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.

Julian Assange’s lawyer welcomes Swedish request to question him in Ecuador’s embassy in London in sex crimes investigation (Reuters)

In the News

  • Iran: Major powers talk ending UN sanctions
  • Foreign pols slam GOP Iran letter
  • Ferguson: Attempts to tamp down tensions
  • Obama on Jimmy Kimmel Live
  • Secret Service agents disrupted WH bomb probe ?
  • Bush & Walker hit New Hampshire
  • Hillary Clinton – latest
  • DoJ appeals Texas judge on immigration
  • Where is Vladimir Putin?
  • Fake IRS agents: Scam phone calls
Iran: Major Nations Hold Talks on Ending UN Sanctions

• Major world powers have quietly begun talks on a UN Security Council resolution to lift UN sanctions on Iran if a nuclear agreement is struck, a step that could make it harder for the U.S. Congress to undo a deal, Western officials say. (Republican heads explode) (Reuters, Hill, me)

• The talks between Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. – the five permanent members of the Security Council – plus Germany and Iran, are taking place ahead of difficult negotiations that resume next week over constricting Tehran’s nuclear ability

• SecState John Kerry told Congress Wednesday that an Iran nuclear deal wouldn’t be legally binding, meaning future presidents could decide not to implement it. That point was emphasized in an open letter by 47 GOP senators sent Monday to Iran’s leaders asserting any deal could be discarded once President Obama leaves office in Jan 2017

• WH petition to file treason charges against the 47 Republican senators who wrote to Iran’s leaders has now garnered at least 263,885 signatures at time of writing

• But a Security Council resolution on a nuclear deal could be legally binding, say Western diplomatic officials, complicating and possibly undercutting future attempts by Republicans in Washington to unravel an agreement. The goal is to have a framework agreement by the end of March

• So far, talks have focused heavily on separate U.S. and EU sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors, which Tehran desperately wants removed and are a sticking point in the talks that resume next week. But Western officials say they’re also discussing a draft resolution to begin easing UN nuclear related sanctions that have been in place since Dec 2006

• Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN) said Thursday in a letter to President Obama that reports that the admin is contemplating taking the agreement to the UNSC to make it internationally binding while issuing a veto threat on his bill that would allow Congress to approve the deal would “undermine Congress’s appropriate role.”
• Vid: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu uses footage from his address to the U.S. Congress in a lengthy campaign ad for the Israeli elections next week. Netanyahu had denied that the speech was to bolster his reelection prospects

Foreign Pols Slam GOP Iran Letter

• Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran’s supreme leader, on Thursday derided the GOP Iran letter as an indication that Washington is “disintegrating” from within. He said the letter was “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.” (he’s an expert in decline in political ethics) (NYT, Politico, Deutsche Welle, TRNS, me)

• “All countries, according to international norms, remain faithful to their commitments even after their govts change, but the American senators are officially announcing that at the end of the term of the current govt, their commitments will be considered null and void.” The statement was posted to his website

• German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that to call the letter unhelpful was an “understatement.” “It’s not just a matter of U.S. politics. It has an impact on the talks in Geneva. Because now of course mistrust is growing on the Iranian side about whether our side is really serious about negotiations.”

• A source close to the negotiations said, “The game that was played in the past is that we are credible and the Iranians are not credible. The letter is creating the advantage for the Iranians. It is hurting our position in the negotiations.”

• Speaking before parliament Tuesday, British foreign secretary Philip Hammond warned that the letter “could become a spanner

[wrench] in the works” of a nuclear deal. He added the GOP opposition to a deal “could have an unpredictable effect on leadership opinion and public opinion in Tehran.”

• The Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday passed a controversial cybersecurity bill 14-1 during a markup. The bill would enhance the sharing of info about cybersecurity threats between the private sector and govt agencies by granting liability protections to companies offering the data. Dissenting Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR): “a surveillance bill by any other name” (Hill)
Ferguson: Attempts to Tamp Down Tensions

• Political leaders and civil rights activists on Thursday sought to tamp down tensions after two police officers were shot in front of the Ferguson PD during a protest. The officers were quickly released from hospital, but St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar called the attack “an ambush.” (AP, TRNS, TRNS, me)

• Several people were taken in for questioning after a SWAT team converged on a Ferguson home near the shooting site, but they were later released, and no arrests were made. The shootings mark the first time in seven months of tension in Ferguson that officers were shot at a protest

• In Washington, President Obama took to Twitter to relay his prayers for the officers and to denounce violence against police. “Path to justice is one all of us must travel together.” AG Eric Holder said the gunman was a “damn punk” who was “trying to sow discord in an area that was trying to get its act together, trying to bring together a community.”

