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

  • Hersh: Obama admin lied – bin Laden killing
  • Baltimore: Thousands of suspects too injured for jail
  • Obama: Warren “absolutely wrong” on trade deal
  • Jeh Johnson warns on “lone wolf”
  • GOP 2016ers hawkish in South Carolina
  • Jeb Bush: I would have invaded Iraq
  • Hillary dilemma: What to do with Bill?
  • Merkel in Moscow/WWII: Putin pouts
  • Saudi switch: No king to WH summit
  • Rebels in Yemen accept ceasefire
Hersh: Obama Admin Lied About Bin Laden Killing (Slate, New Republic, me)
• In an explosive expose published Sunday in The London Review of Books, Seymour Hersh asserts that the Obama admin has lied repeatedly and extensively about the circumstances and events that led up to Osama bin Laden’s assassination on 2 May 2011

• But it’s hard to know how trustworthy Hersh’s piece is, since it mostly relies on the info of a single anonymous source – and because it doesn’t appear in Hersh’s usual venue for blockbuster investigative pieces, The New Yorker (would have liked two anonymous sources at a minimum and someone on the record)

• Citing interviews with “a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad” and American sources who “had access to corroborating info,” Hersh writes that the American govt didn’t act alone in locating and killing bin Laden, as it has consistently claimed

• On the contrary, Hersh’s sources say that senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intel Agency (ISI) – CIA equivalent – knew as early as 2006 that bin Laden was in Abbottabad, and cooperated with the U.S. in the assassination

Claim: No Burial at Sea
• Among the report’s most explosive claims is that the U.S. didn’t find bin Laden by tracking his couriers, as the govt and most official accounts have reported. Instead, according to the Hersh report, the U.S. paid a $25 million reward to an unnamed former senior Pakistani intel officer who “betrayed the secret” of bin Laden’s whereabouts (note: unnamed)

• Hersh’s report says this officer was relocated to DC and now works as a consultant for the CIA. The story also claims that bin Laden’s burial at sea never happened, that bin Laden was an invalid when the SEALs raided the compound and killed him, and that there was no firefight at all during the SEAL raid (burial at sea thing is already a conspiracy theory)

• Also, Hersh’s account says that the ISI captured and set bin Laden up in Abbottabad in the first place, to use him as “leverage” in the country’s dealings with al Qaeda and the Taliban

• Hersh provides a thrilling, if questionable, alternative account of how the U.S. learned about bin Laden’s compound, of the raid itself, and of the internal political arguments that followed President Obama’s announcement of the assassination

Claim: No Extended CIA Tracking
• Rather than the CIA tracking bin Laden’s network of couriers in an extended investigation, the Hersh story says that the Pakistani intel officer walked into the American embassy in Islamabad alone and offered info about bin Laden’s whereabouts in August 2010, in exchange for the $25 million reward

• The admin then sought from senior Pakistani officials reassurance and DNA proof that the man inside the compound was bin Laden. There were then lengthy negotiations between the U.S. and the Pakistanis about the terms of the raid. Along with the money, the U.S. allegedly offered other diplomatic concessions if Pakistan helped and stayed quiet about the mission (guess they didn’t!)

• Hersh is a legendary investigatory journalist – he broke two of the biggest stories about American war atrocities of the last 50 years with his account of the 1968 My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and with his 2004 revelation of the U.S. Army abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison

• He’s voiced skepticism about the official account of the bin Laden assassination as well as an account of it by Nicholas Schmidle in Hersh’s usual home, the New Yorker. Last year, New Yorker editor David Remnick defended his magazine’s story, while also noting his respect for Hersh, in an account with the New Republic

• Remnick: “I thoroughly stand by the story we published.” NR: “And his
[Remnick’s] comment’s?” Remnick: “Look, there is a difference between what people say loosely or in speeches and what we publish. All I can be in charge of is what we publish. I have enormous respect for him.”

