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

  • Amtrak DC-NY train crash: 5 dead, 140+ injured
  • House plans to slash Amtrak funding
  • Senate Dems reject Obama’s trade bill – but…
  • WH Arab “leaders” summit today
  • Jeb Bush digs out of his own hole: Or does he?
  • House: Tough abortion bill today
  • Obama calls DC: Unite on poverty
  • Cop shooting of biracial teen: No charges
  • Kerry in Russia: You say tomato
  • Bill Clinton’s speeches / Quick State Dept approval

Amtrak DC-NY Train Derailed: 5 Dead, 140+ Injured (AP, me)

• An Amtrak train headed to New York City derailed and tipped over in Philadelphia Tuesday night, mangling the front of it, tearing the cars apart and killing at least five people. Scores of passengers were injured and some climbed out of windows to get away. Mayor Michael Nutter said, “It’s an absolute disastrous mess. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”

• Nutter said all seven cars, including the engine, were in “various stages of disarray.” He said there were cars “completely overturned, on their side, ripped apart.” “It is a devastating scene down there. We walked the entire length of the train, and the engine completely separated from the rest of the train.” Not everyone on the train has been accounted for

• Around 140 people went to hospitals to be treated or evaluated. The cause of the derailment was unknown, but Amtrak said it was investigating. Train 188 had left Washington DC. The front of the train was going into a turn when it started to shake before coming to a sudden stop

• An AP manager, Paul Cheung, was on the train and said he was watching “Daredevil” on Netflix when “the train started to decelerate, like someone had slammed the brake.” “Then suddenly you could see everything starting to shake. You could see people’s stuff flying over me.”

• Raw vid: Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia – aftermath (AP)

• The area where the derailment occurred is called Frankford Junction and has a big curve. It’s near where one of the nation’s deadliest train accidents occurred: the 1943 derailment of The Congressional Limited, from Washington to New York, which killed 79 people

• Police swarming around Tuesday’s derailment site told people to get away from the train. They pleaded with onlookers: “Do NOT go to scene of derailment. Please allow 1st responders room to work.” Roads around the derailment site were blocked off

• Several injured people were rolled away on stretchers. Former Rep Patrick Murphy (D-PA) was on the train and said he helped people. He tweeted photos of firefighters helping others. “Please pray for those injured,” he said. Sen Tom Carper (D-DE) had also been on the train, but got off in Wilmington shortly before the derailment, according to his staff

• Amtrak said the train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members. It said service on the busy Northeast Corridor between New York and Philadelphia was suspended. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was gathering info and would send an investigative team, to the site this morning. The Federal Railroad Admin was sending investigators to the scene

• Gov Tom Wolf, who surveyed the damage with the mayor, said, “My thoughts and prayers are with all of those impacted by tonight’s train derailment. For those who lost their lives, those who were injured, and the families of all involved, this situation is devastating.”


House Plans to Slash Amtrak Funding (Politico, me)

• The Amtrak train crash comes on the eve of a House Appropriations Committee markup today of a fiscal 2016 bill that funds, among other things, Amtrak. The version approved earlier by an appropriations subcommittee contains language that would slash Amtrak’s funding to $1.13 billion, less than the roughly $1.14 billion it typically receives annually

• The Philadelphia Inquirer said initial reports indicated that the train derailed as it was entering a curve, while social media reports suggested the Amtrak train may have hit a freight train. Neither Amtrak nor the Federal Railroad Admin has yet discussed potential causes. The FRA said it was sending investigators to the scene

• Democrats had already been expected to take a run at boosting the FY 2016 Transportation Housing and Urban Development Appropriation Bill that covers funding for Amtrak, but the debate at today’s markup is sure to take on more urgency in light of the crash (could get lively)

• It may even stoke the debate over delays in implementing an anti-collision technology known as Positive Train Control. In addition, Amtrak has yet to address the condition of the track, but it could mean substantial delays for train travel. Sen Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) tweeted that he and others “will need a quick, thorough investigation to determine the cause.”


