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

  • Spying reforms: Bump in road
  • TSA acting chief out after failures
  • SCOTUS: For Muslim woman in headscarf case
  • SCOTUS: Facebook rants not criminal
  • Iran: Nuclear stockpile grows
  • Lindsey Graham: Radical Islam “running wild”
  • Mystery surrounds Hastert case
  • “Call me Caitlyn”

Spying Reforms Hit Bump in Road (Politico, NYT, me)

• Uh oh. Danger, Will Robinson. The chief authors behind the USA Freedom Act – which would rein in the NSA’s bulk collection program that sweeps up Americans’ phone records – warned Monday that the Senate’s changes to the bill won’t fly in the House. They want the bill passed as is

• “The House is not likely to accept the changes proposed by Sen McConnell,” said Reps Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), John Conyers (D-MI) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “Section 215 has already expired. These amendments will likely make that sunset permanent. The Senate must act quickly to pass the USA Freedom Act without amendment.”

• Senior Senate Republicans say their proposed changes are modest and are likely to pass the chamber when they come up for a vote. The amendment votes will be held at a simple majority, making Senate passage easier

• The most problematic proposal would strike a provision that was pushed by civil libertarians. It would declassify opinions by the secret surveillance court that are considered novel or significant. Nadler called that “obnoxious or extreme” and a violation of one of the bill’s central goals – the end of the “secret body of law” (it is)

• Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made a final attempt to pass the bill quickly on the floor, noting with exasperation,”It’s time to get the job done.” But Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) learned of the majority leader’s plans and objected. The procedural vote will be today at 11 am. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy week

TSA Acting Chief Out After Failures (ABC News, Hill, NYT, me)

• The Homeland Security Dept on Monday reassigned Melvin Carraway, acting director of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and ordered the agency to revise its security procedures after screeners at airports failed to detect weapons and fake explosives 95% of the time in a covert test

• Sec Jeh Johnson said Monday that he took the findings of the investigation by the dept’s IG “very seriously.” TSA employees failed 67 of 70 tests, where undercover agents tried to pass through security while carrying fake prohibited items (so utterly lame)

• Johnson was apparently so frustrated by the findings he met with officials at TSA HQ last week. “Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of IG’s report, Sec Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report,” the agency said in a statement

• At least one test showed failures by agents to find a fake bomb even after the undercover agent set off a magnetometer. The screener reportedly let the agent through with the fake bomb taped to his back, despite a pat down. (a small hump maybe? clue?) The undercover agents are called the Red Team and have publicly exposed TSA weaknesses in the past

• Recently, the DHS IG’s office concluded a series of undercover tests targeting checked baggage screening at airports across the country. The review found “vulnerabilities” throughout the system, attributing them to human error and technological failures


SCOTUS Rules for Muslim Woman in Headscarf Case (Reuters, TRNS, me)

• The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Muslim woman who sued for discrimination after being denied a sales job at age 17 at an Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store in Oklahoma because she wore a head scarf for religious reasons. The court backed Samantha Elauf 8-1

• She had been rejected under Abercrombie’s sales staff preppy “look policy” after coming to her job interview wearing the head scarf, or hijab, used by many Muslim women. The decision was a victory for the EEOC, which sued on her behalf. Abercrombie said the case will continue, noting the justices hadn’t ruled that discrimination took place

• SCOTUS had to decide whether Elauf was required to ask for a religious accommodation to allow her to wear the scarf in order for the company to be sued under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Despite wearing the scarf, she didn’t specifically say that, as a Muslim, she wanted the company to give her a religious accommodation

• In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court said Elauf only had to show that her need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in Abercrombie’s decision not to hire her. Scalia said that Abercrombie “at least suspected” that Elauf wore a head scarf for religious reasons. Scalia said: “That is enough.” Justice Clarence Thomas dissented

• Abercrombie said in a statement that in April it replaced the “East Coast” look policy with “a new dress code that allows associates to be more individualistic” while also changing hiring practices so “attractiveness” is no longer a factor (can’t be attractive in a headscarf?)

