal treaties require ratification by 2/3 of the Senate, “the vast majority of international arrangements and agreements do not,” he said

• “And around the world today we have all kinds of executive agreements that we deal with” from protecting U.S. troops in Afghanistan to “any number of noncontroversial, broadly supported foreign policy goals.” Kerry will meet with Iran’s FM Javad Zarif next week in Switzerland for another round of talks (they’ll commiserate over hardliners in their govts)

• Kerry said the senators’ letter “erroneously asserts that this is a legally binding plan. It’s not, that’s number one. Number two, it’s incorrect when it says that Congress could actually modify the terms of an agreement at any time. That’s flat wrong. They don’t have the right to modify an agreement reached executive to executive between leaders.”

• A WH petition calling for charges of treason against the 47 senators had garnered 206,518 signatures last time I looked this morning
Iran Letter: GOP in Defense Crouch
• Republicans on Wednesday were playing defense on Iran after blowback from an open letter to Tehran’s leadership signed by 47 GOP senators. “I didn’t think it was going to further our efforts to get to a place where Congress would play the appropriate role that it should on Iran,” said Sen Bob Corker (R-TN), who did not sign the letter (Hill, WaPo, Daily Beast, Politico, TRNS, me)

• Sen John McCain (R-AZ), a signer, blamed increasing partisanship for the conditions that spawned the letter. He pointed to the president’s executive actions on immigration and normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba. “This has established a poisoned environment here which sometimes causes us to react maybe in not the most effective fashion.”

• Freshman Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR), the author, wrote an oped in USA Today. Cotton said the admin “cares little” about what kind of accord would win congressional approval and more about reaching “some sort of deal.” He wrote, “It appears the deal President Obama is negotiating with Iran will not be a good one.” (how does he know if he’s being kept in the dark?)


• For the third consecutive day, the WH ripped the letter. Spox Josh Earnest called it an attempt to “sandbag” Obama during nuclear talks and leave only a military option on the table to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. He called it “not just unprecedented but inappropriate.”

• Earnest said “it’s just not true” that Congress has been cut out of the negotiations, saying that senior admin officials have kept select lawmakers updated on the talks (not fresher Tom Cotton, then)

• When he was in the House in 2013, Cotton introduced an amendment to prosecute the relatives of those who violated sanctions on Iran, saying that his proposed penalties of up to 20 years in prison would “include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” including “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.”

• The Constitution expressly prohibits “corruption of blood” penalties. Given the stupidity to introduce it –  imprison great grandchildren? Really? Even his fellow Republicans thought Cotton’s amendment was nuts

• A search is underway for seven Marines and four soldiers after their Army helicopter came down while night training in Florida. A spox for Eglin Air Force Base said human remains have washed ashore, but officials still consider it a search and rescue mission (BBC)
Drunk Secret Service Agents Crash WH Barricades?
• Secret Service director Joseph Clancy has directed the Dept of Homeland Security’s IG to investigate allegations that two senior Secret Service agents, including a top member of the president’s protective detail, drove a govt car into WH security barricades after drinking at a late-night party last week (WaPo, CBS, me)

• Officers on duty who witnessed the 4 March incident (gobsmacked, presumably) wanted to arrest the agents and conduct sobriety tests, according to a current and former govt official familiar with the incident. But the officers were ordered by a supervisor on duty to let the agents go home. (naughty) Reassigned to non-supervisory, non-operational assignments

• CBS News reported that a senior admin official said, “Are you kidding me? This can’t possibly be true.” And: “This is a joke, right?” Reps Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) from House Oversight Committee, said in a rare joint statement that “this event … exhibits a clear lack of judgment in a potentially dangerous situation.”