• Former Rep Patrick Murphy (D-PA) was able to tweet shortly after the crash that he was “OK” and was “helping others.” He tweeted out this action pic from inside a car (


Senate Dems Reject Obama’s Trade Bill – But… (Politico, TRNS, TRNS, me)

• Just hours after Democrats rejected a core piece of President Obama’s trade initiative, the Bipartisan Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is floating A Plan to find a way out of the impasse

• After demanding that Republicans bundle four separate trade bills – and accommodate his party’s demands for more worker protections – Reid is now privately saying that he’d be willing to move the package of trade bills even if it didn’t include language designed to prevent currency manipulation by other countries – according to people familiar

• Under Reid’s strategy, the currency plan would get a stand-alone vote. Senior Republicans said they were skeptical of Reid’s proposal, but acknowledged talks were ongoing

• The currency manipulation provision is considered a poison pill by Republicans and isn’t supported by the admin (veto-bait), so making it stand alone could help. The provision could force the WH to designate China as a currency manipulator – which the admin fears would spark a trade war with Beijing (last thing it wants)


• It’s been a rough few days of hardball negotiating. The liberal, anti-trade wing of the Democratic party joined with pro-trade moderates to block fast-track legislation, 52-45, in an effort to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to swallow additional demands Tuesday. Dems want new worker protections and child labor restrictions

• McConnell sounded ticked off immediately after the vote. “What we just saw here is pretty shocking,” McConnell said. “What we just witnessed here is Democratic senators shutting down debate on the top economic priority of the Democratic president of the United States.” (big deal for McConnell, also)

• President Obama met with Senate Democrats at the WH (WH readout doesn’t say where – woodshed, presumably) after the defeat for one of Obama’s top remaining priorities for his presidency. Earlier, spox Josh Earnest referred to the defeat as a “procedural SNAFU.” (last three letters certainly apply)

• Tuesday’s fracas doesn’t mean that fast-track is dead, especially if Reid is committed to finding a way out. But with little more than a week before a Memorial Day recess and several expiring laws still to be addressed, the immediate future of President Obama’s trade agenda is, er, uncertain

• Rescue work has resumed to find victims and survivors of Tuesday’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake in Nepal. At least 65 people died and 2,00 were hurt – fears the figures could rise. A major search continues for a missing U.S. aid helicopter with eight people on board (BBC)


WH Arab “Leaders” Summit Today (USA Today, me)

• When President Obama spoke with Saudi Arabian King Salman on Monday, a day after the new monarch pulled out of a summit featuring Persian Gulf allies, the two discussed this week’s meetings. Only two of the six nations that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council are sending their top leaders: Kuwait and Qatar

• The other invited nations – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates – are sending high-ranking deputies to the meeting called in response to concerns about the proposed nuclear deal involving the U.S. and Iran. Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir dismissed reports that Salman snubbed the summit, calling the idea “really off-base.” (oh I dunno)

• Obama and the Persian Gulf officials are likely to discuss the prospects of increased U.S. arms sales, a regional missile defense system and intel gathering to combat rising terrorist threats, including cyber terrorism. Other likely topics include the fight against ISIS, the civil war in Syria, and Yemen

• In a statement, the Saudi govt cited a cease-fire in Yemen between a Saudi-led coalition and rebel forces it says are backed by Iran as a reason Salman, 79, wouldn’t attend the summit. He’ll be represented by the crown prince, Muhammad bin Nayef. Sen John McCain (R-AZ) said the king’s absence reflects a “lack of confidence” in the Obama admin

• Obama will meet with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council at a WH dinner tonight. They’ll continue discussions Thursday at Camp David. Obama is likely to defend the proposed Iranian nuclear deal during his meeting (fly on wall). Some Persian Gulf allies are skeptical Iran would adhere to a deal

• The WH is putting its full weight behind a bill putting limits on U.S. surveillance and renewing key portions of the Patriot Act. The WH said it “strongly supports” the USA Freedom Act, HR 3361. “The admin supports swift House passage of the USA Freedom Act, and urges the Senate to follow suit.” The House is likely to vote today (Hill, me)

Jeb Bush: Digs Out of His Own Hole: Does He? (NYT, me)

• Jeb Bush is trying to get out of a two-day controversy he created for himself with comments in an interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, in which he said he still supported invading Iraq even with hindsight knowledge about intelligence failures. Tuesday, he said he had misunderstood her question (to be fair, either that or there’s something wrong with him)

• Conservatives went nuts after his original comments. The Washington Examiner’s Byron York hammered him. Radio host Laura Ingraham’s head exploded. So Bush went on the Sean Hannity Show Tuesday. Hannity asked again: yes/no. Bush: “I don’t know what that decision would have been. That’s a hypothetical, but mistakes were made, as they always are in life.”

