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North Korea says it can miniaturize nuclear weapons – key step in order to fit them atop missiles

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  • Clinton’s staff at State tight with records
  • Clinton speaks for … 5 minutes
  • Clinton: Formal roll-out delayed

  • Pentagon: Fall of Ramadi “failure”
  • GOP slumps toward USA Freedom Act vote
  • Senate: Fast-track plods forward
  • College students sue: Forced vaginal exams
  • Texas bikers: Bad blood
  • FTC charges cancer charities: Bilking donors
Clinton’s Staff at State Tight With Records (WSJ, me)

• When Hillary Clinton was SecState, her staff scrutinized politically sensitive docs requested under public records law and sometimes blocked their release, according to people with direct knowledge. In one instance, chief of staff Cheryl Mills told State records specialists she wanted to see all docs requested on Keystone – and later demanded some be held back

• In another case, Mill’s staff negotiated with the records specialists over the release of docs about former President Bill Clinton’s speaking engagements – also holding some back. The requests came under the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. Decisions on what to release belong with each agency’s FOIA staff, say experts on the law

• The existence of Clinton’s private email system meant that the dept didn’t have access to her emails when public requests to see them came in. The existence of that system is being investigated by a House special committee investigating the Benghazi attacks


• In the background of the controversies is a culture at State of delay and inefficiency in meeting public requests for records, both during and predating Clinton’s tenure. Tuesday evening, a Clinton spox, Nick Merrill, said that Mills “did not inappropriately interfere with the FOIA process” and “has spent her career contributing to the greater good.”

• After reviewing some Keystone docs related to a FOIA request from Keystone foe Friends of the Earth that the group said showed “definitive evidence of bias,” Mills insisted on reviewing all Keystone-related docs. Mills told a records specialist that if he released records she wanted held back, Clinton’s office wouldn’t comply with any future doc requests on any topic

• The Keystone docs Mills objected to were all either held back or redacted, a person said. After Mills began scrutinizing docs, State’s disclosure of records related to Keystone fell off sharply, docs that include a court filing show


Clinton Speaks: For… 5 Minutes (NJ, Hill, NYT, Fox, WaPo, TRNS, me)

• Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton addressed reporters for a full five minutes Tuesday – but only after a reporter interrupted her morning event at a bicycle shop in Iowa to ask if she’d speak to the press. “I might, I’ll have to ponder it, but I’ll put it on my list for due consideration,” she told him (bit ponderously, herself)

Emails release: “I want those emails out. … Anything they might do to expedite that process, I wholeheartedly support. I want the American people to learn as much as we can about the work that I did.” She said she’s asked State Dept to “please move as quickly as they possibly can.” (State wanted Jan 2016 – judge said Tuesday: oh no – speed it up)

Relationship with Sidney Blumenthal: “I have many, many old friends and I always think that its important when you get into politics to have friends you had before you were in politics and to understand what’s on their mind.” NYT reported he sent her numerous memos about the security situation in Libya before the Benghazi attacks occurred


Clinton Foundation and donations: “I am so proud of the Foundation. I’m proud of the work that it has done and that it is doing,” she said, adding that she would “let the American people make their own judgments about that.” (they will)

Whether invasion of Iraq was a mistake: She’s previously said her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war was a mistake. “I’ve made it very clear that I made a mistake, plain and simple, and I have written about it in my book, talked about it in the past, and you know what we now see is a different and very dangerous situation.”

Personal wealth: “Obviously, Bill and I have been blessed and we’re very grateful for the opportunities that we had, but we’ve never forgotten where we came from and never forgotten the kind of country we want to see for our granddaughter.” “I’m running a campaign that is very clearly stating we want to reshuffle the deck.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal – the question actually came earlier from a roundtable participant: “I have said I want to judge the final agreement. I have been for trade agreements. I have been against trade agreements. I’ve tried to make the evaluation depending upon what I thought they would produce and that’s what I’m waiting to see.” (sooo – no clear answer)

Clinton: Formal Roll-Out Delayed (Politico, Reuters, Reuters, Hill, TRNS, TRNS)
• Hillary Clinton’s formal roll-out into the presidential race is being delayed indefinitely, pushed back at least until June, for largely political reasons: a desire to spend more time on fundraising and fleshing out policy positions before inviting more public scrutiny. She’ll spend the remainder of May traveling (why did she declare in that case?)

