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.

Pope considering Cuba stop during U.S. trip, Vatican says (CNN)

In the News

  • Gyrocopter flew “under the radar”
  • Curiosity / outrage on the Hill
  • Chlorine attacks in Syria: Tears in UN
  • Immigration: Executive actions in court today
  • Deal: Fast-track trade authority for Obama
  • Tulsa reserve deputy: Training records falsified?
  • Lynch for AG: Reid rattles saber
  • House votes to repeal estate tax
  • 2016 goings-on
  • Royal baby watch: No 2

Gyrocopter Flew “Under the Radar”

• Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson said Thursday that a gyrocopter that landed on the lawn of the Capitol “apparently flew in under the radar. Literally.” He noted that unlike the movie “Independence Day,” “we don’t have heat shields around our air spaces.” He said it’s too soon to say whether Wednesday’s incident should prompt changes in security procedures

• Johnson confirmed that the pilot, Florida postal worker Doug Hughes, was interviewed by the Secret Service almost two years ago. He said the agency passed along the info from that interview to “all of the appropriate law enforcement agencies.” Johnson said his first reax on hearing of the incident was to ask: “What’s a gyrocopter?” (AP, Politico, Hill, me)

• Hughes appeared in federal court in DC Thursday, wearing a U.S. postal uniform. A judge allowed him to return to Florida, but ordered him confined to his home with GPS monitoring and forbade him from flying any type of aircraft. He was also ordered to stay away from the Capitol and the WH grounds and to turn in his expired passport

• Nobody was injured in the copter incident, but it raises questions about how someone could be allowed to fly all the way from Gettysburg PA right up to the Capitol. Hughes has said he was making the flight to publicize his concerns about the corrupting influence of money in politics, and deliver letters to all 535 members of Congress on the topic

• “We are a democracy. We don’t have fences around our airspace, so we’ve got to find the right balance between living in a free and open society and security and the protection of federal buildings,” Johnson told reporters on Capitol Hill. Johnson defended existing protocols for dealing with the restricted airspace over Washington DC

• WH spox Josh Earnest said Thursday the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies may gain some “useful lessons” from the landing of a gyrocopter near the Capitol. He joked about President Obama’s reaction: “It might have been, what’s a gyrocopter?” Earnest said (Hill, me)

Gyrocopter: Curiosity / Outrage on the Hill

• “I think there’s absolutely a gap and it’s a very dangerous gap, with regard to our airspace, and I think we have to fill that gap sooner rather than later,” said Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member on the House Oversight Committee. “Suppose there was a bomb or an explosive device on that air vehicle.” (NYT, WaPo, Tampa Bay Times, me)

• Some warned against overreacting. “It’s certainly a concern, but unless you build an invisible dog fence around every capital building that will destroy an object that gets loose, you just can’t keep these kinds of things from happening,” said Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Assn

• The House Oversight Committee said it wasn’t planning any hearings. Some members of Congress seemed to make light of the incident. Asked about the incident, Sen John Cornyn (R-TX), the No 2 Republican, said: “I want to know where I can get one.”

• But Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) a possible 2016er, was more forceful: “Post-9/11, I find it astonishing that it was able to penetrate the Capitol airspace. Somebody should be fired. I think we should find out how that happened. We’re at war. This is an example of how we’re letting our guard down.”

• Secret Service interviewed Doug Hughes in 2013, but it was unclear if the agency had notified the Capitol Police about his possible plans, which he had shared with the Tampa Bay Times. The paper said that while Hughes was in the air, a reporter called the agency and told them “that a man who identified himself as a protester from Tampa Bay wanted to land a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn.)


Tears in UN Security Council: Chlorine Attacks in Syria

• UN Security Council members were moved to tears Thursday as the first eyewitness to the latest suspected chlorine attacks on civilians in Syria, a Syrian doctor, emerged from the country, to give a graphic account of dying children (AP, NYT, me)

• Mohamed Tennari, who treated victims from a half-dozen attacks over the past month, showed a video from Idlib in which two children are piled on their grandmother’s body. A third, a baby, is in the next bed. Their mouths are open. Gloved hands give them oxygen, then an injection. All three died. Their parents, too. And their grandmother. “Everyone smelled bleach-like odors.”

