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

  • Iran talks: To the wire – late snag
  • Iran talks: Boehner / Earnest
  • 2016 GOP: Who’s up next?
  • Plane crash: Psych and eye issues?
  • New Arab military force
  • Indiana: Gay controversy grows
  • Harry Reid: Nevada legacy
  • Clinton wiped “clean” private server
  • Nigeria election: Poverty, security, corruption
  • Edward M. Kennedy Institute opens
Iran Talks: To the Wire – Late Snag
• With a looming Tuesday deadline, Iranian officials on Sunday backed away from a critical element of a proposed nuclear agreement, saying they’re no longer willing to ship their atomic fuel out of the country. For months, Iran tentatively agreed that it would send a large portion of its uranium stockpile to Russia, where it would be inaccessible for use in future weapons programs
(WSJ, NYT, me)

• “There is no question of sending the stocks abroad,” Iranian deputy FM Abbas Araqchi told Iranian media. Western officials confirmed Iran was balking, but insisted there were other ways of dealing with the material. Chief among those options, they said, was blending it into a more diluted form. Still, the revelation could raise a potential obstacle at the talks

• The development could give opponents another reason to object, adding to a list of what they call concessions made by the admin in search of an agreement. If Iran ever bars inspectors from the country, the international community would have no assurance about the fate of the fuel

• In addition, the U.S. and its European partners are laboring to win Russian backing for a mechanism that would allow suspended UN Security Council sanctions against Iran to snap rapidly back into effect if Tehran is caught cheating on a deal, U.S., European and Russian officials said Sunday

* Oil prices fell today, extending steep losses from the previous session. “Any relaxation of Iran oil sanctions could see increased exports adding to swelling global supplies and further pressuring prices,” ANZ Bank said today (Reuters)
• Diplomats said Russian concerns about seeing its UN Security Council veto rights watered down are curtailing the group of six powers’ flexibility for resolving one of the final major disagreements with Iran: when and under what circumstances UN sanctions on Iran are suspended

• There was a clear sense that the talks were approaching a pivotal moment as the foreign ministers from other world powers joined SecState John Kerry in an effort to reach the outlines of a deal by a midnight Tuesday deadline. “We are not there yet,” said an anonymous Western official. “There are lots of pieces floating around.”

• Political opposition to the deal flared again in Israel on Sunday. In a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), PM Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Will this
[deal] make their move forward more moderate or will it make it more extreme? I think it’s a no-brainer.”

• McConnell said if there’s a deal, a group of lawmakers from both parties will vote on legislation demanding that any agreement come to Congress for approval. “If there’s no deal, then the view of this group, similar to your [Netanyahu’s] own, is that ratcheting up sanctions might be the best direction to take.”

• The WH is ramping up a yearlong campaign to persuade lawmakers and the public to support an agreement. Most significant, WH officials have begun to express privately a willingness to accept legislation that gives Congress some oversight of a nuclear deal (WSJ)
Iran Talks: Boehner / Earnest
• House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Sunday on CNN that Iran has “no intention” of keeping its word on a nuclear deal. “We’ve got a regime that’s never quite kept their word about anything. I just don’t understand why we would sign an agreement with a group of people who have no intention of keeping their word.” (WaPo, Hill, Guardian, me)

• “I think the animosity exhibited by this admin toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible,” said Boehner. “And I think the pressure they have put on him over the past four or five years frankly pushed him to the point where he had to speak up.” Boehner is leading a delegation of congressional Republicans to Israel this week

• If there’s no nuclear deal with Iran, “the sanctions are going to come, and they’re going to come quick,” Boehner said. Asked how quickly, Boehner said, “Very, very, very quickly. Frankly, we should have kept the sanctions in place so that we could have gotten to a real agreement.”


• WH spox Josh Earnest on Sunday defended President Obama’s Middle East policy and recent remarks by Boehner, and said, “If John Boehner thinks U.S. troops should be on the ground in Yemen, or that we should reoccupy Iraq, or that the U.S. should bomb Iran to keep them from having a nuclear weapon – if he feels that way, he should have the courage of his convictions to say so.”

