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.

Swiss authorities say 1 of 7 detained FIFA officials has been extradited to the U.S.

News Now

  • Iran – Obama: “What’s your alternative?”
  • U.S. offers to help Israel bolster defenses
  • Iran deal: All sides scramble
  • Fraud? Weakness in healthcare.gov?
  • NSA chief warns: More data hacks
  • House passes highway funding punt
  • House to probe Planned Parenthood: Video
  • James Holmes trial: With the jury
  • Obama on Cosby scandal: “No tolerance for rape”

Iran – Obama: “What’s Your Alternative?” (NYT, Politico, TRNS, me)

• President Obama used a formal WH presser Wednesday to begin an aggressive effort to combat critics in both parties to the Iran deal, inviting question after question on an agreement he suggested many of his adversaries hadn’t even read. “I think there’s a helicopter coming, but I really am enjoying this Iran debate,” he said jovially
• “What I haven’t heard is: What’s your alternative?” he asked rhetorically. “You should have some alternative to present. And I haven’t heard that. And the reason is because there are only two alternatives here.” One, he said, is diplomacy. “Or, it’s resolved through force – through war. Those are the options.” (and most Republicans skate around outright call for war)
• In the past Obama has often appeared defensive or defeated as he faced questions about the failure of his health care website or other foreign policy challenges. But in this case he avidly raised and dismissed many objections with even being asked
• Current sanctions better than the deal? “Without a deal, the international sanctions regime will unravel with little ability to reimpose them.” A deal leaving Iran with no capacity? “There is nobody who thinks that Iran would or could ever accept that.”
• Vid: President Obama scolds CBS News reporter Major Garrett for saying he was “content” to leave four Americans in Iranian jails, with “all the fanfare” of the deal. “Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better,” Obama replied, in part. “Nobody is content.” “Working diligently.” Garrett said later his question “struck a nerve” and was “intended” to be “provocative.” (TPM)
• 24-day dispute period too long? “This is not something that you hide in a closet. This is not something that you put on a dolly and kind of wheel off somewhere. And by the way, if there is nuclear material on that site, your high school physics will remind us that that leaves a trace, and so we’ll know that in fact there was a violation of the agreement.” (point)
• Israel: “You have a large country, with a significant military, that has proclaimed that Israel shouldn’t exist, that has denied the Holocaust, that has financed Hezbollah. There are very good reasons why Israelis are nervous about Iran’s position in the world, generally.” But “those threats are compounded if Iran gets a nuclear weapon.”
• “And if the alternative is that we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so, and that will be an honest debate.”
• “My hope is that building on this deal, we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivizes them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative. But we’re not betting on it.”
• Vid: Under Secretary Wendy Sherman: A moving moment at close of Iran negotiations (State Dept)
U.S. Offers to Help Israel Bolster Defenses (NYT, me)
• When President Obama called PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to discuss the Iran nuclear deal, the president said he was prepared to hold “intensive discussions” with Netanyahu on what more could be done to bolster Israel’s defenses, admin officials said. Netanyahu on Tuesday had already dubbed the deal a “historic mistake.”
• But Netanyahu refused to engage in such talk “at this juncture,” the officials said. One aide suggested in a phone call to Jewish and pro-Israel groups that Netanyahu rebuffed their overtures because he believes accepting them now would be tantamount to blessing the nuclear deal
• Netanyahu may want to wait until Congress has had its say. The conversation could begin as soon as next week, when SecDef Ash Carter is planning to travel to Israel and meet with Israeli leaders. In Israel, the question wasn’t whether the deal would be followed by a new aid package, but when and what might be on the shopping list
• Meanwhile, in Israel on Wednesday, Netanyahu told parliament he wasn’t bound by the terms of the deal. “We will reserve our right to defend ourselves against all of our enemies.”
• And the WH has invited Jewish U.S. lawmakers to meet this morning with Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, on the Iran deal. Lawmakers include Reps Steve Israel (D-NY), Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) and Rep Adam Schiff (D-Calif), among others
Iran Deal: All Sides Scramble (NYT, Politico, AP, me)
• In Congress, resistance to the deal comes not only from Republicans, but also President Obama’s own Democratic Party. VP Joe Biden spent the morning Wednesday on Capitol Hill meeting privately with House Democrats and heads back today to make a similar pitch to old colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
• In his first comments, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khameini said in a letter to President Hassan Rouhani Wednesday that the deal needed “careful scrutiny.” “The prepared text, however, needs careful scrutiny.” “You are well aware that some of the six states participating in the negotiations are not trustworthy at all.” (ooh – who? Iran? oh the other six…)
• In Tehran, Iranians took to the streets to celebrate the accord, and even Iran’s hard-liners offered only mild criticism, a far cry from the outspoken criticism that the WH had feared. The Iranian hard-liners may be trying to distance themselves from hard-liners in the U.S. who oppose the deal (strange bedfellows…)
• At his news conference Wednesday, Obama insisted sanctions on Iran could be “snapped back” in place if Tehran cheats on the deal, even if Russia and China object
• Republicans are gearing up for an aggressive hearing schedule for the rest of July. SecState John Kerry will testify before Sen Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn) Foreign Relations Committee. “I am truly going to let this process determine how I vote. OK? Truly, I am,” Corker said Wednesday referring to a resolution of approval or disapproval after Congress’s 60-day review period
• Greek PM Alexis Tsipras won a late-night vote to push through tough reforms, 229-62, but more than 30 of his own MPs voted against him, and there were riots in the streets. Eurozone finance ministers are due to discuss the vote in a conference call today. The latest bailout deal provides for Greece to receive up to 86 billion euros (BBC)
Fraud? Weakness in Healthcare.Gov? (AP, Hill, me)
• A new report from the nonpartisan Govt Accountability Office found that 11 of 12 fictitious people, with fake documents, who were created as part of an undercover watchdog effort, were able to successfully enroll in Obamacare coverage through the federal healthcare.gov marketplace (but lots of real people couldn’t…)
• The follow-up report to a GAO report last year, released by congressional Republicans on Wednesday, finds that those 11 fictitious people were able to maintain coverage through end of 2014 and then were automatically re-enrolled for 2015. Some were re-enrolled even though no additional documentation was provided
• The marketplace later terminated coverage for six of the 11 people. But the GAO was able to reinstate five of the six by by calling the marketplace. (they actually got through, then?) “The CMS document verification process is not designed to identify fraudulent applications,” the GAO report states
• The GAO found the contractor that handles Obamacare application docs isn’t required to look for fraud, only to inspect to make sure docs haven’t obviously been altered. CMS officials told GAO there has been “no indication of a meaningful level of fraud,” GAO points out there could be fraud officials don’t know about because the system’s not equipped to detect it…
• The report states: “They told us CMS must balance consumers’ ability to ‘effectively and efficiently’ select Marketplace coverage with ‘program-integrity concerns.'” The GAO says CMS officials told it they plan to conduct an assessment of the app process. Sparks should fly today at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on healthcare.gov (mai tais + popcorn)
• Marilynn Tavenner, former chief of the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – who oversaw (well, she didn’t much) the botched rollout of healthcare.gov, was unanimously confirmed Wed as president and chief exec of America’s Health Insurance Plans – major lobbying group – aaand the DC revolving door just spins… (Hill, me)
NSA Chief Warns: More Data Hacks (WSJ, Reuters, Hill, TRNS, me)
• “I don’t expect this to be a one-off,” said NSA director Navy Adm Mike Rogers to the London Stock Exchange. He was referring to the cyber attack on the Office of Personnel Management, in which records of 21.5 million people were stolen. Rogers also heads the military’s Cyber Command
• Two months after discovering that sensitive personal info on 21.5 million Americans was compromised, none of those affected has been officially notified, said govt officials from multiple agencies Tuesday. They said OPM is working with other agencies to set up a system to inform the victims
• One official at OPM said that it would be weeks before a mechanism would be in place. The official said the govt was trying to establish a centralized system rather than leave the notification to separate agencies. OPM is expected to hire an outside contractor – but hasn’t yet sought bids for the work (OMG WTF get on with it)
• Separately, as part of a global law enforcement effort, the Justice Dept said Wednesday it had taken down a highly sophisticated hacking forum known as Darkode and filed criminal charges against 12 people allegedly affiliated with the dark web depository for hacking tools of all kinds

