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.

Taliban attack on Afghan parliament in Kabul ends with all six gunmen killed, interior ministry says (BBC)

News Now

  • SCOTUS watch: Obamacare…
  • SCOTUS watch: Gay marriage…
  • Obama uses N-word in interview
  • Church reopens in Charleston
  • Campaign donations linked to white supremacist
  • Confederate flag: Presidential pols dodge
  • Dylann Roof racist manifesto on website
  • Chinese hackers: Govt #utter #fail
  • Escaped killers: Sightings?
  • Iran’s pols vote to ban some inspector access
  • MIT economist more involved in Obamacare
SCOTUS Watch: Obamacare… (Hill, me)

• The wait is almost over for what could be the last big legal threat to Obamacare. Court-watchers are working themselves into a frothing frenzy awaiting a decision on King v. Burwell, one of the most-anticipated cases of the year. Some of K Street’s biggest lobby firms are drafting “pre-decision” memos and briefing clients about how they could be hit (raking in cash, too)

• Republicans in the House and Senate briefed their members for the first time last Wednesday, trying to calm fears about what could happen to the 6.4 million people whose Obamacare subsidies are at stake in the case (in other words, they could lose if they win)

• On the same afternoon as the GOP meetings, Health and Human Services Sec Sylvia Burwell privately met with members of the New Democrats Coalition to talk about the case. “In my state of Georgia, 500,000 people would lose their insurance,” Rep David Scott (D-Ga) said as he left the closed-door meeting

• Republicans have spent four months quietly crafting contingency plans. In the Senate, things don’t appear to be going too well. In the House, Rep Paul Ryan (R-Wis) presented a plan for block grants to states that want them. But conservative Rep Paul Gosar (R-Ariz) rolled out a plan the next day that would stop Congress from enacting any extension of subsidies

• Meanwhile, on opinion days like today, dozens of reporters are packing the court or swarming the steps outside, while nearly 10,000 people tune into SCOTUSblog for live updates. False reports attempting to predict the timing of the decision (all wrong, of course) have got people into even more of a lather

Great interactive: Major SCOTUS cases in 2015 – where the justices came down – Head shots! Case summaries! (NYT)

SCOTUS Watch: Gay Marriage… (AP, me)

• With a Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage expected any day now, gay couples in states with bans are making wedding plans, courthouse officials are getting ready for different scenarios and steadfast foes are working on their strategies to keep up the opposition

• Gay couples, such as Ethan Fletcher and Andrew Hickam of Cincinnati, are gearing up for a quick run to the courthouse in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee – the states involved in the cases that were argued in April before the justices. They’re among 14 states that ban gay marriage. If the court rules in favor, it would apply nationally

• Probate Court Judge Jan Michael Long, of Pickaway County, near Columbus, said he and other probate judges met to discuss potential rulings and their impacts. There are a lot of procedural issues involving the need for gender-neutral wording and who gets legal notifications, he said, and it could be complicated

• In Ingham County, Michigan, Clerk Barb Byrum said she might not wait for a new marriage license form from the state, and could simply white-out “bride” and “groom” on the application when she gets the legal green light

• Some pastors have signaled plans to resist a SCOTUS ruling in favor of gay marriage. Gov Greg Abbott (R-Texas) recently signed a “pastor protection” law that allows clergy members to refuse officiating marriages that violate their religious beliefs

• The Senate cleared its annual defense policy bill last week. The House and Senate will now try to merge their two bills, with both sides pledging to finish up their work next month. They differ on Guantanamo closing details, military pay and housing, and President Obama has threatened a veto. Meanwhile, Senate Dems have blocked the money… (Hill, me)


Obama Uses N-Word in Interview (AP, me)

• “Racism, we are not cured of it,” President Obama said in an interview. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.” (he went there – wait for storm)

• Obama’s remarks came during an interview out today with comedian Marc Maron for his popular podcast, where you can say pretty much anything. It’s recorded in his LA garage studio. Obama also expressed frustration that “the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong.”

• “I will tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds are gunned down, and Congress literally does nothing – yes, that’s the closest I came to feeling disgusted,” he said. “I was pretty disgusted.”

• He said it’s important to respect that hunting and sportsmanship are important to a lot of gun-owning Americans. “The question is just is there way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common-sense stuff that prevents a 21-year-old who is angry about something, or is racist, or is deranged from going into a gun store and suddenly is packing and can do enormous harm.”

• Obama said he think he’d be a better candidate if he were running again because although he’s slowed down, “I know what I’m doing and I’m fearless.” “I’ve screwed up. I’ve been in the barrel tumbling down Niagara Falls. And I emerged and I lived. And that’s always such a liberating feeling.” (which issue down Niagara Falls?)