• On ABC’s This Week, Earnest said, “Ultimately, the president believes that we should be able to … reach an agreement by the end of March if one is doable.” He noted that the Obama admin has been negotiating with Iran for more than a year in an effort to reduce its nuclear capabilities

• “It’s time for the Iranians to send a clear signal to the international community about whether or not they are willing to make the serious commitments required, and basically live up to their rhetoric, that they are not trying to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Earnest said
• A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows 34% of Republicans ranks President Obama as an imminent threat, ahead of Russia’s President Putin – 25%, and Syria’s President Assad – 23% (Reuters)
2016: Rubio, Paul and Fiorina Next?
• Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) is strongly considering launching his presidential campaign on 13 April at the Freedom Tower, a historic Miami landmark known as the “Ellis Island of the South,” according to Republicans familiar with his thinking. The venue hasn’t yet been secured (Tampa Bay Times, Politico, Reuters, CBNNews, Hill, NYT, me)

• Former Hewlett-Packard chief exec Carly Fiorina said on Fox News Sunday the chances she would run for the presidency in 2016 were “higher than 90%” and that she would announce her plans in late April to early May. She said she was working to establish “the right support” and financial resources (support not likely from the thousands she fired, then)

• Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) made an about-face on same-sex marriage last week. Speaking to a group of pastors in Washington, Paul said there is a “moral crisis that allows people to think there would be some other sort of marriage,” aside from traditional marriage

• In an interview with CNN in October, Paul said he believes in “old-fashioned marriage,” but he said that the govt shouldn’t be involved and that the Republican Party can “have people on both sides of the issue.” Paul is expected to announce for the presidency on 7 April

• Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) made his inaugural New Hampshire trip as a presidential candidate Friday and Saturday. On CNN Sunday, Cruz defended his credentials as a freshman senator. “Unlike Barack Obama, I was not a community organizer before I was elected to the Senate.”
• Former Gov Martin O’Malley (D-MD) said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday: “Let’s be honest here, the presidency is not some crown to be passed between two families. It is an awesome and sacred trust to be earned and exercised on behalf of the American people.” O’Malley said he believes “new perspective and new leadership are needed.” (HuffPo)
Plane Crash: Psych and Eye Issues?
German investigators are scrutinizing boxes of evidence and medical records in an inquiry focused on whether Andreas Lubitz, the young co-pilot who apparently flew Greenwings Flight 9525 into a French mountain, intended to commit suicide and why (WSJ, Independent, BBC, Fox, Spiegel, Bild, me)

• Investigators collected evidence that people familiar with the probe say shows that Lubitz was seeking treatment for psychological problems and had his eyes examined – medical issues that may have been an obstacle to him advancing to eventually serving as captain of a long-haul airliner

• Officials said last week that Lubitz was excused from work by a doctor, including on the day his Barcelona-Dusseldorf flight crashed into a mountain in the French Alps, killing all 150 on board. But instead of informing Greenwings, Lunitz went to work, concealing his medical condition from his employer and associates


• The partner of Lubitz was pregnant and the couple were apparently planning to get married, according to German media reports. Lubitz was living with the 26-year-old teacher in his Dusseldorf apartment up until the crash. He had recently ordered two new cars for them

• A transcript of the last voice recordings was revealed, which shows that Lubitz urged the pilot to go to the toilet, leaving him alone in the cockpit with the door locked. Lubitz puts the aircraft into descent mode. Air traffic controllers can be heard trying to contact the plane and the automatic “sink rate” alarm starts sounding. Seconds later, there is thudding on the door

• Capt Sondheimer is heard shouting, “For God’s sake open the door!” Behind him, passengers can be heard screaming. Among the last sounds appear to be attempts by Capt Sondheimer to break down the door with the aircraft’s emergency axe, as he shouts: “Open the goddam door.” Shortly after, the plane’s wing is heard scraping the side of a mountain
• Syrian President Bashar Assad said on 60 Minutes on Sunday: “Sometimes you could have local benefit, but in general if you want to talk in terms of ISIS – actually ISIS has expanded since the beginning of the [U.S.-led] strikes.” (Hill, me)
New Arab Military Force
• The Arab states said Sunday that they had agreed to form a combined military force to counter both Iranian influence and Islamist extremism, a gesture many analysts attributed in large part to their drive for more independence from Washington. The agreement came as six world powers were racing to beat a self-imposed deadline on a nuclear deal with Iran (NYT, me)

