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.

Trending Today

  • Congress: Last-ditch scramble
  • Things get complicated
  • U.S. to send rockets to Iraq
  • ISIS storms Palmyra in Syria
  • Bin Laden docs released – trove
  • First two GOP debates: Tight rules
  • House GOP: Benghazi on floor today
  • Study on gay marriage views retracted
  • Record bank fines for market fix
Congress: Last-Ditch Scramble (Politico, Politico, TRNS, me)

• They’re chomping at the bit to get out of there, but there’s a hodgepodge of unresolved legislation as the clock ticks down to the Memorial Day recess: two-month extension of highway programs, bill to extend PATRIOT Act authorities before they expire 1 June and fast-track trade bill (#stoprecess)

• It all amounts to a last-ditch scramble during the most rigorous work period of the young GOP Congress. With the outcome uncertain, palace intrigue is running high, and relations across and within party lines are frayed – in other words – all bets are off, and it’s getting mean

• Wednesday afternoon, a new wrinkle emerged: Sen Rand Paul (R-KY), GOP candidate for president, commandeered the floor for 10 1/2 hours to rail against the extension of the PATRIOT Act. Wearing dark green sneakers (fashion fail, dear), he was aided by ten senators, seven of them Democrats, who came to the floor to give Paul a breather

• The first showdown comes today on the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995 – aka fast-track trade bill, a major priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who needs 60 votes to end debate and push the bill out of the chamber this week. Vote’s going to be cloooose

Things Get Complicated

• Things got complicated Wednesday when Sen Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who supports the trade bill, demanded to attach an unrelated bill to extend the Export-Import Bank’s charter past a 30 June expiration. She vowed to oppose the vote until her demands are met (dead dogs) and is supported by several “yes” senators, like Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)

• Meanwhile, Republicans are facing problems with provisions of the PATRIOT Act which they must extend by 1 June, when Congress is slated to be on recess. The most contentious is the NSA’s bulk data collection of phone records – which a federal court ruled this month was illegal. Last week, the House passed the USA Freedom Act which aims to end the program

• But Senate Republicans plan to block that bill as soon as noon today. They basically argue that the House doesn’t know what it’s doing and would endanger national defense. They prefer a two-month extension of current law – and plan to force the House to take that up – good luck with that. The House bill passed 338-88. Anyway, the House may go home soon – lol

• The discussion internally led leading Republicans to scratch their heads and wonder how McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) could be so far apart on the issue. “For them to say, ‘We are leaving town.’ I think it’s really tough,” said Sen John McCain (R-AZ)

• President Obama said in a speech to graduates at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Wednesday that “climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country.” (Hill, TRNS)


U.S. to Send Rockets to Iraq (NYT, TRNS, me)

• The U.S. is rushing 1,000 antitank rockets to the Iraqi military, expected to arrive in early June, to help combat the massive suicide vehicle bombs that ISIS militants used in capturing the provincial capital of Ramadi, a first step as the Obama admin weighs a range of difficult options to help its beleaguered ally

• Obama admin officials have called the fall of Ramadi a huge setback. “You’d have to be delusional not to take something like this and say, what went wrong and how do you fix it?” said a senior State Dept official to reporters, anonymous. “This is an extremely serious situation.” (Centcom said “It is what it is”)

• The immediate American objective over the past four days, the official said, has been to work with Iraqi political leaders and commanders to consolidate the retreating Iraqi forces – many of whom were physically and psychologically traumatized by car bombs roughly the magnitude of those used in the Oklahoma City attack – and prevent any further retreat

• American airplanes are flying around-the-clock missions over the city, hunting fighters from ISIS. Options the admin is considering in Iraq include training a cadre of Iraqi Special Forces to help American bombs get to their targets faster – an alternative to using American troops to accompany Iraqi forces. So far, President Obama isn’t considering using Americans

• “Nobody is kidding themselves about what ISIL was able to pull off last week,” the State official said. “We’ve never seen anything like this.” (intel much? anything?) The official noted that many of the 22,000 foreign fighters from more than 100 countries have largely joined ISIS rather than other terror groups. “It thrives on the notion of an expanded caliphate.”

