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

  • Obama, Netanyahu ping-pong on Iran
  • Obama on Iran deal
  • Iran deal: What could be in it
  • Hillary Clinton used personal email at State: Breaking rules?
  • Obamacare: King v. Burwell – 5 things
  • WH policing task force: Need for change
  • DHS: Senate Democrats block GOP again
  • Ukraine crisis  Nemtsov murder
  • South Sudan: Threat of sanctions
  • Psychiatric drug overuse cited: Federal study


Obama, Netanyahu Ping-Pong on Iran
• Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told thousands of Israel supporters at the AIPAC conference in DC, “For 2,000 years, my people, the Jewish people, were stateless, defenseless, voiceless. Today, we are no longer silent. Today, we have a voice. And tomorrow, as PM of the one and only Jewish state, I plan to use that voice.” (NYT, TRNS, me)

• Netanyahu will address Congress today at 11:00 am EST. In an interview a few hours later on Monday, President Obama said that he and Netanyahu had a “substantial disagreement” over how to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. But he also suggested that Netanyahu was an alarmist (see story below)

• VP Joe Biden and more than 50 Democratic lawmakers plan to skip Netanyahu’s speech. While the WH hasn’t publicly encouraged a boycott, it sent an email late Monday inviting House Democrats or their aides to a trade meeting at the WH today at a time that would make it hard for them to attend the speech

• But the president and his team seemed intent on tamping down the intensity of the dispute. SecState John Kerry, in Geneva for more Iran talks, made a point of defending Israel before the UN Human Rights Council Monday. And Obama sent UN Ambassador Samantha Power and national security adviser Susan Rice to address AIPAC

• Netanyahu characterized the disagreement as a “family” fight that would ultimately be overcome. “My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds. I have great respect for both,” Netanyahu said

• Hot ticket! “If Taylor Swift and Katy Perry did a joint concert at Madison Square Garden wearing white and gold and black and blue dresses, accompanied by dancing sharks and llamas, that’s the only way you’d have a tougher ticket,” said Michael Steel, a spox for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (NYT, me)
Obama on Iran Deal
• President Obama said Monday, “If, in fact, Iran is willing to agree to double-digit years of keeping their program where it is right now and, in fact, rolling back elements of it that currently exist … if we’ve got that, and we’ve got a way of verifying that, there’s no other steps we can take that would give us such assurance that they don’t have a nuclear weapon.” (Reuters, me)

• The U.S. goal is to make sure “there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one,” Obama said in the interview, carefully timed by the WH a day ahead of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s polarizing speech to Congress

• “I would say that it is probably still more likely than not that Iran doesn’t get to ‘yes,’ but I think that, in fairness to them, they have been serious negotiators and they’ve got their own politics inside of Iran. It is more likely that we could get a deal now than perhaps three or five months ago.” He said the speech was not “permanently destructive” to the relationship

• Obama said Netanyahu had been wrong about a 2013 interim deal with Iran. “Netanyahu made all sorts of claims. This was going to be a terrible deal. This was going to result in Iran getting 50 billion dollars worth of relief. Iran would not abide by the agreement. None of that has come true.” Israeli officials traveling with Netanyahu had no immediate comment

• Obama said a key doubt was whether Iran would agree to rigorous inspection demands and the low levels of uranium enrichment capability they would have to maintain “But if they do agree to it, it would be far more effective in controlling their nuclear program than any military action we could take.”
• The WH on Monday flatly denied a report that President Obama threatened to strike Israeli jets after Israel decided to conduct an attack on Iranian nuclear sites in 2014. “The reports – like many of the ‘reports’ emerging coincidentally this week about the Iran talks – are completely false,” WH NSC spox Bernadette Meehan said in a statement (Hill, me)
Iran Deal: What Could Be In It
• Negotiators from the U.S., world powers and Iran have sought to keep the details of a potential agreement secret. But statements of govts, anonymous officials and think tanks closely monitoring the discussions give some idea of what may be included in an agreement (AP, me)

