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.

News Now

  • Blumenthal didn’t write Clinton emails
  • Issa crashed Benghazi hearing
  • Yaaay the Donald is IN
  • Trump’s bestest Tuesday quotes
  • Trade deal rescue?
  • Hack hearing: “Failed utterly and totally”
  • Rachel Dolezal: Weirder and weirder
  • Senate votes to ban torture
  • Obamacare: Top Hill huddle today
 
Blumenthal Didn’t Write Clinton Emails (NYT, Politico, me)
• Hillary Clinton’s longtime adviser Sidney Blumenthal testified behind closed doors Tuesday before the House special Benghazi committee that dozens of memos he sent her when she was SecState were written by longtime high-ranking CIA official Tyler Drumheller, according to a person with knowledge of his testimony

 

• Drumheller was part of a group of former American intel and military officials seeking to do business in Libya as the govt of Col Muammar Qaddafi fell in 2911 and was replaced by a coalition of rebel forces (which has since fallen apart)

 

• Committee chair Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Tuesday cast doubt on the reliability of the info in the memos, saying it hadn’t been vetted. The memos, which Clinton circulated widely, stand in stark contrast to the intel reports prepared for senior American officials through a rigorous interagency process

 

• Drumheller, a career clandestine CIA officer, gained notice for his public accusations that the Bush admin ignored warnings from spies that the WH was overstating claims about Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons program before the Iraq invasion in 2003 (hmmm – got that one right)

 

• In particular, Drumheller said that he’d tried unsuccessfully to get assertions that Saddam Hussein had developed mobile biological weapons labs removed from SecState Colin Powell’s speech to the UN in Jan 2003. The claims about the biological labs were shown to be lies from an Iraqi defector, code named Curveball (right again, Tyler)

 

Issa Crashed Benghazi Hearing (NYT, Politico, me)
• In high drama Tuesday, Gowdy argued with Rep Darrell Issa (R-Calif) ,who crashed the hearing, telling Issa he couldn’t come into the room because he wasn’t a member of the committee. Issa then stormed off (Vine!) and threw a soda can. Issa used to chair the House Oversight Committee and was totally Benghazi-obsessed (we miss the arson-friendly, car alarm mogul)

 

• Reading from a script after huddling with his lawyer following the deposition, Blumenthal blasted the committee for hauling him in: “It seems obvious that my appearance before this committee was for one reason and one reason only … politics,” he said, accusing the panel of “spen
[ding] hours asking me questions about things that had nothing to do with Benghazi.”

 

• “I hope I have cleared up the series of misconceptions some members of the committee may have held,” he said. (no) “My testimony has shed no light on the events of Benghazi – nor could it – because I have no firsthand knowledge.” Republicans subpoenaed Blumenthal to answer questions about why he was sending Clinton unsubstantiated intel on Libya

 

• Nope. “I don’t have any reason not to believe him, but it just sounds awfully strange that somebody would be sending you these emails unsolicited and then you – not knowing anything about where the info came from, if it was accurate – that you would forward it to the SecState with no commentary,” said Rep Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga)

 

• “The reality is, the only reason he’s there is because he has a close relationship with the Clintons,” said Rep Adam Schiff (D-Calif). “And it’s telling that he’d be the first person to be subpoenaed by the committee because this is only about the GOP interest in trying to attack the [2016 presidential] Democratic nominee.”

 

• SecState John Kerry signaled for the first time on Tuesday that the U.S. was prepared to ease economic sanctions on Iran without fully resolving evidence that Iran’s scientists have been involved in secret work on nuclear weapons. Expect huge major blowback from congressional Republicans and Israel (NYT, me)

 

Yaaay The Donald is IN (Politico, NYT, TRNS, me)
• Tuesday, in the atrium of Trump Tower, Donald Trump proclaimed he would be “the greatest jobs president God ever created” in a rambling hour-long stream-of-consciousness speech. He said he would “build a great wall on our southern border and have Mexico pay for that wall.”

