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

  • Benghazi committee demands Clinton emails
  • Hillary Clinton finally speaks out
  • Clinton’s private server
  • SCOTUS: “Established by the state”
  • Ferguson PD: “Searing” DoJ report
  • Holder: “Racial bias. No other basis.”
  • Ferguson: 4 awful revelations
  • Boston Marathon bombing trial: “It WAS him”
  • Iran: Talks edge closer?
  • DC snooow: Congress melts away…

Benghazi Committee Subpoenas Clinton Emails

• The House select Benghazi committee sent a broad subpoena to Hillary Clinton’s lawyer Wednesday, requesting all emails she had in her personal account as SecState that relate to Libya. The subpoena was sent as part of an effort to determine whether Clinton had handed over all of the emails in her account related to the attacks (NYT, AP, Hill, Politico, TRNS, TRNS, me)

• The committee also sent letters to internet firms, telling them they were legally obligated “to protect all relevant documents” related to the Benghazi attacks. It also sent a new subpoena to State. A spox for the committee said the committee is in possession of records with two separate and distinct email addresses used by Clinton while she was at State

• Top Democrat on the committee, Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD), said: “I did not want to believe it, but everything I’ve seen so far has led me to believe that this is an effort to go after Hillary Clinton. Period.” He said the panel’s Democrats had no notice about the subpoenas despite an earlier pledge from the panel chair that they would have seven days’ notice of such actions

• Also Wed, AP reported the existence of a personal email server traced back to the Chappaqua NY home of Clinton. The unusual practice of a Cabinet level official running her own server would have given Clinton – a potential 2016er –  significant control over limiting access to her message archives

• It would also complicate State’s legal responsibilities in finding and turning over official emails in response to any investigations, lawsuits or public records requests. The dept would be in the position of accepting Clinton’s assurances she was surrendering everything required that was in her control

Clinton Finally Speaks

• After two days of silence, Clinton weighed in on the controversy late Wednesday night. “I want the public to see my email,” she tweeted after spending the night at a gala for her family’s foundation. “I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”

• Her aides have declined to describe the process by which they selected which emails to hand over and which to hold back, and public records experts have expressed alarm that Clinton’s correspondence wasn’t being preserved as part of the State record-keeping system while she was in office (she needs to get ahead of this)

• Clinton is particularly sensitive about disclosures of personal files based on her experiences in confronting congressional investigations and civil lawsuits during her husband’s election and presidency and her own roles as first lady, senator, presidential candidate and cabinet official. Clinton hasn’t described her reasons for using a private email account

• Clinton used her private address for everything  – from State Dept matters to planning her daughter’s wedding and issues related to the family’s sprawling philanthropic foundation. A spox declined to elaborate about her use of for matters related to the Clinton Foundation, which has received millions of dollars in donations from foreign govts

Clinton’s Private Server
• Operating her own server would have afforded Clinton additional legal opportunities to block govt or private subpoenas in criminal, admin or civil cases because her lawyers could object in court before being forced to turn over any emails (the less we know, the more we speculate)

• Homemade email servers are generally not as reliable, secure from hackers or protected from fires or floods as those in commercial data centers. But State’s email system might not have been attractive to Clinton because it’s frequently targeted by hackers

• WH spox Josh Earnest was hammered for a second day with questions. “So this question about classified information being passed around on these kinds of email systems, that is certainly not supposed to occur and, frankly, raises much more significant problems than compliance with the Federal Records Act,” he said at one point in answer to a question (buses on buses…)

• The Democratic establishment has been blindsided by the revelations. Democrats on Tuesday groused over the initial lack of an aggressive response by her advisers and allies. Still, several Democratic operatives privately expressed amazement about what they called an unforced error – one that played into GOP depictions of the Clintons as secretive
• U.S. ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert is in stable condition after a man screaming demands for a unified North and South Korea slashed him on the face and wrist with a knife, South Korean police and U.S. officials said today. North Korea says the attack is “just punishment for U.S. warmongers.” (AP, BBC, ABC News, TRNS, me)
SCOTUS: “Established By the State”
• The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed bitterly divided during heated arguments over the fate of President Obama’s health care law. The admin must almost certainly capture the vote of either Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Anthony Kennedy to prevail. The chief justice said almost nothing (NYT, TRNS, me)

• Justice Kennedy asked questions suggesting that he was uncomfortable with the admin’s reading of the statute. But he added that the challengers’ reading posed problems, too. “Your argument raises a serious constitutional question,” he told their lawyer

• Michael Carvin for the plaintiffs said, “This is a straightforward question of statutory interpretation,” referring to a provision in the law that seems to say that subsidies are available only to people living where the insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, had been “established by the state.”

• “We don’t look at four words,” Justice Elena Kagan said. “We look at the whole text.” Justice Stephen Breyer echoed: “If you want to go into the context” of the law, he told Carvin, “at that point, your argument really is weaker.”