• The shots were fired early Thursday just as a small crowd of protesters began to break up after a late night demonstration that unfolded hours after the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson

• Thursday night, about 50 people gathered at a public plaza in downtown Ferguson near the police station for a vigil. The group sang spirituals, prayed for peace and expressed sympathies for the injured officers. Later, a larger group marched, chanted and beat drums in front of the police dept. Some demanded the resignation of Mayor James Knowles

• President Obama was on Jimmy Kimmel Thursday night – the president reads out “Mean Tweets” – special Obama edition

Obama on Jimmy Kimmel Live

• President Obama offered his first official comment on the shootings of police officers in Ferguson on Jimmy Kimmel Live Thursday night. He said that what had been happening in Ferguson was “oppressive and objectionable and was worthy of protest,” but there was “no excuse for criminal acts.” (NYT, Verge, me)

• “They’re criminals. They need to be arrested. And then what we need to do is to make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides, law-enforcement who have a terrifically tough job and people who understand they don’t want to be stopped and harassed because of their race, that we’re able to work together and come up with some good answers.”

• Kimmel introduced Obama as “the first Kenyan-born, Muslim socialist to be elected president,” and he prodded him for details about his life inside the iron gates of the WH residence. Obama acknowledged that he hadn’t cooked in a long time, and joked he couldn’t drive as president because “in Kenya we drive on the other side of the street.”

• Obama declined to say whether he’d spent the early part of his presidency digging through the files on Area 51, the Nevada military base that’s a source of UFO conspiracy theories. “I can’t reveal anything.” When Kimmel told him Bill Clinton had found nothing in the files, Obama added, “That’s what we’re instructed to say.”

• Most of the appearance was a warm-up to Kimmel’s next guest, actor Sean Penn. Obama said that he and Penn talked in the green room before the show. Asked if he had seen Penn portray the iconic high school stoner in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” Obama laughed. “I lived it,” Obama said. “I didn’t just see it.”
• A vote’s been set for Tuesday in the Senate on a controversial/non-controversial sex trafficking bill. Democrats contend Republicans snuck in an abortion-related provision which they didn’t include on a list of proposed changes. Republicans say Democrats didn’t read the bill. The row continues… (AP, Hill, me)

Secret Service Agents Disrupted WH Bomb Probe ?

• Two Secret Service agents suspected of driving under the influence and striking a WH security barricade disrupted an active bomb investigation and drove directly beside the suspicious package itself, according to current and former govt officials familiar with the incident (WaPo, me)

• Lawmakers have questions about whether the newly appointed leaders of the Secret Service are capable of turning around the troubled agency. For example, did a Secret Service supervisor, as witnesses have alleged, order officers to let the agents go home without facing sobriety testing?

• An investigation by the Dept of Homeland Security’s IG is centering on the possible misconduct of two senior agents, including a top supervisor on President Obama’s protective detail


• About 10.25 pm on 4 March, a PA woman hopped out of her car near the Southeast entrance of the WH at 15th St., holding a package wrapped in a green shirt, and yelled to an agent, “I’m holding an —– bomb,” She then put the object on the ground, retreated to her car and after a brief scuffle with an agent, she sped off

• Police quickly secured the area with tape and called the explosives experts. Shortly before 11 pm, two high-ranking Secret Service agents, returning from a work party nearby, drove their govt car through the crime scene area, through the police tape and then hit a temporary barricade, using the car to push aside some barrels, according to people familiar

• The episode was caught on surveillance video. After reviewing the tape, a law enforcement official said, they concluded the agents’ govt car drove directly next to the package (whaat?)

• Secret Service agents on duty considered the agents’ behavior to be erratic and suspected they were drunk. They wanted to arrest the agents, but a more senior supervisor told them to let them go. Meanwhile, the explosives team determined the suspicious item was a book (!)


