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.

Search area for MH370 will double if no trace found in current phase, officials say (CNN)

In the News

  • Capitol Police: Get off our lawn
  • Rouhani: Iran won’t deal with Congress
  • Lynch supporters stage hunger strike
  • House: Estate tax fun today
  • U.S./Cuba: Talks over fugitives
  • Christie, Clinton: Campaigning
  • Clinton Foundation: Some foreign money OK
  • Bible: Official Book of Tennessee House
Gyrocopter Lands on Lawn at Capitol: Pilot Arrested

• A 61-year-old postal worker from Florida delivering a protest message to Congress about campaign finance laws landed a lightweight gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, upending what was shaping to be another day of legislative stalemate in the Senate. The man was taken into custody, with possible charges pending (NYT, AP, Tampa Bay Times, Hill, TRNS, me)

• The pilot – according to the Tampa Bay Times, which was aware of his plans before takeoff – was Doug Hughes, a postal worker from Ruskin FL. He guided his aircraft at about 45 mph through protected airspace and landed it on Congress’s front lawn, partly because he was upset about SCOTUS’s ruling in Citizens United

• On a website, Hughes said he had “no violent intentions or intention.” But he acknowledged, “This isn’t my regular route.” He told the Tampa Bay Times he considered himself on a mission that was “sort of a mix of P.T. Barnum and Paul Revere.” He intended to deliver letters to all members of Congress

• Vid: Witness (with perfect view and a steady hand) captures landing on Capitol lawn of tiny, one-person gyrocopter – one for the ages (AP)


• Rep Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the Homeland Security Committee, said, “Had it gotten any closer to the Speaker’s Balcony, they have long guns to take it down, but it didn’t. It landed right in front.” The Capitol was briefly locked down. The Tampa Bay Times is being criticized for knowing well ahead of time and not telling the police until just beforehand

• A Senate aide said Capitol Police knew of the plan shortly before Hughes took off from Pennsylvania, and said he had previously been interviewed by the Secret Service. Agency spox Brian Leary said the Secret Service spoke with Hughes in Oct 2013 and a “complete and thorough investigation was conducted.” (not that thorough, apparently)

• The unexpected landing provided a brief moment of excitement in an otherwise quiet day on Capitol Hill. Aides and reporters raced outside the building and to the windows. “That’s not a helicopter,” on Capitol employee said with a chuckle. “That’s a lawn chair with a propeller attached.”

• President Obama on Wednesday warned that the world cannot be “complacent” in the fight against Ebola. “This virus is unpredictable,” even as the number of new cases drops to zero in parts of West Africa, he said. Obama made the remarks shortly after he met with the presidents of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leona at the WH (Hill, TRNS, me)
Rouhani: Iran Won’t Deal With Congress

• Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday accused U.S. Congress of meddling in sensitive nuclear negotiations. “What the U.S. Senate says, or what the House of Representatives want, or what the extremists in the U.S. are looking for, or what the U.S. mercenaries in the region say, it doesn’t have anything to do with our govt or our people,” he said in a speech (WSJ, TRNS, me)

• “We announce that the side that we deal with is not the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives – it is a group called the P5+1,” he said, referring to the U.S. and five other world powers. Iranian leaders insist that sanctions must be removed immediately upon completing a deal that would place limits on Iran’s nuclear activities

• Oversight by Congress may make that an impossibility. Rouhani’s comments followed the unanimous approval Tuesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of a bill that would give Congress a 30-day window to review a final deal. A preliminary deal awaits final approval by a 30 June deadline

• Later in his speech, Rouhani repeated a red line of Ayatollah Khameini: that sanctions imposed by the U.S., EU and UN be lifted immediately after a final deal is reached. The U.S. has indicated that the removal of sanctions is to come in phases. The addition of congressional oversight would add to the time

• The Iranian parliament was discussing a bill that would make Iran’s approval contingent on the immediate withdrawal of sanctions after the signing of the deal, a committee spox said. SecState John Kerry told reporters Wednesday that he was optimistic President Obama and the other leaders would achieve an agreement

• Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said at Yad Vashem Museum on Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday that the West had appeared “comatose” and “gripped by delusion” during its negotiations with Iran over the last 18 months. Their actions recalled similar mistakes world powers made negotiating with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, he said (Times of Israel, Hill)


Lynch Supporters Stage Hunger Strike

• Loretta Lynch’s allies are launching a hunger strike until she’s confirmed as attorney general. National Action Network, the advocacy group founded by Rev Al Sharpton, along with female civil rights leaders, are staging the hunger strike, in which groups of fasters will alternate days abstaining from food until Lynch is confirmed to replace Eric Holder at the DoJ (Politico, TRNS) me)

• But they could be waiting weeks. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) warned Wednesday that the Senate could bypass a sex trafficking bill that’s been entwined with Lynch’s nomination in order to deal with Iran review legislation that unanimously cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday. Lynch has been on hold five months

