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

  • Iran: Deal – finally
  • Iran: What will Congress do?
  • Greece: Tsipras struggles for support
  • Pentagon may lift transgender ban
  • Son of Boston cop charged: Pro-ISIS plot
  • El Chapo gloats on Twitter: Warns Trump
  • Walker kicks off 2016 run
  • Obama commutes 46 drug sentences
  • Obama: Urgent to care for older Americans

Iran: Deal (NYT, Reuters, me)

• Iran and a group of six world nations led by the U.S. have agreed to a historic accord to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against Iran, a senior Western diplomat involved in the negotiations said today. President Obama is expected to make a public statement today

• The diplomat signaled that all of the main outstanding issues had been resolved, including the thorny question of how many years an embargo on conventional arms shipments into and out of Iran would remain in place. (U.S. didn’t want it lifted) The agreement outlines in painstaking detail how much nuclear fuel Iran can keep in the country for the next 15 years

• Also, what kind of R&D it can perform on centrifuges and other nuclear equipment; and the redesign of both a nuclear reactor and a deep underground enrichment site that Israeli and American officials feared could be invulnerable to bombing. Iran’s FM Javad Zarif this morning called the deal “not perfect,” a “win-win solution” and a “new chapter of hope.”

• But to strike the deal, SecState John Kerry and others had to accept an understanding that essentially left in place most of Iran’s infrastructure at the country’s main nuclear sites though much of it would be disassembled and put in storage. Iran is likely to cite that fact as evidence that it never gave in to the West’s demand that it dismantle its critical facilities (it didn’t)

What Will Congress Do?
• The agreement not to shutter Iran’s most advanced nuclear facilities is expected to be a focal point of critics in Congress (I’ll bet), which now has 60 days to approve or reject the deal. The accord will be a political agreement, not a legally binding treaty

• Some restrictions limiting Iran’s program begin to phase out after 10 years. Then, after 15 years, Iran would be free to produce as much enriched uranium as it wanted. In theory, though, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, would prevent it from taken the last steps to produce a weapon (not a massive deterrent…)

• Obama’s chances of prevailing in Congress are considered high. Even if the accord is voted down by one or both houses, he could veto that action, and he’s likely to have the votes he would need to prevail in an effort to override the veto. But he’s said he wants a congressional endorsement. (and no deal would mean the Iranians could do anything, anytime, anyway)

• Obama will also have to manage the breach with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states who have warned against the deal, saying the relief of sanctions will ultimately empower the Iranians throughout the Middle East (concern about arms embargo and Iran arming Syria and militant groups in particular)
• Flashback 2009: U.S. and allies warn Iran over nuclear “deception” after discovery of secret Iranian nuclear enrichment plant, demanding highly intrusive international inspections and propelling the confrontation with Tehran to a new and volatile pitch (NYT)
Greece: Tsipras Struggles for Support (BBC, me)
• Greek PM Alexis Tsipras is facing a tough battle to win support from coalition partners for the third bailout offered by eurozone leaders. Four pieces of legislation must be passed by the end of Wednesday including pension, value added tax (VAT) reform and liberalizing the labor market

• But defense minister Panos Kammenos, a junior coalition partner from the Independent Greeks party, has already said he won’t support the measures, likening the situation to a “coup” for foreign leaders. However, he wants to remain in govt (!). If the deal fails, Greece’s banks face collapse and the country could then be forced to leave the euro

• Finance ministers from all 28 EU countries are holding a scheduled meeting in Brussels this morning, where they’ll discuss the situation in Greece. There have been demonstrations at the Greek Parliament while unions threatened to strike. Greece missed a payment of 456 million euros to the IMF late Monday

• Following about 17 hours of summit talks in Brussels, an EU statement on Monday spoke of up to 86 billion euros of financing for Greece over three years. Parliaments in several eurozone states also have to approve any new bailout. Stocks in the U.S. and Europe advanced Monday, celebrating the Greek deal – (may be a bit premature)

• Many Greeks and others believing unduly harsh terms are being imposed have expressed their widespread anger online using the hashtag #ThisIsACoup.. Tsipras is expected to reshuffle his cabinet and possibly form a new unity govt later this week. Greece is due to make a 3.5 billion euro payment to the European Central Bank on 20 July