• “Of the 800 criminal internet forums worldwide, Darkode represented one of the gravest threats to the integrity of data on computers in the U.S. and around the world,” said David Hickton, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Twenty other countries have also arrested or charged 70 alleged Darkode members

• Across the street from his hotel, a crowd greeted President Obama in Oklahoma as he arrived for an overnight stay Wednesday. Among them were as many as 10 protesters waving Confederate battle flags
House Passes Highway Funding Punt (Hill, AP, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• The House passed 312-119 a $8 billion bill Wednesday to shore up funding for transportation programs until 18 December and prevent a shutdown in highway and transit aid to states at the end of this month. But Republicans are trying to cobble together a longer-term bill that could provide money for several years (a real bill, in other words). WH will support 5-month punt
• Meanwhile, Senate Republicans circulated a list of about $80 billion in potential savings, enough to cover the cost of renewal of highway and mass transit funding for several years. It includes a proposal to reduce the rate of return on an investment fund to federal retirees. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) said – oh no you don’t
• The Senate bill is also expected to include a provision to renew the Export-Import Bank. Authority for the bank expires at the end of this month. There’s strong support for renewal in both houses, but conservatives are determined to shut it down. Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Wednesday said he was “willing to use any and all procedural tools to stop this corporate welfare.”
• Lawmakers face a 31 July deadline to extend highway funding. But without an infusion of cash as well as an extension, the balance in the federal Highway Trust Fund is forecast to drop below $4 billion – the minimum cushion needed to keep money flowing to states without interruption – by the end of this month
• Transportation Sec Anthony Foxx has warned states that he’ll start slowing down federal payments on 1 August. The biggest holdup has been how to pay for a long-term bill because most lawmakers don’t want to raise federal gasoline taxes, the chief source of revenue for the programs. The tax hasn’t risen since 1993

