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.

Egypt’s ex-president Morsi sentenced to life in prison for spying – breaking

News Now

  • Jeb! is IN! Finally!
  • Drone kills top AQAP leader
  • Trade: What next?
  • Rachel Dolezal: Getting weirder
  • Benghazi: Blumenthal grilling today
  • Massive data breach: Hill grill today
  • Wanted Sudan leader avoids SA arrest
  • Pope calls for climate action
  • WH “private” party for 500: Flap
Jeb! Is IN!! Finally! (AP, NYT, Politico, CNN, TRNS, me)
• Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL) launched a GOP presidential bid months in the making Monday with a vow to get Washington “out of the business of causing problems” and to stay true to his beliefs – not sure how he’s going to do that in a tough primary where his conservative credentials will be challenged

• Bush, who announced at Miami Dade College, spoke in English and Spanish. His wife is Mexican-born. “In any language, my message will be an optimistic one because I am certain that we can make the decades just ahead in America the greatest time ever to be alive in this world.” Bush is doing major outreach to minorities

• Bush has a new logo – Jeb! – no Bush last name, but his surname puts him in a commanding position, anyway. He’s probably raised a record amount of money. But as far as polling goes, he has yet to break out – he’s only one of several in a strong field with no front runner. “I know we can fix this
[America] because I’ve done it,” Bush said Monday, referring to Florida

• In the last six months, Bush has made clear he’ll remain committed to his core beliefs in the campaign – even if his positions on immigration and education standards are deeply unpopular among the core base of the party that plays an outsized role in the Republican primaries

• But he aimed his message Monday at the broader swath of the electorate that will ultimately decide the Nov 2016 general election. (got to get through primary first) Monday, Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) said there’s “Bush-Clinton fatigue” in America

• Donald Trump will announce his presidential plans today! He’s likely to say he’s in it to win it as a Republican. He’ll release details about his mammoth personal finances at an 11 am event in New York. He’s expected to reveal a net worth of $9 billion. Should be worth watching
AQAP Leader Killed in Drone Strike (CNN, AP, WaPo, TRNS, me)
• Top al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi died in Yemen Friday in a CIA drone strike, two Yemeni national security officials told CNN. He was the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda globally and the head of AQAP, the terror group considered most capable of striking American interests

• U.S. intel agencies were working Monday night to verify the report. Arab media and extremists on Twitter have reported the death. U.S. officials have declined to confirm the CIA’s role. SITE intelligence Group translated a series of messages by AQAP sympathizers that al-Wuhayshi had died

• “If confirmed, the death of AQAP’s leader is a major blow to Islamist terrorists who are plotting daily to attack America,” said Rep Michael MCaul (R-TX), chair of the Homeland Security Committee. Al-Wuhayshi pushed AQAP to engineer repeated terror plots against the U.S.

• Al-Wuhayshi’s death would be a setback for AQAP, but the group’s master bombmaker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, is believed to still be alive. He’s thought to have designed bombs that were slipped past security and placed on three separate American-bound airplanes, although none of them exploded

• Separately, U.S. officials are trying to confirm whether veteran Islamist fighter Mokthtar Belmokhtar, affiliated with al Qaeda in North Africa, was killed in a weekend U.S. airstrike inside Libya. The Libyan govt said that he was but local militants said that he wasn’t

• President Obama has invited Israeli PM Netanyahu for talks in Washington in mid-July after a deadline for reaching a nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli mass circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth said today, quoting unidentified sources at State Dept. That could be a lively meeting (Reuters, me)


Trade: What Next? (WaPo, NYT, TRNS, me)
• President Obama and his momentary Republican allies mulled several difficult choices Monday for rescuing trade legislation into which the president has invested a huge amount of political capital in the hope of completing a 12-nation trade deal across the Pacific Rim (looking dodgy)

• After successful efforts by Democrats to scupper his trade package, Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) spoke by phone and consulted their top lieutenants. Their first call was to abandon plans for a second vote today on a bill that must also pass for the entire package to advance to Obama’s desk. They stood no chance of turning nearly 100 votes around

• Instead, Boehner decided to impose a temporary rule, that if approved today, will allow him until 30 July to bring up the trade debate for a do-over of the stalled companion bill to the trade package. If that works, Boehner will have bought an extra six weeks to find a way out of the mess

• WH chief of staff Denis McDonough spoke with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)  Monday, although Obama hadn’t, according to aides.(bet he hadn’t) She came out against the bill on Friday. Supporters now view time as the enemy for the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), HR1890

• “I think the longer something like this sits out there, the harder it is to bring it back, I think before the summer’s out, you’ve got to have it done,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-CA)

