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 jumps back in: 2016
  • Hillary 2016: GOP 2016 reax
  • Hillary 2016: Democratic reax
  • Hillary 2016: Benghazi ratchets up
  • Marco Rubio 2016: Today
  • Obama meets Raul Castro: History
  • Iran: Obama, Kerry / McCain spat
  • Russia ramps up cyber attacks

575 days until Election Day 2016!


Hillary Clinton Jumps Back In: 2016

• Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement that she will again seek the WH with a promise to serve as the “champion” of everyday Americans (AP, WaPo, Politico, Hill, TRNS, me)

• Clinton opened her bid for the Democratic nomination by positioning herself as the heir to the diverse coalition of voters who elected her immediate predecessor and former campaign rival, President Obama, as well as an appeal to those in her party still leery of her commitment to fighting income inequality

• Unlike eight year ago, when she ran as a candidate with a deep resume in Washington, Clinton and her personal history weren’t the focus of the first message of her campaign. In an online kickoff video, she made no mention of her time in the Senate and four years as SecState, or the prospect she could make history as the nation’s first female president

• Instead, the video is a collection of voters talking about their lives, their plans and aspirations for the future. Clinton doesn’t appear until the very end. “I’m getting ready to do something, too. I’m running for president,” Clinton said. Clinton’s bio on Twitter has been edited, with the word “grandma” replacing “lawyer” (new pic, too)

• Vid: Hillary Clinton is running for president

• Unlike some of the Republicans who have entered the race, Clinton was scant of policy specifics on her first day (nothing zero nada on her website). Her campaign said Sunday she would spend the next six to eight weeks in a “ramp-up” period, and she wouldn’t hold her first rally and deliver a campaign kickoff speech until late May

• Clinton is the first high-profile Democrat to get into the race, and she quickly won the endorsement of several leading members of her party, including her home state governor, NY Gov Andrew Cuomo and Sen Tim Kaine (D-VA)

• As part of her launch, Clinton will leave the board of her family’s foundation. The 2016 campaign is likely to be the most expensive in history, with total spending on both sides expected to well exceed the more than $1 billion spent by each of the two nominees’ campaigns four years ago

• Clinton will hold two days of small events in Iowa this week, beginning at a community college in the eastern town of Monticello on Tuesday, where she’ll hold a roundtable. Sunday evening, she left her NY home in a black van she’s dubbed the “Scooby Doo van.” Wednesday, she will visit a small business in Norwalk, Iowa


Hillary 2016: GOP 2016 Reax

• Sen Rand Paul (R-KY), a declared candidate, said on CNN Sunday: “I think Benghazi was a 3 a.m. phone call that she never picked up. She never provided the security – not just that day – for nine months. Dozens and dozens of requests for more security all completely ignored by Hillary Clinton.” (Hill, AP, me)

• Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX), a declared candidate, said in a statement: “We know that a Hillary Clinton admin would be no different than an Obama admin. There would be more scandals, more corruption, more lawlessness and more abuse of power.”

• Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL) posted an online video Sunday: “We must do better than the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies.”

• Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on CNN Sunday that when Clinton was SecState, “I would argue that she empowered a failed foreign policy more than she stood up to it. When she stood up to it, she was ineffective.” “She owns his

[President Obama’s] foreign policy, she owns his domestic policy.”

• Former Hewlett Packard CEO Cary Fiorina said in a Facebook video: “She does not have a track record of leadership or trustworthiness.” “She’s not the woman for the WH.” Gov Scott Walker (R-WI) tweeted: “@HillaryClinton has the same Washington-knows-best mentality people around the country are looking to move beyond.”


• Vid: New Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) ad doesn’t waste any time and trashes Hillary Clinton, says she “represents the worst of the Washington machine,” (presumably he represents the best, seeing as he’s mired in it, too…)


Hillary 2016: Democratic Reax

• President Obama said of Hillary Clinton on Saturday during a presser at the Summit of the Americas in Panama: “She was a formidable candidate in 2008, she was a great supporter of mine in the general election, she was an outstanding SecState, she is my friend. I think she would be an excellent president.” (Reuters, Hill, me)

• SecState John Kerry said on ABC Sunday: “SecState Clinton did a terrific job of rebuilding alliances that had been shredded over the course of the prior years,” including “the beginning of the effort with Iran.” “She will defend, I know, her own record for herself, But I wish her well in this race and I look forward to being able to stay well away from it.”

