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

  • Police kill 2 gunmen: TX Muhammad cartoon event
  • Baltimore: Curfew lifted / Won’t rest
  • Baltimore: Pols talk police / poverty
  • 2016: Ben Carson jumps in – 2 more this week
  • WTF? 3 Glocks found in Capitol
  • Ex-CIA official spills in new book
  • Gillibrand: Military sex crimes higher
  • Iran bill: McConnell’s dilemma
  • Yemen: Cluster bombs by Saudi-led group?
  • British election 2015: Nail-biter

Police Kill Gunmen at Muhammad Cartoon Event in TX

• Two gunmen were killed Sunday after opening fire on a security officer outside a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of Prophet Muhammad in Texas and a bomb squad was called in to search their vehicle as a precaution, authorities said (AP, NYT, Dallas Morning News, me)

• The men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in the Dallas suburb of Garland as the contest was scheduled to end and began shooting at a security officer, the City of Garland said in a statement

• Garland Police spox Joe Harn said police aren’t aware of any ongoing threat and hadn’t received any credible threats before the event. However, DMN reports police had been monitoring social media. Activity on Twitter before the gunfire began included a post that mentioned “#texasattack”: “May Allah accept us as mujahideen

[those engaged in jihad]”

• Harn said it wasn’t immediately clear if the shooting was connected to the event inside, a contest hosted by the NY-based American Freedom Defense Initiative that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad

• Such drawings are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad – even a respectful one- is considered blasphemous. In Jan, 12 people were killed in Paris at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which published depictions of Prophet Muhammad

Geller: Muslims a “Special Class”

• As of early this morning, authorities hadn’t removed the bodies of the gunmen, who haven’t been identified. The bodies were too close to the car to be removed. The event featured speeches by Pamela Geller, president of the AFDI, and Geert Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker known for his outspoken criticism of Islam

• Describing the event, Geller said that Muslims had become a “special class” that Americans were no longer allowed to offend. “The media is self-enforcing a Shariah,” she said. Wilders told the audience that most terrorists are Muslims and “the less Islam the better.” He was greeted with a standing ovation

• Imam Zia Sheikh of the Irving Islamic Center wrote online that though he was waiting to see how the facts unfold, “as of now condemning any act of terror. No justification whatsoever.” “Seems like a lone wolf type of attack. Just what we didn’t want.”

• After the shooting, about 75 attendees were escorted by authorities to another room in the center. They were then taken to a separate location, where they were held for about two hours until they were questioned briefly by FBI agents who took written statements from most people

• Geller said Sunday night that the shooting showed how “needed our event really was.” Geller’s group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site and for buying ad space in cities across the U.S. criticizing Islam. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the group a hate organization


• WaPo has in-depth piece today on connections between Canadian mogul Frank Giustra, who has committed $100 million to the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Clinton, and thus through him to Hillary Clinton when she was SecState and possible quid pro quos – developing


Baltimore: Curfew Lifted

• Six days after riots sparked by Freddie Gray’s death, Baltimore’s mayor lifted a citywide curfew Sunday and faith leaders called for continued activism until justice is achieved. A jubilant crowd prayed and sang civil rights anthems at a City Hall rally two days after the city’s top prosecutor announced criminal charges against six officers involved in Gray’s arrest (AP, TRNS,  TRNS,  me)

• Speaker after speaker exhorted the large crowd not to rest just because the officers have been charged. Rev Jamal Bryant, a fiery leader of the protests, drew deafening cheers: “We’ve got to see this all the way through, until all six officers trade in their blue uniform for an orange uniform. Let them know: Orange is the new black.”

• After nightfall Sunday, the large intersection of west Baltimore that was the focal point of tense, nightly standoffs between police and protesters was relatively quiet. Police said Sunday that 486 people had been arrested since 23 April, and that 113 officers had been injured at riots and protests (no figures on injuries for civilians from the police?)