Church Reopens in Charleston (AP, me)

• Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church opened its tall, wooden doors to the world Sunday, embracing strangers who walked in from the street or tuned in from home for the first worship service since a white gunman was accused of killing nine black church members. The service was sprinkled with themes of love, recovery and healing

• It was that same hospitality that allowed the suspected gunman to be welcomed into a Bible study for about an hour before he allegedly stood up, made racially offensive remarks and opened fire in the church known as “Mother Emanuel” because it’s one of the oldest black congregations in the South

• “Some folks might need some more time in order to walk in,” said the Rev Norvel Goff, a presiding elder. “But for those of us who are here this morning … because the doors of Mother Emanuel are open on this Sunday, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth.”

• Later Sunday, thousands of people gathered on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge to join hands in solidarity. The bridge is named after a former state lawmaker and vocal Confederate flag supporter (see below)

• Less than 2 miles from the church, someone vandalized a Confederate monument, spray-painting “Black Lives Matter” on the state. City workers used a tarp to cover up the graffiti, police said. The graffiti, in bright red paint, said: “This is the problem. #RACIST”

Campaign Donations Linked to White Supremacist (Guardian, NYT, me)

• Earl Holt III, the leader of a white supremacist group that’s been linked to Dylann Roof, has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns, including those of 2016 presidential contenders such as Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul, records show, the Guardian reports

• A spox for Sen Cruz (R-Texas) said Sunday night, “We just learned this evening that Mr Holt had contributed to the campaign. We will be immediately refunding all those donations.” Holt lists himself as president of the Council of Conservative Citizens. In the 50s it was known as the White Citizens Councils – no word so far from Paul or Santorum

• A manifesto that appeared on a website registered to Roof (see below) said that the manifesto’s author had first learned of “brutal black-on-white murders” from the Council of Conservative Citizens’ website. Holt, in a statement on his site, said he wasn’t surprised and his group had the courage to disclose “the seemingly endless incidents involving “black-on-white murder.” (gag)

• Holt has also given money to a number of other GOP members of Congress, including Sen Jeff Flake (R-Ariz), Sen Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen Tom Cotton (R-Ar), Rep Steve King (R-Iowa), former Rep Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) and former Rep Todd Akin (R-Mo)

• A series of racist statements have been posted over the past four years to conservative news site The Blaze by a user going by Holt’s full name, and referring to Holt’s home town. One comment said of black people: “One can extricate them from the jungle, but one CANNOT purge the jungle from THEM.” (guess The Blaze was OK with the content or something)
Confederate Flag: SC Politicians (Hill, Hill, NYT, me)

• Gov Nikki Haley (R) admitted Thursday she couldn’t lower the Confederate flag without the approval of her state’s legislature. The flag’s literally locked in place with a padlock. It lacks the mechanics – the actual pulley system – to be lowered. Any discussion of the Confederate flag is in reality a thinly veiled discussion of race in American society

• Sen Tim Scott (R-SC), one of two black U.S. senators, said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, “My voice will be clear. My position will be stated. I’m not going to make any breaking news here. I have made the commitment to waiting ’till after the funeral to start that debate

[on whether the Confederate flag should continue to fly on his home state’s capitol grounds.”

• Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a 2016er, said in an interview, “It works here. That’s what the statehouse agreed to do. You could probably visit other places in the country near some symbol that doesn’t quite strike you right. … It’s him, not the flag.”

• Rep James Clyburn (D-SC) said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, “That is a battle flag that flies in front of the Statehouse. That is a flag of rebellion. We would not be having this discussion if that were the flag of the Confederate States of America because that flag is not a symbol of hate.”

• SC State Rep Norman Norman Brannon (R) said Friday night he plans on introducing a bill to remove the Confederate flag. In an interview Saturday, Brannon said, “What lit the fire under this was the tragic death of my friend and his eight parishioners. It took my buddy’s death to get me to do this. I should feel ashamed of myself.”
Presidential Pols Weigh In – Or Don’t (NYT, Politico, Hill, Hill, Hill, me)

• 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney weighed in on the Confederate flag debate Saturday with a blunt tweet: “Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims.” President Obama later linked to his tweet with his own tweet: “Good point, Mitt”

• Hours later, 2016ers followed. Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-Fl) noted that, as governor of Florida, “we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged.” But he’d only say that after a period of mourning “there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward” – “confident …right thing” – dodge

• Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fl) said it was up to the people of South Carolina. Asked if moving the flag in Florida was an example of the “right decision,” Rubio wouldn’t say – classic dodge

• Rubio didn’t mention that he signed on to what became a failed bill in the 2001 Florida legislature that would have prevented the further removal of Confederate and other war memorabilia by executive action – bill was drafted in opposition to Bush’s unilateral removal of the flag – OK then


• Gov Scott Walker (R-Wis) said it was a state issue and “I fully expect the leaders of South Carolina to debate this” but it should wait until after the funerals – trifecta of dodges. Sen Rand Paul (R-Ky) declined to comment – worst dodge of all

• Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said South Carolina should decide, though “I also understand those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states, not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions, and I think often this issue is used as a wedge to try to divide people.” like when people use it to murder people?