• Former Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA) was asked on CNN Sunday how Clinton could connect with voters. “If Hillary would just be Hillary, and we would all just allow her to just be the really extraordinary leader that she is, her campaign is going to be beautifully, beautifully, done,” Landrieu said (so likely a train wreck then)

• New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said on NBC Sunday that he wouldn’t back Clinton’s campaign until she clarifies her message for voters. “I think like a lot of people in this country I want to see a vision.” De Blasio was campaign manager for Clinton’s successful Senate campaign in 2000

• Former Gov and Sen Lincoln Chafee (D) – formerly (I) and (R) – who’s mulling a bid, said on CNN Sunday: “What kind of accomplishments did you have [as SecState]? There were precious few.”

• Graphic: Who is running for president (and who’s not) (NYT)

Hillary 2016: Benghazi Ratchets Up

• “Sec Clinton’s decision to seek the presidency of the U.S. does not and will not impact the work of the committee,” said Rep Trey Gowdy, chair of the House select Benghazi committee. “The committee needs to and expects to talk with Sec Clinton twice, as ensuring the committee has all relevant material is a condition precedent to asking specifically about Libya and Benghazi.” (Politico, me)

• The committee has asked Hillary Clinton to testify before the panel for the first time by 1 May. Gowdy said Friday the committee is still working with Clinton to schedule the hearings. The former SecState has always been a central figure in the House GOP’s investigation of who attacked a U.S. outpost in Benghazi

• Republicans on the committee said the reason Clinton is being asked to testify in such close proximity to her announcement is because the State Dept took so long to produce docs. The committee has already been given access to thousands of pages of emails and evidence but is asking for more


• The committee became aware that Clinton used a private email late last summer but only discovered the extent to which Clinton kept her emails from State on a private server in March. There have been seven Benghazi investigations so far. The GOP-led House Intelligence Committee found the CIA and military responded properly to the Benghazi attacks

• Gowdy expects Clinton to testify in a closed hearing on her use of a private email and server to avoid the appearance of politicizing the committee, he says, and a public hearing on the Obama admin’s response to the attacks (bit late to worry about politicizing the committee)

• Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking Democrat on the committee, said Clinton indicated she would be willing to answer questions on the email and server in a public hearing. “It’s been a select committee on Hillary Clinton and it will continue to be that.”

• Rep Adam Schiff (D-CA) said, “She’s been their target all along. In that sense, nothing has changed [because of her announcement] about the degree that they’ve turned the select committee into an arm of the NRCC [National Republican Campaign Committee].”


• Vid: Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) walks off live on-camera interview with Paul Lewis (British) of the Guardian (very polite, simply asking a follow-up) for Periscope. Paul claimed in an interview with CNN Sunday that his first week as a candidate had been “a piece of cake,” then said “the media, not so much.” But Lewis just did a thorough, polite job…

Marco Rubio 2016: Today

• Some party officials want him to run for governor of Florida or try to hold his Senate seat, which could be crucial to continued GOP control of the chamber. By training his sights on the WH, Marco Rubio also sets up a head-to-head competition with Jeb Bush, a mentor with whom he has many overlapping supporters (AP, me)

• Rubio is expected to announced his candidacy today in his hometown of Miami, a day after Hillary Clinton. His team sees an opportunity to answer the “why now” question and argue the country’s pressing problems require a new generation of leaders, not a return to the 1990s. Rubio is about to step into a field that’s shaping up to be crowded and competitive

• Miami’s Freedom Tower was picked as the expected backdrop for Rubio’s campaign announcement. The landmark was once the federal processing center for tens of thousands of Cuban exiles arriving in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. Rubio’s parents left Cuba in 1956, shortly before Fidel Castro took power

• He plans to make his family’s immigrant past and his own success story a central part of his campaign. He also intends to play up his hawkish foreign policy views and experience on two powerful national security-focused Senate committees as he tries to sell his qualifications to be commander in chief

• Rubio’s expected to return to DC in time for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday on Iran. He will headline fundraisers in New York and Boston later in the coming week. He’s set to make his first campaign stop as a candidate Friday in New Hampshire. He’s expected to visit Iowa, South Carolina and possible Nevada by the end of the month


• Authorities released vid of deputy-involved shooting of black suspect, Eric Harris. Police say 73-year-old white reserve deputy thought he was using a stun gun instead of a gun. Harris says he’s losing his breath. Another deputy says: “Fu*k your breath.” Harris died in a Tulsa hospital. Investigation says reserve deputy Robert Bates a victim of phenom: “slips and capture” – behavior slips off course, captured by stronger response (NYDN, AP)