• Friday, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed charges against the officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transport. Mosby said Gray’s neck was broken because he was placed head-first in a police van, handcuffed and later placed in shackles, where he was left to slam against the metal walls of the small van (couldn’t do it to a pet)

• Police said the officers who arrested Gray ignored his cries for help because they thought he was faking his injuries. He was repeatedly denied medical attention. Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said Sunday he will ask President Obama and congressional leaders to send a bipartisan delegation “to look at what is going on in Baltimore.”


Baltimore: Pols Talk Police / Poverty

• House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, “Public servants should not violate the law. If these [Baltimore/police] charges are true, it’s outrageous and unacceptable.” Boehner said body cameras seem to be gaining favor nationwide, but he didn’t endorse the idea of additional federal funding to pay for them (WaPo, Hill, me)

• Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said on ABC’s This Week that the death of Freddie Gray should compel policymakers nationwide to address the entrenched poverty at the root of such tragedies. But, he quickly added, “we also need to look at our police dept very carefully” and “address it in an effective way.”

• The Republicans’ 2016 budget, which passed the House last Thursday with no Democratic support, is designed to balance the federal books over a decade, largely with $5.3 trillion in cuts to domestic programs, mostly to the very education and social programs the Democrats want boosted

• Chair of the Ways and Means Committee Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, “It’s not a function of pumping more money into the same failed system because we’ll just get the same failed result.” “I would consolidate many of our federal poverty programs into flexible programs to go to our states” – in new welfare reform he’s calling for

• Rep Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking member on the Budget Committee, said on CNN’s State of the Union, “Absolutely we need to do a lot more, but it has not been a failure. If you did not have the Great Society war on poverty, 40 million more Americans would be in poverty. So we have made gains, but we have a long ways to go.”

• Former Gov Martin O’Malley (D-MD) said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that he’ll announce his presidential campaign in riot-scarred Baltimore if he moves forward with a WH bid. “I wouldn’t think of announcing anyplace else,” said the city’s former mayor. O’Malley’s “zero-tolerance” policing policy has come under scrutiny recently (Hill, me)


More GOP 2016ers Jump In

• Retired physician Ben Carson told a Florida TV station Sunday, “I’m willing to be part of the equation, and therefore I’m announcing my candidacy for president of the USA,” while former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina plans an announcement this morning, with a press call and an online townhall later this afternoon (Hill, Politico, me)

• Tuesday, former Gov Mike Huckabee (R-AR) is expected to launch his second bid for president, from Hope, AR. Carson and Fiorina have almost no political experience between them, leading many Republicans to view Huckabee as the most formidable of the new trio. The former Baptist minister finished second in 2008 and is beloved by social conservatives

• Huckabee will be fighting for votes with Carson, who has a strong base of grassroots support, Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose early entrance into the field propelled him into the top tier of candidates, and possibly former Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Gov Bobby Jindal (R-LA)

• GOP strategists say political neophyte Carson will have to prove that he’s prepared to go toe-to-toe with the experienced field of lawmakers and governors on policy issues, that he can successfully fund raise, and that he can put together a team that can deal with the rigors and spotlight of a presidential campaign

• However, Fiorina faces the longest odds of the bunch. She barely registers in national polls, taking just 1% support – RealClearPolitics average. GOP operatives like the fact that she’s played the role of Hillary Clinton attack dog. Republicans say if she acquits herself well in the primary, she could be a dark horse VP presidential candidate or cabinet prospect


• Federal Election Commission chair Ann Ravel told NYT that her organization is powerless to safeguard against misconduct in 2016 presidential fundraising and spending. “People think the FEC is dysfunctional,” she said. “It’s worse than dysfunctional.” She said the commission’s partisan gridlock was its fatal flaw – it’s often locked 3-3 in unbreakable ideological ties (NYT, Hill)


WTF? Three Glocks Found in Capitol

• When a member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) security detail left his Glock and magazine stuffed in the toilet seat cover of a Capitol Visitor Center bathroom stall, a CVC worker found the gun on 29 Jan (rare treat) (CQ Roll Call, me)

• A 7- or 8-year-old child visiting the Capitol with his parents found a loaded Glock lost by a dignitary protection officer. A member of the security detail for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) allegedly left the firearm in the bathroom of the speaker’s suite on 24 March (is going to the bathroom so all-consuming that you can’t remember you left your gun?)