• Have authorities lost the trail of convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat, who have escaped maximum security prison? A NY state official briefed on the investigation says that the search has gone cold since last week, despite more than 870 leads. Meanwhile, alleged accomplice Joyce Mitchell appeared in court Monday (CNN)
Rachel Dolezal: Getting Weirder (NYT, AP, Smoking Gun, TRNS, me)
• A few years before she began claiming to be black, an NAACP official who now stands accused of deceiving people about her race apparently sued a historically black university, charging that it had discriminated against her – in part for being white (can’t make it up). Rachel Dolezal will appear on NBC’s Today Show this morning

• Monday, Dolezal gave up her post as president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane amid a storm of national scrutiny and ridicule. She had said for years that her background was partly black, but last week her parents began telling reporters who asked them that she has no black ancestry

• In 2002, Dolezal received a MA from Howard University. That same year a woman named Rachel Moore – Dolezal’s then-married name – filed a lawsuit against Howard, saying that as a graduate student there she had faced discrimination based on her gender, her pregnancy and her race – white. It was Dolezal

• DC’s Superior Court dismissed the case, a decision that was upheld by the Court of Appeals. By about 2008, Dolezal had moved West and was telling people that she was black or partly black

• Dolezal has lost her position as a part-time African studies instructor at a local university, lost her job as a freelance newspaper columnist and become the subject of a probe by the city Ethics Commission. Police have suspended investigations into racial harassment complaints Dolezal filed before the uproar (really weird part of story – sounds like she may have made it up)

Benghazi: Blumenthal Grilling Today (Politico, me)

• A big fish? The House select committee on Benghazi today will depose Sidney Blumenthal – longtime Clinton family friend – about why he emailed former SecState Hillary Clinton unsubstantiated intel on Libya, whether he was paid for the work and whether he used his Clinton connections to help his business connections – sources familiar with the GOP plan

• They want to see whether Blumenthal – who earned a spot in Clinton’s inner circle after his ardent defense of Bill during the 1990s impeachment trial – was able to shape or influence top-level decisions that led to the security lapse at the U.S. Libyan compound where four Americans died (well, they want to use Blumenthal to nail Hillary Clinton – but he’s uber-loyal)

• Blumenthal – barred from a State position by the Obama admin – didn’t like him because of attacks on Obama in 2008 primary – but paid $10,000 a month to advise Clinton Foundation – will face questions about why his emails were mentioned in more than 35% of the correspondence Clinton received on Libya, according to the committee – which she circulated to top staff at State

• Latest: House GOP Benghazi investigators say they’ve discovered 60 new Libya communications between Blumenthal and Clinton. Were they withheld?  Panel Republicans want to release them as early as today, but need Democrats to agree to do so under committee rules. Bound to be part of today’s questioning (Politico, NYT)

• Republicans want to know how the practice started, if it was really “unsolicited,” Blumenthal’s intel sourcing, if Clinton ever responded to or acted on his advice, whether they have all the emails there are on the matter, what was in it for him, why turn over the info and was he paid?

• So far, Blumenthal and Clinton have dismissed the GOP’s suspicions, and Clinton has said they’re simply “old friends.” Blumenthal has said he sent her info he believed “she might find interesting or helpful,” per the statement he released following news of his subpoena. Blumenthal is a big mouth, so the closed-door hearing would be most interesting 🙁

• At the same time he was emailing Clinton, Blumenthal was working with business partners looking for opportunities in Libya. Much of the GOP inquiry will focus on where Blumenthal got his info. And Republicans will be wanting to know whether and how Clinton ever responded to any emails – there are no responses from Clinton showing her sending confidential info, but…

• The Supreme Court Monday rejected an appeal from North Carolina to revive a requirement that abortion providers show and describe an ultrasound to a pregnant woman before she has an abortion. The justices left in place an appeals court decision that said the law was “ideological in intent” and violated doctors’ free-speech rights (NYT)
Massive Data Breach: Hill Grill Today (Hill, NYT, C-Span, me)
• The House Oversight and Govt Reform Committee is holding a hearing today into the massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management, in which as many as 14 million people – maybe every current and former member of the federal govt, govt contractors and people named in background checks – may have had their personal info exposed by the hack

• A slate of top admin officials are expected to testify, including Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson. Monday, committee chair Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said on C-SPAN, “OPM is being very resistant to attend. I’m prepared to issue a subpoena if need be to get them there.” (forget the popcorn and barbeque, get out the gin for this one)