• Separately, a federal Judge Tuesday ordered State to prepare a timetable by next week for the rolling release of 55,000 pages of emails sent and received by Clinton. The judge also told State to present a schedule in coming days for releasing 300 Clinton emails related to U.S. ops in Benghazi. State said it would comply

• Meanwhile, the GOP-led House select committee on Benghazi has issued a subpoena demanding that former Clinton WH adviser Sidney Blumenthal testify on 3 June. More than two years ago, a set of emails from Blumenthal to then SecState Clinton included private intel reports on events in Libya around the time of the Benghazi attacks

• Separately, 52 GOP lawmakers, in a letter organized by Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), are urging the IRS to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Clinton Foundation. The pols say questions about its fundraising and operating practices, as well as its own reports that it didn’t report million of dollars in grants to the IRS, deserve scrutiny


• An estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the ocean from a broken pipeline just off the central California coast before it was shut off Tuesday, creating a spill stretching about 4 miles along the beach, the Coast Guard said. The pipeline is owned by Plains All American Pipeline (AP)


Pentagon: Fall of Ramadi “Failure” (Hill, Hill, Reuters, NYT, WSJ, TRNS, TRNS, me)

• Pentagon spox Army Col Steve Warren on Tuesday called the fall of Ramadi to ISIS “a failure of a lot of things, leadership being one of them, tactics being one of them.” He added, “It’s important to note that war is a fluid thing, there’s victories, but the enemy does get a vote and in this case, the enemy was able to get the upper hand.”

• The WH apparently didn’t get the memo. Asked whether President Obama’s strategy against SIS has been a success, WH spox Josh Earnest said, “Overall, yes.” He said: “Are we going to light our hair on fire every time there is a setback against ISIL?” Obama is said to be poised to accelerate the training and equipping of Sunni tribal fighters (so, some hair-lighting)

• House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Tuesday that Obama should scrap his war powers request to Congress and come up with a new, more aggressive plan. Earnest countered: “At some point, it has to be the responsibility of the speaker of the House to do his job.”

• Warren said Pentagon officials “continuously review our training processes

[of the Iraqi military], and that will continue.” “There are leadership deficiencies in the Iraqi military.” Warren said that the Iraqi forces left behind “in the neighborhood of dozens of tracked vehicles, and probably about a hundred wheeled vehicles” – not destroyed – left for ISIS

• ISIS fighters used a sandstorm to help seize a critical military advantage in the early hours of the attack on Ramadi. The sandstorm delayed American warplanes and kept them from launching airstrikes to help Iraqi forces, as the ISIS fighters evidently anticipated. Iraqi forces said today they fought off an overnight attack by ISIS forces east of Ramadi


• U.S. intel agencies are investigating the possibility that Abu Sayyaf, the ISIS militant leader killed Friday, was the captor of American hostage Kayla Mueller, for a time (AP)

GOP Slumps Toward USA Freedom Act Vote (Hill, me)

• GOP leaders said Tuesday that they will begrudgingly bring the USA Freedom Act, S.1123, up for a vote this week, after a bill flew through the House, 338-88, last week. But they seem confident it will fail a filibuster. That will pave the way for a quick vote on a short-term extension of the current law and give lawmakers more time to settle on a backup plan (devious)

• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said the House bill would open up the U.S. to new terrorist threats, and wants to renew the PATRIOT Act without changes for five and a half years. Barring that, he wants to renew the current law for two months to give lawmakers more time to settle on a path forward (or fall in line with him)

