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 bill: Deal in the works?
  • Iran: Senate panel to vote today
  • Marco Rubio announces 2016 bid
  • Hillary Clinton: 2016 road trip – Iowa
  • Reserve deputy charged over Taser/gun kill
  • Blackwater guards sentenced
  • Nigerian schoolgirls: One year on
  • VA whistleblower cases “overwhelming


Iran Bill: Deal in the Works?

• Key congressional negotiators are confident they can strike a bipartisan agreement on an Iran bill (details below) just hours ahead of an afternoon committee vote on the bill today. Foreign Relations Committee chair Sen Bob Corker (R-TN) spent the weekend negotiating with ranking member Sen Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who co-wrote the bill with Corker (Politico, me)

• Corker’s going to need all the votes he can muster once the bill reaches the Senate floor. President Obama is likely to threaten a veto even though Corker has offered concessions. Monday afternoon, Corker briefed Republicans for about 40 minutes on the panel. He then turned the room over to Cardin so that Democrats could talk things over

• But Sen Chris Coons (D-DE), an undecided Democrat, who has spearheaded the effort to dilute a requirement that the admin certify that Iran is not directly sponsoring terrorism against the U.S. and shorten the congressional review time frame, said Obama is still likely to veto the measure

• Privately, some Democrats are beginning to urge Obama to cut a deal with Corker to allow Congress a vote on the Iran proposal. Once Corker’s panel finishes its work today, the bill is likely to come to the full Senate floor this month, then House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said the House would pass it quickly after Senate action

• Sources say the admin has three concerns with Corker’s bill: that it requires the U.S. certify that Iran is not directly supporting terrorism against the U.S., that it blocks Obama from quickly lifting legislative sanctions, and that it comes before the 30 June deadline for finalizing the nuclear deal


Iran: Senate Panel to Vote Today

• The Obama admin stepped up its lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill on Monday to try to persuade lawmakers not to pass any legislation that could hamper prospects for negotiating a final deal with Iran to curb its nuclear program (AP, me)

• The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote today on an intensely debated bill that would give Congress a say on a potential deal aimed at keeping Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon. On the House side, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Monday he’ll bring the bill to the floor if the Senate acts

• SecState John Kerry, Energy Sec Ernest Moniz, Treasury Sec Jack Lew and senior officials in the intelligence community were holding classified briefings Monday and today with members of the House and Senate to try to sell them on the deal

• WH spox Josh Earnest said Monday that some Republicans are “rigidly partisan” and will reject any deal just because President Obama supports it. He said that while there’s some Democratic opposition, admin officials will continue to talk with members of his party. So far, Obama and other senior officials  have made more than 130 calls to members of Congress

• President Putin on Monday opened the way for Russia’s delivery of a sophisticated air defense missile system to Iran, a move that would significantly bolster the country’s military capability. SecState Kerry objected in a phone call to FM Lavrov. The WH indicated the Russian move could endanger plans to ultimately lift sanctions on Iran in a final deal (AP, TRNS, me)


What’s in the Bill?

• Under the bill, Obama could unilaterally lift or ease any sanctions that were imposed on Iran through executive means. But the bill would prohibit him for 60 days from suspending, waiving or otherwise easing any sanctions that Congress levied on Iran. During that time, Congress could hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on any final deal (AP, me)

• If Congress passed a joint resolution approving a final deal – or took no action – Obama could move ahead to ease sanctions levied by Congress. But if Congress passed a joint resolution disapproving it, Obama would be blocked from proving Iran with any relief from congressional sanctions

• The bill has led to a political tug of war on Capitol Hill, with Republicans trying to raise the bar so high that a final deal might be impossible, and Democrats aiming to give the WH more room to negotiate with Iran. Senators of both parties are considering more than 50 amendments to the measure

• At the WH, Obama met with Jewish leaders on Monday. While Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is intensely skeptical that international negotiators can reach a verifiable deal with Iran, which has threatened to destroy Israel, some American Jewish groups have backed the international negotiations


• Iraqi PM Haidar al-Abadi and President Obama will discuss the fight against ISIS today at an Oval Office meeting likely to be dominated by Iraqi requests for U.S. arms and tension over Iran’s role on the battlefield (Reuters, me)


Marco Rubio Announces 2016 Bid

• Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced Monday that he’s running for president, during a speech in which he presented himself as the embodiment of a generational change who can unite the Republican Party’s factions and offer economic solutions for the 21st century (NYT, TRNS, me)

• At 43, the youngest candidate in the field, Rubio cast himself as a forward-looking, next-generation leader – and an implicit contrast to Jeb Bush, 62, whose family has dominated Republican politics for nearly three decades, and Hillary Clinton, 67, the wife of a former president and the most likely Democratic nominee

• In a direct attack on Clinton’s candidacy, Rubio said: “Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday. Yesterday is over and we’re never going back.” (royalties to Lennon/McCartney?)

• And hinting at Bush’s background as the son and brother of presidents, Rubio said: “I live in an exceptional country where the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as those who came from power and privilege.”


