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

  • Obama: SCOTUS shouldn’t have done Obamacare
  • Obama: U.S. lacks “complete strategy” for training Iraqis
  • Texas pool party: Protest
  • Tamir Rice case to judge
  • Judge: Free last Angola 3 member
  • TSA: Another massive fail
  • Boston “knife” terror suspect video released
  • New York escaped killers: Questions
  • Unions push to scuttle trade deal
  • SCOTUS: Jerusalem / passports


Obama: SCOTUS Shouldn’t Have Taken Up Obamacare (AP, Hill, Hill, TRNS, me)

• With a crucial legal decision looming, President Obama said Monday the Supreme Court shouldn’t have even considered the lawsuit challenging Obamacare subsidies, but he voiced confidence the justices “will play it straight” – and leave the law intact. (really?) The court will announce a decision later this month that could wipe out health care for 6.4 million people


• Wrapping up a two-day G7 summit in Germany, Obama told reporters that “the thing

[Obamacare] is working.” “Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up,” he said. At issue in the case in whether Congress authorized federal subsidy payments for health care coverage regardless of where people live, or only for residents of states that created their own exchanges


• Obama said it’s been well documented that Congress never intended to exclude people who went through the federal exchange. “You interpret a statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for,” said Obama, a lawyer who once taught constitutional law (bet justices love being schooled by POTUS)


• Pressed on whether he had an alternative if he loses in court, Obama insisted he had no Plan B. “This would be hard to fix,” he said. But he made it clear that if the court were to rule against him, then he’s placing the burden directly on the Republican-controlled Congress, betting that an angry public would demand a fix


• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday refused to discuss the details of any GOP backup plan for Obamacare. “We’ll have a plan that makes sense for the American people,” he said in an interview with the Joe Elliott Show. “We’ll let you know depending on the outcome of the decision.”


• This morning, President Obama is attending the Catholic Hospital Assn Conference in DC. He’ll discuss what healthcare has meant to millions of Americans, according to the WH


Obama: U.S. Lacks “Complete Strategy” for Training Iraqis (AP, Vox, me)

• Acknowledging military setbacks, President Obama said Monday the U.S. still lacks a “complete strategy” for training Iraqi forces “because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis, as well, about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place.” (note that he wasn’t saying the U.S. is in itself lacking in strategy – context is everything)


• Obama touted “significant progress” in areas where the U.S. has trained Iraqis to fight, but said forces without U.S. assistance are often ill-equipped and suffer from poor morale. ISIS fighters captured the key Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi last month, prompting SecDef Ash Carter to lament that Iraqi troops lacked “the will to fight.”


• Still, Obama indicated that simply increasing the number of Americans in Iraq wouldn’t resolve the country’s issues. The U.S. currently has about 3,000 troops there for train-and-assist missions. “We’ve got more training capacity than we have recruits,” Obama said at a presser at the close of the G7 summit in Germany


• G7 leaders invited Iraqi PM al-Abadi to join them Monday for talks on the security situation in the Middle East. Obama and Abadi also met one-on-one. In both public and private, Obama urged Abadi and his Shiite-led govt to allow more Sunnis to fight ISIS (fly on wall)


• In DC, the highest-ranking Sunni in Iraq’s govt said Sunni tribes are still receiving insufficient training and inferior weapons compared to the national army. Parliament Speaker Salim al Jabouri said Baghdad should provide clear assurances that the tribes will receive the necessary weapons (that’s the prob. Shiiti/Sunni strife – and it’s not getting better)


• Sens Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Monday introduced a measure that would authorize military force against ISIS. The measure, offered as an amendment to a State Dept policy bill up this week, comes 10 months after the U.S. began its military campaign against the terrorist group in Iraq (Hill)


TX Pool Party: Protest (NYT, Guardian, AP, WaPo, me)

• A black teenager in a swimsuit repeatedly called out, “Call my momma!” as a white police officer pinned her (roughly) to the ground, only moments after drawing his handgun on other black teen. “On your face!” the officer yelled at the girl, amid screaming from a crowd of onlookers


• Cpl Eric Casebolt’s actions raised tensions and led to a protest Monday in the Dallas suburb of McKinney, where some community activists accused him of racism while others urged calm until all the facts are investigated. The father of the girl said he would press for the officer to be fired, saying he was “out of control.”