 

• And, of course: “I’m really rich…that’s the kind of thinking you need for this country. It sounds crass, it’s not crass.” (pretty crass, actually) He said a team of accountants has been toiling to calculate his total net worth of $8 billion and assets of $8.24 billion. “That’s the kind of thinking our country needs. We have the opposite thinking. We have losers.”

 

• “This is beyond anybody’s expectations,” Trump crowed from the podium, after descending the escalator with his wife, Melania, in stiletto heels and a white strapless dress. (tacky) Why is he running? “We need a leader that wrote ‘The Art of the Deal,'” Trump declared. Still, as of noon Tuesday, Trump hadn’t filed any campaign paperwork – he has 15 days to get it done

 

• Trump criticized President Obama and said he’d immediately repeal the president’s “illegal” executive action on immigration. But he said Obama would be welcome on his golf courses. “I have the best courses in the world. If he’d like to play, that’s fine. In fact, I want him to leave early and play, that would be a very good thing.”

 

• Democratic National Committee spox Holly Shulman said in a tongue-in-cheek statement: “He adds some much-needed seriousness that has previously been lacking from the GOP field, and we look forward to hearing more about his ideas for the nation.” Trump’s doing just well enough in early polling to make it into the first debates… (go Don)

 

• When Trump strode on the stage, a great rock ‘n’ roll anthem blared: Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Odd choice, Don – it’s a 1989 anti-George W. Bush raver. Young’s not happy. “Donald Trump’s use of ‘Rocking’ in the Free World’ wasn’t authorized. Mr Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders,” statement said (Mother Jones)

 

Trump’s Bestest Tuesday Quotes (NYT, Reuters, me)
• Mexico: “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting.”

 

• Chinese Oligarchs: “Hey, I’m not saying they’re stupid. I like China. I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?”

 

• Other candidates/ISIS: “There’s been no crowd like this. And I can tell you, some of the candidates, they went in, they didn’t know the air conditioner didn’t work. They sweated like dogs. They didn’t know the room was too big, because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”

 

• Other candidates/Lobbyists: “They will never make America great again. They don’t even have a chance. They’re controlled fully by the lobbyists, by the donors and by the special interests – fully. They control them. I have lobbyists, I have to tell you – I have lobbyists that can produce anything for me. They’re great.”

 

• Jeb Bush: “Bush is totally in favor of Common Core. I don’t see how he can possibly get the nomination. He’s weak on immigration, he’s in favor of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can’t do it.”

 

• SecDef Ash Carter and chairman of the joint chiefs Gen Martin Dempsey will be asked to defend President Obama’s handling of the tinderbox of violence and struggle in the Middle East when they testify today before the House Armed Services Committee (AP)

 

Trade Deal Rescue? (AP, Hill, WaPo, me)
• After talks (fly on wall) with President Obama, top Republican leaders in Congress put together a quick rescue plan Tuesday for highly controversial, WH-backed trade legislation that Democrats derailed in the House last week, although congressional officials stressed that there was no final deal on the plan

 

• The idea is that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) were likely to split the stuck bill into two parts in hopes of sending them to Obama separately, with Republicans providing most of the votes for one part and Democrats for the other. They’re likely to try holding a vote as early as this week

 

• The first would be stand-alone legislation allowing Congress to approve or reject any future trade deal, but not change it, and the second measure would renew an expiring program of assistance to workers who lose their jobs, as well as extend trade rules for Caribbean countries, Haiti and elsewhere that cleared the House last week. OK then altogether – biiig lift

 

• Tuesday, the House voted 236-189 to allow six more weeks to reconsider Friday’s stunning defeat of Obama by Democrats. Republicans voted overwhelminlyg for the new timetables after Boehner privately ripped several of them for the “nonsense” of opposing GOP leadership on similar questions

 