• During a commencement speech at Tuskegee University Saturday, Michelle Obama spoke frankly: “And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited  ‘a little bit of uppity-ism.’ Another noted that I was one of my husband’s ‘cronies of color.’ Cable news once charmingly referred to me as ‘Obama’s Baby Mama.'” (Hill)

Baltimore: Thousands of Suspects Too Injured For Jail (Guardian, Baltimore Sun, TRNS, me)

• Wow. Newly released records, obtained by the Baltimore Sun through a MD Public Info Act request, showed that correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center refused to admit nearly 2,600 detainees who were in police custody between June 2012 and April 2015 because the detainees had injuries too severe for them to be admitted

• The records didn’t indicate how the people were injured or whether they suffered their injuries while in custody. However, they suggested police officers either ignored or didn’t notice the injuries. (sloppy? over-casual? incompetent? too busy? wearing blinkers?) Suspects are constitutionally guaranteed healthcare before they’re booked into jail

• Baltimore police are under scrutiny for their treatment of detainees following the death of Freddie Gray in April. Gray died of a broken neck that prosecutors said he suffered while riding in a Baltimore police van, and six officers involved in Gray’s arrested are facing criminal charges, including one facing second-degree murder

• Gray’s death sparked rioting and widespread protests in the city. Friday, the Justice Dept announced that it was conducting a civil rights investigation of Baltimore police (so this is a gift)

• The records obtained by the Sun showed that 123 of the detainees who weren’t admitted to jail had visible head injuries, the third most common ailment cited by jail officials. Others had broken bones, facial trauma and high blood pressure. Police didn’t comment to the Sun, and dept pox didn’t immediately return messages on Sunday (visible head injuries? walked into – – wall)

• Prince took to the stage in Baltimore Sunday night before thousands of fans who were dressed in gray in tribute to Freddie Gray, whose death in police custody prompted riots and drew international attention. Prince called on the city’s youth to fix a “broken system.” Here’s his new song which he debuted at “Rally 4 Peace”:  “Baltimore” (Soundcloud) (AP)

Obama: Warren “Absolutely Wrong” on Trade Deal (Politico, Yahoo, TRNS, me)
• President Obama isn’t holding back in his ongoing spat with liberal Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) over contentious trade negotiations. In an interview with Yahoo! Politics published Saturday, Obama said Warren “is absolutely wrong” on any trade deal’s potential to roll back the financial reform Dodd Frank Act

• Obama’s comments came during his visit to Nike headquarters in Portland where he was promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement being negotiated between 12 countries. Warren has argued that a bill giving Obama “fast-track” authority to approve the trade pact would “give Republicans the very tool they need to dismantle Dodd Frank.”

• Obama didn’t hide his irritation at Warren’s comments: “Think about the logic of that, right? The notion that I had this massive fight with Wall Street to make sure that we don’t repeat what happened in 2007, 2008. And then I sign a provision that would unravel it? I’d have to be pretty stupid,” he said, laughing (think she may be suggesting that – or that he’s nefarious)

• In a further jab at Warren, Obama suggested she’s playing politics with the issue. “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everyone else. And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree.” (and she’s – not – running in 2016)

• The Senate faces a key procedural vote Tuesday on a bill granting Obama fast-track authority: The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995, and full debate on trade can’t move forward unless 60 of the 100 members agree to it. Bit of a nail-biter. A lot of Democrats still remain to be convinced (arm-twisted) to vote yes
• Former President Jimmy Carter, 90, left the South American nation of Guyana early on Sunday amid concerns over his health. Carter Center officials said the 39th president was “not feeling well” but didn’t divulge additional details. Carter was visiting Guyana to observe its presidential election today (Hill)
Jeh Johnson Warns: “Lone Wolf” (Politico, Politico, Hill, TRNS, me
• Jeh Johnson, Sec of Homeland Security Dept, said on ABC Sunday, “We’re very definitely in a new phase in the global terrorist threat, where the so-called lone wolf could strike at any moment. The new environment we’re in, because of the use of the internet, we could have little or no notice in advance of an independent actor attempting to strike.”