Uranium enrichment: Top priority. The U.S. wants to bring down the number of Iran’s centrifuges from a high of 9,000 to possibly 6,500, if Iran only enriches with its basic centrifuge model and ships out much of its stockpile of already enriched material to Russia. The aim: the length of time for Iran to get a nuclear weapon at least one year. UN inspectors will monitor

Underground facility: Iran’s once-secret underground enrichment facility at Fordo poses a unique problem because of the difficulty to eliminate it militarily. A likely compromise would have Iran restrict the bunker for research purposes


Plutonium: Iran’s heavy water reactor at Arak is another route to a bomb. Possible solutions include shutting the facility down or turning it into a light water reactor. Or reconfiguring Arak so its plutonium output decreases significantly

Timespan: Source of tension. U.S. wanted 20 year deal. Iran wanted closer to 7. Officials have described a possible 10-year deal with full restrictions. Then Iran would be rewarded for good behavior by gradual easing of conditions over the last five years of a deal. Washington and its partners are adamant that heightened inspections won’t be scaled back

Sanctions relief: The Iranians want immediate relief. The U.S. and partners speak of a phased approach. Would involve Obama suspending some restrictions immediately through executive actions and others over time. Final tranche could only come if Congress changes the law. Seems unlikely as there’s a bipartisan push for more sanctions

Iran’s history of deception has many in Israel and elsewhere demanding it come clean with the IAEA on any previous military aspects of its nuclear program. U.S. officials say the issue will have to be addressed in an agreement, yet haven’t explained how. Iran’s R&D activity is another tricky matter outstanding

• The Afghan Army lost more than 20,000 fighters and others last year largely because of desertions, discharges and deaths in combat, according to figures to be released today, casting further doubt on Afghanistan’s ability to maintain security without help from U.S.-led coalition forces (NYT)
Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email at State: Breaking Rules?
• Hillary Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct govt business as SecState, State officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record (NYT, me)

• Clinton didn’t have a govt email address during her four-year tenure at State. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on dept servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act. It was only two months ago that Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages and decided which ones to turn over to State – 55,000 pages

• “I can recall no instance at my time in the National Archives when a high-ranking official at an executive branch agency solely used a personal email account for the transaction of govt business,” said Jason Baron, lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath, who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Admin


• Nick Merrill, a spox for Clinton, declined to detail why she had chosen to conduct State business from her personal account. He said that because she was sending emails to other State officials at their govt accounts, she had “every expectation they would be retained.” (bit weaselly and lame)

• He didn’t address emails Clinton may have sent to foreign leaders people in the private sector or govt officials outside State. The revelation about the private email account echoes longstanding criticisms directed at Clinton and former President Bill Clinton for a lack of transparency and inclination toward secrecy

• The existence of Clinton’s personal email account was discovered by a House committee investigating the Benghazi attack as it sought correspondence between Clinton and her aides about the attack (they’ll have a ball when she testifies)
• President Obama said Monday of King v. Burwell: “If you look at the law … the understanding was that people who joined a federal exchange were going to be able to access tax credits just like if they went through a state exchange. There is, in our view, not a plausible legal basis for striking it down.” (Reuters, me)
Obamacare: King v. Burwell – 5 Things
• Supreme court justices are to hear arguments Wednesday in King v. Burwell, with a decision expected by July – more to come Wednesday. It’s likely to hinge on one justice, a 5-4 decision being expected (WSJ, NYT, me)

• The case involves the validity of insurance exchanges for people in the 37 states who use the federal exchange, Interactive: Supreme Court Obamacare case – frequently asked questions about King v. Burwell (handy stuff)

• At issue is wording in the health law stipulating that govt subsidies are available for people who enroll “through an exchange established by the state.” Plaintiffs argue only those in state-run exchanges – not those in federally-run exchanges – can get the subsidies

• The Obama admin says the phrase is a term of art, which Congress intended to mean both state and federally run marketplaces. Also, that many other parts of the law suggest that Congress intended the money to go to people in every state. There’s a long history of courts ruling that, if Congress says something confusing, then interpreting the law falls to regulators and not courts

