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
  • Confederate flag’s days numbered?
  • U.S. lawmakers pay tribute to victims
  • Gun control revival?
  • U.S. won’t threaten hostage families
  • Obama’s trade agenda survives
  • OPM classified briefing: Lame
  • Freddie Gray: “High-energy injury”
  • Khameini muscles into nuke talks
  • Escaped killers: Day 18
  • Benghazi bickering
Are Confederate Flag’s Days Numbered? (APHill, Hill, TRNS, me)
• A measure enabling South Carolina lawmakers to debate removing the Confederate flag from their Statehouse grounds needed two-thirds approval. It passed the House Tuesday by 103-10 (who were the 10?). The Senate later approved it with a voice vote (but you can hide inside a voice vote if you’re a no)
• The first senator to call for moving the flag to a museum was the son of South Carolina’s most powerful politician of the last century, U.S. senator and segregationist standard-bearer Strom Thurmond. State Sen Paul Thurmond, a Charleston Republican, said he loves his ancestors but isn’t proud of a heritage that included holding people in bondage
• Only one senator spoke against extending a special session to debate removing the flag. Sen Danny Verdin (R) didn’t give a reason for his opposition beyond saying he talked to his constituents and others. His voice broke as he remembered his friend, slain state Sen Clementa Pinckney (D) – (didn’t stop him opposing, though)
• Gov Nikki Haley’s (R) unexpected call Monday for the flag to come down, prompted by the massacre inside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, suddenly eroded the position many southern lawmakers have held through their careers: that debating the status of the flag would be too racially divisive today (position, not reality)
• Senate Judiciary Chair Larry Martin said before Tuesday’s session that it would be impractical (why) and disrespectful to publicly debate the topic while funeral services are being held. But Najee Washington, granddaughter of victim Ethel Lance, said, “That would be great. It’s just a part of the past that we don’t need to be reminded of every day.”
• Today, Pinckney’s coffin will be on display in the Statehouse Rotunda. On Friday, President Obama plans to deliver his eulogy at the “Mother Emanuel” church in Charleston
• Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on CNN Tuesday, “The people of Charleston, the people of Mother Emanuel Church, the way they conducted themselves made it impossible to keep the flag up.” “God help South Carolina if we don’t achieve the goal of removing the flag,” Graham said
• The Charleston City Council has unanimously passed a temporary ordinance that bans protests or picketing at funerals in advance of services this week. Mayor Joe Riley said police recommended the ordinance after receiving info that a group may want to protest at one of the funerals (bet we can guess which disgusting group that is)
• Raw vid: Police arrest Dylann Storm Roof in North Carolina – caught on police dash cam (RT)
• Leaders in other states have swiftly followed suit on the flag: Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn called for removing the Confederate emblem from the state flag, and in Tennessee, both Democrats and Republicans said a bust of Confederate general and KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest must be removed from the Senate
• Virginia Gov Terry McAuliffe Tuesday ordered the replacement of vanity license plates depicting the Confederate flag. Kentucky’s Republican nominee for governor, Matt Bevin, called for removing a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from his Capitol’s rotunda – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Kentucky should consider it
• Big businesses took action: Wal-Mart, e-Bay, Sears, Target, Etsy and Amazon announced they would no longer sell merchandise featuring the Confederate flag, which e-Bay called “a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism.” Sales spiked on Amazon ahead of its announcement (gross) (they could all have done this before, of course)
• Activists are calling for a closer look at the state flags of several other Southern states, in addition to those of Mississippi and Tennessee, which also include symbols evoking those states’ Civil War battle flags. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina


• Dylann Storm Roof, 21, faces murder and gun charges in the church attack. He had told a friend that he would do something “for the white race” and posed in photos displaying Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags (he ended up doing something for the human race)



U.S. Lawmakers Pay Tribute (PoliticoHill, Hill, me)
• An emotional scene unfolded on the House floor Tuesday evening. Members of the South Carolina delegation, including senators, along with the Congressional Black Caucus, led the rest of the House in a moment of silence. Rep Mark Sanford (R-SC) recalled the events of last Wednesday then read aloud the names of the nine victims


• House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) has canceled House votes on Friday to allow lawmakers time to travel to funeral services in Charleston. A handful of members are expected to attend. The House delegation will be led by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). President Obama will deliver the eulogy at Rev Clementa Pinckney’s funeral


• Hillary Clinton said Tuesday at a black church in Florissant Mo: “I know it’s tempting to dismiss this tragedy as an isolated incident, to believe in today’s America that bigotry is largely behind us, that institutional racism no longer exists. But despite our best efforts and highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.” 



