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

  • Hillary Clinton 2016: High noon Sunday?
  • Khameini: Lift sanctions when deal signed
  • Obama / Raoul Castro faceoff today
  • SC cop: New video
  • NRA convention: Votes and volunteers
  • Khameini: Saudi Yemen intervention “genocide”
  • Watchdog slams IRS: Refund fraud
  • Pols mull marijuana
Hillary Clinton 2016: High Noon Sunday?

• Hillary Clinton is planning to officially launch her second run for president on Twitter at noon eastern time on Sunday while on route to Iowa, a source familiar with the campaign confirmed to the Guardian (Guardian, me)

• That will be followed by a video and email announcement, then a series of conference calls, mapping out a blitzkrieg tour beginning in Iowa and looking ahead to more early primary states. Her scheduled calls are with advisers in other key battleground states. Clinton’s spox, Nick Merrill, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on the kickoff schedule

• Clinton will be the first Democratic presidential candidate to declare for the 2016 presidential election, and is widely considered the frontrunner within the party. Former Sen Jim Webb (D-VA) has declared an exploratory committee, and former Gov and Sen Lincoln Chafee (D-RI) on Thursday announced the formation a committee and criticized Clinton for supporting the Iraq War

• Clinton has the potential to be the first female president of the U.S., but Iowa, where she finished third behind Barack Obama and former Sen John Edwards in 2008, has been seen as a potential weak spot. A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday showed Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) leading Clinton by 1 percentage point in Iowa

• Clinton is entering the race at a time of controversy for the former SecState, with revelations that she communicated exclusively via personal email account on a private server out of her home when she held the govt position. She’s wiped the server and is also embroiled in what looks to be a lengthy fight with GOP-led committees over Benghazi testimony

Khameini: Sanctions Must Lift When Deal Signed

• Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday challenged two of the U.S.’ bedrock principles in the nuclear negotiations, declaring that all economic sanctions would have to be lifted on the day any agreement is signed and that military sites would be strictly off limits to foreign inspectors (NYT, TRNS, me)

• The assertions by leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini could be tactical, intended to give both the negotiators and himself some political space to get hard-liners and others slowly accustomed to the framework of a deal with the U.S. and other world powers that would guarantee that Iran will not make nuclear weapons. But they also illustrate the difficult hurdles that lie ahead

• Speaking for the first time since the deal was struck, Khameini said, “There was no need to take a position. The officials are saying that nothing has been done yet and nothing is obligatory. I neither agree nor disagree.” “If lifting of sanctions is supposed to be connected to a process, then why do we negotiate?”

• Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, who spoke at a different event Thursday, echoed Khameini’s remarks, but with a potentially crucial difference, saying the sanctions have to be lifted on the day a deal is put in place, potentially months after a signed agreement – “the first day of the implementation of the deal”

• SecState John Kerry and President Obama have been clear that sanctions would be suspended in phases, as Iran complies with its obligations. That’s critical to American leverage in making sure that Iran follows through on its commitments to vastly reduce its uranium stockpile and decommissions centrifuges, placing them in storage

• Sen John McCain (R-AZ) told radio host Hugh Hewitt Thursday that “John Kerry is delusional.” McCain said, “I think you’re going to find out that they had never agreed to the things that John Kerry claimed they had, so in a way, I can’t blame the ayatollah, because I don’t think they ever agreed to it.” (Politico)

• Wednesday on PBS, Kerry said that in any final agreement, Iran would also have to resolve outstanding questions with the IAEA over suspected military dimensions of the nuclear program

• Iran has partly answered only one of a dozen such questions. In his remarks Thursday, Khameini said, “The country’s military officials are not permitted at all to allow the foreigners to cross these boundaries or stop the country’s defensive development under the pretext of supervision and inspection.” (major problem for negotiations)

• Suspending sanctions is complex. Obama can suspend some of the U.S. sanctions with the stroke of a pen, but actually terminating them would require congressional action – hard to imagine right now as Congress is threatening new sanctions. Other sanctions are based on UN Security Council resolutions

• Khameini said that while he wasn’t optimistic about negotiating with world powers, especially the U.S., “I have agreed to this particular instance of negotiations and I support the negotiators.”

• Khameini said, “I trust our negotiators, but I’m really worried as the other side is lying and breaching promises, an example was the WH fact sheet. This came out a few hours after the negotiations and most of it was against the agreement and was wrong. They are always trying to deceive and break promises.”