• Three Senate Republicans on Wednesday called on President Obama to change his strategy to defeat ISIS in the wake of the terrorist group’s capture of Ramadi in Iraq. “If you don’t change your strategy … then this country is very likely to get attacked in another 9/11 fashion,” Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on the Senate floor


ISIS Storms Palmyra in Syria (Reuters, Hill, NYT, me)

• ISIS militants stormed the historic Syrian city of Palmyra Wednesday and took control, fighting off pro-govt forces who withdrew after evacuating most of the civilian population, state TV said. The capture of Palmyra is the first time ISIS has taken control of a city directly from the Syrian army and allied forces

• The central city, also known as Tadmur, is built alongside the remains of an oasis civilization whose colonnaded streets, temple and theatre have stood for 2,000 years. ISIS has destroyed antiquities and ancient monuments in neighboring Iraq and is being targeted by U.S.-led air strikes in both countries (doing nothing to save the history of the world, BTW)

• Syria’s antiquities chief called on the world to save its ancient monuments and state TV said ISIS fighters were trying to enter the city’s historical sites. Palmyra is also a strategic military gain, sitting among gas fields and situated on a desert highway linking the capital Damascus with Syria’s eastern provinces, mostly under insurgent control

• Antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said earlier Wed that hundreds of statues had been moved to safe locations, but: “the fear is for the museum and the large monuments that cannot be moved. That is the entire world’s battle.”


Bin Laden Docs Released (NYT, CNN, WaPo, Reuters,

• Fascinating. Totaling 103 documents, plus a list of Osama bin Laden’s massive digital collection of English-language books, think tank reports and U.S. govt docs, numbering 266 in total – all snagged from the Abbottabad compound by Navy SEALs at the time of bin Laden’s killing. And family letters and missives to subordinates

• There’s an al Qaeda job application form: “Please answer the required information accurately and truthfully” and “please write legibly and clearly.” And: “Who should we contact in case you become a martyr?”

• A senior intel official said “of the 38 full length English language books he had in his possession, about half of them were conspiracy theory books.” But he also had the U.S. govt’s 9/11 Commission Report. Months before bin Laden was killed, he wrote of leaving the compound, but for security reasons, it never happened

• A classic conspiracy book that bin Laden had was David Ray Griffin’s “New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11,” which suggests the govt was complicit in the 2001 attacks the bin Laden carried out. He also had Bob Woodward’s “Obama Wars” (how do you feel about that, as an author, I wonder)

• Bin Laden had books about the Illuminati, the Freemasons, “Necessary Illusions” by Noam Chomsky from 2003 and “A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam” by I.A. Ibrahim, published in 1999 – intriguingly the book is meant for non-Muslims

Doc: “Bin Laden’s Bookshelf” – from the Office of the DNI – non-classified and now-unclassified material found in and around the compound. Final line on web page is quite funny: “The U.S. Intelligence Community does not endorse any of the publications on this list.” (oh come on – we all know you do the Freemason handshakey thing)

• Bin Laden had Delta Force: Xtreme 2 video game guide, although the govt release notes that the book probably wasn’t used by bin Laden, but by someone in the compound who was a gamer

• To the end, bin Laden remained obsessed with attacking Americans. Much of his advice to al Qaeda affiliates was to stop attacking locally and instead prioritize on American targets. ISIS, of course, didn’t exist at the time bin Laden was writing. Many docs reference his plans for a major public statement to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. He was killed three months before

• Bin Laden wrote lengthy memos analyzing the Arab Spring, pointing to the “new factor” of “the information technology revolution” that had helped spur the revolutions and characterizing them as “the most important events” in the Muslim world “in centuries.”

• He was paranoid that the Iranians – who he said were “not to be trusted” – might bug his family as they departed Iran – some members were living there. He told his wife Khairiah that if she had recently visited an “official dentist” in Iran for a filling, that she would need to have it taken out before meeting with him as he worried a tracking device might have been inserted inside

• He wrote extensively – and at times endearingly – to aunts, wives, sons and daughters from whom he had been separated. “What is the latest funny news,” he wrote in one message to a daughter whom he asked to “forgive me if I made you mad – and perhaps for having done so frequently.”


• Investigators probing crucial moments before the fatal Amtrak train derailment last week in Philadelphia said Wednesday that they had taken engineer Brandon Bostian’s cellphone to determine whether he had made calls or sent text messages while driving the train. Bostian maintains that he has no memory of the crash (NYT)


First Two GOP Debates: Rules (WaPo, NYT, Politico, me)

• Only 10 Republican candidates will be on the stage during Fox News’ primary debate on 6 August in Cleveland, the network announced Wednesday. WaPo reported it first. At the moment, former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) are at the top of most national surveys, with everyone else bunched up in single digits

• In order to qualify for Fox News’ debate, candidates must place in the top 10 in an average from the five most recent national recognized polls adhering to Fox standards by 5 pm on 4 Aug. Fox will provide additional coverage and air time on the same day of the debate to those candidates who don’t place in the top 10 (also-rans and three-leggeds)

• As of now, there are 18 likely presidential candidates in the GOP contest and the field could grow. By their current standing, Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Gov Bobby Jindal (R-LA) former Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Carly Fiorina, former head of Hewlett-Packard, could be excluded (now that would be awkward)

