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.

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake strikes Nepal, two weeks after a devastating earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people

In the News

  • Hersh defends bin Laden expose
  • Senate trade vote today: Bit dubious
  • Close ties between TX gunman & ISIS network?
  • Immigration: Controversies
  • Abortion bill furor
  • Admin approves Shell Arctic drilling
  • Tsarnaev: “Dead Man Walking” nun defends
  • NFL suspends Brady: Opening 4 games

Hersh Defends Bin Laden Expose   (Politico, WaPo, Hill, Hill, Hill, Politico, TRNS, TRNS, me)

• Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh on Monday defended his lengthy expose, published Sunday in the London Review of Books, alleging the Obama admin mischaracterized many details surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden. “I’ve been around a long time,” Hersh said on CNN. “I understand the consequences of what I’m saying.”

• Hersh based much of his account on an anonymous “retired senior intelligence official.” “I don’t think that’s correct to say one anonymous source,” Hersh said. “The story says clearly that I was able to vet and verify information in the community. It’s very tough for guys still inside to get quoted extensively.”

• Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell rebutted the piece when he said on CBS on Monday morning, “It’s all wrong. I started reading the article last night. I got a third of the way through and I stopped because every sentence I was reading was wrong. The source that Hersh talked to has no idea what he’s talking about.”

• Hersh’s account of the bin Laden raid alleges that Pakistan’s top intel service, the ISI, kept the late al Qaeda leader imprisoned in the Abbottabad compound where he was eventually found and that the CIA discovered his whereabouts from a former Pakistani official who betrayed the ISI for personal financial gains – not by tracing the moves of his personal courier

WH Slams Expose

•  “The Pakistanis did not know. The president made a decision not to tell the Pakistanis,” Morell said. “The Pakistanis were furious with us. The president sent me to Pakistan after the raid to try to start smoothing things over,” Morell added

• Hersh wrote: “The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission.” Hersh stated the pair knew of the raid and ensured the two U.S. helicopters didn’t trigger alarms flying into Pakistani airspace

• “There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one,” WH National Security Council spox Ned Price said in a statement. “The president decided early on not to inform any other govt, including the Pakistani govt, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred.”

• WH spox Josh Earnest said the report is full of “inaccuracies and outright falsehoods.” Criticism was bipartisan. Sen John McCain (R-AZ), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was convinced that the circumstances of the raid were as the admin described. “This is a great success on the part of the admin. We all admire the president’s decision.” (pigs flying)

Pentagon: Dismissive

• The Pentagon was dismissive. “There are too many inaccuracies to even bother going through them line by line,” spox Col Steve Warren told reporters. “But there should be no question that this was a unilateral action and it was conducted in accordance with all standing laws of armed conflict. The public record on the operation there is clear.”

• The former Navy SEAL who says he killed bin Laden called Hersh’s report “garbage.” Rob O’Neill said on Fox News, “The story that I read, the part from Hersh, was full of lies.”

• In 2012, NYU’s Arthur Carter Journalism Institute named Hersh among the top 100 American journalists of the last century. Among his stories that had stood out were his account of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. He also won an award for his disclosure of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

• In recent years, Hersh’s reporting has increasingly come into question. In 2013, a piece claiming the Obama admin “cherry-picked” intel about the use of chemical weapons by forces loyal to Syrian President Assad was turned down by both NYT and WaPo. Hersh’s bin Laden piece was offered to and declined by The New Yorker years ago, the On Media Blog confirmed

• Sens Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are saying – separately – that they would filibuster GOP leaders’ attempts to renew provisions of the Patriot Act, unless it contains significant reforms. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnwll (R-KY) favors full reauthorization. It comes up in the Senate Wednesday (Hill, me)


Senate Trade Vote Today: Iffy   (Reuters, Politico, me)

• Sen Dick Durbin (D-IL), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told reporters Monday “at this point it’s very questionable” that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can round up the 60 votes needed to limit debate on whether to formally bring “trade promotion authority” legislation onto the Senate floor” in a procedural vote today

• Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is leaning (uber) hard on his caucus to block the chamber from taking up the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995, until it first deals with reform of govt surveillance programs and transportation legislation (Reid hates the trade bill)

• If Democrats can stop McConnell from bringing the trade bill to the Senate floor until June, it will give liberal and labor groups more time to mobilize opposition in Congress and complicate President Obama’s efforts to clinch the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (dastardly!)

• Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) hit back at President Obama on Monday in their war over fast-track: “If the president is so confident it’s a good deal, he should declassify the text and let people see it before asking Congress to lay its hands on fixing it,” she said. Last week, Obama said Warren’s claims about fast-track were “absolutely wrong.” (Reuters)


• Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member on the Finance Committee, co-authored the fast-track measure. Republicans are imploring him to side with President Obama, and are hoping he’ll bring enough Democrats along. But sources say Wyden made it clear in a Dem meeting Thursday that he’s a no unless Republicans move forward with two other trade measures

• Nonetheless, the Senate is expected to eventually approve the trade bill – which would allow Obama to submit unamendable trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes – whenever it comes up for a final vote. The bigger drama (it can be bigger?) may turn out to be in the House – majority of Democrats and many Republicans oppose the measure

• Republicans have been counting votes for more than a week, but still have to persuade a faction of Republicans who are hellbent on denying Obama any additional executive authority – even on trade. (or even air, actually) Still, the larger problem is within the Democratic caucus – aides think fewer than 20 Dems are prepared to sign on


• SecState John Kerry is in Sochi, Russia, today for meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Subjects include – but not limited to – Iran, Syria and Ukraine. Relations between the two countries are at a Siberian-freeze low (AP, me)

Close Ties Between TX Gunman & ISIS Network? (NYT, me)

• Were gunmen Eliot Simpson and Nadir Soofi acting in concert with ISIS in carrying out an attack outside a community center in Garland TX? Hours before he opened fire with an assault rifle, Simpson tweeted: “Follow @_AbuHu55ain,”, promoting a Twitter account believed to belong to Junaid Hussain – believed to belong to an ISIS British celebrity hacker

• ISIS said two days after the attacks that the two men, killed by officers after opening fire, were “soldiers of the Caliphate.” It was the first time that the terror group had tried to claim credit for an operation carried out in its name on American soil

• As the gunmen drove toward the community center, Hussain logged onto Twitter, firing off a series of posts in the hour before the attack. One: “The knives have been sharpened, soon we will come to your streets with death and slaughter!” After the attack, Hussain was in the first wave of people who praised the gunmen, before his account was suspended

• An analysis of Simpson’s Twitter account by SITE Intelligence Group found that Simpson followed more than 400 other accounts, including “hardcore IS fighters from around the world;” They included an alleged British fighter for ISIS, known as Abu Abdullah Britani

• A review of Simpson’s account shows that he interacted not just with sympathizers of ISIS, but also with fighters believed to be in Syria and Africa. Some of these fighters later posted on Twitter details of Simpson’s bio not yet in the public sphere, suggesting he’d shared details about his life with them (lot of details in the article)


• The WH scrambled Monday to counter perceptions that Saudi King Salman’s absence from a summit later this week could undermine U.S. efforts to assure Gulf states it remains committed to their security against Iran. President Obama spoke with Salman by phone Monday, apparently to try to show that relations remained on a solid footing (wobbly) (Reuters, TRNS, me)

Immigration: Controversies (Hill, Hill, Bloomberg, me)

• Rep Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) plans to ask House Republican leaders today to toss out a “misguided request” by GOP members to strike his provision to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), HR 1735, that encourages the Pentagon to review allowing recipients of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – DREAMers – to enlist

• Last week, Rep Mo Brooks (R-AL) led a group of 25 GOP members in a letter to the Rules Committee asking that Gallego’s sense of Congress provision be stricken from the bill before it reaches this week. Gallego contends the text would do nothing to alter the immigration status of DACA recipients and, anyway, it falls under the purview of Armed Services Committee

• Separately, 113 top Republicans filed an amicus brief with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Monday, arguing President Obama’s executive action on immigration “changes the law and sets a new policy, exceeding the executive’s constitutional authority and disrupting the delicate balance of powers.”