• A third Glock was found the night of 16 April by a janitor cleaning the Capitol Police HQ building on D St NE. The weapon was left in plain sight. House Rules chair Peter Sessions (R-TX) said he wanted Capitol Police to “retrain everyone that carries a gun” (they seem to be the ones with a Glock block)

• Unlike a gun with a traditional safety, a Glock will fire if the trigger is pulled – could have been nasty for the little boy. A report obtained by CQ Roll Call showed the Office of Professional Responsibility recommended six days suspension without pay for the officer in the 29 Jan incident. The latter two incidents are still under investigation

Is This a Thing?

• It’s unknown how often Capitol Police leave their guns unattended around the Capitol complex because Capitol Police are not required to disclose such incidents. None of nine Capitol Police CQ Roll Call spoke to seemed surprised, and two offered other examples of officers who were investigated for leaving their guns unsecured or unattended (must be rampant)

• “The Dept takes very seriously all breaches of Dept rules and has established policies that address such matters,” said Lt Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spox, in an email. Neither Boehner’s nor McConnell’s office offered comment. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms and House Sergeant-at-Arms had no comment (I’ll bet)

• After two CQ Roll Call reports Friday calling attention to security lapses involving firearms in the Capitol and raised eyebrows among concerned members of Congress, Capitol Police announced an investigation – into how CQ Roll Call got the story…

• Three people were pulled alive from the rubble of their home eight days after Nepal’s devastating earthquake, as a supply logjam threatened to hamper disaster relief efforts bolstered by the arrival of U.S. aircraft and troops. The death toll stood at 7,059 early today (Reuters, me)


Ex-CIA Official Spills in New Book

Former deputy director of the CIA Michael Morell asserts in a book out this week that Republicans, in their eagerness to politicize the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, repeatedly distorted the agency’s analysis of the events. He dismisses the allegation that the U.S. military and CIA officers “were ordered to stand down and not come to the rescue of their comrades.” (WaPo, NYT, AP, me)

• Morell says there is “no evidence” to support the charge that “there was a conspiracy between CIA and the WH to spin the Benghazi story in a way that would protect the political interests of the president and Sec Clinton,” referring to SecState at the time, Hillary Clinton

• But he also concludes that the WH itself embellished some of the talking points provided by the CIA and had blocked him from sending an internal study of agency conclusions to Congress. “I finally did so without asking,” just before leaving govt, he says. A lengthy congressional investigation remains underway – one that many GOPers hope to use against Clinton in 2016

• Morell concludes that the Benghazi assault took place “with little or no advance planning” and “was not well organized.” He says the attackers “did not appear to be looking for Americans to harm. They appeared intent on looting and conducting some vandalism,” setting fires that killed Amb Christ Stevens and a security official, Sean Smith – (NYT concluded similarly)

• Morell says the agency’s analysts failed to see the forces of Arab Spring revolution coming – and then failed again when they told Obama that the uprisings would undercut al Qaeda by showing there was a democratic pathway to change. The agency had relied on “a handful of strong leaders in the countries of concern” and those leaders themselves were clueless


• Former women hostages held by Boko Haram militants in northern Nigeria say fellow hostages were stoned to death as the army approached to rescue them. A group of nearly 300 women and children was brought out of the forest to a govt camp. Doesn’t appear that any are from the group of Chibok schoolgirls (BBC, me)


Gillibrand: Military Sex-Related Crimes Higher

The number of sex-related crimes occurring in U.S. military communities is far greater than the DoD has publicly reported, Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said today in a scathing critique that asserts the Pentagon has refused to provide her info about sexual assaults at several major bases (AP, me)