• While Fox made the decision about which candidates to include, it consulted with GOP officials (you bet it did): “We support and respect the decision Fox has made, which will match the greatest number of candidates we have ever had on a debate stage,” said Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee

• The CNN GOP presidential debate on 16 Sept will be divided into two parts featuring two different sets of candidates: those who rank in the top 10 according to public polling, and the remaining candidates who meet a minimum threshold of 1% in public polling, the On Media blog has learned


• Pic: 171 mug shots of Texas bikers (or some of ’em) arrested in Sunday’s deadly brawl – second row down, middle – nice ‘do, man (Time, me)

House GOP: Benghazi on Floor Today (Hill, Hill, Hill, me)

• House Republicans will spend an hour of floor time this afternoon calling on the State Dept to turn over tens of thousands of pages of emails from a private server Hillary Clinton used when she served as SecState that may be related to the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks (should liven things up just as they get ready to head out)

• Republicans on the House select committee on Benghazi failed to give Democrats on the investigative panel a heads-up that they would be addressing Benghazi on the House floor, said a Democratic aide (not exactly man bites dog news)

• Republicans on the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for State and foreign aid are threatening to withhold funding for parts of State until the agency coughs up the docs. Clinton told reporters this week: “I want those emails out. … Anything they might do to expedite that process, I wholeheartedly support.” (er, turn over the server?)

• Benghazi committee member Rep Mike Pompeo (R-KS) suggested on the Hugh Hewitt radio show Wednesday that top Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s deposition would take place after Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal’s. “I expect that it will be after, although I have not seen the schedule date for the appearance of either of them yet.” (so he has no clue, actually)

• And House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) sent out a press release Wednesday, accusing Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, of lying when he said in an email that she didn’t have the email address “” while SecState. Boehner also called on Clinton to turn over her private server for independent analysis

Fake Data? Study on Gay Marriage Views Retracted (Politico, Politico)

• One of the authors of a recent study that claimed that short conversations with gay people could change minds on same-sex marriage has retracted it., “This American Life,” WaPo, HuffPo and other news outlets have retracted or updated their reports about the study that was found to have been based on fraudulent research

• Columbia University political science prof Donald Green’s retraction this week of a popular article in the Dec issue of the academic journal Science follows revelations that his co-author allegedly faked data for the study, “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support of gay marriage.”

• The study claimed that door-to-door canvassing in support of same-sex marriage led to increased acceptance of same-sex marriage among voters, especially if the canvasser was gay. In April, Vox’s Dylan Matthews called the finding “kind of miraculous.”

• According to the academic watchdog blog Retraction Watch, Green published a retraction of the paper Tuesday after confronting co-author Michael LaCour, a graduate assistant at UCLA. Green said he spoke with LaCour and “he maintained he did not fabricate the data but told me he could not locate the Qualtrics source files for the surveys on the Qualtrics interface or on any of his drives.”

• Green’s request for a retraction came after graduate students at UC Berkeley were initially impressed with the work and wanted to do an extension of it. When the students started a similar study, they weren’t getting the large response rate that Green and LaCour received in theirs. Further research showed that LaCour had likely falsified the data


Record Bank Fines for Market Fix (BBC, Politico, TRNS, me)

• Five of the world’s largest banks are to pay fines totaling $5.7bn for charges including manipulating the foreign exchange market (nobody going to the big house yet, though). JPMorgan, Barclays, Citigroup and RBS have agreed to plead guilty to U.S. criminal charges. UBS will plead guilty to rigging benchmark interest rates

• AG Loretta Lynch said the banks “participated in a brazen display of collusion” and that “almost every day” for five years from 2007, currency traders used a private electronic chat room to manipulate exchange rates. Their actions harmed “countless consumers, investors and institutions around the world,” she said

• Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was livid: “It’s business as usual and it stinks. The big banks have been caught red-handed conspiring to manipulate financial markets … but not a single trader is being held individually accountable and regulators are stumbling over themselves to exempt the banks from the legally required consequences of their criminal behavior.”

• Regulators said that between 2008 and 2012, several traders formed a cartel and used chat rooms to manipulate prices in their favor. One Barclays trader who was invited to join the cartel was told: “Mess up and sleep with one eye open at night.”

• Several strategies were used to manipulate prices and a common scheme was to influence prices around the daily fixing of currency levels. A daily exchange rate fix is held to help businesses and investors value their multi-currency assets and liabilities. Lynch said traders had colluded for years


• Vid: David Letterman leaves Late Show (AP) – goes for laughs, not tears, at the end. His post-“Late Show” plans? “By God, I hope to become the new face of Scientology.”

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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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