Vid released by the Mexican govt shows drug lord El Chapo pacing in his cell before walking into his shower area – the one blind spot – then disappearing. He allegedly squirmed 30 feet down a ladder into a tunnel, and then walked a mile underground to freedom

House to Probe Planned Parenthood: Video (AP, Hill, TRNS, me)
• House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has ordered a congressional investigation into whether Planned Parenthood is selling organs from aborted fetuses. Boehner said President Obama should “denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices.”
• The GOP offensive came a day after an obscure anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, circulated a (heavily edited) video it made secretly showing a Planned Parenthood official discussing, sometimes flippantly the disposal of body parts from aborted fetuses. The video appears to be the group’s only publication
• Planned Parenthood says it legally helps women who want to make not-for-profit donations of their fetus’ organs for scientific research. It says it makes no money by donating the organs to science, and says the video was heavily edited as it responded to what it said were distortions
• “These outrageous claims are flat-out untrue, but that doesn’t matter to politicians with a longstanding political agenda to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood,” spox Eric Ferrero said Wednesday. He said women donating fetal tissue for research “should be honored, not attacked and demeaned.”
• Two House committees say they will probe the matter. Texas and Louisiana have also begun investigations. Commercial sale of human fetal tissue is illegal under federal law. Noncommercial tissue donation is allowed if the woman undergoing the abortion gives her consent (Planned Parenthood has a problem with this one, in the short term, at least)

• Graphic: Who’s winning? Which candidates are winning the presidential money race so far (NYT)

James Holmes Trial: With the Jury (Guardian, me)
• Jury deliberations began Wednesday in the case of James Holmes, who gunned down 12 people in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and injured some 70 others. Tuesday, DA George Brauchler methodically built the case that Holmes was guilty of first-degree murder, laying out gut-wrenching details
• To prove his case Brauchler needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Holmes wasn’t insane at the time of the rampage. In an attempt to show Holmes’s awareness and premeditation, Brauchler walked the jury through the defendant’s Google chat transcripts, writings and meetings with counselors which discussed killing others
• Not once did Brauchler mention Holmes by name, pointedly referring to the defendant each time as “this guy” or “that guy.” Every few minutes, though, he stopped discussing Holmes and instead put the name of a victim on his accompanying PowerPoint presentation, often with photos
• Though less polished than the DA, public defender Dan King used his closing arguments to make a forceful case that Holmes wasn’t guilty by reason of insanity. He told the jury to rise above the gory and emotional details of the shooting and instead focus on Holmes’s lengthy history of mental illness – schizophrenia
• Brauchler was given the last word of the trial. He blasted Holmes’s insanity defense, arguing that his thought process was rational and his actions were premeditated. “Sane. Sane. Sane. Guilty.” Brauchler closed, standing just feet from where the defendant sat. Holmes slowly twisted in his chair
• President Obama visited a high school in rural Oklahoma’s Indian country Wednesday to urge the expansion of high-speed internet access to low-income children. His new public/private partnership broadband initiative, ConnectHome, would help 200,000 low-income students get high-speed internet access at home (Politico, TRNS)
Obama on Cosby Scandal: “No Tolerance for Rape” (Guardian, Politico, WaPo, me)
• President Obama weighed in Wednesday on the latest Bill Cosby developments, as support grows for revoking Cosby’s Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded 13 years ago, in light of a litany of rape and sexual assault accusations against the disgraced comedian
• “There’s no precedent for revoking a medal. We don’t have that mechanism, and as you know, I tend to make it a policy not to comment on the specifics of cases where there might still be criminal if not civil issues involved,” Obama told reporters during a news conference, which suggests the WH has looked into and possibly given consideration to the issue
• Then he paused for effect. “I’ll say this, if you give a woman or a man for that matter without his or her knowledge, a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape,” Obama said. “And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”
• A 10-year old deposition unsealed earlier this month revealed that Cosby had admitted to giving quaaludes to women with whom he intended to have sex. More than a dozen women have said Cosby sexually assaulted them after they were rendered unconscious or incapacitated by unknown substances
• The sexual assault prevention awareness group Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (Pave) created a petition on WhiteHouse.gov to have the honor revoked. It’s received more that 88,000 signatures, the WH must respond if it reaches 100,000
• Former President George H.W. Bush broke a bone in his neck in a fall at home in Kennebunkport ME. He has been hospitalized in Portland ME and is in stable condition. His injury isn’t life-threatening, but he’ll be in a neck brace, according to spox Jim McGrath (Politico)

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____________________

Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, Claire Woodcock, Anna Merod, William Hadden and Sydnee Fried contributed to this report

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