• Additionally,Reps Steve Pearce (R-NM), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo) and Trent Franks (Ariz) were booted off the whip team because they failed to support a key procedural move last week on the trade package. Naughty. The bill under question is the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), HR1890

 

• Lyle Mitchell, husband of prison worker Joyce Mitchell, the alleged getaway driver for two escaped murderers on the lam – somewhere – has visited her in prison. She was said to be “weepy.” She’s accused of sneaking contraband into the convicts, having sexual relations with them, also possibly being in on a plot to kill her husband (phew). What did he know?… (CNN, me)

 

Hack Hearing: “Failed Utterly and Totally” (WaPo, Hill, Hill, Hill, TRNS, me)
• House Oversight and Govt Reform chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) got stuck in Tuesday, tearing into leaders of the Office of Personnel Management over a massive hack of the federal govt. The agency’s IT defenses were “akin to leaving all the doors and windows open in your house and expecting no one will walk in and take any information,” he said

 

• In her opening statement, OPM director Katherine Archeluta acknowledged years of deficiencies. But: “Is the 14 million [people] number wrong or accurate? How far back does it go? Does it include military personnel? Does it include contractor information? Chaffetz asked at various times, often speaking over Archeluta

 

• “I would be glad to discuss that in a classified setting,” Archeluta replied multiple times, to lawmakers’ general fury. Later, after a classified hearing, lawmakers expressed frustration that they “didn’t hear much.” In the public hearing, Chaffetz hammered Archeluta over why OPM’s personnel data wasn’t encrypted

 

• Between 4 and 14 million current and former federal employees going back to 1983, govt contractors, people working for the military and intel community, with security clearances, have had their personal data stolen in what is likely the biggest hack of all time

 

• “Data encryption is a valuable…” Archeluta started, before Chaffetz cut her off. “Yeah, it’s valuable,” he snarled, “We didn’t ask you to come read statements. I want to know why you didn’t encrypt the information.” “It is not feasible to implement on networks that are too old,” Archeluta replied, adding that OPM was now working to encrypt the data

 

• “Well it didn’t work, so it failed. You failed utterly and totally.” Towards the end of the hearing, a lawmaker asked Archeluta if anyone at her agency had been fired for not putting computer upgrades in before the hack. “No,” she replied

 

• Rep Ted Lieu (D-Calif) was the first to urge officials from OPM to resign. “I’m looking here today for a few good people to step forward accept responsibility and resign for the good of the nation,” he said. “Sorry” is the one word he said he hadn’t heard. “When is OPM going to apologize?” Lieu added, before asking for the resignations (crickets)

 

 
• Employees of the St Louis Cardinals are under investigation by the FBI and DoJ for hacking databases belonging to the Houston Astros. The employees, who haven’t been named, are alleged to have hacked into a database used by the Astros to track player development built by former Cardinals official Jeff Luhnow, who went to the Astros (NYT) TRNS)

 

Rachel Dolezal: Weirder and Weirder  (AP, NYT, CNN, NBC News, Politico, TRNS, me)
• In her first interviews since being accused of pretending to be black, and then being forced to step down as an NAACP official, Rachel Dolezal didn’t back down Tuesday, telling the Today Show’s Matt Lauer “I identify as black,” although she has white parents and sued Howard University while a student there for discrimination against her as a white student – lost

 

• When Lauer asked, “When did you start deceiving people,” Dolezal said, “I do take exception to that, because it’s a little more complex than me identifying as black, or answering a question of, ‘Are you black or white?'” she said. Later on MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry asked: “Are you a con artist?” “I don’t think so,” Dolezal said

 

• It got weirder Tuesday night when Dolezal told NBC News, “I haven’t had a DNA test. There’s no biological proof that Larry and Ruthanne are my biological parents. … I mean, the birth certificate is issued a month and a half after I’m born. And certainly there were no medical witnesses to my birth.” (can we say here that she’s a bit off? Next she’ll say she was born in Kenya)