• Two people were killed in Garland TX last week after an attempted attack at a deliberately provocative cartoon contest, where participants drew the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Authorities called the incident which left one police officer wounded, a terrorist attack. The Pentagon has raised the threat level at military bases around the country

• Johnson said the federal govt is making a greater effort to engage with state and local law enforcement and encourage them to be “vigilant.” Part of the effort is meeting with Muslim community leaders and urging them to counter ISIS’s recruitment campaign on social media

• Johnson took (major) issue with a statement by Sen Cory Booker (D-NJ) that the govt’s efforts to combat terrorists’ social media campaigns are “laughable.” (they are a joke) “It has to come from Islamic leaders, who frankly can talk the language better than the federal govt can,” Johnson said. He said when he met Islamic leaders, he urged them to do that

• Rep Mike McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on Fox News Sunday, “We have this phenomenon in the U.S. where they can be activated by the internet. Really, terrorism has gone viral.” FBI director James Comey said last week that hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, are being recruited on encrypted websites
• Cuban President Raul Castro was wowed by an audience with Pope Francis over the weekend. Castro praised the pontiff’s wisdom, adding: “I will resume praying and turn to the Church again if the Pope continues in this vein.” (wonder what bro Fidel thinks)  Raul thanked the Pope for brokering a rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S. (BBC, me)
GOP 2016ers Hawkish in South Carolina (WaPo, AP, Hill, TRNS, me)
• A nearly-full slate of Republican candidates for president and likely hopefuls campaigned in Greenville SC Saturday at the South Carolina Freedom Summit, where they delivered speeches, vying to out-do each other in arguing that President Obama is a failed leader. The dominant theme of the summit was national security and combating terrorism

• South Carolina is a military-centric state. Sen Ted Cruz said an officer who killed two gunmen who were probably inspired by ISIS helped them “meet their virgins.” Gov Bobby Jindal (R-LA) joked that gun control means “hitting your target.”

• Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) didn’t wow the crowd. He got loud applause for a memorable line from the movie “Taken,” but beyond that, there were only a few polite applause breaks. Afterward, Rubio, unlike many others who spoke, didn’t take questions from reporters, suggesting a very cautious strategy to limit his exposure (hmmm, not his territory, perhaps)

• Gov Scott Walker (R-WI) touted his success at the county and state levels. Sooo – next stop: national level? That was the message. Former Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA) said, “If these folks [ISIS] want to return to a 7th Century version of Islam, then let’s load up our bombers and bomb them back to the 7th Century.” (no need for ground troops, then?)

• Aaand Donald Trump’s speech: Bash politicians. Accuse Scott Walker of stealing your theme, “Make America Great Again.” Accuse Mike Huckabee of stealing your platforms. Call President Obama incompetent. Plug the TV show. Call political reporters dishonest. Japan! Share your net worth ($10 billion). OK, onto Iran. Is global warming a thing? Tax China! More jobs! Mention your money. Let’s build a massive wall along the border. And make Mexico pay for it (contd…)

• NH poll from Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm – 1. Rand Paul & Scott Walker (12%) … 3. Marco Rubio & Jeb Bush (11%) … 5. Donald Trump (8%) … 6. Chris Christie (7%) … 7. Ted Cruz (6%) … 8. Ben Carson (5%) … 9. Mike Huckabee (4%) … 10 . Carly Fiorina (3%) (Bloomberg)
Jeb Bush: I Would Have Invaded Iraq (Fox News, Politico, me)
• Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL) says he would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq in an interview with Fox News: “I would have [authorized the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.” Interview will air tonight

• Bush says the U.S. failed to focus on security first, which he argues led Iraqis to turn on the military because there was no protection for families. “By the way, guess who thinks that those mistakes took place as well? George W. Bush,” Jeb Bush said (and that somehow gives everyone confidence?)