• The U.S. and other council members have repeatedly blamed the Syrian govt for such attacks, saying no one else in the grinding civil war has helicopters to deliver the toxic chemicals. Today, Tennari will meet with Russia’s delegation as the U.S. and other council members try to persuade the Syrian govt’s top ally to stop using its veto power against proposed action

• “It is now, in our view, incumbent on the council to go further than we have been able to come to this point, to get past the old divisions,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters after the meeting. The council last month approved a resolution condemning the use of toxic chemicals in Syria and threatening action against any violations

• Neither the UN nor the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has a mandate to assign blame in the attacks. Council members have asked the OPCW to look into the latest attacks

• Top U.S. Army Gen Martin Dempsey said Thursday that losing the town of Ramadi to ISIS would be a tragic but not crippling blow to Iraq’s counteroffensive. A more vital battleground is to the north at Beiji, home to a major oil refinery that ISIS has been targeting for months, Dempsey said at a presser. He said the refinery is “at no risk right now.” (AP, me)


Immigration: Executive Actions in Court Today

• Lawyers from the federal govt and 26 states opposed to President Obama’s immigration policies will make arguments in front of a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans today – conservative – on whether to lift an order blocking Obama’s executive actions to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. (Hill, me)

• The admin is seeking an emergency stay lifting a Texas judge’s order freezing Obama’s November executive actions, which could provide deportation relief and work permits to as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants, Supporters of Obama’s program are hopeful the court’s recent dismissal of a separate lawsuit is a sign the judges will be on their side

• But the randomly selected panel hearing the arguments includes two conservatives – Judges Jerry Smith, Ronald Reagan appointee, and Jennifer Walker Elrod, George W. Bush appointee. The third judge, Stephen Higginson, was appointed by Obama

• Opponents of Obama’s programs say the states have suffered harm fiscally. The plaintiffs have cited costs relating to issuing drivers licenses to people who receive deportation deferrals. But the Obama supporters argue they ignored economic benefits, such as added tax revenue

• The federal govt must prove to the Fifth Circuit that the injunction will cause the admin harm in order for it to be lifted. The burden of proof was on the states in the lower court. Whatever the Fifth Circuit decides, it will not be the end of the legal battles surrounding Obama’s immigration programs

Deal: Fast-Track Trade Authority for Obama

• The leaders of Congress’s tax-writing committees reached agreement Thursday on legislation to give President Obama “fast track” authority to negotiate an ambitious trade accord with 11 other Pacific nations, beginning what’s sure to be one of the toughest legislative battles of his last 19 months in office (NYT, TRNS, me)

• The “trade promotion authority bill” would give Congress the power to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership once it’s completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement

• Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chair of Senate Finance Committee, and Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of Ways and Means, had to agree to stringent requirements for the trade deal to win over Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking Democrat on the finance panel. So far, only 15-20 Democrats are said to be on board in the House and many Republicans oppose Obama on principle

• Those requirements include a human rights negotiating objective that has never existed in trade agreements, according to lawmakers involved in the talks. The bill would also make any final trade agreement public for 60 days before the president signs it, and up to four months before Congress votes

• If the agreement, negotiated by the U.S. Trade Representative, fails to meet the objectives laid out by Congress – on labor, environmental and human rights standards – a 60-vote majority in the Senate could shut off “fast track” trade rules and open the deal to amendments. The AFL-CIO and virtually every major union have vowed a fierce fight

• Vid: Sen Pat Roberts (R-KS)’ “Frozen” ringtone playing “Let It Go” interrupted a Senate Finance Committee hearing on trade Thursday. “Ah, come on. Just let it go, Mr Chairman.” Roberts deadpanned. “Sorry about that,” he said to the witness. Roberts is 78 years old


Tulsa Reserve Deputy: Training Records Falsified?

• Supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were ordered to falsify a reserve deputy’s training records, giving him credit for field training he never took and firearm certification he shouldn’t have received, sources told the Tulsa World

• At least three of Robert Bates’ supervisors were transferred after refusing to sign off on his state-required training, multiple sources speaking on condition of anonymity told the World

• Bates, 73, is accused of manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris during an undercover op on 2 April. The sources’ claims are corroborated by records, including a statement by Bates after the shooting, that he was an advanced reserve deputy in 2007 (said it was fishy earlier in the week)

• Additionally, Sheriff Stanley Glanz told a Tulsa radio station this week that Bates had been certified to use three weapons, including a revolver he fired at Harris. However, Glanz said the sheriff’s office hasn’t been able to find the paperwork on those certifications

• Undersheriff Tim Allbin rejected claims Bates’ training records were falsified. “The training record speaks for itself. I have absolutely no knowledge of what you are talking about,” Albin said. “There aren’t any secrets in law enforcement. Zero. Those types of issues would have come up.” (no secrets in law enforcement? really?)


• Bates, a wealthy Tulsa insurance executive who has purchased five cars cars for the task force, turned himself in Tuesday after being charged Monday in Harris’ death. He’s free on $25,000 bond. Harris was killed during an undercover op the sheriff’s violent crimes task force was conducting. The sheriff’s office has said Bates is typically in a support role assisting the task force

• Bates told investigators he meant to stun Harris with a Taser but accidentally shot him with a handgun instead. Bates was classified by the sheriff’s office as an “advanced reserve.” That means Bates would have had to complete 480 hours of the “Field Training Officer” program to maintain that classification

• Bates said in his statement that he had been involved in “at least 100 other” assignments, such as the undercover op. In that statement, Bates said he contacted a task force member on 1 April to ask if there was a pending op he could assist with. The task force member informed Bates of the plan for the following day

• Albin has said the video cuts off after Harris was shot because the camera battery died. (fishy) The video was purchased on a “sunglasses cam” bought by Bates for the task force. Bates was Glanz’s reelection campaign manager and also was named reserve deputy of the year in 2011

• The sheriff’s office announced early Thursday it will conduct an internal review of the deputy reserve program. The Maricopa County AZ sheriff’s office on Thursday questioned a claim Bates made in his statement that he had taken “active shooter training” from them. A spox said they had no record of it and that training is only available to members of the sheriff’s office

Lynch: Reid Rattles Saber

• Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vowed Thursday to “force a vote” on Loretta Lynch’s nomination for AG if Senate Republicans don’t act soon. “I can still do that, I know parliamentary procedure around here and we’re going to put up with this for a little while longer but not much.” (Politico, Roll Call, Hill, me)

• However, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said Thursday, after party leaders canceled a planned morning vote on cutting off debate on the latest version of the trafficking measure: “We’re not there yet, but we’re in a much better place than I think we’ve been in the past three weeks.”

• Sen Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) told reporters at a presser, “We’re involved right now in active negotiations” over a trafficking bill. “We have presented a wide variety of alternatives, at the moment it looks like there’s a serious possibility of … coming to an agreement.”

• Democrats are blocking a vote on the trafficking bill because they object to Republican language to ban abortion funding, including for rape. Reid said Wednesday that “it would be wrong” to accept Cornyn’s latest proposal, which he said would inappropriately expand abortion restrictions. Republican leadership won’t bring up Lynch’s vote until the trafficking bill is done

• Human trafficking victims attended the presser. Stacy Jewell Lewis said: “Are sex trafficking victims not walking rape victims? Haven’t they already been humiliated enough? If they are identified as victims of sex trafficking, you know they have been raped. So this language is an insult to every victim of sex trafficking.”

• President Obama on Thursday signed legislation permanently changing how Medicare pays doctors, the “doc fix,” a rare bipartisan achievement by Democrats and Republicans which was negotiated by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The bill blocked a 21% cut in Medicare payments due this month (Hill, TRNS, me)

House Votes to Repeal Estate Tax

• The House voted 240-179 Thursday to repeal the estate tax, a longtime priority of Republicans that also spurred Democratic charges that the GOP is in the pockets of the rich. The WH has threatened to veto the measure and the bill doesn’t appear to have the 60 votes necessary to break a Democratic filibuster in the Senate (Hill, TRNS, me)