• Regardless of Iran’s nuclear program, the Arab states complain, the deal would do nothing to stop Iran from seeking to extend its influence around the region by backing favored factions, as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen

• Many of the Arab states, including Egypt, Jordan and most of the Gulf monarchies, have thrown their support behind a Saudi Arabia-led campaign of airstrikes to counter advances by an Iranian-backed Houthi movement in Yemen; Washington is providing only intel and logistical support. Egypt has pledged to send ground troops “if necessary”

• How the agreement, announced at a meeting of the League of Arab States in Egypt, will be implemented remains to be seen. Arab military chiefs are expected to work out more of the details. Officials of the Arab League said the leadership of the combined force was still under discussion

• But the proposal gained credibility because it was announced in part by the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former general who led the military takeover in Egypt in 2013

• British PM David Cameron meets with Queen Elizabeth II today for a final audience. Parliament will be dissolved and the campaign will begin for a general election on 7 May. It’s expected to be a tight race (BBC, me)
Indiana’s Gay Controversy Grows
• Gov Mike Pence (R-IN) on Sunday on ABC’s This Week defended the law he signed last week prohibiting state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and assns. The concern is that it could foster discrimination against gays and lesbians (AP, Hill, me)

• Since Pence signed the law, Indiana has been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the nation, as well as with the hashtag #boybottindiana. Apple’s Tim Cook penned an op-ed in WaPo today condemning the legislation as “very dangerous,” Angie’s List and Yelp won’t expand to Indiana, and the NCAA has suggested it could move future events elsewhere

• Pence would not answer directly when asked at least six times whether under the law it would be legal for a merchant to refuse to serve gay customers. “This is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront govt overreach,” he said. “Hoosiers don’t believe in discrimination,” he said (apparently some do)

• Pence told the Indianapolis Star that he was in discussions with legislative leaders over the weekend and expects a clarification bill to be introduced in the coming week. But, “We’re not going to change this law,” he said

• Indiana State Rep Ed DeLaney (D) told a large, boisterous crowd Saturday gathered outside the Statehouse to protest that the law creates “a road map, a path to discrimination.” Rally attendees chanted “Pence must go!” several times and held signs that read “No hate in our state.”

• Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Friday in a video message that he won’t seek reelection to the Senate in 2016. He also endorsed Sen Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to be the next Democratic leader in the Senate. Schumer is currently the No.3, so he would jump over Whip Dick Durbin, who’s No. 2 (D-IL) (TRNS)

Harry Reid: Nevada Legacy
• Power amassed without use, Reid has always thought, is power wasted. “He wanted to be feared, not loved,” said Richard Bryan, a former governor who also served with Reid in the Senate. “He liked power, he knew how to use it and he wasn’t afraid to use it to advocate for the interests of the state.” (Jon Ralston, Politico)

• Reid’s legacy to Nevada … when he leaves office in 21 months will be of a man who ascended to the pinnacle and used every opportunity to turn potential power into kinetic power, whether it was using his office to send billions in projects … to Nevada, wheedling his colleagues to support initiatives that he believed helped the state and country or sprinkling his personal anointing oil on those he deemed worthy of holding office

• “Nevada lost the one-phone-call guy,” said the state’s most influential political consultant, Billy Vassiliadis. “I can’t imagine in the last 30 years how many times governors and industry leaders, state and local govt managers, union leaders etc. barked out the words, ‘Damn, better call Reid.'”