Gun-Control Revival? (WaPoPolitico, me)
• In separate interviews Tuesday night, at a reception before a ceremony hosted by Sandy Hook families where Sen Pat Toomey (R-Pa) was honored, he and Sen Joe Manchin (D-WVa) discussed their desire to find a new way forward with meaningful gun-control legislation (right-wing going nuts)


• “We want to make sure we have the votes. Pat’s going to, and I’ll work with him, to get some of our colleagues on the Republican side,” Manchin said, adding that he hasn’t directly talked to Toomey about a revival. Manchin specifically mentioned an effort aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people diagnosed with mental illness


• President Obama noted last week that once again, someone got a gun who shouldn’t have had access to it. “Let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”


• Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) said on the Senate floor Tuesday that something must be done to expand background checks. “Is that asking too much? Couldn’t we at least do this little thing to stop people who are mentally ill, people who are criminals from purchasing guns?” (no)


• But any sort of gun-control effort would face an uphill battle in the GOP-majority Senate. Since Manchin and Toomey’s effort to tighten background check rules for firearm purchases failed in April 2013, there’s been precious little debate on the subject (failed when Democrats could have don’t it)



• The U.S. ambassador has been summoned to the French foreign ministry in Paris this morning after Wikileaks says the NSA spied on three French presidents from 2006 to 2012 (une mouche sur le mur = fly on wall) (CNN, me)



U.S. Won’t Threaten Hostage Families (WSJHill, FPHill, TRNS, me)
• President Obama will announce today that the U.S. will no longer threaten criminal prosecutions against American families who attempt to pay ransoms to extremist groups holding their relatives hostage. (big whoop) It’s part of a long-awaited policy change in response to the deaths of U.S. hostages held by ISIS and other militants groups


• Obama will make the changes through an executive order and presidential directive. He’ll deliver a speech about the moves today and meet with families of hostages who participated in the review. Family members on Tuesday received a briefing on the details of the plan


• The WH will create a new office, known as a hostage recovery fusion cell (creepy name), housed in the FBI, to coordinate response efforts with the families of American captives. State Dept will name a new special presidential envoy for hostage affairs to help communicate with foreign govts involved in freeing U.S. hostages


• While the new policy still prevents the U.S. from making concessions to hostage-takers, it will allow families and govt officials to communicate with terrorist groups or other third-parties to help secure the release of hostages held overseas. Rep Duncan Hunter (R-Calif) trashed the proposed changes as “window dressing.” (is window-dressing)


• Families of slain Americans have complained the federal govt failed to communicate effectively with them while their relatives were held hostage. The family of James Foley, the U.S. journalist killed by ISIS, said different agencies said different things with regard to paying a ransom



• Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ) is expected to make a formal announcement for 2016 as soon as next week, according to several sources familiar with discussions. More the merrier. He has a paltry 30% approval rating in New Jersey. Suffolk University shows him with only 5% support in New Hampshire (Politico)



Obama’s Trade Agenda Survives – Again (HillPoliticoTRNS, me)
• The Senate Tuesday voted in a squeaker, 60-37, to advance President Obama’s trade agenda, approving a measure to end debate on fast-track authority. It sets up a vote on final passage today. If the Senate approves the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), HR1890, it would go to Obama’s desk to be signed


• Fast-track would allow Obama to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes – not have to come back and ask for stuff. The WH wants to conclude negotiations on the huge Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Thirteen Democrats backed fast-track. Five Republicans voted against, including Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who reversed from a yes before


• The Democrats cast “yes” votes even though the trade package didn’t include Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for people displaced by increased trade. To move fast-track forward, the WH and GOP leaders in both chambers decided to break TAA away from fast-track and have separate votes. House Dems scuttled a combo package a couple of weeks ago




• It was pretty exciting in a Hill-ish kind of way. When Sen Dean Heller (R-Nev) swept into the chamber to deliver the 60th vote to break the filibuster, GOP leaders were thrilled to see him. Had he not shown up, GOP leaders were prepared to hold the vote open to allow Sen Bob Corker (R) to fly back from Tennessee to finish the job