• It happened on the WH compound near 15th St NW and Freedom Plaza as DC police officers and Secret Service officers were trying to clear the scene because of an investigation of a suspicious package. The car’s overhead flashing lights had been activated and both agents were showing badges to get through the closed off section of the grounds

• The vehicle ran through security tape before hitting the barricades, which had been set up temporarily during the investigation of the package. Secret Service rules prohibit turning on flashing lights without a security reason and driving a govt vehicle after drinking alcohol. Officers hadn’t yet determined whether the package was a threat (vehicle was, though…)
• A report by 21 aid agencies says it has been the “worst year” for civilians as the conflict in Syria enters its fifth year. Life expectancy has decreased by 20 years. Another humanitarian report says 83% of the lights in Syria have gone out since the conflict began in March 2011 (BBC)
Is Clinton Ready for Prime Time?
• Senior Democrats are increasingly worried that Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t ready to run for president, fearing that the clumsy and insular handling of the nine-day fracas over her private emails was a warning sign about the campaign expected to launch next month. Many said she performed adequately at a Tuesday presser (she didn’t) (WaPo, me)

• “Had this story been responded to in two or three days instead of in eight days, it would not be as big,” said Robert Gibbs, a former WH spox under President Obama. “They are the ones who put air in this balloon in a way that was not necessary at all. …It’s clear they lack an apparatus. She’s a candidate without a campaign.” No comment from Clinton campaign spox

• Last week, supporters in Congress and others were willing to go on cable TV to defend Clinton on the emails but were puzzled when her aides didn’t provide talking points or other info that might help thme, according to Clinton allies. “A lot of people were flying blind,” said one anonymous Democratic ally. Requests for info “were met with dead silence.”


• Many Democrats who want Clinton to succeed lament that she has stepped back into the political arena in a defensive posture, reminding voters what they disliked about the Clinton scandals of the 1990s. “This begins her campaign in a bad place – it’s the gateway drug to the past,” said one anonymous Democratic strategist and presidential campaign veteran

• Clinton’s been operating without a full team. While campaign-manager-in-waiting Robby Mook and longtime confidant Huma Abedin are already on board, some senior aides tapped for the campaign are not yet, including Jennifer Palmieri, who will become communications director, but still holds the same position in the Obama WH

• Some Democrats also believe that Clinton comes off as coy or cynical by repeatedly insisting she hasn’t made a decision to run for president, even as she signs up dozens of senior campaign staffers in New York, Iowa and elsewhere

• House Republican leaders are quietly considering a vote next week on legislation that would abolish cuts to Medicare payments, a policy change that could cost upwards of $174 billion to enact. It would be a huge gamble because fiscal conservatives are likely to revolt at legislation that adds to the deficit (Hill, me)
AUMF Has No Oomf in Hearing
• SecState John Kerry, SecDef Ashton Carter and chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey, appearing at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, urged lawmakers Wednesday to pass President Obama’s authorization of military force to signal unity in the admin’s effort to combat ISIS (WSJ, AP, Hill, me)

• President Obama sent Congress suggested legislation in February, calling for a three-year “authorization for the use of military force,” or AUMF, and proposed repealing the 2002 war authorization that granted former President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq

• While many lawmakers believe a new war authorization measure is necessary, Obama’s proposal has received little support from either party. Democrats feared it wasn’t limited enough and Republicans hoped Obama would receive more leeway

• At the hearing, lawmakers from both parties said they were concerned about Iran’s influence in Iraq and how the nuclear negotiations with Iran might affect the U.S. campaign in Iraq and Syria. “We’re making Iraq a better place for Iran,” committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN) said

• During Kerry’s testimony, a protester from Code Pink shouted: “We’re tired of the endless war…the killing of innocent people.” Kerry responded, asking, “Killing more innocent people? I wonder how our journalists who were beheaded and the pilot, who was fighting for freedom, who was burned alive – what they would have to say to their efforts to protect innocent people.”
• Legislation to combat human trafficking appears sure to die on the Senate floor. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reiterated Wed that the bill won’t get through the Senate unless Republicans remove abortion-related language that was snuck into the bill somehow. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen (Roll Call, TRNS, me)
Bbbudget Time
• Senate Budget Committee chair Mike Enzi (R-WY) said Wednesday his upcoming budget blueprint couldn’t adjust sequestration budget caps itself, which some Republicans and many Democrats want to change (Hill, TRNS, me)