• Brandon Brooks, the white teen who recorded the video, said that tensions rose after a white woman and a black teen at the pool party had an altercation. He said the white woman told the teen “to go back to Section 8 housing,” a reference to federal housing and given to low-income families



• The comment holds extra significance in McKinney, which has been the target of lawsuits accusing its housing authority of racially segregating Section 8 housing. One long-running lawsuit was settled with a consent decree in 2012 that aimed to open up the west side to subsidized housing


• Benet Embry, a black local radio personality who lives in the area and witnessed the incident, said he’d seen the party grow out of control. “Of course I had concerns when I saw the officer pulling a gun. That’s when I started thanking God that nobody got hurt. But I don’t believe that the officer was coming out to pick on black kids.”


• Casebolt’s internet bio, now deleted, claims he has “a strong working knowledge of human behavior, indicators of deception, criminal behavior, the development of situational awareness and experience in the use of all levels of force.” He’s also an instructor at a private self-defense and fitness company (sounds a peach)



Tamir Rice: to Judge / Kalief Browder RIP (NYT, New Yorker, TRNS, me)

• Community leaders, distrustful of the criminal justice system, said Monday that they wouldn’t wait for prosecutors to decide whether to file charges against the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year. Instead, they’ll invoke a seldom-used Ohio law today and go directly to a judge to request murder charges against the officers


• The investigation into Tamir’s case was handed to the county prosecutor last week, but local leaders are skeptical because of how similar cases have ended. For example, in New York, a grand jury didn’t indict in the death of Eric Garner. State and federal authorities said no evidence to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown shooting


• Meanwhile, Michael Slager, a white former police officer in North Charleston SC, was indicated Monday on a murder charge in connection with the April death of Walter Scott, a black man who was shot several times in the back while running away. The shooting was recorded on video (prob the only reason Slager has been charged)


• And Kalief Browder, 22, who was sent to Rikers Island when he was only 16 years old, accused of stealing a backpack, and held there for three years, spending nearly two of them in solitary confinement before being released, having never stood trial or being found guilty, has committed suicide. He was repeatedly beaten by corrections officers and fellow inmates


• He insisted on his innocence throughout and refused to take a plea deal. Since his release, his mental health deteriorated, despite some good moments and high-profile attention from politicians and celebrities. He wrapped a cord round his neck and hanged himself out of a second-floor window at his parents’ home Saturday



• Vincent Bugliosi, a prosecutor who turned his successful handling of the Charles Manson trial into a career as a bestselling author, has died, his son said Monday night. He was 80 years old. Bugliosi had struggled with cancer. He was best known for the book “Helter Skelter.” I interviewed him many times and always found him brilliant and provocative. A great loss



Judge: Free Last Angola 3 Member (AP)

• U.S. District Judge James Brady has ordered the immediate release of Albert Woodfox, 68, the only remaining member of a group of prisoners known as the Angola 3 and the longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner in the U.S., who’s been in isolation in Louisiana without pause for 43 years after a prison riot in 1972  that resulted in the death of a guard


• The judge, who’s been overseeing the case, barred the state from holding a second retrial of Woodfox. The ruling found at least five factors in Woodfox’s favor, including his age and poor health and his limited ability to present a defense at a third trial in light of the unavailability of witnesses


• It also cited its “lack of confidence in the state to provide a fair trial, the prejudice done onto Mr Woodfox by spending over 40 years in solitary confinement, and finally the very fact that Mr Woodfox has already been tried twice and would otherwise face this third trial for a crime that occurred over 40 years ago.”