Obama Meets Raul Castro: History

• President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba met in Panama on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas on Saturday in the first face-to-face discussion between the leaders of the two countries in a half-century. Obama called it a “historic meeting” which was “candid and fruitful.” (NYT, TRNS, me)

• Obama said work would continue on the goal of re-establishing diplomatic relations and reopening embassies in Havana and Washington. Still, Obama stopped short of announcing a final decision, now widely expected, to remove Cuba from the U.S.’ list of state sponsors of terrorism, saying he wanted to study it further

• For now, Obama argued, the best way to address the U.S.’ disagreements with Cubs and other countries in the hemisphere on such issues as human rights and democracy was by engaging with them. “The Cold War’s been over for a long time,” Obana said

• “So often, when we insert ourselves in ways that go beyond persuasion, it’s counterproductive, it backfires,” he said, adding that was “why countries keep on trying to use us as an excuse for their own governance failures. Let’s take away the excuse.” (no more invasions or orchestrated coups then, boring)

• Castro, in a 45-minute speech to the plenary session (allotted 8) delivered a lengthy diatribe on historical American injustices in the hemisphere. Still, he spoke in warm tones about Obama, said he’d read the president’s books and praised his background as “humble.” He saluted his “brave” decision to take steps against a trade embargo against Cuba
• Pic: Wow – President Obama can actually make a rainbow appear as he waves. President Obama boards Air Force One in Jamaica with a rainbow magically behind him. Unicorns are off screen (WashTimes, me)

Iran: Obama, Kerry / McCain Spat

• President Obama said Saturday that he wants Congress to “look at this deal” when it’s done. “What I’m concerned about is making sure that we don’t prejudge it” and that “those who are opposed to any deal whatsoever try to use a procedural argument to screw up the possibility of a deal.” (Bloomberg, WaPo, Politico, me)

• Obama slammed Sen John McCain (R-AZ) who, he said, accused SecState John Kerry of being “less trustworthy than the supreme leader” of Iran. “When we start getting to the point that the U.S. govt and our SecState are somehow spinning … that’s a problem. It needs to stop.”

• McCain quickly responded in a statement: “It is undeniable that the version of the nuclear agreement outlined by the Obama admin is far different from the one described by Iran’s supreme leader – on inspections, sanctions relief and other critically important issues.” (so Iran are truth tellers and McCain’s longtime Senate colleague is a liar)

• Thursday, McCain said: “I think you’re going to find out that they had never agreed to the things that John Kerry claimed that they had. So in a way, I can’t blame the ayatollah, because I don’t think they ever agreed to it, and I think John Kerry tried to come back and sell a bill of goods, hoping maybe that the Iranians wouldn’t say much about it.”

• Kerry said on NBC Sunday: “I will stand by every word that I have uttered publicly.” “They’re going to put their spin on their point of view and obviously they’ll allege that we’re putting a spin on our point of view,” he said on ABC on Sunday

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. Iranian lawmakers Sunday demanded their own factsheet

Russia Ramps Up Cyber Attacks

• Russia has ramped up cyber attacks against the U.S. to an unprecedented level since President Obama imposed sanctions last year on President Putin’s govt over its intervention in Ukraine. The attacks are hitting the highest levels of the U.S. govt, in what former officials call a “dramatic” shift in strategy. And they don’t much care about getting caught (Hill, me)

• The efforts are also targeting U.S. businesses, pilfering intellectual property, in an attempt to level the playing field for Russian industries hurt by sanctions. Cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike has recorded over 10,000 Russian intrusions at U.S. companies in 2015 alone. That’s a meteoric rise from the “dozens per month” this time last year

• For many years, Russian hacking has operated on two tracks. On one track, Moscow has orchestrated quiet, targeted digital hits on the U.S. govt to collect scraps of intel data. On the other, a large community of Russian cyber criminals, not necessarily affiliated with the govt, has peppered the American banking industry for commercial gain

• Moscow has infiltrated the State Dept and WH networks – giving them access to President Obama’s full schedule. It’s thought they may still be inside State. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate Committee in Feb, “The Russian cyber threat is more severe than we have previously assessed.”


• Last year, Russians were charged with hacking into Nasdaq, America’s second-largest stock exchange. Going further back, a notorious Russian internet gang made off with tens of millions of dollars from Citibank in 2009


• Vid: Jordan Spieth’s final two shots – he wins the Masters, second youngest ever – advise watch with the sound turned down, annoying music

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald contributed to this report

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