• Both Enzi and his House counterpart, Rep Tom Price (R-GA), have kept their separate budget plans under wraps but have hinted at resolutions that balance. Senate Democrats won’t put out an alternative budget resolution and instead will push for their spending priorities through the amendment process, Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said Wednesday

• Enzi’s comment comes just a week before he’s expected to unveil the Senate GOP’s budget resolution and as some of his colleagues hold informal talks with Democrats about lifting the sequester caps

• On Monday, Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters about a “mini Simpson-Bowles” plan that could be an option for replacing sequestration. The proposal, he said, could involve closing “loopholes” in the tax code if Democrats are willing to make concessions on entitlements

• Even if the Senate manages to raise the spending caps, Republicans will face a challenge in the House, where conservatives would likely oppose any allowances for higher spending

• Rivetingly, compulsively awkward: Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) tanked when speaking to the International Association of Fire Fighters. His standard applause lines: “Repeal every blasted word of Obamacare,” “Abolish the IRS,” and others – were met with deafening silence – highlight reel (Bloomberg)

Pols: End Gerrymandering
• Reps Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Reid Ribble (R-WI) have unveiled legislation to overhaul the redistricting process and prevent gerrymandering. The two bills would cut state legislatures’ authority in the redistricting process, which occurs once in a decade after accounting for the federal Census (good) (Hill, me)

• One measure would require states to establish independent commissions to handle redistricting, while the other would direct states to post redistricting data online (transparency) and allow the public to comment (oh my) before the new district maps are approved

• Cooper and Ribble argue that redistricting has led to voter apathy. Redistricting is one of the reasons why Republicans will likely maintain a hold on the House majority through at least 2020, as GOP-controlled state legislatures in many states were able to redraw maps favorable to their party after the 2010 census (and a reason why this bill will end up down the nearest loo)

• Redistricting has played a role in the fact that less than a quarter of the 435 House seats were considered competitive in the last election cycle. “Voters used to choose their leaders, but now politicians choose their voters,” Cooper said in a statement (how they like it)

This is compulsive video. Ad roulette. Match a random video of a famous ad with a random audio of a famous ad and watch and see an amazing mashup ad that actually works in an extraordinary way. Do it – I couldn’t stop

Are Our Nuclear Reactors Safe? Hint 🙁
• On the four-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, safety advocate Public Citizen on Wednesday accused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of “sluggishness” in improving nuclear reactor safety standards that could have “potentially lethal consequences.” The NRC is responsible for overseeing nuclear reactors (Hill, me)

• “If a nuclear disaster of the scope of Fukushima were to occur tomorrow, the blame for the ensuing destruction would rest squarely on the NRC’s shoulders,” Public Citizen’s outreach director Allison Fisher said in a statement. The NRC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment

• Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a NRC task force recommended 12 steps the agency could take to improve nuclear safety around the country. “These include reevaluating flooding and seismic risks, improving evacuation procedures and emergency response, mitigating blackout effects and installing venting systems and equipment,” Fisher explained

• But the NRC “has yet to require nuclear power plant operators to complete implementation of a single one of the post-Fukushima safety upgrades recommended by the agency’s own staff,” Fisher said. “Not a single one.”

• Furthermore, only four of those recommendations are even on track to be implemented in the coming years, she added, while no action has been taken on many of the other recommendations. She pointed out that some nuclear reactors don’t comply with current safety standards

• Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather strolled down a red carpet in tailored suits on Wednesday through 700 credentialed media members to officially announce their megafight on 2 May in Las Vegas. “I feel like an underdog,” said Pacquaio. He is. The purse will be upwards of $250m, the richest fight ever (Guardian, me)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Mary Jarvis and Midori Nishida contributed to this report


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