• House Republicans called for a brief extension of highway and mass transit funding Monday night to prevent a reduction in scheduled construction as early as this summer (yet another punt). Could come up for a vote this week. It calls for $8 billion to keep the programs funded through 18 December – no renewal of Export-Import Bank (AP, me)
Pentagon May Lift Transgender Ban (AP, TRNS, me)
• The Pentagon’s current regulations banning transgender individuals from serving in the military are outdated, SecDef Ash Carter said Monday, ordering a six-month study aimed at formally ending one of the last gender- or sexuality-based barriers to military service

• Carter said he’s creating a working group to review the policies and determine if lifting the ban would have any impact on the military’s ability to be ready for battle. But he said the group will begin with the presumption that transgender people should be able to serve openly unless there are readiness impediments

• The group will look at costs and develop uniform guidelines. During the six months, transgender individuals still wouldn’t be able to join the military, but any decisions to force out those already serving would be referred to Brad Carson, personnel undersecretary, who’s leading the working group – goal is to avoid forcing people out

• Some key concerns involved in the repeal of the ban include whether the military would conduct or pay for the medical costs of surgeries and other treatments associated with any gender transition, as well as physical training or testing standards. Also housing, uniforms, berthing, bathrooms, integration etc

• The issue came to the fore as the military struggled with how to deal with convicted national security leaker Chelsea Manning’s – Wikileaks – request for hormone therapy and other treatments while she’s in prison. Manning is the first transgender military prisoner to request such treatment – the Army approved it, under pressure from a lawsuit
• The Boy Scouts of America Executive Committee unanimously approved allowing gay adults to serve as leaders, officials said Monday. The National Executive Board will meet to ratify on 27 July. In May, Boy Scouts President and former SecDef Robert Gates told the group’s national meeting that the ban needed to end (Reuters)

Son of Boston Cop Charged: Pro-ISIS Plot (Hill, Fox, AP, TRNS, me)
• The estranged son of a Boston police captain was arrested on 4 July for a plot to carry out a terrorist attack in support of ISIS. According to federal charges unsealed Monday, Alexander Ciccolo, 23, also known as Ali Al Amriki, was a supporter of ISIS and had discussed plans to use guns and homemade bombs to wreak havoc in support of the group

• FBI agents found machetes and partially constructed Molotov cocktails in his apartment, the DoJ said, and had watched him buy a pressure cooker. Ciccolo allegedly discussed filling pressure cookers with black powder, “ball bearings, nails, glass
[and] rocks” and blow them up in public spots such as bars and a police stations

• Ciccolo “had a long history of mental illness” and “had become obsessed with Islam” over the last year and a half, a close acquaintance told officials, according to documents. He’s the son of Boston police Capt Robert Ciccolo, who was one of the first responders to the 2013 bombing attack and alerted officials about his son last year (how awful for him)

• The FBI had been monitoring Ciccolo for months. In June, Ciccolo told a govt informant that he thought an ISIS-inspired slaughter that killed 38 people on a beach in Tunisia was “awesome.”

• He also allegedly told the informant that he wanted to use an array of guns and improvised explosives to attack dorms and a cafeteria at a state university and broadcast students’ executions live over the internet. He was arrested on 4 July after the informant gave him four guns. A previous conviction prevented him from possessing guns

• An internal Veteran Affairs Dept report states that 238,647 veterans out of 847,000 in the pending backlog for medical care from the agency have already died. Dispute between whistleblower and VA as to what the numbers mean – but they’re still dead (HuffPo)
El Chapo Gloats on Twitter, Warns Trump (Daily Mail, AP, me)
• Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, head of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, who tunneled out of a maximum-security prison in Mexico City, has reportedly taken to Twitter via his son’s account and is having some scary fun. To Donald Trump: “If you keep p****** me off I’m going to make you eat your words you f****** blonde milk-s*****.” (homophobic slur)

• Trump has called in the FBI to investigate the source of the Twitter account, which warned Trump he’d be sorry if he spoke out against Mexico. Trump had tweeted: “Mexico’s biggest drug lord escapes from jail. Unbelievable corruption and USA is paying the price. I told you so!” Mexico has put out a $3.8 million reward for Guzman

• Guzman took aim at Mexican President Pena Nieto, saying: “And you @EPN, don’t call me a delinquent because I give people work unlike you you cowardly politician.” He also started calling death threats on those who have supposedly betrayed him. And he hinted the authorities had been complicit in the jailbreak, saying they danced for money “and I’ve bought it.”