• On immigration: “I mean, there’s got to be a point where we fix this system so that legal immigration is easier than illegal immigration and show some respect for people.” To “a kid that might have been here 10 years, that might be a valedictorian of their high school, to say, ‘no, no, no, you’re not allowed to go to college,’ I just think there’s a point passed which we’re over the line.”

• Bush gave the commencement address on Saturday at Liberty University, a prominent symbol of evangelical Christianity in Lynchburg VA, that’s a routine campaign stop for presidential hopefuls. Bush, a convert to Catholicism, is personally devout, but nationally he hasn’t discussed his religion as openly or frequently as several other 2016 competitors

• “As usual, the present admin is supporting the use of coercive federal power,” he said. “What should be easy calls, in favor of religious freedom, have instead become an aggressive stance against it. Somebody here is being small-minded and intolerant, and it sure isn’t the nuns, ministers, and laymen and women who ask only to live and practice their faith.”
• Vid: President Obama surprises some moms who had written to him recently when he calls them to wish them Happy Mother’s Day

Hillary Dilemma: What To Do With Bill? (WaPo, me)
• The over-arching question facing Hillary Clinton’s campaign is: What to do with Bill? In a presidential race that could include two dozen candidates, none has a spouse like Bill Clinton – a former president whose sprawling charitable ventures are rife with potential conflicts of interest

• Senior aides say Bill Clinton doesn’t plan to do any campaign activities for his wife in 2015. But even if he’s off the campaign trail, he’s never out of the limelight. Tuesday, he’ll be on the Letterman show. He’ll also speak for pay to Univision’s presentation to advertisers in New York on Tuesday

• One strategist said Hillary Clinton shouldn’t campaign with her husband: “It’s hard to shine when you’re standing next to the sun.” (and sun she is not) “Bill Clinton is like nuclear energy,” said David Axelrod, a strategist on President Obama’s campaigns, “If you use it properly, it can be enormously helpful and proactive. If you misuse it, it can be catastrophic.”

• Bill Clinton is very popular: 73% of voters approved of his job performance as president in a WaPo/ABC News poll in March. But some of the ugliest episodes in his wife’s 2008 campaign were of his making, including his stray remarks about President Obama that angered black voters in South Carolina

• Some days, Bill Clinton doesn’t know where Hillary Clinton’s campaigning. One day in April, he looked up at a TV screen in his Manhattan office and saw the security camera photo of his wife and her aide, Huma Abedin, at a Chipotle in Ohio, appearing incognito in sunglasses. He turned to aides and wondered, “What are she and Huma doing? Are they robbing that place?”
Merkel in Moscow for WWII Ceremonies (BBC, CNN, TRNS, Reuters)
• German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended a wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow on Sunday to commemorate the Russians killed during World War Two. Merkel and other Western leaders skipped a military parade in Red Square in protest on Saturday over Russia’s alleged military involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine

• Addressing thousands of Russian soldiers and more than 20 visiting heads of state in Red Square Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that “the basic principles of international cooperation have come to be increasingly ignored. … We see the strong-arm block thinking gaining momentum. All that undermines sustainable global development.”

• His remarks seemed aimed at the U.S. and Europe. At least 6,000 people have been killed since fighting began in Ukraine a year ago.The Ukrainian govt, Western leaders and independent experts say there’s clear evidence that Russia is helping the rebels with heavy weapons and soldiers. Moscow denies it, insisting that any Russians serving with the rebels are “volunteers.”