• House GOP leaders plan to outline policy proposals on how they propose to respond to SCOTUS’s highly anticipated ruling on Obamacare sometime before the court’s decision comes down, but will hold off on releasing a full backup plan until afterwards – court decision likely towards the end of June (Hill)


SCOTUS: Facebook Rants Are Not Criminal (Reuters, TRNS, me)

• SCOTUS on Monday threw out the conviction of a Pennsylvania man who made threatening Facebook statements toward his estranged wife, the FBI, a school and others in a ruling that makes it tougher to prosecute people for using menacing language on social media. The court ruled 8-1 in favor of Anthony Elonis. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented

• The justices decided Elonis couldn’t be convicted merely on the basis that a reasonable person might consider his comments threatening. The court instead said prosecution would be allowed under the federal law that he was accused of breaking only if Elonis himself intended his words as threats (scary stuff)

• Elonis wrote the posts in 2010, at age 27, after his wife left him. Written in the form of rap lyrics, he fantasized about killing her, knifing a female FBI agent and shooting schoolchildren. After a court granted his wife a protective order against him, Elonis posted; “Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?” They’re now divorced

• Seven justices voted to throw out his convictions, while Justice Samuel Alito said he would have sent the case back to an appeals case to decide. Elonis is back in jail in PA on unrelated charges. Local media reported he was arrested after throwing a pot at a woman. The court’s reasoning focused on Elonis’ intent, not on free speech

• “Federal criminal liability generally does not turn solely on the results of an act without considering the defendant’s mental state,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. Lower courts had said Elonis could be held responsible regardless of whether he believed his messages could be viewed as threatening


• Police officers in Missouri were 75% more likely to stop black drivers than white drivers last year and 73% more likely to search black drivers, according to a report released Monday by the state’s AG. But blacks were less likely to be found with contraband: nearly 27% of whites possessed something illegal, compared with 21% of blacks who were searched. (no comment necessary, really) (NYT)


Iran: Nuclear Stockpile Grows (NYT, Haaretz, Hill, me)

• With only a month left before a deadline to complete a nuclear deal with Iran, international inspectors have reported that Tehran’s stockpile of nuclear fuel increased about 20% over the last 18 months of negotiations, partially undercutting the Obama admin’s contention that the Iranian program had been “frozen” during that period

• But Western officials and experts can’t quite figure out why. One possibility is that Iran has run into technical problems that have kept it from converting some of its enriched uranium into fuel rods for reactors. Another is that it’s increasing its stockpile to give it an edge if the negotiations fail

• The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, with almost daily access to most of Iran’s nuclear facilities, reported finding no evidence that Iran was racing towards a nuclear weapon and said Tehran had halted work on facilities that could have given it bomb-making capabilities


• The increase in stockpile poses a big challenge for President Obama and SecState John Kerry, who flew back to the U.S. from Geneva Monday for treatment of a broken leg he suffered in a bicycling accident, as they enter a 30-day push to reach a deal before the end of June

• The admin will have to convince Congress and America’s allies that Iran will shrink its stockpile by 96% in a matter of months after a deal is signed, even while it continues to produce new material and has demonstrated little success in reducing its current stockpile

• Kerry met Iranian FM Javad Zarif on Saturday in Geneva to discuss how the stockpile would be destroyed and other impediments to a final deal. The question is: How much of the increased stockpile was done for political reasons, and how much is because adding to the stockpile has proved easier than eliminating it?

• Meanwhile, Obama says in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV network that will air today: “I can, I think demonstrate, not based on any hope, but on facts and evidence and analysis that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable tough agreement. A military solution will not fix it.”


• Five people are dead and hundreds are missing after a ship carrying over 400 people capsized on the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province. The ship is floating upside down in a wide stretch of river – state media said rescuers tapping the hull had heard calls for help from inside. The captain and chief engineer are in custody (CNN)


Lindsey Graham: Radical Islam “Running Wild” (AP, TRNS, me)

• Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) positioned himself as a defense hawk as he announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday. “Simply put, radical Islam is running wild,” he told supporters in Central, SC, the small town where he grew up

• “They have more safe havens, more money, more weapons and more capability to strike our homeland than any time since 9/11. They are large, they are rich and they’re entrenched.” He said as president, he would “make them small, poor and on the run.”