• The GOP leaders’ plan would set up a battle with the House, where leaders have rejected the prospect of a short-term fix and told the upper chamber to follow their lead. “The House has acted, it’s time for the Senate to act,” Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Tuesday. Certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act expire at the end of May if no action is taken

• The USA Freedom Act would end the NSA’s warrantless bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records – metadata program – and force the agency to get a narrow set of records from private phone companies, among other things. Backers of the USA Freedom Act don’t currently have the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster

• But the GOP leaders’ plan could go south. There are filibuster threats from Sens Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). And such unlikely bedfellows as Sens Mike Lee (R-UT),Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) could mount opposition. Then there’s the Senate schedule, which is working against GOP leaders with Memorial Day recess looming this weekend


• Tweet at 5 am ET: “They say new things in negotiations;we already said that we won’t allow foreigners to carry out any inspections on military sites. #IranTalks” – Ayatollah Ali Khameini – experts from six world powers and Iran launch a new round of talks today ahead of a 30 June deadline for a nuclear deal


Fast-Track Plods Forward (Hill, me)

• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday moved to end debate on the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995, aka “fast-track” trade bill, after Democrats objected to allowing additional amendment votes. Lawmakers can take a procedural vote on the bill Thursday – just before recess

• Sen Bob Casey (D-PA) said there have been “very few votes and very few amendments.” “To shut if off and to stop at this moment in time, as some seem to want to do, I think is contrary not just to what the Senate should do on something as substantial as trade promotion authority,” he said

• McConnell said “it’s not the end of the story” on the trade bill. But he suggested that if Democrats want additional amendment votes, they’ll have to drop their objections, adding that “just a little cooperation” is needed from Democrats. (good luck) More than 100 amendments have been filed – both sides – but so far only two votes, both earlier in the week

• And the Export-Import Bank reared its head. Sen Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said she would continue to object to the trade bill until she got an answer on how the bank’s life would be extended “We’re not going to let this bank expire, the credit agency, without a fight,” she said

• McConnell said earlier in the day that the bank would get a vote – but not as part of the trade bill. But Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned McConnell later Tuesday that he wouldn’t vote with his leader “on anything else this year” until he gets a vote on the Export-Import Bank. “I’m tired of talking. There’s over 60 votes in this body [for Export-Import.]”


• Former Gov Martin O’Malley’s (D-MD) likely presidential launch will occur on the morning on 30 May in Baltimore’s Federal Hill Park, near the city’s Inner Harbor. He revealed his plans on Twitter and in a Snapchat video. He’s become the third declared Dem candidate: Hillary Clinton, Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Politico)

College Students Sue: Forced Vaginal Exams (CNN, me)

• Two college students at Valencia College in Orlando FL have filed a federal lawsuit against the college and three instructors, saying they were forced to submit to transvaginal probes as part of their classroom training. They allege they were forced to submit under threat of having their grades reduced or being blacklisted by future employers (beyond hideous) (CNN, me)

• The lawsuit claims that during orientation the college had a student – nicknamed the “TransVag Queen” – explain the Medical Diagnostic Sonography Program faculty’s belief that students should undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasound procedures to become better technicians. They were positioned as voluntary “but its actual policy and practice was that they were not.”

• The lawsuit says they “endured these [weekly] invasive probes without a modicum of privacy” and “experienced discomfort and embarrassment each time.” “In some cases, the student would have to sexually ‘stimulate’ plaintiffs in order to facilitate inserting the probe into plaintiffs’ vaginas,” the lawsuit alleges (ewwww)

• In one instance, the lawsuit alleges, one of the defendants, Barbara Ball, made “bizarre” comments to a student who was undergoing a probe. “She allegedly approached one student…during a probing session and stated [she] was ‘sexy’ and should be an ‘escort girl’ [prostitute].” (speechless)

• A spox for Valencia said, “Valencia College’s sonography program has upheld the highest standards with respect to ultrasound scanning for educational purposes, including voluntary participation. … Nonetheless, we continue to review this practice and others to ensure that they are effective and appropriate for the learning environment.” (learning what exactly)