• The spouses of service members and civilian women who live or work near military facilities are especially vulnerable to being sexually assaulted, Gillibrand said in a report. Yet they remain “in the shadows” because neither is counted in surveys conducted by the DoD to determine the prevalence of sexual assaults within the ranks, the report said

• The senator said her analysis of 107 sexual assault cases found punishments that were too lenient and the word of the alleged assailant was more likely to be believed than the victim. Less than a quarter of the cases went to trial and just 11 resulted in conviction for a sex crime. Female civilians were the victims in more than half the cases


• In its annual report on sexual assaults in the military released Friday, DoD reported progress in staunching the epidemic of sexual assaults. It estimated that sex crimes are decreasing and more victims are choosing to report them. Laura Seal, a DoD spox, said the dept doesn’t have authority to include civilians in its surveys (convenient)

• Gillibrand’s report said the case files contradict the Pentagon’s assertion that military commanders will be tough on service members accused of sex crimes. Gillibrand has backed legislation that would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial. Would go to seasoned military attorneys Pentagon opposes

• Gillibrand asked then SecDef Chuck Hagel for the details of sexual assault cases investigated and adjudicated from 2009 to 2014 at four large U.S. military bases. Nearly 10 months later, DoD provided case files just for 2013 – only after Sen Carl Levin (D-MI) intervened. The refusal to provide the data, the report says, calls into question the dept’s commitment to transparency”

• The Senate Commerce Committee says in a letter to President Obama that a recently reported data breach on the WH computer system might have compromised the personal info of many Americans, and “the WH has a responsibility to notify Americans” even if it believes the hack was perpetrated by foreign spies (Reuters)


Iran Bill: McConnell’s Dilemma

• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) faces a tough choice this week on how to move forward with a controversial bill that would allow Congress to review and vote on a nuclear deal with Iran. McConnell promised that when the GOP took over the Senate, it would change the way the chamber did business and senators would be allowed to offer amendments (Hill, me)

• But the filing of a controversial measure from Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR) and presidential hopeful Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) – which blindsided McConnell – is a challenge. Rubio’s measure would make Iran’s recognition of Israel a part of the nuclear deal between Tehran and the U.S. That would likely torpedo a carefully negotiated deal between Republicans and Democrats (plan)

• McConnell could choose to file cloture on the underlying legislation, which would prevent a vote on the Rubio-Cotton amendment by ending debate. 60 votes needed. The move would save the bill, but likely generate criticism from conservatives that McConnell isn’t allowing votes on GOP amendments

• Sen Bob Corker (R-TN), who spearheaded the Iran legislation, said Rubio’s move all but killed a deal he had been working on to allow a large group of amendments. A Senate aide, who said the Rubio-Cotton move was widely seen as “a bad faith effort,” said that a “substantial” majority is prepared to back Corker’s legislation as is

• “It’s likely at this point that cloture will be filed as early as next week,” the Senate aide said. McConnell, however, isn’t revealing his cards: “I’ll let you know Monday.” And Rubio is showing no indication that he’s willing to back down. Actual, couldn’t make it up fact: Tom Cotton’s spox is called Caroline Rabbitt

• Speaking to Israel’s Channel 10 TV, SecState John Kerry on Sunday said there was “a lot of hysteria about this deal.” “I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they are doing so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb” (Politico, me)


Saudi-Led Group Using Cluster Bombs in Yemen?