• The WH was quick to fire back, noting that hundreds of voices – from states to Democratic lawmakers to business groups – have filed their own legal briefs supporting the actions to ease deportations for immigrants living in the country illegally. Texas and 25 other states have challenged the legality of the unilateral actions

• Separately, in an interview with Fox News Monday night, former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL) defended his support for giving undocumented immigrants drivers’ licenses and their children in-state tuition, saying, “If you’ve been here for an extended period of time, you have no nexus to the country of your parents. What are we supposed to do? Marginalize these people forever?” (point)


• The Senate Monday passed 90-0 a resolution calling on Iran to release three Americans currently being held in the country. Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio (FL) and Ted Cruz (TX) (invisible man) as well as Lindsey Graham (SC) – possible – missed the vote, as did Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Hill)


Abortion Bill Furor (AP, Hill, me)

• Doctors performing late-term abortions would be required to take steps to give the fetus the best chance of survival, according to a Republican bill the House plans to debate Wednesday. The bill requires that if the fetus seems capable of surviving outside the womb, a second, neonatal doctor must be present to provide care and rush it to a hospital

• The provisions are part of a broader bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, HR36, criminalizing most abortions starting at the 20th week of pregnancy. Language detailing the efforts to save the fetus’ life wasn’t available until the measure’s full text was posted online Monday. GOP leaders added the provisions to a late-term bill that was slated for debate January

• They abruptly postponed that debate after Republican women and moderates objected that a rape victim would only be exempted from the abortion ban if she had reported her assault to police. (ugh) New version allows late-term abortions if they get counseling or medical care – not from an abortion clinic – within 48 hours of the procedure (hmm – from whom)

• The bill didn’t change a provision that allows a victim of incest to receive an abortion only if they’re under 18 years old. The language could spell trouble for GOP leaders. This was one of the issues that tripped the bill up in Jan. Rep Renee Ellmers (R-NC) said to National Journal last month, “Incest is incest. There can’t really be a cutoff age.” (apparently…)

• Blair Ellis, a spox for Ellmers, declined to say whether the congresswoman supports the bill, though he said the office plans to release a statement following the vote Wednesday. (big test for her) The bill heads to the House Rules Committee for discussion this afternoon

• The first Republican primary debate will take place on 6 August in Cleveland, the Northeast Ohio Media Group reports. The debate, sponsored by Fox News (natch), will take place at the Quicken Loans Arena, home to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers – also site of next year’s Republican National Convention (Politico, me)


Admin: Approves Shell Arctic Drilling (Hill, NYT, TRNS)

• The Obama admin gave conditional approval to Royal Dutch Shell’s plan to drill offshore for oil and natural gas as soon as this summer in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. The approval comes with five pages of conditions the company must follow to protect the environment, wildlife and obtain other necessary approvals, including actual permits to drill

• Shell’s quest to drill in the Arctic has been extremely controversial for years, especially after a disastrous 2012 drilling attempt led to a rig running aground on an Alaskan island during a fierce storm. The conditions include mandating a backup rig be kept nearby to drill a relief well in the case of a blowout

• The approval allows Shell to drill up to six exploratory wells in an area about 70 miles off Alaska’s northwest corner in the Chukchi Sea. Shell spox Curtis Smith said the approval “is an important milestone and signals the confidence regulators have in our plan.”