• After the Senate votes today on final passage for fast-track, it will take a procedural vote on a package that includes TAA and trade preferences for African countries. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has promised they’ll reach Obama’s desk by the end of the week. Reason: they’re off on July 4th reeeecesssss


• The House has already passed fast-track but it still has to vote on the package, including the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2015, HR.1892, which faces opposition from conservatives. House Democrats are trying to decide what to do – they voted against to derail fast-track, but they’ve lost that now, so they’re probably “yes”



• Gov Bobby Jindal (R-La) looks ready to jump into the 2016 race this afternoon. He’s pitching himself as a man of ideas and gearing himself toward evangelical voters. He’s still a long-shot (AP)



OPM Classified Briefing: Lame (HillTRNS, me)
• Senators didn’t get much from a classified briefing the Obama admin held Tuesday night on the recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach that’s exposed up to 18 million federal workers’ info. “I’m not satisfied,” said Sen Susan Collins (R-Maine), who sits on the intel panel. “It’s very disturbing.”


• OPM Katherine Archeluta briefed lawmakers, along with Homeland Security Sen Jeh Johnson and officials from the office of the DNI. Archeluta testified before a Senate committee in the morning. “It’s very frustrating,” said Sen Jerry Moran (R-Kan) after the classified session. “We want information.” (sounds like “The Prisoner”)


• OPM has acknowledged two breaches, one of which occurred a year before it was discovered. Officials have said they expect hackers have stolen data on virtually all govt workers, military and intel community personnel, govt contractors and even friends and family of federal employees (friends and family plan available?)


• But OPM hasn’t given an estimate of the total number of people that could be at risk, nor has it explained exactly how each breach occurred. The WH has also declined to publicly accuse China for the intrusion, though officials have done so privately. WH spox Josh Earnest on Tuesday admitted he may have been one of those hacked


• Archeluta and other officials didn’t give any more details in the classified briefing, according to lawmakers (they’re going mad with frustration). Archeluta also said Tuesday that old computer networks were to blame, along with the perpetrators. But that no individual was, personally (get a mirror, Katherine – if you still have a reflection)



• The Stonewall Inn, the Greenwich Village bar where resistance to a police raid sparked the modern gay rights movement, was made a city landmark Tuesday, the firs time a site has been named primarily because of its significance to the LGBT history (AP)



Freddie Gray: “High-Energy Injury” (AP, Baltimore Sun, me)
• A medical examiner found Freddie Gray suffered a “high-energy injury,” most likely caused when the Baltimore police van he was riding in suddenly slowed down, according to an autopsy report obtained by The Baltimore Sun (how? who leaked?)


• The report says Gray’s death couldn’t be ruled an accident and is instead a homicide because officers didn’t follow safety precautions “through acts of omission.” (they did something) Police arrested Gray, 25, on 12 April and he died a week later, prompting protests and rioting. A grand jury indicted six officers on various charges. Pleaded not guilty


• A spox for the Maryland ME and for the prosecutor’s office declined Tuesday to release the report, but State Attorney Marilyn Mosby “strongly” condemned the leak in a statement. Attorneys for the officers released a joint statement saying they hadn’t received the report yet


• Although officers loaded Gray into the van on his abdomen, the ME surmised Gray may have gotten to his feet, then been thrown into a wall when the van abruptly changed direction. Because Gray wasn’t belted in and had his wrists and ankles shackled, he was “at risk for an unsupported fall during acceleration or deceleration” (hogtied)


• The report said the van made several stops. When the van made a fourth stop, Gray was belly down, asking for help, saying he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t get up and needed a medic. Officer assisted Gray. Fifth stop: Gray found kneeling on the floor, slumped over, reportedly appeared lethargic with minimal responses to direct questions



• SecDef Ash Carter said Tuesday that the U.S. will deploy heavy weapons – including tanks, armored vehicles and artillery – in a number of European nations, amid NATO concerns over Russia’s role in Ukraine. Russian President Putin accused NATO of “coming to our borders.” (BBCTRNS)



Khameini Muscles Into Nuke Talks (Reuters, me)
• The six world powers want Iran to commit to a verifiable halt of at least 10 years on sensitive nuclear development work as part of a landmark atomic deal they aim to reach by 30 June. But: “Freezing Iran’s research and development (R&D) for a long time like 10 or 12 years is not acceptable,” Ayatollah Khameini said in a speech broadcast live Tuesday