• The Saudi-led coalition carrying out air strikes in Yemen has used U.S.-supplied cluster bombs banned by much of the world, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Sunday. HRW said it had evidence that the bombs were used at least twice against Houthi rebels. There were no reports of casualties (BBC, NYT, me)

• Cluster bombs spread small bombs over a wide area and can leave unexploded munitions buried in the ground. They’re banned under a treaty signed by 116 countries, but not Saudi Arabia, the U.S. or Yemen. The U.S. does bar the sale of the weapons to countries that use them in civilian areas (that’s all right, then)

• HRW published images it said were taken in the al-Amar area of al-Safraa and purport to show the remnants of a CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon – manufactured in the U.S. and supplied to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in recent years.There was also unverified YouTube footage that appeared to show a number of small objects descending over the area – like a CBU-105 bomb

• Saudi Arabia has previously denied using cluster bombs, HRW said. Shortly after the air strikes began, a military spox told the media: “We are not using cluster bombs at all.” The aim of the Saudi-led strikes is to restore President Hadi to power. Saturday, the Houthis called on the UN to urge Saudi Arabia to end its air campaign. More than 1,200 people have been killed

• Saudi Arabia has come under growing international criticism for the high civilian death toll during its aerial campaign, which has been carried out over five weeks alongside a coalition of Arab states and with intelligence and logistical support from the U.S.

• Vid: Jamie Foxx sings the National Anthem before the Mayweather / Pacquaio fight – he was slammed for it on Twitter. I’ve heard worse. Mayweather won on points after 12 rounds. Then was booed by the crowd after he preened and crowed. Bad winner. Woman beater, too. Pacquaio blamed a shoulder injury for his defeat

British Election 2015: Hung Parliament?

• Britain faces a hung parliament with “weeks not days” without an effective govt following Thursday’s general election if Conservative (Tory) David Cameron wins the most seats and tries to renew his coalition vows with Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, according to senior Tories and Liberal Democrats (Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, me)

• A second Tory-Lib Dem coalition is seen as one of the most likely results of an extremely close election. But senior MPs from both parties revealed they have deep reservations about such an outcome, and are privately planning to force their leaders into grueling and protracted negotiations that could last well into the summer. Meanwhile, voters are angry – and showing it

• The Great British Voter to Nick Clegg at voter forum: “Have you got any plans for next week when you’re unemployed and your party’s an irrelevance?” “Charming,” Clegg replies // Labour leader Ed Miliband insists the last Labour govt had not overspent (had). A Voter responds: “How can you say that? You are frankly just lying.” (was)


• The latest Observer/Opinium poll has the two main parties neck and neck, with the Tories on 35% and Labour on 34%. The Lib Dems are on 8%, but are expected to secure more seats than their national polling would suggest. It’s also possible that Labour could emerge as the largest party, or form the next govt even if it fails to win the most seats

• Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said that in the event of a hung parliament he would open talks with the largest party. But Tory backbenchers, who are resentful at Lib Dem influence during the last coalition, are determined to force Cameron to offer them a secret ballot on any potential deal with Clegg – so that they could block a new coalition without fear of retribution

• Angry Great British Voter tells PM David Cameron that anyone who believes his promises on Britain’s state-run health services must have “half a brain.” “I don’t agree with you, sir.” Cameron replies, trying to deflect the anger. “Well, you’re wrong,” says the Voter. (was) (CNN, me)

• The MPs hope to strongarm Cameron into either giving in to right wing demands over a prolonged period, or calling another election to try to win a majority. Meanwhile, growing signs of revolt for Clegg from within his own party if he tries to push through a second deal with the Tories that includes an agreement to hold an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU

• One of the country’s foremost constitutionalists, Prof Vernon Bogdanor, said, “The constitutional framework is clear: The Queen’s speech is due to be delivered on 27 May. There must be a govt in place by then. But the political dynamics are unprecedented if, as the polls suggest, the two major parties are deadlocked.”

• Vid: William and Kate show off their new sleeping princess daughter, aka “the Sleeping Cutie.” Charlotte? Alice? Olivia? Victoria? What will the 8lb 3oz princess’s name be?

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Justin Duckham contributed to this report

The Talk Radio News Service is the only information, news booking and host service dedicated to serving the talk radio community. TRNS maintains a Washington office that includes White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon staffed bureaus, and a New York office with a United Nations staffed bureau. Talk Radio News Service has permanent access to every breaking newsevent in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.

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