• Secret Service officers found the woman two days later to question her about her threats on the WH. A govt official said she has had contact with the Secret Service in the past and they have her photo on file.There’s a warrant for her arrest, but not clear if she’s in custody

• The Secret Service agents are Marc Connolly, the second-in-command on Obama’s detail, and George Ogilvie, a senior supervisor in the DC field office. Declined to comment. They’ve been shifted to “non-supervisory, non-operational assignments.”

• The incident has presented an early test for Director Joseph Clancy, appointed last month by Obama following a string of embarrassing agency missteps and security lapses. A WH spox said Thursday that Obama retains full confidence in Clancy

• Thursday, Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Oversight Committee, said, “The director needs to send a message. He needs to signal there is going to be new accountability in the agency. We’re still learning all the facts, but I’m still not very impressed by how this is going.” The panel is requesting a full briefing from the director (I’ll bet)

• First lady Michelle Obama celebrates Naw-Ruz (Persian New Year) at the WH

Bush & Walker Hit New Hampshire

• Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Gov Scott Walker (R-WI) – the two biggest GOP potential 2016ers – hit New Hampshire today for a high-stakes first audition before Granite State leaders and party activists that could have a big impact on their campaigns (Boston Herald, me)

• It will be Bush’s first political trip to NH in 15 years; Walker was here only once in 2012 to speak at the state’s convention and appear at a gubernatorial fundraiser. “It’s all about making first impressions,” said Fergus Cullen, a former NH GOP chairman hosting a Bush meet-and-greet at his Dover home tonight

• Expect the party’s elite to play hard-to-get after learning their lesson with the not ready for prime time Gov Rick Perry (R-TX) in 2012, according to Cullen. And then, “Both candidates want to accomplish the same thing, which is to carve out a place with mainstream Republican voters in New Hampshire,” said pollster R. Kelly Myers

• “The dynamic of the NH electorate favors a candidate like Jeb Bush. … Pragmatic, conservative candidates representing traditional Republican values typically do well here,” Myers said. Walker’s mission will be to build name recognition, tap into existing GOP grass-roots networks and point out real differences between him and Bush, Myers said

• “I don’t think you measure it by the size of the crowds, you measure it by getting a feel for this place, getting through your first campaign visit,” said Tom Rath, a former senior adviser for Mitt Romney. “It’s all about making impressions and setting it up for later.”

• The new Time magazine cover appears to give Hillary Clinton horns. Time said that “any resemblance to cats, bats or devil horns is entirely coincidental,” and posted 33 of its previous covers that appeared to give horns to subjects, including multiple popes (Hill, me)

Hillary Clinton – Latest

• Hillary Clinton kept at work Thursday to build her communications team and campaign operations in early voting states. Clinton is expected to launch her presidential campaign in the next few weeks. She’s begun quietly assembling a political team in NH expected to be heavily influenced by confidantes of Sen Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a Clinton ally (AP, Politico, Hill, CNN, me)

• Meanwhile, after scanning Clinton’s domain,, the security firm Venafi found that from Jan to March 2009, the first three months of her tenure as SecState, Clinton didn’t encrypt her private email with a digital certificate issued by an authority. She traveled to China, Egypt, Israel, Japan and South Korea, among other countries, during that time

• Clinton insisted at her Tuesday presser that “there were no security breaches” of her email. But not detecting a breach isn’t the same as not being breached, security experts say

• Daniel Metcalfe, who advised WH admins on interpreting the Freedom of Info Act from 1981 to 2007, told the Canadian Press that Clinton acted “contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the law.” “There is no doubt that the scheme she established was a blatant circumvention of the FOIA, atop the Federal Records Act,” he said, reviewing her presser remarks

• Metcalfe said Clinton’s statements at her presser were at places impossible to verify, “deceptive,” and “grossly misleading.” “Her suggestion that govt employees can unilaterally determine which of their records are personal and which are official, even in the face of a FOIA request, is laughable,” he said
• Iraqi govt forces are advancing into Tikrit ov several fronts, forcing ISIS militants to fall back to the city center, officials say. Meanwhile, the BBC has seen video evidence that chlorine gas is being used as a weapon in Tikrit by ISIS militants – small amounts in crude roadside bombs targeting Iraqi forces (BBC, me)
DoJ Appeals Texas Judge on Immigration