• Aaron Sadler, a spox for Louisiana AG Buddy Caldwell, said the state was seeking an emergency stay. “With today’s order, the court would see fit to set free a twice-convicted murderer,” Sadler said. “This order arbitrarily sets aside jury decisions and gives a free pass to a murderer based on faulty procedural issues.”


• Woodfox was serving time for armed robbery when he was convicted of the murder of the guard. Woodfox has always protested his innocence. He insists the Angola 3 were victims of a political vendetta because of their then membership in the Black Panther party



• Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has hired top DC white-collar crime defense attorney Thomas Green to represent him against federal charges he tried to hide hush money payments and lied about it to the FBI. Green has rep’d clients tied to scandals including Watergate and Iran-Contra. Hastert’s in court in Chicago this afternoon (CNN)



TSA: Another Massive Fail (Guardian, Hill, Hill, me)

• The Transportation Safety Admin (TSA) failed to identify 73 people on terrorism-related watchlists who were being employed by “major airlines, airport vendors and other employers,” the IG of the Dept of Homeland Security has revealed. (stunnnnning) DHS oversees the TSA


• One and a half thousand records held by the TSA were found to contain first initials instead of a name; 14,000 immigrants employed had no alien registration number and 75,000 no passport number; and 87,000 has no social security number on file. DHS said the agency was relying on airports to send it data on the more than 2 million aviation workers it vets


• The revelation came the same week as news that the TSA failed 95% of so-called “red team” tests, in which undercover federal agents attempt to smuggle explosives and weaponry aboard aircraft. That failure led to the removal of Melvin Carraway, the TSA’s acting chief


• Meanwhile, Rep Steve Israel (D-NY) and other Democrats are proposing to ban entirely plastic guns, following the TSA reports. The Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act would require a major component of every gun to contain enough traces of metal to be detected. Plastic guns have been made popular by 3D printers


• Israel plans to unveil the legislation today at a presser at LeGuardia Airport in New York. Current law prohibits plastic guns, but gun owners can get around the requirements by including a detachable strip of metal on an otherwise plastic gun. Criminals can then remove that piece of metal when they go through security. Republicans oppose expanding the plastic gun law



• New Jersey’s Supreme Court will release its decision this morning on whether Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ), a likely 2016er, violated public pensioners’ contract rights when he slashed $1.6 billion from the state’s contribution to the retirement system for this year (Reuters)



Boston “Knife” Terror Suspect Video Released (USA Today, AP, Daily Mail, me)

• Authorities in Boston released a surveillance video Monday that shows six plainclothes law enforcement officers surrounding a terrorism suspect in the moments before police shot him to death


• In the blurry video taken early 2 June, Usaama Rahim, 26, suspected of plotting to behead activist Pamela Geller or police, walks through a parking lot toward a bus stop. Officers approach Rahim, but retreat as the man walks toward them. The officers draw their firearms, and Rahim, obscured by a pole, falls


• The video doesn’t make clear specifically why the officers drew their weapons or which officers fired. Officials have said an FBI agent and a cop fired three shots. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said Rahim, black and Muslim, refused to drop a military-style knife and that officers were backing away when they fired. “Speaks for itself.” (doesn’t actually)


• Darnell Williams, a regional civil rights leader who viewed the video previously, said it mostly supported the police. But Abdullah Faaruuq, an imam in Boston, suggested it was “inconclusive” because it’s not clear if Rahim was holding a knife (can’t see in the video – too blurry)


• Authorities say the plainclothes officers tried to question Rahim after they intercepted a message suggesting Rahim planned to attack unspecified officers



• Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL) shuffled his political team Monday, moving to address persistent questions surrounding his presidential candidacy a week before he plans to announce. He named hard-charging operative Danny Diaz as his campaign manager. Bush is headed on a European trip and will announce his plans on his return (NYT)



New York Escaped Killers: Questions (AP, Reuters, me)