• Pic: Fire-breathing, building-stomping Godzilla was welcomed to Tokyo Thursday, but as a sign of prosperity rather than destruction. The monster was appointed special resident and tourism ambassador for Shinjuku ward, known for its bars and noodle restaurants. A 171ft head of Godzilla was unveiled at an office of the film co that produced the original movie (Guardian)

Obama / Raoul Castro Faceoff Today

• President Obama said Thursday that the State Dept had finished its review of Cuba’s presence on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. “We don’t want to be imprisoned by the past,” he said. Obama is in Panama for a regional summit at which he’s expected today to have a historic encounter with Cuban President Raoul Castro (AP, BBC, TRNS, me)

• SecState John Kerry and Cuban FM Bruno Rodriguez met Thursday evening, in the highest level meeting between the two countries since 1959, when Fidel Castro met then VP Richard Nixon. Kerry and Rodriguez held closed-door discussions after arriving in Panama for the Summit of the Americas

• While polling has shown broad support for the thaw in both Cuba and the U.S., the change has attracted fierce opposition from some members of Congress. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Thursday there were “serious questions” about taking Cuba off the list “while this dictatorship … continues to hold power.”

• How much face time Obama and Raoul Castro will have at the summit remains unclear. While in Panama, Obama was to meet today with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and other Central American leaders. Obama is making a point to attend a forum bringing together both dissidents and members of the Cuban political establishment

• The wild card at the summit: Venezuela’s leftist President Nicolas Maduro. Obama’s recent move to slap sanctions on seven leading Venezuelan figures seemed to backfire when other Latin leaders denounced it as overkill and rallied to Maduro’s side. Maduro had said he plans to hand Obama docs with millions of signatures denouncing U.S. aggression


• Pic: “I will say that the quick trip that I made last night to Bob Marley’s House was one of the more fun meetings that I’ve had since I’ve been president,” President Obama said Thursday after meeting with Jamaican President Portia Simpson-Miller. Obama told reporters Thursday he’s been “a big fan since I was in high school.” (USA Today, Politico)


SC Cop: New Video

• South Carolina officials investigating the weekend shooting death of a black man by a police officer released a dashcam video Thursday that for the first time showed the early moments of an encounter that would ultimately reignite anger about police misconduct (NYT, AP, me)

• The video begins with a traffic stop in a parking lot at an auto parks store (taillight). Officer Michael Slager asks Walter Scott for his ID and insurance paperwork. But Scott says that he hasn’t yet purchased the used Mercedez Benz – telling Slager he intends to do so soon and that he doesn’t have any doc of insurance coverage

• Slager, telling Scott “I’ll be right back with you,” returns to his patrol car. Scott soon emerges from his vehicle but returns to the driver’s seat at Slager’s direction. About 20 seconds later, though, Scott jumps from the car and flees on foot. Slager follows, saying at one point, “Taser! Taser! Taser!”

• Later, although the audio recording includes significant static, Slager appears to order Scott to the ground. Scott had a long court record, often for failure to pay child support or to show up for court hearings. His survivors have speculated that he might have fled because of a pending warrant

• Slager’s file includes a single excessive use-of-force complaint, from 2013: A man said Slager used his stun gun against him without reason. But Slager was exonerated and the case closed, even though witnesses told AP that investigators never followed up with them. Police say they’re now looking at that case again

• Vid: San Bernardino deputies brutally beat a suspect for about two minutes after he fell off his horse at the end of a bizarre chase through rough California desert. County sheriff John McMahon called the video “disturbing” (understatement) and said he’d ordered an investigation into the incident (NBC4, NYT, me)

NRA Convention: Votes and Volunteers

• The NRA’s annual convention starts today at Nashville’s Music City Center. This year’s NRA Leadership Forum, scheduled for this afternoon, features the longest list of possible presidential candidates in the meeting’s history. “It’s not about money as much, as votes and volunteers,” said Larry Sabato, director, Center for Politics at the University of Virginia (USA Today, me)

• Speakers get 10 minutes: Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX), former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL), Dr Ben Carson, former Gov Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Gov Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Gov Scott Walker (R-WI), former Gov Rick Perry (R-TX), Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL), former Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA), Donald Trump. Gov Mike Pence (R-IN) and former Gov Sarah Palin (R-AK) canceled (noooo)

• The lone presidential contenders not scheduled – or invited – to speak are Sen Rand Paul (R-KY), who is touring early primary states and Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ), who only has a C rating with the NRA. To shine, candidates need to do more than talk policy, they need to appeal to emotions (gonna be good)

• They’re likely to announce their support for federal legislation to make each states’ concealed carry permits valid in other states that also allow for concealed carry, and state laws that allow gun owners to use deadly force to defend themselves – stand your ground

• National Republican pollster Frank Luntz said gun owners are going to look for more than just a stated belief in Second Amendment rights. They want to know if a candidate hunts or takes target practice or grew up around firearms. “Is it part of your culture, or is it something you’ve done to just tick the box”