• Former Sen Rick Santorum (R-Pa) said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, “I don’t think the federal govt or federal candidates should be making decisions on everything – and opining on everything. This is a decision that needs to be made here in South Carolina.” awful dodge on major issue of the day – “opining” is a derogatory term to minimize the issue

• Former Gov Mike Huckabee (R-Ar) said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday it wasn’t a question that presidential candidates need to answer. “Everyone’s being baited with the question as if somehow it has anything to do whatsoever with running for president.” it has everything to do with your views on race – “baited” is a charged word to minimize the issue

• Vid: In tone-deaf fashion, Meet the Press has a producer talk to convicted murderers in Sing Sing Prison. He chose to talk to only black murderers. He could have talked to anyone. MTP debated whether to air it – did so anyway on Sunday. Got massive social media blowback. Chuck Todd seemed surprised that people saw it as a racial issue after Charleston…

Dylann Roof Racist Manifesto on Website (NYT, Daily Beast, TRNS, me)

• Dylann Storm Roof spat on and burned the American flag, but waved the Confederate. He posed for pictures wearing a No. 88 T-shirt, had 88 Facebook friends and wrote that number – white supremacist code for “Heil Hitler” – in the South Carolina sand

• A website discovered Saturday appears to offer the first serious look at Roof’s thinking. The site, the – down last time I checked – shows a stash of 60 photos and includes a nearly 2,500-word manifesto

• “I have no choice,” it read. “I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”


• It’s not clear whether the manifesto was written by Roof, or if he had control of it. Nor is it clear whether he took the pictures with a timer, or if someone else took them. The Charleston PD and the FBI said they were “taking steps to verify the authenticity of these postings” in a joint statement Saturday night

• In the manifesto, Roof writes: “The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case…I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right.” He says he typed in “black on White crime” into Google immediately “and I have never been the same since that day.”

• There are several passages of long racist rants in which he says Hispanics are enemies, he praises segregation, says “Negroes have lower IQs” and low impulse control. The manifesto says blacks are “stupid and violent” and have the “capacity to be very slick.” The manifesto attacks Jews, but praises Asians for being racists and potential allies

• The manifesto says he learned from the website of the far-right Council of Conservative Citizens, an offshoot of the 1950s-era White Citizens Councils that fought school segregation. As recently as 2007, the group stated they opposed “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”

Twitter lit up over an AP photo of Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) with what appeared to be a gun aimed straight at him. It’s actually a background poster, part of a series of 14 photos taken at a “Celebrate the 2nd Amendment” event. AP said the “images were not intended to portray Sen Cruz in a negative light.” (Politico)


Chinese Hackers: Govt #Utter #Fail (NYT, me)

• Undetected for nearly a year, the Chinese hackers executed a sophisticated attack that gave them “administrative privileges” into the computer networks at the Office of Personnel Management, two senior admin officials said. The hackers began siphoning out a rush of data back to China, investigators told Congress last week in a classified briefing (got it all)

• The hackers ultimate target: the one million or so federal employees and contractors who have filled out form SF-86, which is stored in a different computer bank and details personal, financial and medical histories for anyone seeking a security clearance. Could be used for spying recruitment. Much of the info was stored in the Dept of the Interior – had weak protection

• An audit issued last year harshly criticized lax security at the IRS, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Energy Dept, Securities and Exchange Commission – and the Dept of Homeland Security, which has responsibility for securing the nation’s critical networks (so it could basically be all over then)

• At the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates nuclear facilities, info about critical components was left on unsecured network drives, and the agency lost track of laptops with critical data (you wouldn’t even believe that in a network TV show)

“Password” Was Password at IRS

• Computers at the IRS allowed employees to use weak passwords like “password.” (I’d believe that of the IRS) One report detailed 7,329 “potential vulnerabilities” because software patches hadn’t been installed. At the SEC, part of the network had no firewall or intrusion protection for months

• Auditors at the Dept of Education, which stores info from millions of student loan applicants, were able to connect “rogue” computers and hardware to the network without being noticed

• Computers at Homeland Security, which is charged with protecting the nation’s public infrastructure, contained hundreds of vulnerabilities as recently as 2010, according to a report by Republican staff of the Senate Homeland Security Committee (that’s absolutely terrifying)

• Last week, OPM’s embattled director, Katherine Archuleta, stumbled through a congressional hearing. She was unable to explain why much of the info in the system wasn’t encrypted, including Social Security numbers

This week, senior Chinese officials meet in Washington for an annual strategic and economic dialogue. The subject is bound to come up, even though the Obama admin has only named the Chinese hackers to members of Congress in classified hearings. (flies all over walls)