• Subsidies for more than six million Americans are potentially at stake. Healthy Americans being in exchanges help keep the price of health care down for everyone. Health care expected to skyrocket if subsidies are struck down

• President Obama said Monday, “There is, in our view, not a plausible legal basis for striking it
[Obamacare subsidies] down.” “If they rule against us, we’ll have to take a look at what our options are, but I’m not going to anticipate that. I’m not going to anticipate bad law.” (Reuters)
WH Policing Task Force: Need For Change
• President Obama said Monday that last year’s deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson MO and Eric Garner in NYC exposed “deep rooted frustration in many communities of color around the need for fair and just law enforcement,” as a WH task force he appointed called for independent, outside investigations when police use deadly force (AP, TRNS, me)

• Obama said the task force found it’s important for law enforcement to improve training, data collection and cooperation with the communities they cover. “The moment is now for us to make these changes,” Obama said from the WH during a meeting with members of the task force, who worked for three months to develop recommendations

• The task force made 63 recommendations after several hearings. The task force recommended external independent criminal investigations and review by outside prosecutors when police use force that results in death or anyone dies in police custody, instead of internal investigations. They suggested either a multi-agency probe or the next higher level of govt

• The task force echoed calls from AG Eric Holder and FBI director James Comey for more complete record keeping about the numbers of police-involved shootings across the country. The task force recommended decoupling immigration from local law enforcement to help improve police relationships with immigrant communities

• Obama had earlier called for Congress to help fund the purchase of 50,000 body cameras for police to wear and record their interactions with the public. But the task force found that the cameras raise extraordinarily complex legal and privacy issues

• Georgia has postponed its first execution of a woman in 70 years because the drug appeared to be “cloudy,”. Corrections officials said they first called a pharmacist and then decided to halt the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner out of caution. The names of suppliers of execution drugs are secret in Georgia, its Supreme Court has ruled (BBC, me)
DHS: Senate Democrats Block GOP Again
• Senate Democrats on Monday blocked, 47- 43, a House attempt to force joint negotiations over legislation to fund the Dept of Homeland Security through the fiscal year. The vote pushes the matter back to the House (and here we go) (NYT, Hill,

• There, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) confronts a likely choice between persuading an unruly group of conservative lawmakers to pass the funding, without any restrictions on President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, or building a majority on the backs of Democratic votes to avert a partial shutdown of the dept before it runs out of money Friday midnight

• Boehner also could try to rally support for a short-term funding measure, though that option would simple postpone the fight – and last week, his effort to pass a three-week funding bill led to a humiliating defeat when his own members revolted

• Though the Senate last week passed a bill to finance the dept, House Republicans refused to take up the legislation, preferring a bill they passed in Jan that funded the agency but also sought to gut the legal protections Obama has provided to as many as five million undocumented immigrants through executive actions

• Many Republican senators are getting frustrated with their House colleagues. “I don’t understand us, either,” said Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “I think we’re as dumb as a rock to do what we’re doing.”

• A probe by the GAO has found that the U.S. air traffic control system doesn’t have sufficient security measures in place to protect it from hackers who might seek to disrupt routes (speechless) (Hill, me)
• Ukraine Crisis / Nemtsov Murder
• Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, SecState John Kerry said he had warned Russia that it faced further sanctions if the conditions of the ceasefire with Ukraine were not met in full. He said the rebels were only withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line in selective areas (BBC, AP, TRNS, me)

• Meanwhile, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov said there had been “tangible progress” with the truce. Kerry and Lavrov held talks Monday as tensions remain high over the conflict. The fragile ceasefire is said to be broadly holding, despite some fighting in recent days

• A new UN human rights report states that the conflict has claimed at least 6,000 lives, with hundreds killed in the past few weeks alone, although it says that the real number of fatalities could be considerably higher. Kerry said at the UN Monday, “In Crimea and in the separatist controlled areas of Ukraine, men, women and children are being killed.”