• I’ve got one simple message,” Graham said. “I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race. That includes you, Hillary.” And with that, he took on Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, as well as all other candidates and wanna-be candidates in his own party

• Yet Graham has joined Democrats on some contentious issues. He backed a 2012 immigration overhaul and voted to end a 2013 partial govt shutdown. He said Monday his willingness to “work with anybody” is necessary. He also vowed to protect Social Security and Medicare, even though he said younger workers may have to work longer and pay more


• Police arrested Joshua Wheeler, a 25-year-old paid intern in Rep Lynn Jenkin’s (R-KS) office on Monday for allegedly bringing an unloaded handgun into the Capitol. Police said they found an unloaded Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun during a routine search at the entrance of the building (whyyyy bring it?) (Hill, TRNS, me)


Mystery Surrounds Hastert Case (WaPo, AP, me)

• Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-IL) first court appearance will be Thursday morning in federal court in Chicago. He was charged Thursday with violating banking laws and lying to the FBI in what authorities said was an effort to pay $3.5 million to an unnamed person to cover up “past misconduct.” The name of the person is a mystery

• Hastert, 73, will appear in court before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, who previously donated $1,500 to the then-congressman’s re-election campaign. Durkin’s office hasn’t said whether he might recuse himself. Durkin worked as a lawyer when he made the donations

• The alleged misconduct involved sexual molestation of a male student back in Hastert’s teaching days in Yorkville, a federal law enforcement official said. Although law enforcement officials aren’t focusing on the sexual abuse allegations – too long ago – one avenue of inquiry is trying to determine whether there were other victims, law enforcement officials said

• Former Rep Bob Ney (R-OH), now with TRNS, says working with Hastert was a pleasure, but some of Haster’s senior staff were paranoid when it came to the speaker. Ted Van Der Meid, Hastert’s counsel, and Hastert’s chief of staff, were capable of doing whatever to took to “protect” him, as they both told Ney – read the fascinating interview with Ney from TRNS


• Hastert has disappeared from view since the charges were filed and has issued no statements in his defense. Hastert’s longtime network of aides and associates in DC remain bewildered by the lack of info, both about the nature of the allegations and whether Hastert has even hired a criminal defense attorney. And where he is

• Hastert had near-daily interactions with adolescent boys, whether on his wrestling team, through his social studies classes at Yorkville High or through the Explorer post he helped lead. He traveled with boys frequently, whether on Scouting trips to the Bahamas or wrestling trips to Colorado to learn new techniques

• But a half-dozen of Hastert’s wrestlers, fellow teachers and other Yorkville contemporaries interviewed in recent days all said they never heard even the barest suggestion of wrongdoing. And most insisted that had there been any suggestion of impropriety, it would have been difficult to cover up in a tightknit farm town

• Tony Houle, 62, who was a teacher and assistant wrestling coach at Yorkville High and has lived in the town since 1975, says he sees plenty of his students and colleagues from those years. “You’d think somebody would tell a story,” Houle said. “You would think something would come up that would be a suggestion of an impropriety, but there never was.”

• Vid: John Oliver rips Sepp Blatter, newly re-elected president of FIFA – and the entire corrupt organization – on Last Week Tonight. Monday, it came out that Blatter’s top deputy made $10 million in bank transactions that are central to the bribery case – not clear if he knew the money was being used as a bribe – getting closer to Blatter… (HBO, NYT)

“Call Me Caitlyn” (WaPo, Vanity Fair, Hill, me)

• Bruce Jenner, whose transition from male to female was officially unveiled in April, reveals a new look and new identity on the cover of next month’s Vanity Fair under the banner headline “Call me Caitlyn.” The 65-year-old Olympic champion was photographed by Annie Liebowitz and interviewed by Buzz Bissinger at her Malibu home

• “This shoot was about my life and who I am as a person. It’s not about the fanfare, it’s not about people cheering in the stadium, it’s not about going down the street and everybody giving you ‘that a boy,’ Bruce,’ pat on the back, OK. This is about your life.” Caitlyn is pictured on the cover of Vanity Fair in a corset

• The interview and photos from the 22-page cover feature, timed to coincide with the former athlete’s reality show, are the first since Jenner’s interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, an interview Jenner said would be the last as “Bruce.” A Twitter account in the name of Caitlyn Jenner had more than 1.3 million followers within hours

• “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it,” Jenner tells Bissinger,” I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life.” “I’m not doing this to be interesting,” Jenner said. “I’m doing this to live.”

• Meanwhile, the Labor Dept’s Occupational Safety and Health Admin (OSHA) said Monday that transgender employees should have access to the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity


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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Ellen Ratner, Bob Ney, Anna Merod and Washington Desk contributed to this report

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