• Vid: Too traumatized and messed up by Mommy to be prez? Barbara Bush tells Jeb he’s not her favorite son – and he puts it in a promo video

Escaped Killers: Sightings? (AP, Albany-Times Union, NYT, WCAX-TV, me)

• The Albany-Times Union, citing a person familiar with the investigation, reports that forensic evidence suggested that escaped murderers Richard Matt and/or David Sweat had broken unto a home in the area of Owls Head, 20 miles west of the Clinton County Correctional Facility in Dannemora NY, from which they escaped on 6 June (we’ve had enough of the chase #catchthem)

• Investigators and military trucks converged on Mountain View, a hamlet in Franklin County, late Sunday. A person had been seen fleeing a hunting camp in the area. Earlier Sunday, about 300 law enforcement officers searched the neighboring towns of Amity and Friendship near the Pa border, where two men resembling the convicts were spotted near a railroad line

• But state police said in a release Sunday evening that “a primary focus of the search” is still the area around far northern Dannemora, where Sweat and Matt used power tools to break out of prison. Sweat was serving life without parole for murder and Matt was doing 25 to life for kidnapping, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his former boss

• Prison worker Joyce Mitchell remained in custody on charges she helped the men escape by providing them with hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools. She has pleaded not guilty. Officials said a corrections officer has been placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation

• NYT reported Sunday that the catwalks and tunnels through which the inmates escaped hadn’t been inspected in years and no guards were in two of the watchtowers on the night that the men escaped. Also, corrections officers were rarely shining lights over the faces of inmates during hourly bed checks anymore (so #fail for the prison)

• Union activists will huddle at AFL-CIO HQ this morning for a strategy session as they work to sway key “swing” Democratic senators who could decide the latest gambit by GOP leaders in the congressional trade wars. A procedural vote is scheduled for Tuesday on stand-alone trade promotion authority – Democratic senators may be wobbly… (Politico)
Iran’s Pols Vote to Ban Some Inspector Access (AP, me)

• With some lawmakers chanting “Death to the America,” Iran’s parliament on Sunday voted to ban access to military sites, documents and scientists as part of a future deal with world powers over its contested nuclear program

• The bill, if ratified, could complicate the ongoing talks in Vienna between Iran and six world powers as they face a self-imposed 30 June deadline. The talks are focused on reaching a final deal that curbs Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions (complicate? scupper more like)

• The bill also demands the complete lifting of all sanctions against Iran as part of any final nuclear accord. The bill must be ratified by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog, to become a law. It would also require Iran’s foreign minister to report to parliament every six months on the process of implementing the accord

• Iran’s nuclear negotiators say they’ve already agreed to grant UN inspectors “managed access” to military sites under strict control and specific circumstances. But Iranian officials, including Ayatollah Khameini, have strongly rejected the idea of Iranian scientists being interviewed

• In a statement Sunday, the State Dept said inspections remain a key part of any final deal. All parties “are well aware of what is necessary for a final deal, including the access and transparency that will meet our bottom lines. We won’t agree to a deal without that.” (8 days to go – will be stunned if it happens by deadline)

• Iran remains a state of nuclear “proliferation concern,” and continues to support terrorism in the Middle East, while growing influence in Africa, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Latin America, the State Dept says in its latest report on global terrorism (TRNS)
MIT Economist Was More Involved in Obamacare (WSJ, Hill, me)

• The Obamacare consultant who once mocked the “stupidity of the American voter” had a bigger impact on the healthcare law than previously known. Jonathan Gruber frequently contacted Obama admin officials via email while involved in crafting Obamacare, according to WSJ

• Previously unreleased emails show that Gruber repeatedly messaged the WH and the Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS) between January 2009 and March 2010. He offered advice on healthcare policy and informed officials about media and lawmaker interviews concerning Obamacare

• Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told WSJ that the communications disprove Gruber’s past assertions that he was a limited participant in creating the law. The House Oversight Committee chair added that his committee had obtained 20,000 pages of emails after working with MIT, where Gruber is an economist

• “His proximity to HHS and the WH was a whole lot tighter than they admitted,” Chaffetz said. Chaffetz also said on Sunday that he has sent HHS Sec Sylvia Burwell a letter for additional info over Gruber’s contract with her agency

• Outrage erupted last year when video footage emerged of Gruber insulting the American electorate over Obamacare. He was filmed in 2010 reportedly praising “the stupidity of the American voter” for helping pass President Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform law

• Vid: Greece’s debt dilemma explained – in 75 seconds. European leaders gather for an emergency summit in Brussels today that could break the deadlock around Greece’s debt crisis. Greece must repay its debt to international creditors by the end of June or risk crashing out of the eurozone and possible the EU (BBC)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald and Loree Lewis contributed to this report

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