• Separately, Russian police questioned the 23-year-old Ukrainian girlfriend of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on Monday. Anna Duritskaya tearfully recounted their last dinner in a restaurant and their walk onto a nearby bridge – but she said she didn’t see the gunman who pulled the trigger, only a car speeding up (don’t blame her…)

• The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said she has flown home to her native Ukraine. The funeral of Nemtsov is to be held today in Moscow. Several prominent foreign and Russian figures have been prevented by Russian authorities from attending the funeral

• Vid: Possible white getaway car in Boris Nemtsov shooting – actual footage at about 0:54 (ABC News, me)

South Sudan: Threat of Sanctions
• To pressure the warring sides in South Sudan’s civil war toward peace, the U.S. has circulated a draft Security Council resolution, dangling the threat of sanctions and setting up the possibility of an arms embargo somewhere down the road. The measure could come up for a vote as early as today (NYT, me)

• China hasn’t revealed its hand. The Chinese FM last week signaled to diplomats at the UN that his govt could be persuaded to back punitive measures. The Chinese ambassador to the UN, Liu Jieyi, last week publicly questioned the “logic” of proposing sanctions while the two sides are talking. China could abstain from voting today and let the measure pass

• Peace talks – funded both by Beijing and Washington – are underway in Ethiopia this week between factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and his rival, former VP Riek Machar. Yet prospects for a breakthrough by a Thursday deadline set by mediators appear slim. Kiir, for his part, has refused to show up

• So far, neither Washington nor Beijing has advanced a comprehensive strategy to stop the civil war. Both nations have been hesitant to substantially defang the kingpins of the war, including imposing an arms embargo or limiting how oil revenues might be used to fund the conflict. Both measures are recommendations of a recent International Crisis Group report

• All the while, fighting between forces loyal to Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and Machar, an ethnic Nuer, has killed tens of thousands, displaced two million people, brought the country to brink of famine and left a trail of rape and killing. UNICEF said last week that school children had been conscripted by a militia loyal to Kiir’s forces
• The painting of former President Bill Clinton in the National Portrait Gallery contains a subtle visual reference to Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, artist Nelson Shanks disclosed. It’s at the left hand side, a shadow coming into the painting (Philadelphia Daily News, Vox, me)

Psychiatric Drug Overuse Cited: Federal Study

• The Govt Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, said in a study out Monday that they have found evidence of widespread overuse of psychiatric drugs by older Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, and are recommending that Medicare officials take immediate action to reduce unnecessary prescriptions (NYT, TRNS, me)

• The findings come as the Obama admin has already been working with nursing homes to reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications like Abilify, Risperdal, Zyprexa and clozapine. But in the study, investigators said officials also needed to focus on overuse by people with dementia who live at home or in assisted living facilities

• The DHHS “has taken little action” to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs by older adults living outside nursing homes, the report said. The FDA says antipsychotic drugs are often associated with an increased risk of death when used to treat older adults with dementia who also have psychosis

• Sen Thomas Carper (D-DE), ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the report showed that “many seniors with dementia are receiving risky mind-altering medications,” financed in many cases by taxpayers and the Medicare program

• Dr Michael Reinstein, a Chicago psychiatrist, pleaded guilty last month to taking illegal kickbacks of nearly $600,000 to prescribe clozapine for his patients. The lawsuit said drug companies had paid kickbacks, consulting fees and entertainment expenses for Reinstein as part of an effort to induce him to write prescriptions for clozapine

• Sen Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the Senate’s longest-serving woman senator, announced her retirement from Congress Monday, setting off a scramble among Democrats to succeed her. “Do I spend my time raising money or raising hell?” she asked – the answer was obvious (Hill, TRNS, me)

Sign up here for TRNS News Notes


Victoria Jones – Editor

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

The Talk Radio News Service is the only information, news booking and host service dedicated to serving the talk radio community. TRNS maintains a Washington office that includes White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon staffed bureaus, and a New York office with a United Nations staffed bureau. Talk Radio News Service has permanent access to every breaking newsevent in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.

Copyright © 2015 The Talk Radio News Service, All rights reserved.