• Chaffetz said, “There have been multiple reports that have been out there warning them, telling them that they need to make sure these things are encrypted. They didn’t do that.” He said Chinese hackers could have been in OPM’s system for up to a year. Obama admin has been saying four months (hmmm)

• A November IG report at OPM essentially described the agency’s computer security system as a Chinese hacker’s dream. In an egregious case, outsiders entering the system weren’t subjected to “multifactor authentication” – like systems that require a code that’s sent to a cellphone to be entered before giving access to a user (like gmail? duh)

• Problems were so severe for two systems that hosted the databases used by the Federal Investigative Service, which is responsible for the background investigations for officials and contractors who are issued security clearances, that the IG argued for temporarily shutting them down because the security flaws “could potentially have national security implications.” (umm)

Wanted Sudan Leader Avoids SA Arrest (BBC, TRNS, me)
• Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir returned to Khartoum from South Africa Monday, avoiding arrest over war crimes charges on an international warrant. Bashir flew out of South Africa despite an order barring him from leaving while a Pretoria court decided whether to arrest him on charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC)

• An ICC official said the failure to arrest Bashir was “disappointing.” (understatement) South African Judge Dunstan Mlambo said the failure to arrest Bashir had violated the country’s constitution. Cheering supporters greeted Bashir at Khartoum’s airport

• Sudan described the attempt to arrest Bashir as “lame and meaningless.” The Sudanese leader is accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during the Darfur conflict

• The UN says about 300,000 people have died since fighting began in 2003. More than 1.4 million people are thought to have fled their homes. Govt forces and allied Arab militias are accused of targeting black African civilians in the fight against rebels

• A number of countries in the past have decided not to cooperate with the ICC. The U.S. said it was “deeply concerned” over Bashir’s travel to South Africa for an African Union summit and the ICC urged the South African govt “to spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrant.”

• U.S. and European stocks closed down Monday, as Greece stands on the verge of a default on its debt and a departure from the eurozone in just two weeks’ time. Eurozone finance ministers will discuss Greece when they meet Thursday – stay tuned (BBC)
Pope Calls For Climate Action (BBC, NYT, me)
• Pope Francis will call for swift action to protect the Earth and fight global warming, according to a leaked draft of the pontiff’s encyclical. The document – published by Italy’s L’Espresso magazine – says global warming is directly linked to human activities and the intensive use of fossil fuels

• The Vatican called the leaking of the draft a “heinous” act. It’s said to be furious. It said the final version would be released on Thursday as planned. In the paper, Francis presents both scientific and moral reasons for protecting God’s creation

• Francis calls on people to move away from a consumerist model that he says is depleting resources, to the detriment of the poor, and live simpler lives. He also calls on govts to work together for solutions at the global, national and local level

• The pontiff calls on all human brings – not just Roman Catholics – to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem before the end of the century and to establish a new political authority to tackle pollution

• The encyclical has been months in the writing and the Pope is said to be keen for it to set the tone for the debate at a UN summit on climate change in November in Paris
WH “Private” Party for 500: Flap (Page Six, Politico, Hill, me)
• The WH on Monday defended a private concert and party over the weekend featuring Prince and Stevie Wonder, saying the Obamas paid for it themselves. Around 500 people attended the event, which wasn’t disclosed on the president’s schedule – and, oh boy, was the press livid about that. The press fumed at the WH briefing Monday

• WH spox Josh Earnest confirmed that the first couple hosted a private party for friends and said they “did it on their own dime.” – though he wouldn’t elaborate on how much it cost, or whether things like security, staff were also covered. (what if Obama choked or something? press pool was sent home before 5.30 pm)

• Given the size of the event and the influential guest list, Earnest was asked why the event wasn’t made public. He said, “I think the fact that we’re talking about a private event and the fact that details of this are known is an indication that the president is committed to being transparent.” (no, talking about it because you were forced to, and tried to avoid all detail)

• Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his date, singer Ciara (who posted pic), Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Connie Britton, Tyler Perry, Angela Bassett, DC private equity titan David Rubinstein, Wall Street exec Robert Wolf, Amex’s Ken Chenault, national security adviser Susan Rice, Education Secretary Arne Duncan – Malia and Sasha – and many more

• The news got out to Page Six because attendee Rev Al Sharpton tweeted: “Leaving the White House party w/POTUS and FLOTUS. Awesome to see Prince and Steve Wonder on keyboards together. Unbelievable experience.” – shouldn’t think “Loose Lips” Sharpton will be asked to the next super-private party. Too transparent by half

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ James Cullum, Anna Merod, William Hadden, Patrice Harris and Cortney Smalley contributed to this report

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