• He is famous for taking on the mob’s most prominent Vegas front, the one played by Robert de Niro in “Casino,” but also accused of being “Cleanface,” the guy who was a maitre d for the Mafia. He is infamous for using any words he can think of (or spill out of his mouth) to loudly attack Republicans while quietly working with them

• He seems to thrive on the insults and nastiness thrown his way, but he never forgets a slight and will seek revenge when he sees an opening. There will never again be a Harry Reid for Nevada, which will thrill some and depress others. He has been the giant among men and women during the last three decades, controlling the political world more than any other


Clinton Wiped “Clean” Private Server
• Hillary Clinton wiped “clean” the private server housing emails from her tenure as SecState, the chair of the House Benghazi Committee said Friday. Clinton was under a subpoena order from the panel for all docs relating to the 2012 attacks on the American compound there. But her lawyer said the 900 email pages previously provided to the panel cover its request

• Committee chair Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said that Clinton’s response to the subpoena means he and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will now contemplate new legal actions against Clinton

• Clinton previously said she decided to delete the emails after her lawyers reviewed the server for work-related correspondence. She said the deletion of private emails occurred “at the end” of that review

• The broad subpoena from Gowdy included any emails relating to Libya, weapons located in the country, the Benghazi attacks and admin statements following the attacks on the compound. Shortly after NYT reported on Clinton’s private email use, she requested that State make public all docs from her time at the agency. State says it’s working through that request

• Clinton’s move to wipe her server all but ensures congressional Republicans’ focus on her will intensify. The Benghazi panel has already said it will bring Clinton in to testify at least twice. House Oversight Committee has signaled plans to investigate the private email use

• The Clinton “Super Volunteers” have promised to track the media’s use of words they believe to be sexist code words. They already told NYT’s Amy Chozick: Polarizing, calculating, disingenuous, insincere, ambitious, inevitable, over-confident, secretive, will do anything to win, represents the past, out of touch, tone deaf. (I’ll call her what I like, thank you) (WaPo, me)
Nigeria Election: Poverty, Security, Corruption
• Counting is underway in Nigeria’s presidential election with the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan facing a strong challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The election commission (Inec) said it hoped to announce the winner today. Buhari was said to possibly have a slight lead. With a population of more than 170m, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation (BBC, WSJ, me)

• The UN praised the poll despite technical hitches, protests and violence linked to Boko Haram. Voting spilled into a second day in some parts of Nigeria after problems with new electronic card readers. Key issues in the election were poverty, security and corruption

• President Jonathan was unable to cast his vote using the new technology, which was introduced to prevent fraud. Opposition protesters in Rivers State took to the streets, demanding a recount. The national vote had been delayed by six weeks because of the insurgency by Boko Haram militants

• The Islamists attacked polling stations in north-eastern states, with a curfew declared in Bauchi State after fighting between the security forces and the group. UN SecGen Ban Ki-moon praised the “determination and resilience” of Nigerian voters despite reports of attacks by Boko Haram and others
• Asked if a deal on Medicare was a sign of more bipartisanship to come, House Speaker John Boehner said on CNN Sunday: “My goal every day is to try to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get something passed.” (Hill, me)
Edward M. Kennedy Institute Opens
• At a time when Congress is divided and disdained, President Obama, VP Biden, Gov Charlie Baker (R), the state’s U.S. senators and other top officials are slated to speak today at the formal dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, a shimmering, high-tech testament to the Senate, as well as Kennedy’s legacy (Boston Globe, me)

• The $78 million interactive museum is devoted to civic education and selling visitors on the MA senator’s belief in the positive power of public service and the idea that the legislative body he loved can actually get things done. Institute officials hope to give visitors a feel for how “the human process” plays into a bill becoming a law

• As visitors enter the institute, they will be given a Google tablet that serves as a guide and interactive companion as they make their way through exhibits and learn about the issue being “debated” that day – immigration reform, for example. The experience begins with a short introductory video that includes snippets of Kennedy’s speeches

• Visitors then snap a selfie with the tablet, enter their initials, choose their state and party affiliation, and become “senators-in-training.” After learning more about the issue of the day, they can vote on it in the facsimile Senate chamber. A separate Senate Immersion Module, mostly for students, works slightly differently

• The museum’s exhibits can teach visitors that senators can disagree on many issues, but can still stay cordial and find enough common ground to move bills into laws. “That’s part of the message,” said former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), who serves on the board of the institute. SecState John Kerry is unable to attend because he’s at the Iran talks

• Trailer: “Spectre” – new James Bond movie – cool trailer and astonishingly no spoilers – film is coming soon…

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar contributed to this report

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