• In a WSJ profile of him Tuesday, Carvin said the argument Wednesday was on “a statute that was written three years ago, not by dead white men but by living white women and minorities.” “It hasn’t had time to ‘grow’ or ‘evolve.'” (bit odd) (TPM, WSJ, me)
• Justice Kennedy repeatedly asked whether Congress had the constitutional authority to make states choose between setting up their own insurance exchanges and letting their citizens lose tax subsidies to help them buy insurance

• Solicitor General Donald Verrilli for the Obama admin said the challengers’ interpretation “produces an incoherent statute that doesn’t work.” Justice Antonin Scalia responded that the law “means what it says” even if that has negative consequences

• He and Justice Samuel Alito added that Congress and the states could promptly address a ruling rejecting the subsidies – Verrilli doubted that: “This Congress?” Justice Alito said the Supreme Court might even defer the effective date of its decision

• The central question in the case, King v. Burwell, is whether the ACA bars the subsidies in places where the federal govt, rather than a state, runs the insurance marketplaces called for by the law. Should the court rule the subsidies were not authorized, most of the 8 million people wouldn’t be able to buy health insurance, insurance markets in those states could collapse, threatening the law itself

• The Senate failed Wednesday to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that would have approved construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. The ultimate decision’s expected to come from the president “within weeks or months” or “by the end of my administration.” (NYT, TRNS)
Ferguson PD: “Searing” DoJ Report
• Ferguson MO police officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in Ferguson, in August because he feared for his life after Brown first tried to grab his gun and then came towards him in a threatening manner, according to a DoJ report released Wednesday. No civil rights charges (WaPo, Hill, TRNS, me)

• A second scathing 102-page report highlighted widespread racial bias by the 72-member Ferguson PD and described a system of using law enforcement to extract money from African Americans, a practice AG Eric Holder called “revenue generation through policing.”

• The investigation found that Ferguson officers competed to see who could issue the largest number of citations during a single stop, and in one instance, that total rose to 14

• “These findings … demonstrate that, although some community perceptions of Michael Brown’s tragic death may not have been accurate, the widespread conditions that these perceptions were based upon, and the climate that gave rise to them, were all too real,” Holder said. “Some of those protesters were right,” he added

• The DoJ made 26 recommendations for the Ferguson PD and the municipal court, including a “robust system of true community policing” and new hiring practices to recruit minority officers. “It is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action,” Holder said

Holder: “Racial Bias. No Other Basis”
• “Our review of the evidence found no alternative explanation for the disproportionate impact on African American residents other than implicit and explicit racial bias,” Holder said. “No other basis.”

• DoJ released seven racist emails written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials. One from 2011 showed a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women apparently in Africa with the caption: “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.” Mayor Knowles said three police supervisors known to have sent them will be investigated, one has been fired

• DoJ found that although African Americans make up 67% of the population in Ferguson, they accounted for 93% of all arrests between 2012 and 2014. African Americans accounted for 85% of all drivers stopped by Ferguson police officers and 90% of all citations issued. All police dog bites

• In one case, a woman received two parking tickets that totaled $152. But she has paid $550 to date in fines and fees to the city. She has been arrested twice for having unpaid tickets, spent six days in jail and still owes Ferguson $541 (if the Mafia did it, they’d be done on racketeering)

• At a “presser” at which he took no questions from the press, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said Wed night “these actions taken by these individuals are in no way representative of the employees of the city of Ferguson.” (errrr) Ferguson police chief was a no-show. The mayor announced no major changes except retraining and diversity sensitivity training
Ferguson: 4 Awful Revelations
• In summer 2012, an officer approached a 32-year-old black man cooling off in his car, on grounds that his windows were more darkly tinted than city regs allowed. But “
[w]ithout cause” the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, wouldn’t let him use his cell phone, patted him down, demanded to search his car. The man refused the search, the officer pointed his gun and arrested him (Salon, me)

• Federal court rulings say recording police activity is constitutionally protected – First Amendment. A man was arrested for failure to comply after attempting to record his traffic stop; pulled over on a tail light violation. Once booked into jail, the officer told a jail official the man was arrested because he “watches CNBC too much about his rights.”