• Is your Takata airbag under recall? Go to NHTSA recall page – list may not be complete yet. The recall of defective airbags by the Japanese supplier has been expanded to nearly 34 million cars – up from 17 million – which was up from 8 million. They can explode violently when they deploy, spraying metal fragments into the passenger compartment (NYT, me)

Texas Bikers: Bad Blood (CNN, NYT, USA Today, me)

• How are things in Waco since Sunday’s biker brawl left nine dead? There are 170 people locked up in the McLennon County Jail, each facing $1 million bond on charges of engaging in organized crime – some may face murder. Waco Police Sgt Patrick Swanton said Tuesday that many of the people involved “are not being honest with us.” (total shocker)

• “Is this over?” Swanton asked rhetorically. “Most likely not.” “We would ask that there be some kind of truce between whatever motorcycle gangs are involved,” he said. Swanton said a coalition of motorcycle groups had reserved the outside area at Twin Peaks – now closed for good – when “an additional biker gang, who was not invited to this meeting, showed up.” (uh oh)

• That led to a disturbance in the parking lot – maybe over a parking spot or maybe over someone having his foot run over. There were crime scenes inside and outside. Swanton said of reports that four of the dead were shot by police: “Is it possible? Yes. Is it a fact? No, because the autopsies are not complete.”

• A 1 May memo from the Texas Joint Crime Task Force warned that the violence between the rival Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle gangs “has increased in Texas with no indication of diminishing.” Why? They both call Texas home, but the Bandidos have been the biggest and most dominant gang of all

• Plus, these two groups have a history of bad blood. Bandidos President Jack Lewis was released on $125,000 bond in Dec 2013 after being charged with the stabbing of two Cossacks outside a restaurant in Abilene, TX

• Why aren’t we talking about white-on-white crime? About the lack of white fathers in the home? About nine dead in Waco and no dead in Baltimore? About thugs? Why aren’t we talking about the 100 weapons being found? Why aren’t we hearing about police riot gear in Ferguson and lack of it in Waco? Oh – – – that’s why

FTC Charges 4 Cancer Charities: Bilking Donors (Hill, AP, CNN, me)

• The Federal Trade Commission and AGs from every state have charged four major cancer charities run by extended members of the same family with bilking $187 million from donors. The govt says the charities claimed to provide direct support for cancer patients, breast cancer patients and children with cancer. “These were lies,” the govt’s complaint says

• The FTC alleges that the executives of the charities used donated funds “to pay for vehicles, trips, personal consumer goods, college tuition, gym memberships, Jet Ski outings, dating website subscriptions, luxury cruises, and tickets to concerts and professional sporting events.” (can’t make it up)

• There was also what the FTC calls “rampant nepotism” at play in all the charities, two of which were based in Tennessee. At the Breast Cancer Society, James Reynolds Jr hired his wife Kristina Hixson, to be his PR manager. The complaint says he hired Hixson’s two sisters, her son by a previous marriage, her mother and her step-nephew (why not dead relatives, too?)

• To hide their administrative and fundraising costs from donors and regulators, the FTC alleges that the charities claimed millions of dollars in donated goods shipped to overseas locations on behalf of cancer patients. But the charities never owned any of the goods in question, the complaint says, and simply paid a fee to a private firm to ship the goods

• Named: James Reynolds Jr, president of Cancer Fund of America Inc and Cancer Support Services, and the charities’ CFO Kyle Effler; Rose Perkins, president and exec director of the Children’s Cancer Fund of America Inc, and James Reynolds II, exec director and former president of The Breast Cancer Society Inc

• Is #flatgate a thing? Are women at the Cannes Film Festival really being stopped from attending gala screenings if they don’t wear high heels? Festival director Thierry Fremaux flat-out denies there’s heel discrimination. But stories abound of guards turning women away for wearing – – – flats

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Victoria Jones – Editor

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

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