• Bush said, “I interpreted the question wrong, I guess – I was talking about, given what people knew then,” he would have authorized the war, which was undertaken by his brother, Pres George W. Bush, in 2003. It was the third time in six weeks that Bush has had to backpedal – he has a tendency to stray from his briefing notes

• In the Fox News interview, Kelly asked: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” Bush replied: “I would’ve, and so would’ve Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would’ve almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

• In his interview with Hannity, Bush said, “Knowing what we know now, clearly there were mistakes.” He cited “faulty intelligence,” adding, “My brother’s admitted this, and we have to learn from that.”

• North Korea’s defense minister Hyon Yong-chol has been executed by anti-aircraft fire in front of an audience of hundreds (that will do the job) for showing disloyalty to Kim Jong-un, South Korea’s spy agency has told parliament. It said Hyon had fallen asleep (!) during an event attended by Kim and hadn’t carried out instructions. Impossible to confirm (BBC, me)


House: Abortion Bill Today (WSJ, me)

• The House is expected today to pass a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, months after concerns from centrists and female Republicans derailed a vote on the bill. The WH had issued a veto threat in January, calling the bill “an assault on a woman’s right to choose.” Doubtful if President Obama would sign it now – in the unlikely event it becomes law

• A group of lawmakers, led by Rep Diane Black (R-TN) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) worked for weeks to hash out changes. The bill would no longer require rape victims to report the assault to the police. Instead, abortion providers would be required to ensure victims had received counseling (on what?) or medical treatment at least 48 hours before the abortion

• “It’s a stronger bill,” Black said of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, HR36. The bill also includes controversial new provisions requiring a second doctor be present in cases where a fetus might be born alive during an attempted abortion, and that doctor would be required to provide neonatal care

• Moderate Rep Charlie Dent (R-PA) said Tuesday he still had some concerns with the bill, including that it would only allow incest victims under the age of 18 to have an abortion beyond the 20-week cutoff, but not those who are older. “This is a lot of time and energy spent on a bill that really has no chance of becoming law,” Dent said


• The FDA proposed new rules on Tuesday that would end a lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, acknowledging that the policy is “perceived by some as discriminatory.” (just a little bit) The FDA still restricts gay men from donating blood if they’ve had sex with another man within a year. The ban was enacted during the AIDS epidemic in 1983 (Hill, TRNS)


Obama Calls DC: Unite on Poverty (NYT, WSJ, Hill, me)

• President Obama on Tuesday called for liberals and conservatives to break through their decades-long disagreements about how to confront abject poverty in America, but he expressed skepticism that it would happen. He said he believed that conservatives care about the poor

• But the president said his unsuccessful effort to raise taxes on hedge fund managers is an example of the refusal by conservatives to compromise for the benefit of the poor. “If we can’t ask from society lottery winners to just make that modest investment, then really this conversation is for show,” Obama said

• Obama spoke during a panel discussion on poverty with journalist E.J. Dionne, Harvard professor Robert Putnam and American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks at Georgetown University. Obama said it was his job to “guard against cynicism, particularly in this town.”

• Obama criticized Fox News for stereotyping the poor. “If you watch Fox news on a regular basis, they will find folks that make me mad. I don’t know where they find them.” (!) He chided the network for showing people who “just want a free Obamaphone” and express no interest in work. “That becomes an entire narrative that gets worked up.”

• Obama said that he would take every opportunity to speak to young men – particularly minority men – about the need to be involved in their children’s lives. “I am a black man who grew up without a father and I know the costs and I paid for that,” Obama said

Cop Shooting of Biracial Teen: No Charges (Reuters, me)

• A Wisconsin police officer who fatally shot an unarmed biracial teenager in March, prompting several days of peaceful protests, won’t be charged, Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne said Tuesday: Officer Matt Kenny used justified lethal force in the 6 March shooting of Tony Robinson, 19, who struck the 12-year police veteran in the head

• The shooting in Madison WI was yet another officer-involved death that’s led to increased scrutiny of police use of force in the U.S., particularly against young black men.Ozanne, who repeatedly mopped his face during a 25-minute statement, said he was sorry for Robinson’s death and noted that he’s biracial like Robinson and also fears being singled out for color of skin

• Several hundred demonstrators marched from the house where Robinson was shot to the state Capitol Building after the announcement, singing gospel songs. At the end, Robinson’s mother, Andrea Irwin, said, “I’m not the type to be defeated. I’m just beginning to fight.” Another group plans a protest this morning