• In Dec 2011, officers allowed a dog to bite an unarmed 14-year-old African American boy who was waiting at an abandoned property for his friends. Officers justified the arrest by stating that the boy had committed a burglary – if anything the boy had only trespassed, Justice finds –

• – and asserting that the boy was hiding from officers and was warned that the dog would bite him if he continued to do so. The boy says he never hid from officers and didn’t hear any such warnings

• Officers used violent force against mentally impaired people in a number of cases. In a notorious 2011 case, officers shot and killed a man who was running nude through Ferguson and pounding cars while proclaiming that he was Jesus; the man was schizophrenic

• Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said Wed before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the U.S. considers Russia’s military support for rebels in neighboring eastern Ukraine an “invasion,” which could mark the first time any U.S. official has made such an acknowledgement in public (Hill, TRNS, me)
Boston Marathon Bombing Trial: “It WAS Him”
• In a blunt opening statement at the Boston Marathon bombing trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s own lawyer flatly told a jury that the 21-year-old former college student committed the crime. “It WAS him,” said defense attorney Judy Clarke, one of the nation’s foremost death-penalty specialists (AP, me)

• “The evidence will not establish and we will not argue that Tamerlan put a gun to Dzhokhar’s head or that he forced him to join in the plan,” Clarke said. “but you will hear evidence about the kind of influence that this older brother had.”

• Three people were killed and more than 260 hurt when two shrapnel-packed pressure cooker bombs exploded near the finish line on 15 April 2013. Tsarnaev, then 19, was accused of carrying out the attacks with 26-year-old Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout and getaway attempt days later

• Authorities contend the brothers – ethnic Chechens who arrived from Russia more than a decade ago – were driven by anger over U.S. wars in Muslim lands. Tsarnaev planted a bomb designed to “tear people apart and create a bloody spectacle,” then hung out carefree with his college buddies, prosecutor William Weinreb said

• Karen Rand McWatters, whose left leg had to be amputated, testified how she watched her close friend Krystle Campbell, 29, die on the pavement next to her. “She very slowly said that her legs hurt, and we held hands, and shortly after that, her hand went limp in mine, and she never spoke again after that,” she said, choking back tears

• The Iraqi military’s latest attempt to retake Tikrit from ISIS won’t be supported by U.S. air strikes. The offensive is being overseen at least in part by Iranian General Qasim Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. Iranian troops are also reportedly operating artillery, rocket launchers and aerial drones (Hill, BBC)
Iran: Talks Edge Closer?
• An understanding is emerging between Iran and six major world powers that a final nuclear deal between the two sides must be structured around a key U.S. demand – that Tehran stay at least a year away from amassing enough fuel for a nuclear weapon, according to people familiar with the negotiations (WSJ, me)

• Critically, some officials say, Iran has also accepted that in order to achieve that, it will have to agree to a reduction in the nearly 10,000 centrifuges it now operates and cut its enriched-uranium production

•The complexity of some of the remaining gaps – including agreeing how to lock in the minimum 12-month time frame and real tensions over the timing of sanctions relief for Iran – explain why officials in Washington and Tehran remain so cautious about predicting success. President Obama said this week he still thinks the odds of a deal are less than 50-50

• SecState John Kerry said in Montreux that talks remained “tough and intense” but that the admin will continue pursuing a framework deal by month’s end. Two days of talks between Kerry and Iranian FM Javad Zarif broke up Wednesday and will resume 15 March. The final deal date is 30 June

• Tuesday, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the diplomacy in an address to Congress. Kerry didn’t mention Netanyahu or his speech, but said, “We weren’t going to be distracted by external factors or politics.” Kerry heads to Saudi Arabia today, then to Paris this weekend to brief his European counterparts

• Graphic: Meet some of the residents of the most powerful apartment building in the world: 15 Central Park West. Fascinating (Business Insider)

DC Snooow: Congress Melts Away…
• The House, followed by the Senate Wednesday, reached rare bipartisan agreement on the desire of lawmakers to beat a forecasted snowstorm out of town. Washington DC, that is, where anything white falling from the sky disrupts schools, the federal govt, air traffic and roads. Congress wants no part of it, at least this week: 8 inches forecast this morning (AP, Hill, me)

• Better, the House resolved Tuesday, to pass a funding bill for the Dept of Homeland Security and adjourn. The Senate Wednesday concurred, calling a vote to override President Obama’s veto of legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline

• Senate leaders set the last vote of the week for 2.30 pm Wed. But that wasn’t good enough for Sen James Inhofe (R-OK), known as the chamber’s most vocal denier of man-made climate change. “Is there any way you could change that to 2.20 from 2.30?” Inhofe asked on the Senate floor. “There are four people who can’t make planes, otherwise.”

• With no objection from minority Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed. “So for the information of all senators, the vote on the veto override will occur at 2.20 and senators should be in the chamber and prepared to vote from their seats,” McConnell announced. The House was already gone, gone gone for a “district work session” (LOL) next week

• Meanwhile, Del Eleanor Holmer Norton (D-DC) sent a letter to U.S. Capitol Police Board chair Frank Larkin Wed asking for the ban on sledding in Capitol Hill to be temporarily lifted for the weekend beginning today. “Families have started calling my office because they don’t want to be turned away once again from sledding on U.S. Capitol Grounds.” It’s a great hill

• OMG vid: You won’t believe what these Yellowstone buffalo do – you won’t believe how these people in the car react

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar, James Cullum and Shane Farnan contributed to this report


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