• Both industry and environmental groups say that the Chukchi Sea is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drill. The area is extremely remote, with no roads connecting to major cities or deep water ports within hundreds of miles – which makes it difficult for clean-up and rescue workers to get to the site in case of an accident

• “Once again, our govt has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth,” said Susan Murray, a VP of Oceana, an environmental group. The sea is a major migration route and feeding area for marine mammals, including bowhead whales and walruses 🙁


• Insurers must cover at least one version of the 18 federally approved birth control methods at no cost to consumers, the Obama admin said Monday in new guidance to health insurance companies. A series of reports indicated insurers had conflicting policies on covering contraceptives (Hill, TRNS)

Tsarnaev: “Dead Man Walking” Nun Defends (Reuters, me)

• Lawyers for the Boston Marathon bomber on Monday wrapped up the case to spare Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life with testimony from a Roman Catholic nun and death penalty opponent who said Tsarnaev told her “no one deserves to suffer” as his victims had

• The same jury that last month found Tsarnaev, 21, guilty of killing three people and wounding 264 others in the 15 April 2013 attack later this week will begin deliberating whether to sentence him to death by lethal injection or to life in prison without possibility of release

• The closest they came to hearing from Tsarnaev himself was Monday’s testimony from Sister Helen Prejean, 76, who described meeting him five times in the past year at the request of defense lawyers. Prejean, whose story inspired the 1993 book and 1995 film “Dead Man Walking,” said she believed Tsarnaev was remorseful. Then the defense rested its case

• During the sentencing phase, prosecutors sought to depict Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, as an adherent of al Qaeda’s militant Islamic theology who mounted the attack “to punish America” for U.S. military campaigns in Muslim lands. Defense attorneys contended he was a willing but secondary player in a scheme driven by his older brother, Tamerlan, who died following a gunfight

• Prosecutors and defense attorneys are scheduled to make their closing arguments Wednesday, after which the 12 jurors will begin deliberations. Martin Richard, 8, Chinese exchange student Lu Lingzi, 23, and restaurant manager Krystle Campbell, 29, died in the bombing. The Tsarnaevs shot dead MIT police officer Sean Collier three days later

• WaPo reports that Monday was day 29 of the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign. In those 29 days, Clinton has taken a grand total of eight questions from the press – roughly one question every 3.6 days. The last day she took a question was 21 April in New Hampshire – so no question from media in 20 straight days! (same old Hillary – sorry, not supposed to say “old”) (WaPo, me)


NFL Suspends Brady: Opening 4 Games (WSJ)

• The NFL suspended New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the opening four games of the 2015 season for his involvement in the “Deflategate” scandal. The league also docked the Patriots a 2016 first-round draft pick and a 2017 fourth-round one, and imposed a $1 million fine for deliberately deflating game balls

• The balls were used in last season’s AFC Championship game victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Brady’s agent, Don Yee, said he will appeal the decision. “The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis,” Yee said in a statement

• Brady was found to have been “at least generally aware” that two Patriots staffers, Jim McNally and John Jastremski, had intentionally deflated balls to gain a competitive advantage, according to an independent investigation led by lawyer Ted Wells

• The Wells report also cited a series of texts between McNally and Jastremski in which they discussed deflating footballs and referenced Brady’s requests to change the amount of air in them. Wells said Brady refused to turn over his phone to aid the investigation. The NFL factored his “failure to cooperate” into the four-game suspension

• Yee has criticized the report, saying that it omits key parts of the quarterback’s testimony and is hindered by Wells’s “limited understanding” of pro football. Wells refused to comment in response

• George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2102, narrowly missed getting shot in the face Monday in a (weirdo) mysterious dispute with a man he’d (prob) had a road rage incident with last year, authorities said. Zimmerman’s had a string of run-ins with girlfriends, ex-wife, and random strangers since gunning down Martin… (TPM, AP, TRNS, me)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Justin Duckham, William McDonald, Nicholas Salazar and Washington Desk contributed to this report

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