• The DoJ has called on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift Texas judge Andrew Hanen’s injunction of President Obama’s executive actions on deportations within 14 days, which had put those actions on hold and left millions in limbo (WaPo, me)

• The DoJ argues that Hanen’s injunction was wrong on multiple levels. It contests Hanen’s claim that the exec actions cause “irreparable harm” to states, in the form of money spent on driver’s licenses as “speculative” and not sufficient to show “standing.” It argues that halting the actions will harm national security and prevent DoJ from enforcing immigration law – there’s more

• The govt’s brief calls for the 5th Circuit to, at least, limit the injunction only to Texas or only to the 25 or so states that are suing. It calls the injunction “drastically overbroad.” It says 24 states are not parties to the action and 12 states oppose the action

• The DoJ will be joined by 14 states, including California and New York, that have filed a brief insisting that the injunction shouldn’t be applied to them, arguing that they stand to benefit economically from people being allowed to work for a time, and thus the injunction is harming them

• The 5th Circuit is a very conservative court; a lot will depend on which judges hear the appeal

• What the net neutrality rules say (NYT)
Where is Vladimir Putin?

• Vladimir Putin’s spox has been forced to deny that the 62-year-old president is in poor health – or dead – after a string of meetings were canceled and the Kremlin published old photos to claim work was proceeding as usual. He’s not been seen in public since a meeting and presser with Italian PM Renzi on 5 March, where he appeared healthy (Guardian, Vox, me)

• Concerns over the Russian president’s health were first raised earlier this week when he postponed a trip to Kazakhstan for top-level talks. A source in the Kazakh govt told Reuters that the visit was canceled because Putin had fallen ill. There have been several other canceled meetings

• “There’s no need to worry, everything is fine,” Putin spox Peskov said. He said Putin is “constantly in meetings, but they are not all public.” Asked if the president’s handshake was still firm, Peskov said his grip was strong enough to “break hands.” This story could be outdated at any time if Putin makes an appearance…

• In his 15 years at the helm, Putin has built up his image as a vigorous leader and active sportsman with numerous shirtless photo-ops, as well as publicity stunts involving martial arts, tiger wrestling, whale harpooning etc. etc. As in Soviet times, periodic scares about Putin’s health have become common

• But many Russians are nervous about what would happen if Putin really were to become incapacitated. Because power is so centralized around him, there’s no fallback plan for what would happen if he were to suddenly become unable to rule. A system of govt that rests on the health of a single man is fragile. PM Dmitri Medvedev would take over – but would he really?
• Sir Terry Pratchett, renowned fantasy author and creator of the Discworld series, has died aged 66, eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He died at home, surrounded by family, “with his cat sleeping on his bed.” “Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one,” he once said (BBC)
Fake IRS Agents: Scam Phone Calls

• Fake IRS agents have targeted more than 366,000 people with harassing phone calls demanding payments and threatening jail in the largest scam of its kind in the history of the agency. More than 3,000 people have fallen for the ruse since 2013. They were conned out of a total of $15.5 million, said Timothy Camus, a Treasury deputy IG for tax admin (AP, me)

• “They are calling people everywhere, of all income levels and backgrounds,” Camus told the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing Thursday. “The callers often warned the victims that if they hung up, local police would come to their homes to arrest them.” So far, two people in Florida have been arrested, accused of being part of a scam that involved call centers in India

• As part of the telephone scam, fake IRS agents call taxpayers, claim they owe taxes, and demand payment using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. Those who refuse are threatened with arrest, deportation or the loss of a business or driver’s license, Camus said

• The callers can manipulate caller ID to make it look like they’re calling from an IRS phone number. They might even know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number, Camus said. Prepaid debit cards are harder to trace than bank cards – not connected to a bank account

• Real IRS agents usually contact people first by mail, Camus said. And they never demand payment by debit card, credit card or wire transfer. “Our message is simple. If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you do not pay immediately, it is a scam artist calling.”

• Rocking into the weekend with “Mama Told Me Not to Come” live 1970 – Three Dog Night. Keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon, 67, died Wednesday of cancer at his home in North Potomac MD

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Loretta Lewis, Midori Nishida and Washington Desk contributed to this report

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