• Laying out what he considered foreign policy errors by President Obama, Rubio lamented “dangerous concessions” to Iran and the admin’s “hostility” to Israel. But ultimately Rubio made the argument that he was best suited to make the American dream that his family experienced accessible to others

• At a breakfast for bundlers to his campaign on Monday, Rubio pointed to the venue for his announcement Monday night – Miami’s Freedom Tower, which served as a processing center for thousands of Cuban refugees fleeing the govt of Fidel Castro – as a sign of America’s greatness because the child of refugees’ children could run for president, an attendee said

• Rubio is angling to become the youthful face of a party that skews older and has struggled to attract young voters, blacks and Latinos. Many mainstream Republicans hope that a Cuban-American who speaks fluent Spanish can help draw Hispanic voters, a growing demographic that will be critical during the general election, into the party

• His work on immigration illustrates the delicate balance Rubio will have to strike to make it through the party’s nominating process. In 2013, Rubio was part of a bipartisan group of senators that drafted a broad immigration bill that included a pathway to citizenship. He’s distanced himself from it, but the bill enraged the right – seen as amnesty

• Friday, Rubio plans to introduce himself to voters, heading to New Hampshire for a day of meetings with activists, business leaders and students, as well as the local news media. Friday evening, he will kick off the state’s two-day leadership summit of 2016 hopefuls, speaking at a dinner in Nashua NH


• Former neurosurgeon and conservative fave Dr Ben Carson plans to announce that he’s running for president on 4 May at the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts (Detroit News)


Clinton: 2016 Road Trip – Iowa

• Hillary Clinton is spending her first days as a presidential candidate on a road trip from New York to Iowa in a van that she calls “Scooby.” She stopped in Ohio Monday at a Chipotle restaurant for a chicken bowl with guacamole and a chicken salad with aide Huma Abedin, spoke to nobody and wasn’t recognized, according to the store manager (WSJ, Daily Mail, me)

• She has a roundtable discussion today at Kirkwood Community College’s satellite campus in rural Iowa. The Daily Mail spoke to a number of students. Corey Jones, among those chosen to question Clinton, plans to ask about illegal immigration

• “You know, Obama’s plan was to make the illegal immigrants legal,” Jones, a graphic design student, said. “She’s part of all that. And some people think – well, I think maybe – it’s just a tactic to have more Democratic votes.” Most students in Monday’s random sample chose not to talk about Clinton. One just put her ear buds back in

• Ross Vander Peut, 16, will turn 18 just before the election and described himself as a libertarian. “If you are against gay marriage, you’ve lost my vote,” he said. He hedged on Clinton, saying she “seems like kinda like a control freak. But she also seems very strong-willed and determined. When she wants something done, she probably does it herself.”

• Bri Parks, a speech and psychology major, said, “If I heard her opinions and liked her ideas, I would support her.” But “I hope people don’t vote for her just because she’s a woman.”


• Today, to mark Equal Pay Day, the WH will call for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would allow workers to sue their employers for wage discrimination. Republicans blocked the proposal in the Senate before last fall’s midterms (Hill)


Reserve Deputy Charged: Taser/Gun Kill

• A part-time Tulsa OK reserve deputy who fatally shot a man during an undercover gun sting was charged with second-degree manslaughter Monday afternoon. Earlier Monday, Sheriff Stanley Glanz described Reserve Deputy “Bob” Bates as a longtime friend. “He made an error. How many errors are made in an operating room every day?” Glanz said (Tulsa World, NYT, me)

• Sheriff’s officials said that on 2 April, Bates intended to subdue the suspect, Eric Harris, 44, with a Taser, but instead shot him with his handgun. Before he was killed, Harris was fleeing on foot from deputies who had tried to arrest him as part of an undercover op buying illegal guns. Bates, 73, was one of several officers who took part in the chase

Video shows Harris being knocked to the ground and officers struggling for seconds to subdue him. A voice can be heard saying “Taser, Taser,” as if to warn other deputies to get out of the way. A moment later there’s a single gunshot and a voice says, “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.” The video shows that Bates dropped his pistol

• Officials later said he dropped it because he was unprepared for the gun’s recoil – added proof that the shooting was an accident; a Taser has negligible recoil. Bates is not an active member of the Sheriff’s Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force but donates his hours there, officials said (sounds like he didn’t have adequate gun training)

• Sobering and awful: There may have been only one day or two days so far in 2015 when nobody was killed by cops – the list (Medium). Interactive: The race gap in America’s police departments (wow) (NYT, me)

Deputy: Major Donor to Sheriff’s Dept

• Bates has donated thousands of dollars worth of items to the Sheriff’s office since becoming a reserve deputy in 2008, including multiple vehicles, guns and stun guns. Maj Shannon Clark said, “There are lots of wealthy people in the reserve program. Many of them make donations of items. That’s not unusual at all.” ( fishy, though) (Tulsa World, NYT, CNN, me)

• Bates, Clark said, is classified as an “advanced reserve,” which means he “can do anything a full-time deputy can do.” Though Bates’ assignment to the Violent Crimes Task Force was not unusual, Clark said, the insurance company executive would have been assigned to the undercover operation in a support role (involved in an arrest?)