• Police warned that there had been credible threats against officers if the DA decided not to bring charges. Ozanne said Kenny was responding to multiple emergency calls reporting that a man had battered someone as was dodging traffic in the street. Robinson’s friends called 911 to say they were afraid of him because he was acting violently and was on drugs

• Ozanne said Kenny followed Robinson into a dwelling and shot him seven times after the teen struck Kenny in the head. The teen had psilocybin mushrooms, marijuana and Xanax in his system. The announcement came days after the DoJ announced a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore PD’s use of force to see if there are patterns of discriminatory policing


• Sen Sherrod Brown (D-OH) suggested Tuesday that President Obama’s remarks criticizing Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) over trade were sexist. “I think referring to her as first name, when he might not have done that for a male senator, perhaps? I’ve said enough,” Brown said. Obama referred to “Elizabeth.” (is there a pattern is the issue?) (Hill, me)


Kerry in Russia: You Say Tomato (Politico, AP, Politico, me)

• SecState John Kerry said he had “frank” talks about Ukraine, Syria and Iran with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. The two sides emerged from the talks vowing closer cooperation on Ukraine and Syria, but unable to point to any breakthrough (we know what “frank” means in diplomatic-speak…)

• Kerry said that if Russia abides by the Ukraine ceasefire – Minsk agreement – sanctions imposed by the U.S. and EU can be lifted. Kerry said that regardless of “whoever has instigated” the fighting in Ukraine, it “has gone on too long.” Kerry is in Turkey today, filling in NATO allies on the substance of his meetings in Russia

• The discussions were “useful and positive,” said Yuro Ushakov, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser. However, some issues, such as Russia’s annexation last year of Ukraine’s Crimea region, weren’t publicly spoken of at all. Kerry and Lavrov promised to work harder to convince Ukraine’s warring factions to adhere to a February ceasefire

• And in a surprising moment, the two diplomats issued warnings in turn to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko not to seek the “liberation” of the Donetsk Airport from rebels in eastern Ukraine as he recently suggested in a speech. Kerry noted the Ukrainian leader would be putting the ceasefire in “serious jeopardy.”

• Lavrov presented Kerry at a working lunch with tomatoes and potatoes that were “distant” descendants of two Idaho potatoes that Kerry gave him last year. Kerry gave the “Russian side a list of quotations from the Russian media that in his view don’t reflect the real potential of broad Russian-American relations, which he is convinced need to be improved,” a Russian spox said


• The State Dept is “deeply concerned” over increased fighting in South Sudan and is urging the govt and opposition forces to honor a longstanding ceasefire. “We are also deeply concerned about reports of widespread displacement and of the denial of access for humanitarian actors
[in Unity State].” Over 100,000 residents of the state have fled their homes. More than 10,000 have been killed in the conflict (TRNS)


Bill Clinton’s Speeches / Quick State Dept Approval (AP, me)

• Officials in the State Dept’s Office of the Legal Adviser approved at least 330 requests for Bill Clinton’s appearance at speeches, dinners and events during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as SecState. More than 220 of those were paid events that earned the family nearly $50 million, according to a review of State docs and Hillary Clinton’s financial disclosure forms (whoa)

• Officials at State sped through the requests while rarely raising concerns about potential conflicts. While most internal emails between State ethics officials about Bill Clinton’s potential appearances were redacted – legal issues – snippets that survived depict a vetting process that appeared both stressed by the workload and rushed by the former president’s deadlines

• Clinton spoke to companies around the globe, including collecting $650,000 from Barclays Bank, speaking just months after the British bank had agreed to pay nearly $300 million in penalties for violating financial sanctions against Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Libya and Burma – the result of a case brought by the DoJ

• On all sides, the process involved lawyers with long ties to the Clinton family. Cheryl Mills was Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff at State and was frequently included on the other end of emails during the State review of the requests

• Mills was a former WH deputy counsel who collaborated with the family’s personal lawyer, David Kendall, on Bill Clinton’s impeachment legal defense before working for Hillary Clinton at State. Kendall helped develop the vetting process for Bill Clinton’s appearances (bit incestuous, all this)

• “I find it stunning that the NFL is more concerned about how much air is in a ball than with a racist franchise name that denigrates Native Americans across our country,” – Sen Harry Reid (D-NV), arguing that the NFL should act as swiftly to change the name of the Washington Redskins as it did in punishing New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady (TRNS)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ James Cullum, Nicholas Salazar and Washington Desk contributed to this report

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