• Activists also plan to blitz Senate offices urging support for Lynch, write letters to the editor and op-eds, and launch a social media drive trying to bring attention to the effort

• Lynch has public support from five Republicans: Orrin Hatch (UT), Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Susan Collins (ME) and Mark Kirk (IL). With support from all Senate Democrats, that would give Lynch 51 votes, enough to be confirmed

• But her nomination is tangled up in an unrelated Senate fight over a human-trafficking bill, which has been bogged down by a partisan dispute over its abortion provisions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reiterated this week that the chamber wouldn’t move on Lynch until it resolves the disputes over that bill

• The WH is expected the add half-inch steel spike to its perimeter fence as a protective measure against potential jumpers. The spikes would be attached to the existing fence for at least a year, before a permanent fence is built. That would be 10′ – or there would be a second interior fence (NBC News, Hill)


This Shall Not Pass

• Cornyn has offered an amendment that would essentially rewrite language in the trafficking bill to mirror the abortion language in the Medicare measure that passed the Senate Tuesday. It would make the restitution fund in the trafficking bill – the source of the abortion dispute – be filled by appropriations, and the fines from traffickers would instead go direct to Treasury

• But Democrats promptly rejected the offer. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said it’s standard for Hyde Amendment restrictions to apply to federal spending bills, whereas Cornyn’s compromise would still expand those curbs on abortion

• “We are not going to stand by to enlarge this so-called Hyde amendment to private money,” Reid fumed. He added that McConnell and Cornyn “feel that this is their opportunity to broaden Hyde, and we’re not going to allow that to happen. It would be wrong.”

• Reid says that Democrats have offered McConnell 10 amendments privately, while McConnell and Cornyn have now tried three times to get Democrats to approve the trafficking bill. But just four Democrats voted for those GOP offers – two short of the number needed to break a filibuster

• A vote on Cornyn’s latest offer is expected today. But it will fail, according to senior Democratic aides, leaving Lynch’s nomination on ice for at least a little while longer


• House leaders Wednesday used Tax Day to vote on IRS bills: one would prevent IRS employees from using personal email accounts for official business. One would enact a taxpayers’ bill of rights, another would require the agency to fire employees caught targeting individuals or groups based on their politics. Two bills would require federal workers and contractors to be current in their federal taxes (Hill)

House: Estate Tax Fun Today

• The House is gearing up to vote today on repealing the estate tax, an issue that has energized the base in both parties. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said Tuesday, “That’s not supposed to be something people have to deal with when they’re grieving for the loss of a loved one.” (Hill, me)

• Republicans believe voters agree with them, even as polls have long suggested that most people believe the wealthiest Americans don’t pay enough in taxes. For their part, Democrats are just as excited for today’s vote

• And Democrats say they’re more than happy to have a debate over a repeal proposal that would add $270 billion to the federal debt over a decade, according to the CBO, while affecting only a small fraction of estates in the U.S. “I guess when it comes to helping the wealthiest people in the country, it’s never enough,” Sen Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said Tuesday with a laugh

• Still, the estate tax proposal is unlikely to make it through the Senate and the WH has threatened a veto. Under current law, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that 5,400 estates will have to deal with the tax over the next several years, out of the well over 2 million deaths that occur annually

• That’s because individuals with estates valued at less than $5.43 million this year, and married couples with estates worth less than $10.86 million, are exempt. The 2013 “fiscal cliff” deal set the current parameters, which also include a 40% rate and linking the exemption parameters to inflation


• Fast food workers rallied on Wednesday for pay increases to $15 an hour, using the 15 April tax deadline to publicize their claims that they cannot survive on the hourly wages paid by many U.S. corporations. Plans called for rallies to be held in 230 cities across the nation (Reuters, me)


U.S. Cuba: Talks Over Fugitives

• The U.S. and Cuba will open talks about two of America’s most-wanted fugitives as part of a new dialogue about law-enforcement cooperation made possible by President Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terror, the State Dept said Wednesday (AP, me)

• State spox Jeff Rathke said Cuba had agreed to talks about fugitives including Joanne Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, who was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from a U.S. prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a NJ state trooper in 1973. Also the case of William Morales, a Puerto Rican nationalist wanted re bombings in New York in the 1970s

• Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, recently ruled out any return of political refugees. Still she said Tuesday night that “the Cuban govt recognizes the president of the U.S.’ just decision to take Cuba off a list in which it should never have been included.”