• As investigators seek accomplice(s) – possibly a woman – who may have help two convicted murderers escape a maximum-security prison in upstate New York, questions remain. How could nobody hear prisoners slicing through a steel wall, breaking through brick and cutting their way in and out of a steam pipe – or why did those who heard stay silent? (scared bleepless)


• How did the inmates hide the hole, the dirt and dust from work that likely took days to accomplish? Did they have access to blueprints or other inside info to chart their path through the bowels of the prison? What was the rest of the plan? A $100,000 reward was posted over the weekend for info leading to their capture


• Gov Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) said other inmates claimed they didn’t hear anything. “They’re all heavy sleepers,” he said sardonically. State Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, chair of the Correction Committee, said any inmate who heard drilling wouldn’t dare report it. “That will get you killed – that’s the kind of environment it is.”


• Cuomo said investigators were focusing first on civilian employees and contractors who have been doing extensive renovations at the 170-year-old prison – not on guards. Corrections officials said an inventory of the prison’s tools so far has shown none missing. But contractors typically come in with truckloads of equipment


• David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48, ultimately emerged through a manhole to make their escape, discovered early Saturday. They had stuffed their beds with clothes to fool guards making their rounds and left behind a sticky note that read: “Have a nice day.” They are extremely dangerous and desperate – and could be anywhere – Canada or Mexico included

Interactive: Pics and map – how two murderers escaped from a New York maximum-security prison (NYT)



Unions Push to Scuttle Trade Deal (Politico, me)

• Union leaders are making a final push to scuttle controversial trade legislation by pressuring on-the-fence Democrats to vote “no” when the House takes it up – maybe late this week. The push by progressives comes as supporters of fast track are picking up momentum in the House


• The Coalition to Stop Fast Track announced Monday that labor leaders, including the AFL-CIO, will buy TV ads in congressional districts nationwide where Democrats have announced intentions to vote for or are still dithering about whether to support President Obama’s request for authority to fast-track trade deals through Congress. Also ads buys in print


• Progressives will also hold a protest outside Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) San Francisco office today (um she’s not there) to urge her to oppose fast-track. She hasn’t said where she stands beyond saying she’s seeking a “path to yes.” Labor unions expect Pelosi to oppose the measure


• The Republican leadership team and Rep Ron Kind (D-WI), the Dem spearheading the pro-trade whip operation in the House, are increasingly optimistic they have the 217 votes needed to pass the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), HR.1890, if it came up for a vote this week



Obama and Merkel in Germany: Yup, this photo is real – caption, please? (NYT)



SCOTUS: Jerusalem / Passports (Hill, Reuters, TRNS, me)

• The Supreme Court ruled Monday that presidents have the power to choose not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on passports, despite laws passed by Congress that seek to compel that recognition. The court’s three Jewish justices sided with the majority in a 6-3 ruling that was a win for the Obama admin


• Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the opinion that the president has the “exclusive power to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign.” The decision responds directly to a suit by Menachem Zivotofsky, a Jerusalem-born American citizen who wanted to list his country of birth as Israel – but has wider implications


• The executive branch views Jerusalem as an international city, a designation meant to stay neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. When Congress passed a law in 2002 that mandated recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President G.W. Bush issued a signing statement saying his admin viewed the act as advisory because it violated his foreign relations authority


• President Obama has continued that policy. Kennedy noted that no American president has acknowledged any country’s right to Jerusalem and that the policy comes from an “understanding that passports will be construed as reflections of American policy.”


• He added that the president has significant, exclusive powers over recognizing countries, including nominating ambassadors, dispatching diplomatic missions, and directly engaging in diplomacy with leaders, while Congress has no unilateral powers on that front. Allowing for a contradiction could impact America’s powers of diplomacy, he wrote


• Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Antonin Scalia dissented. Scalia’s dissent argued that the case wasn’t about recognition, as the simple designation on a passport doesn’t mandate any specific international policy change, especially if the “Israel” designation on Jerusalem-born passports is only granted when people request it.”

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar and Washington Desk contributed to this report


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