• Some Russian soldiers are quitting the army because of the conflict in Ukraine, several soldiers and human rights activists have told Reuters. Their accounts call into question the Kremlin’s continued assertions that no Russian soldiers have been sent to Ukraine, and that any Russians fighting alongside rebels there are volunteers

• Russia staged its biggest ever military parade in Red Square on Saturday to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, featuring some 16,000 soldiers, 200 armored vehicles and 150 planes and helicopters, as well as new armor on display for the first time. More than 20 world leaders attended the event, including Chinese President Xi Jinping


• A man and woman in MS were arrested and charged with murder on Sunday after two police officers were shot dead a day earlier while conducting a routine traffic stop in Hattiesburg, officials said. Two other people were arrested in connection with the case. Too early for motive. Officers were Benjamin Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 25, a recent academy graduate (Reuters)
Saudi Switch: No King to WH Summit (NYT, me)
• In a bit of a surprise, Saudi Arabia announced Sunday that its new monarch, King Salman, wouldn’t be attending meetings at the WH with President Obama or a summit at Camp David this week, in an apparent signal that it continues to be ticked off over U.S.’ relations with Iran, its rising regional adversary. As recently as Friday, the WH said Salman would be coming

• Salman is expected to call Obama today to talk about his decision, a senior admin official said Sunday (fly on wall). There was “no expression of disappointment” from the Saudis, said the anonymous official. “If one wants to snub you, they let you know it in different ways,” the official said. The deputy crown prince and defense minister will attend

• SecState Kerry met on Friday in Paris with his counterparts from the Arab nations that were invited to the summit meeting. Admin officials said the Arab officials had pressed for a defense treaty with the U.S. pledging to defend them if they came under external attack – difficult, as such treaties must be ratified by Congress. Obama’s prepared to offer a presidential statement

• The Arab nations are also angry, officials and experts said, about comments Obama recently made in a NYT interview that allies like Saudi should be worried about internal threats “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that’s destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate outlets for grievances.”

• In addition, the Arab countries want to buy more weapons from the U.S. (who wouldn’t), but that faces a big obstacle – maintaining Israel’s military edge. The U.S. has long put restrictions on the types of weapons that American defense firms can sell to Arab nations, in an effort to ensure that Israel keeps a military advantage

• Mesmerizing, compulsory vids: WWII planes fly over restricted airspace in Washington DC on 8 May, VE Day 2015  (raw) – some amazing planes, man – and WWII veterans come to watch and remember. Airspace was closed to commercial traffic (Bloomberg, CCTV News, me)

Rebels in Yemen Accept Ceasefire Offer (BBC, Al Jazeera English, me)
• Rebels in Yemen say they will respond “positively” to a ceasefire offer by the Saudi-led coalition that’s been carrying out air strikes against them. Saudi Arabia has offered a five-day truce starting Tuesday, to allow the delivery of humanitarian supplies. The air raids have killed at least 1,400 people – mostly civilians – in recent weeks – the UN says

• Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has formally announced an alliance with Houthi rebels for the first time, after the Arab coalition launched two air strikes on his home in the capital Sanaa. Saleh, who was forced to step aside in 2012 following deadly protests against his rule, escaped unharmed after the attacks (concentrated his mind)

• The Shia Houthi rebels from northern Yemen launched an offensive last year and now control much of the country. The Saudi-led coalition aims to restore the govt of exiled President Hadi – who fled the rebel-controlled capital, Sanaa, in February

• Friday, Saudi Arabia offered the five-day truce starting Tuesday – but warned that it would respond to any violations. On 21 April, the coalition announced a successful end to its bombing campaign in Yemen, but resumed airstrikes within hours (had not achieved its aim of restoring the govt – not a successful end to the campaign)

• Meanwhile, the UN has highlighted the plight of civilians in the northern city of Saada, where the coalition has conducted raids in recent days. / Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia has accused Shia rival Iran of arming the Houthis, a charge Iran and the Houthis deny (where do they get their weapons, in that case?)

• Vid: Black bears – looks like mom and cubs – chase tourists in Yellowstone National Park after the silly humans got too close. Park is bears’ territory, people. At least they got a real “wildlife” experience… (USAToday, me)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Luke Vargas, William McDonald, James Cullum and Washington Desk contributed to this report

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