• The world powers are offering in exchange relief from sanctions that have crippled the oil exporter’s economy. Disputes over how much transparency Iran should offer to ease suspicions that it’s covertly sought to develop nuclear bombs and the timing and pace of relief from sanctions on Tehran, have been two major sticking points to the final deal


• The UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been trying to investigate Western allegations that Iran has been working on designing a nuclear warhead. Iran says that its nuclear program is peaceful and that it’s working with the IAEA to clear up any suspicions (sure it has)


• Khameini said: “Inspection of our military sites is out of the question and is one of our red lines.” Complicating things, Iran’s parliament passed a bill Tuesday banning access for IAEA inspectors to its military sites and scientists. The IAEA has complained of lack of access


• A senior French official said Tuesday that the verification procedures and the authorization to access the military sites were the “main difficulty” to clinch a deal. Khameini accused the U.S. of wanting to wipe out Iran’s nuclear industry. “America is after destroying our nuclear industry altogether,” he said (scuttler-in-chief?)



• The U.S. and other nations negotiating the deal are ready to offer light-water nuclear reactors to Iran. Also to cooperate with Iran in the fields of nuclear safety, nuclear medicine, research, nuclear waste removal and other peaceful applications if it agrees to crimp programs that can make atomic arms – according to a confidential document (AP)



Escaped Killers: Day 18 (CNN, me)
• Prison tailor Joyce Mitchell used baked goods to win favors for convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat, even going so far as to ask prison officials to move the inmates’ cells next to each other, a law enforcement official said Tuesday. She asked guard Gene Palmer to pass frozen hamburger meat to Matt 


• Mitchell, who has been charged with aiding the escapees, has admitted she smuggled hacksaw blades into the meat. Palmer didn’t know the blades were inside the meat, according to his attorney. Palmer is now on paid leave. At the time of their escape, Matt and Sweat were housed next to each other on the honor block (sweet)


• Meanwhile, personal items, including boots and underwear (ewww), were discovered Saturday inside a cabin in Mountain View, some 20 miles west of the prison, another law enforcement source said. The way the items were left suggested the pair left in a hurry, according to the source (or made it look that way, some say)


• Tuesday, Lyle Mitchell, the husband of Joyce Mitchell, told NBC’s Today Show that his wife revealed the prisoners’ alleged plan to harm him shortly after their escape. Matt told Joyce he would give her pills that would knock her husband out so she’d have no problem leaving their home to come meet him. She refused, so they “got tough on her”


• “I was in over my head,” Joyce told Lyle Mitchell. “She said she loved me but she was in too deep.” She bailed on the plan and checked into the hospital with panic attacks. Lyle Mitchell said his wife swore that she “never, ever” had sex with either of the convicts (and she’s so honest and stand-up that we believe her utterly, totally)



Benghazi Bickering (BuzzfeedHill, Hill, me)
• In an open letter posted Monday afternoon, Media Matters founder and Hillary Clinton ally David Brock demanded to know why House select Benghazi committee members asked an estimated 45 questions last week about Sidney Blumenthal’s role with liberal organizations, including Media Matters


• “At this point, it’s obvious that the committee’s intended target is potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton,” Brock said. “If all the Republicans have left to nail her with is Media Matters and Blumenthal, this is an investigation that may as well shut down.”


• Brock also called on chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to release the transcript of last week’s deposition with Blumenthal, a former Clinton adviser. Monday, the GOP-controlled panel released nearly 60 emails Blumenthal sent Clinton while she served as SecState. Brock said the GOP is “sitting on the deposition” to “save themselves from political embarrassment.”


• Blumenthal and his lawyers, according to Brock, were told by “the lead Republican lawyer for the committee” that the nine-hour deposition had produced little of use: “Maybe we got five minutes worth of something,” they said afterwards, Blumenthal told Brock


• Meanwhile, Gowdy said Tuesday that State has failed to produce any copies it might possess of recently disclosed emails between Clinton and Blumenthal. State was supposed to produce them by end of Monday, but asked for an extension. Gowdy was dismissive of the request: “Every request to State is met with delay.”

Get it first. Sign up here for TRNS News Notes


Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, Loree Lewis, William Hadden and Sydnee Fried 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.

Copyright © 2015 The Talk Radio News Service, All rights reserved.