 

• The furor around Dolezal, 37, began last week when her parents told reporters who asked then that she has no black ancestry, only white with a trace of Native American. Monday, she stepped down as president of the NAACP in Spokane. She’s lost several other positions

 

• On the Today Show, shown a photo of herself with a much lighter complexion in her youth, she said: “I certainly don’t stay out of the sun.” (sure, it’s a tan) But she added: “I also don’t … put on blackface as a performance. I have a huge issue with blackface. This is not some freak ‘Birth of a Nation’ mockery blackface performance. This is a very real, connected level.”

 

• Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) is giving Hillary Clinton a challenge in New Hampshire. A new Suffolk University poll found 41% of likely Democratic voters would back Clinton, while 31% would back Sanders (Washington Times)

 

Senate Votes to Ban Torture (Hill, me)
• The Senate on Tuesday voted 78-21 to ban the U.S. from ever again subjecting prisoners to waterboarding, “rectal feeding” and other brutal interrogation practices widely condemned as torture (because they are torture)

 

• The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, S.1118, would limit the entire U.S. govt to the interrogation and detention techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual. The measure would require the International Committee of the Red Cross to be allowed “prompt” access to anyone detained by the U.S. govt

 

• The measure would require the govt to update the field manual every three years so it complies with U.S. law and “reflects current, evidence- based, best practices for interrogation.” Among GOP opponents were Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky), Whip John Cornyn (Texas) and firebrand conservative Tom Cotton (Ark)

 

• The move comes months after Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a scathing 6,700 page report on the CIA’s former interrogation and detention program. Not only were the practices torture, the report said, but the committee claimed the program was ineffective and was obscured from its overseers in Washington

 

• “I know from personal experience that abuse of prisoners does not provide good, reliable intelligence,” said Sen John McCain (R-AZ) who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and author of the amendment

• Vid: John Oliver hired Helen Mirren to read the rectal feeding bits from the Senate Torture Report because they’re so gross and she’s so elegant. Oliver takes down torture as an ineffective interrogation method on Last Week Tonight

Obamacare: Top Hill Huddle Today (Free Beacon, Hill, Hill, Hill, AP)

• Top House and Senate Republicans plan to brief rank-and-file lawmakers today on their plans should the Supreme Court erase federal subsidies under President Obama’s health care law. Some GOP aides said leaders were working toward an agreement to temporarily continue aid to millions of people while gutting some requirements of the law (panic panic)

• And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) on Tuesday, asked how Democrats would respond to a potential ruling against Obamacare, said, “I’m not going to be speculating on that. I think the language is clear. I hope the Supreme Court can read English. I’m sure they can.” (total panic)

• Eeek – the federal govt can’t verify $2.8 billion in subsidies distributed through Obamacare, putting significant taxpayer funding “at risk,” according to a report out Tuesday from the IG of the Dept of Health and Human Services. The report found that HHS didn’t have an internal system to ensure that subsidies went to the right enrollees or in the correct amounts

 

• Meanwhile, House Republicans are planning to take up a series of long-awaited Obama bills this week for repeal. On the docket: the good old medical device tax and the Independent Payment Advisory Board for Medicare (death panel). The Obama admin renewed its veto threat late Monday on each of the bills

 

• Separately, House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled their healthcare spending bill, which blocks funds from being used to “implement, administer, enforce, or further any provision of” Obamacare. The bill can’t end subsidies because that’s mandatory spending, but the salaries of people who run Obamacare are paid from the bill – and the bill blocks them from doing it

 

• While visiting the UK, first lady Michelle Obama and the British govt have announced a $200 million joint effort to support education for young girls in conflict zones world wide. “When a girl receives a quality education, she is more likely to earn a decent living,” they said in joint statement Tuesday (TRNS)

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___________________

Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, Nicholas Salazar, Patrice Harris and William Hadden contributed to this report

 

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