• Meanwhile, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration knew “El Chapo” and his associates had developed several escape plans starting almost immediately after his arrest last year, according to internal DEA docs obtained by AP. The agency notified Mexican authorities about the plots. DEA agents didn’t have info about Saturday night’s plan, though

• The State Dept hasn’t turned over to the House Benghazi Committee two emails between Hillary Clinton and top aides who were prepping the former SecState to discuss the 2012 terrorist attack with a U.S. senator. The emails also mention the talking points for former U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice (Politico)

Walker Kicks Off 2016 Run (Politico, Politico, TRNS, me)

• Gov Scott Walker (R-Wis) officially announced his bid for the presidency Monday in Wisconsin’s conservative suburban Waukesha County. “Americans deserve a president who will fight and win for them. Someone who will stand up for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said

• There were no moderate tones in his speech. Walker pledged to repeal Obamacare, use the energy abundance that “God has given us” to fuel an economic recovery, push for competitive tax rates, terminate any nuclear deal with Iran and take the threat of ISIS more seriously than the threat of climate change (phew)

• Walker presented himself as an outside leader who can and did get things done. “We need new, fresh leadership; leadership with big, bold ideas from outside of Washington; the kind of leadership that can actually get things done – like we have here in Wisconsin.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Walker a “national disgrace” in a statement on Monday

• A few hours later, on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, Walker said: “The left claims they’re for American workers, and they’ve got lame ideas, things like minimum wage. We need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.” (and in the meantime?)

• Next, Walker will blitz the early-voting 2016 states, beginning in Nevada and hopscotching to South Carolina and New Hampshire before flying to Iowa – the state where he’s the acknowledged front-runner – for three full days of events this weekend

• One day after she delivered her “growth and fairness economy” speech, Hillary Clinton is set to make her 2016 candidate debut on the Hill today. Lots of meetings. A meeting with Senate Democrats. Full House Democratic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (TRNS)

Obama Commutes Sentences: 46 Drug Offenders (WSJ, CNN, TRNS, me)

• President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 drug offenders Monday, saying that “their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” in a move to align some older criminal sentences with current law. The action brings Obama’s commutations count to 89, more than the last four presidents combined. He personally notified the inmates of his decision by letter

• Commutations included Larry Darnell Belcher of Martinsville Va who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1997 after being convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana. “I believe that at its heart America is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance,” Obama said in a video statement

• Monday’s announcement comes amid a WH effort to shine a spotlight on criminal justice issues. Today, Obama will speak at the NAACP’s national convention, where he’s expected to lay out ideas for making the justice system fairer and more cost-effective

• Obama will say disparities in sentencing guidelines have produced harsh sentences that “undermine trust in our legal system,” and will argue for policies that “deter crime and protect the public” while allowing people sentenced to prison to have a second chance,” a WH official said in a statement

• Thursday, Obama will become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, traveling to Oklahoma to meet with law enforcement officials and inmates. The push for reform has been led by left and right – including the left-leaning Center for American Progress and conservative megadonors Charles and David Koch

• New York City has reached a $5.9 million wrongful death settlement with the family of Eric Garner over his killing by police on Staten Island last July. Several inquiries still remain open. Garner’s final words – “I can’t breathe” – repeated 11 times, became a national rallying cry in the debate over policing in minority communities (NYT)


Obama: Urgent to Care for Older Americans (AP, NYT, TRNS, me)
• At a WH conference on aging Monday, President Obama called on the nation to take more proactive steps to address rising costs, protect Social Security, train more home health care workers and help seniors remain active contributors to their communities

• Obama said that every day, almost 10,000 Americans born in the aftermath of WWII turn 65 years old, creating a heavy load for the organizations and govt agencies that help care for the elderly

• “We’re going to have to work for it,” Obama said. “We have to work to do more to ensure that every older American has the resources and the support they need to thrive.” Every 10 years, the WH holds a conference addressing the needs of aging Americans

• Obama has asked the Labor Dept to crack down on conflicts of interest in the retirement savings advice that people may get from financial advisers. He’s also put forward proposals to expand access to employer-based retirement savings accounts

• In his remarks to the summit, Obama also praised the oldest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as the “toughest” member of the high court, noting her popular nickname as “the notorious RBG.”

Cool multimedia feature: New Horizons Pluto flyby – tap or swipe the screen to advance New Horizons as it flies past Pluto! After nine and a half years and three billion miles, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is scheduled to take the first close-up look at Pluto this morning around 7.50 am EDT (NYT)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ James Cullum, Sydnee Fried, William Hadden and Claire Woodcock contributed to this report


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