• “Although he had training and experience for the arrest team, he’s not assigned to the arrest team,” Clark said of Bates’ role on the task force. “He came to render aid during the altercation, but he’s in a support role during the operation. That means keeping notes, doing counter-surveillance, things like that.” (why was he running and chasing during the arrest, then?)

• Bates told investigators that he was “in a state of shock and disbelief” after realizing he fired his gun rather than his Taser. In a statement to investigators, Bates said that when he tried to use his stun gun, he believed there was a “strong possibility” that Harris had a gun. Harris was later found to be unarmed


• The UN Security Council is to vote on a resolution imposing an arms embargo on Yemen’s Houthi rebels and their allies, as they fight govt supporters who are backed by Saudi-led air strikes. But Russia may veto the resolution. Iran has been accused of backing the rebels (BBC, me)


Blackwater Guards Sentenced

• A federal judge on Monday sentenced former Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten to life in prison, on a charge of first degree murder, in a shocking 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square that killed 14 Iraqi civilians and wounded 17 others. Witnesses said Slatten was the first to fire shots (AP, NYT, me)

• Three other former guards – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – were each sentenced to 30 years and one day in prison for charges that included manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and using firearms while committing a felony. The carnage that day caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone

• Prosecutors described the shooting as an unprovoked ambush on civilians and said the men haven’t shown remorse or taken responsibility. Defense lawyers countered that the men were targeted with gunfire and shot back in self-defense. Prosecutors had urged longer sentences

• Video monitors in the courtroom showed photos of the dead and wounded, as well as images of cars that were riddled with bullets or blown up with grenade launchers fired by the Blackwater guards

• Even before the trial began, defense lawyers had identified legal issues for possible appeal, including that the law under which they were charged covers overseas crimes of DoD civilian employees, military contractors and others supporting the war mission. Lawyers say the guards worked as State Dept contractors and were in Iraq to provide diplomatic, not military, services


• Sudanese voters headed to the polls amid heightened security on Monday, in an election that’s expected to extend the rule of President Omar al-Bashir, who faces charges at the International Criminal Court. Major opposition parties are boycotting the three-day election (WSJ)


One Year On: Nigerian Schoolgirls

• More than 50 of the girls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria last year were seen alive three weeks ago in the north-eastern Gwoza town before the Islamist militants were driven out of there by regional forces, a woman told BBC. Boko Haram sparked global outrage when it seized more than 219 girls from their boarding school in Chibok on 14/15 April 2014 (BBC, WaPo, Al Jazeera, Reuters,  me)

• Ceremonies are to be staged around the world to mark the one year since the more than 200 girls were abducted. A procession will be held in the capital, Abujam with 219 girls taking part to represent each missing girl. In an open letter, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousefzai called on Nigeria’s authorities and the international community to do more to secure the release of the girls

• Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has said the girls have been converted to Islam and “married off.” Amnesty says at least 2,000 women have been abducted by the group since 2014. President elect Muhuammadu Buhari vowed today that the govt would do “everything in its power to bring them home.”

• A UNICEF report out Monday said that more than 800,000 Nigerian children were forced to flee their homes in the past year and hundreds more were killed by Boko Haram. “Children have also become weapons, made to fight alongside armed groups and at times used at human bombs.”

• “Children have become deliberate targets, often subject to extreme violence – from sexual abuse and forced marriage to kidnappings and brutal killings,” says the report. “Young women and girls who have been abducted have been subjected to forced marriage, forcible religious conversion, physical and psychological abuse, forced labor and rape.”


• Russia and Ukraine have agreed to call for the withdrawal of more types of weapons in Ukraine’s east, as fresh clashes renew fears for a truce there. The deal was made in talks involving the two countries, France and Germany. Germany warned the talks had emphasized differences between Ukraine’s military and pro-Russian rebels  (BBC, me)


VA Whistleblower Cases “Overwhelming”

• The number of whistleblower cases reported at the Dept of Veterans Affairs remains “overwhelming,” a year after a scandal broke over chronic delays for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records covering up the delays, a top federal investigator said Monday (AP, Blaze, me)

• Caroline Lerner, head of the independent Office of Special Counsel, said complaints of waste, fraud and abuse – as well as threats to the health and safety of veterans – continue to pour in, even after Congress gave the dept an extra $16 billion last year to shorten waits for care and overhaul the agency

• So many complaints have been filed, Lerner said, that VA cases represent 40% of all incoming cases investigated by her agency, which has jurisdiction over the entire federal govt

• “In several cases, the medical records of whistleblowers have been accessed and information in those records has apparently been used to attempt to discredit the whistleblowers,” she said in prepared testimony

• The counsel’s office is examining about 110 pending claims of retaliation against whistleblowers who filed complaints involving patient health and safety, scheduling and understaffing, Lerner said. The pending claims involve VA facilities in 38 states and DC

Teaser: OMG – HBOs “True Detective” season 2 – looks riveting – 21 June

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar and Washington Desk contributed to this report

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