• Cuba and U.S. foreign policy experts said the two govts appeared to have taken a major leap toward the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington after four months of complex and occasionally frustrating negotiations

• What remains to be seen is whether Cuba will allow U.S. diplomats to move around Cuba and maintain contacts with citizens including dissidents, the second point of contention in the negotiations on restoring full diplomatic relations. Cuba is highly sensitive to any indication that the U.S. is supporting domestic dissent


• A majority of lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee said Wednesday that they’ve lost confidence in the DEA’s chief amid allegations that agents attended sex parties with prostitutes while stationed overseas. They signed a statement saying Michele Leonhart is “woefully unable to change” a “pervasive good old boy culture” (AP)


Christie, Clinton: Campaigning

• Guns: “We’ve got to make sure we have public safety, but on the other hand we have to protect people’s rights both as sportsmen and hunters and for self protection too, find the right balance,” Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ) told a group of New Hampshire voters at Chez Vachon in Manchester, New Hampshire, Wednesday (Hill, Daily Mail, me)

• His proposal to overhaul Social Security: “A lot of people debated whether I should give that speech yesterday. My point was, why would I say it if it wasn’t true? There’s no political upside to it. … It’s a tough issue. It really is. It’s emotional,” Christie told a town hall in Londonderry NH

• “Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right,” Clinton campaign spox Adrienne Elrod told the Washington Blade Wednesday. Previously, Clinton has come out for a state-by-state approach to the marriage equality fight

• Three people who chatted with Hillary Clinton over coffee Tuesday morning in the town of LeClaire Iowa appear to have close connections to the Democratic Party. Daily Mail reports they were driven to the coffee house by Clinton’s Iowa political director, Troy Price (sounds like early, amateur campaign stuff)

• Austin Bird interned with President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and was tapped to chauffeur VP Joe Biden in October 2014 when he visited Iowa, Carter Bell is president of University of Iowa College Democrats and Sara Sedlock is an employee of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Price didn’t respond to a request for comment (I’ll bet)


• Tea partier and gun channel host James Webb (not the senator) confesses to his YouTube viewers that he’s been struggling with who to vote for in 2016. He says that because of Obamacare, he’s been able to retire early and still have health coverage. He says Republicans want to repeal it. He says unless Republicans change, “I’m probably gonna have to swing my vote over toward Hillary.”


Clinton Foundation: Some Foreign Money OK

• The board of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has decided to continue accepting donations from foreign govts, even though Hillary Clinton is running for president, a summary of the new policy to be released today shows (WSJ, Buzzfeed, me)

• The rules would permit donations from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK , countries that are less controversial and politically sensitive than some who gave in 2014. Still, Canada’s foreign dept: Keystone XL pipeline; Germany and UK: antinuclear accord with Iran; U.S. and Germany: dealing with Russia in Ukraine

• The rules mean other nations would be prohibited from making large donations to the foundation. But those govts would be allowed to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative, a subsidiary of the foundation, whose companies, nonprofit groups and govt officials work on solutions to global problems. This all means Clinton’s links to the foundation will likely be a 2016 issue

• Separately, Buzzfeed reports that Hillary Clinton repeated in Iowa on Wednesday a story about her grandmother immigrating. “All my grandparents, as you know, came over here and you know my grandfather went to work in lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania.” In fact, Clinton’s sole foreign-born grandparent, Hugh Rodham Sr, immigrated as a child

•  “Her grandparents always spoke about the immigrant experience and, as a result she has always thought of them as immigrants,” a spox said. “As has been correctly pointed out, while her grandfather was an immigrant, it appears that Hillary’s grandmother was born shortly after her parents and siblings arrived in the U.S.”

• Vid: Three Texas police officers are facing disciplinary action after letting an alleged underage drinker at Chillfest off a ticket after she beat one of them at rock-paper-scissors


Bible: Official Book of Tennessee House

• The Holy Bible is the official book of Tennessee in the view of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Despite questions of constitutionality, lawmakers beat back an attempt to make Andrew Jackson’s Bible the official book and voted 55-38 in favor of Rep Jerry Sexton’s (R) original bill (Tennessean, me)

• Reps Matthew and Timothy Hill, both brothers and Republicans, questioned why Ragan chose Jackson’s Bible. Matthew asked why not Elvis’ Bible; Timothy Hill asked why not consider Davy Crockett’s Bible. Ragan said neither were president, but the debate didn’t go very far. (shame) The House voted 48-41 to kill the Jackson amendment

• Gov Bill Haslam (R) and Lt Gov Ron Ramsey (R) have both said they have concerns with the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R) opposed the bill in committee. “I sure hope it won’t pass. I think it’ll be a dark day for Tennessee if it does,” Norris said

• “All I know is that I hear Satan snickering. He loves this kind of mischief. You just dumb the good book down far enough to make it whatever it takes to make it a state symbol, and you’re on your way to where he wants you,” Norris said. (Satan not available for comment) Wednesday morning Haslam wouldn’t say if he’d veto the bill if it makes it to his desk as it stands now

• Some supporters argued the original bill highlighted the economic and historical impact of the Bible. But other supporters argued for religious reasons. “I am what I am because that book make me what I am. The morals, the values,” said Rep Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett)


• Vid : No no this is impossible – it was until now – Snowboarder Billy Morgan, lands the world’s first 1800 quadruple cork trick. It involves flipping four times, while the body also spins five complete rotations on a sideways or downward-facing axis. Morgan represented Great Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympics (Guardian)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, Midori Nishida and Washington Desk contributed to this report

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