• Tennessee lawmakers are forging ahead with plans to make the Bible the official state book, despite concerns that giving it the same status as a salamander is a little tawdry and that it could be unconstitutional. The measure could be on the House and Senate floors next week. Strong chance to pass (oh yes it has) (AP, me)
Khameini: Saudi Yemen Intervention “Genocide”

• Iran’s supreme leader on Thursday condemned the military intervention in Yemen by his country’s main regional rival, Saudi Arabia, describing it as “genocide.” Ayatollah Ali Khameini warned Riyadh that it would “not emerge victorious.” (BBC, Reuters, me)

• A Saudi-led coalition launched an air campaign two weeks ago in an attempt to halt an advance by Houthi rebels and restore President Hadi, who fled the country last month. SecState John Kerry said Washington would back any state that felt threatened by Iran and would not “stand by” if the Middle East were destabilized. Pakistan today ruled out military intervention in the conflict

• “The aggression by Saudi Arabia against Yemen and its innocent people was a mistake … It has set a bad precedent in the region,” Khameini said. “This is a crime and genocide that can be prosecuted in international courts. Riyadh will not emerge victorious in its aggression.”

• Militiamen loyal to Hadi have been unable to halt the rebel advance on Aden. Many residents of Aden support the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention. The World Health Organization says at least 643 people have been killed and 2,226 wounded in Yemen since 19 March. Another 10,000 people have been driven from their homes

• Earlier Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on countries in the region to work together to resolve the crisis. The foreign ministry also summoned Saudi Arabia’s charge d’affaires in Tehran. The state news agency quoted the ministry as saying the envoy would be asked to explain “baseless accusation” made by a spox for the coalition


• Pic: VP Joe Biden puts a pacifier belonging to former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s baby grandson into his own mouth (yes really) (Business Insider, me)

Watchdog Slams IRS: Refund Fraud

• Treasury’s IG for tax admin says in a new report that the IRS took an average of 278 days, or roughly nine months, to resolve tax fraud cases during fiscal 2013. A year earlier, the tax agency had taken an average of more than 10 months, 312 days, to solve those cases. This is even as the IRS has made refund fraud a top priority (Hill, me)

• The wait time is far longer than the IRS says it will take to close refund fraud cases, the IG says. The IRS tells taxpayers it will resolve their cases within 180 days and has said that it started taking around 120 days once the 2013 filing season started

• Identity theft has become a bigger and bigger problem for both the IRS and taxpayers in recent years, with the tax agency paying out an estimated $5.8 billion in fraudulent returns in 2013. IRS officials have often cited the rise in identity theft as they lobby lawmakers for more funding

• The IRS took issue with the report. The IG, the agency said, “pulled cases for this audit prior to new changes and improvements being put in place – even though they knew the changes were anticipated at the start of the new year. In fact, nearly half of the cases sampled were closed before January 2013.”

• “For cases received after Jan 2013, we stand by our average of 120 day timeframe for case resolution,” the IRS added. The IRS pushed back on a recommendation that it improve its calculations for how long it takes to resolve a refund case. “Until this is corrected, the IRS will continue to provide an inaccurate account resolution timeframe to taxpayers due a refund.”

• Vid: Game of Thrones opening sequence – DC edition with power players and DC landmarks (very clever) – season 5 starts Sunday night (WaPo)

Pols Mull Marijuana

• During a town hall in Jamaica on Thursday, President Obama was asked about legalizing marijuana and hemp. “I do think that if there are states that show that they are not suddenly a magnet for additional crime, that they have a strong enough public health infrastructure to push against the potential of increased addiction, then it’s conceivable that it will spur on a national debate.”

• Separately, lawmakers are asking AG Eric Holder to stop prosecuting medical marijuana users and providers in states that have legalized pot for medicinal use. In a letter to Holder sent Wed, Reps Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) responded to the narrow interpretation of the law that the DoJ recently gave (Hill, me)

• Agency spox Patrick Rodenbush said the amendments to the spending bill, which are designed to protect legal medical marijuana use, don’t restrict DoJ from federally prosecuting ongoing cases against individuals using or organizations selling pot

• It stops the dept, he told the LAT, from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws.” In their letter, the congressmen called DoJ’s interpretation “emphatically wrong” and asked the AG to bring his dept “back into compliance with federal law.”

• “In fact, we can imagine few more efficient and effective ways of ‘impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws’ than prosecuting individuals and organizations acting in accordance with those laws,” the letter said

• Vid: Rocking into the weekend with “The Beigeness” – Kate Tempest – stunning Brit talent. A rapper who’s also won the Ted Hughes prize for poetry

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar and Midori Nishida contributed to this report

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