• Killing off the estate tax would increase the deficit by $269 billion over a decade, according to the CBO. The Joint Committee on Taxation projects that the estate tax will hit 5,400 estates in 2015, or roughly 0.2% of the 2.6 millions deaths expected in the U.S. this year

• “Can you imagine working your whole life to build up a family-owned business or a farm, and then upon your death, Uncle Sam swoops in and takes nearly half of what you spent a lifetime building up for your children and grandchildren?” said Rep Kevin Brady (R-TX), the bill’s sponsor

• “Today’s vote to repeal the estate tax is just the Republicans’ last attempt to tilt the U.S. tax code in favor of the ultra-wealthy campaign donors,” said Rep Jim McDermott (D-WA)

• President Obama, speaking in North Carolina on Wednesday’s 15 April tax deadline, sought to make a pointed contrast between repealing the estate tax and his plan for more middle-class incentives. “So their plan would cut taxes for the top one-tenth of 1% and let taxes go up on 25 million working families and students,” Obama said. “I don’t need a tax cut.”

• Ouch! Sometimes politicians’ encounters with schoolkids don’t go as planned. British Labour Party MP Tristram Hunt asks a 10-year-old boy who he would vote for on 7 May. His answer: Ukip (UK independence party) because he “wants to get all the foreigners out of the country.” Kid’s mother says she’s embarrassed… (where did he get it from?)


2016 Goings-On

• The “First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit” takes place in Nashua, New Hampshire, today and tomorrow. It’s expected to feature most GOP presidential hopefuls (NYT, WaPo, Time, Politico, TRNS, me)

• Former Gov Jeb Bush slammed President Obama’s foreign policy this week. “We now have a president – the first one, I believe, in the post-WW II era – that believes that America’s power is not appropriate and America’s presence is not a force for good. He’s wrong. With all due respect, he is just plain wrong,” Bush told business leaders in Columbus OH

• Just a week after forming an exploratory committee, former RI Gov Lincoln Shafee (D) said on CNN Thursday: “That’s why I’m running. Because I feel strong about where we’re going as a country.” His spox said, “We will file the proper papers to be an official candidate, but that has not happened yet.” (gun jumping?)

• Former Gov Martin O’Malley (D-MD) needled Hillary Clinton on gay marriage and immigration Thursday evening. “I’m glad Secretary Clinton’s come around to the right positions on these issues,” he said. And: “Leadership is about making the right decision, and the best decision before sometime it becomes entirely popular.”

• “I think that if Hillary Clinton were to face a female nominee, there are a whole set of things she won’t be able to talk about,” said Carly Fiorina, former chief exec of Hewlett Packard, Thursday. “She won’t be able to talk about being the first female president, she won’t be able to talk about a war on women without being challenged.”


ESPN reporter Brit McHenry totally goes off on a towing company employee after her car was towed from a lot in suburban DC. (profanities) “Maybe if I was missing some teeth, they would hire me here, huh?” She’s been suspended. Advanced Towing is known for aggressive tactics and has even towed a man’s car with his kids inside (WaPo)


Royal Baby Watch No 2

• Royal fans are ready to welcome Prince William and Kate’s second child, a younger brother or sister to Prince George. Kate reportedly told a charity worker that she was due mid-to-late April (AP, me)

• Bookies and the British media seem confident it will be a girl. Kate wore a bright pink coat for her final public appearance – a hint? As for a name. Alice is by far the favorite among Britain’s bookmakers, with William Hill putting odds at 2-1. Elizabeth and Charlotte follow closely, with Victoria, Alexandria and Diana trailing behind

• When George was born in 2013, he jumped the line of succession ahead of uncle Prince Harry to become third in line to the throne after Charles and William. George’s sibling will become fourth in line. The gender won’t matter as Britain in 2013 introduced changes to a centuries-old male primogeniture rule that put boys before girls

• William will be taking some paternity leave from his new job with the East Anglian Air Ambulance. He’s expected to begin flying rescue missions this summer. Royal officials will announce the birth by Twitter. Reporters will get an email two minutes before. Two hours later, officials will post an announcement on a gilded easel outside Buckingham Palace


• Vid: Star Wars: The Force Awakens – official teaser #2 is out (Chewie!)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, Nicholas Salazar and Midori Nishida contributed to this report

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