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

  • Trump jumps shark: Slimes McCain
  • Trump: GOP 2016ers’ reax
  • US-Cuba diplomatic ties restored
  • Chattanooga: Family blames depression/drugs/drink
  • Chattanooga: FBI investigates a text
  • Iran deal: SecDef in Israel
  • Iran deal: Everybody’s talking
  • Govt vs hackers: Guess who’s winning
  • Obama admin in push to ban guns: Social Security
  • Naughty cheaters’ network hacked!

Trump Jumps Shark: Slimes McCain (WaPo, Politico, AP, me)
• Donald Trump flippantly belittled Sen John McCain’s (R-Ariz) war service while in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, inviting a torrent of criticism from party leaders and other candidates. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump sneered at a summit of 3,000 social conservative activists. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” he added sarcastically


• In a boastful op-ed in USA Today this morning, Trump trashes McCain’s Senate work for veterans and trumpets his own “support,” which amounts to co-chairing a group that got a memorial to veterans built in New York and paying towards it. Also paying towards and serving as grand marshal of the 1995 Nation’s Day Parade (bit long ago – all he’s done – pathetic)


• For the past month, Republican leaders have cringed privately at Trump’s inflammatory comments about undocumented immigrants from Mexico and have been aghast at his summer surge in the polls. But they’ve been reluctant or afraid to condemn him. That dynamic suddenly changed Saturday (see story below for multiple GOP candidate quotations)


• Also looming over the GOP: the prospect Trump could run as a third-party candidate if he doesn’t win the GOP nomination. Trump declined to rule that out Saturday. The fear is that Trump could siphon off enough votes as a third-party candidate to cost the party the WH and hand it over to (prob) Hillary Clinton


• SecState John Kerry, McCain’s former colleague in the Senate, said in a statement that “one thing I know is beyond debate is that John McCain is a hero, a man of grit and guts and character personified. He served and bled and endured unspeakable acts of torture.” McCain was awarded the Silver Star


• “When I said that, the guards, who were all in the room – about 10 of them – really laid into me. They bounced me from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching. After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes. Then I was taken to a small room.” – John McCain


• But Trump, who hasn’t served in the military and received a series of draft deferments during the Vietnam War, refused to apologize. He later told reporters that McCain – the Senate Armed Services Committee chair, who oversees the DoD, the Navy and Air Force – “doesn’t do anything” in the Senate to help veterans (Trump = chickenhawk bully)


• It was, in fact, McCain (along with Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), a Democratic candidate) who last year passed legislation to reform the Dept of Veterans Affairs and improve veterans’ access to health care, among other things


• McCain was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and suffered a broken leg and two broken arms while ejecting from his fighter jet. He was taken prisoner and received little medical treatment, instead enduring almost daily beatings and interrogations. He lost 50 lbs in 5 1/2 years in captivity, most in solitary confinement in a windowless room


• “Trump’s asinine comments about Sen McCain’s service are an insult to everyone who has ever worn the uniform – and to all Americans,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America


• “For punishment they would almost always take you to another room where you didn’t have a mosquito net or a bed or any clothes. For the next four days, I was beaten every two or three hours by different guards. My left arm was broken again and my ribs were cracked.” – John McCain


• Trump made his “war hero” remarks after several days of publicly feuding with McCain. After Trump rallied some 5,000 supporters in Phoenix with an angry, anti-immigration speech, McCain said Trump had “fired up the crazies.” Trump tweeted that McCain was a “dummy” for finishing bottom of his class at the Naval Academy


• After exiting the stage Saturday, Trump faced reporters for a combative 18-minute news conference in which he stood by his comments. He grew hot and agitated by sharp questioning from reporters. He snapped at one persistent reporter: “Go back to being a pundit.” (bully doesn’t like being challenged)


• Trump didn’t serve in Vietnam because of four student deferments and a medical deferment. He told reporters that he had a bone spur in his foot, but didn’t recall which foot had been injured. The latest campaign explanation is that he had bone spurs in both heels (easier to remember both feet than which foot, I’m thinking)


• A 1992 book on Trump mentioned a medical deferment, but not bone spurs. Various news accounts in 2011 didn’t, either. The first mention of bone spurs appears to have come from Trump this weekend. Did Trump actively seek the medical deferment by bringing a letter from his own doctor to the physical, citing the bone spur problem? Politico asked, but a reply didn’t address it

• John McCain, Prisoner of War: A First Person Account (US News & World Report)


Trump’s McCain Comments: 2016ers’ Reax (Daily Beast, Politico, me)
• Former Gov Rick Perry (R-Texas) said in a statement Trump should apologize and: “His attack on veterans make him unfit to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, and he should immediately withdraw from the race for President.” – Perry’s a veteran


• Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted: “At the heart of @realDonaldTrump statement is a lack of respect for those who have served – a disqualifying characteristic to be president.” – Graham’s a veteran


• Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-Fla) tweeted: “@SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.” Gov Scott Walker (R-Wis) tweeted: “Just told a crowd in Sioux City: @SenJohnMcCain is a war hero.”


• Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ): “I know @SenJohnMcCain. Senator John McCain is an American hero. Period. Stop.” Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla) said it disqualified Trump as commander-in-chief. “This is an insult to all POWs, all men and women who have served us in uniform and have been captured.”


• Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was a hold-out, first saying he wouldn’t say say anything bad about either Trump or McCain because the press loves to see “Republican on Republican violence.” Perhaps regretting that, Cruz later tweeted: “John McCain is an American hero. Although we have some policy disagreements, I’m proud to serve alongside him.”


• Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, is meeting with President Obama at the WH today to shore up relations between the U.S. and the nation with Africa’s greatest economy, and to seek additional assistance in the fight against the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Last Friday, 15 people were killed in suicide bombings (AP)


US-Cuba Diplomatic Ties Restored (AP, me)
• More than a half century of Cold War and lingering enmity came to an abrupt but quiet end today as the U.S. and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations just after midnight when the diplomatic missions of each country were upgraded from interests sections to embassies


• Without ceremony in pre-dawn hours, maintenance workers were to hang the Cuban flag in the lobby of the State Dept. Cuban officials will formally inaugurate their embassy later today. SecState John Kerry will then meet his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez, and address reporters at a joint news conference


• Yet there remains a deep ideological gulf between the nations and many issues still to resolve. Among them: thorny issues such as over mutual claims for economic reparations, Havana’s insistence on the end of the trade embargo and U.S. calls for Cuba to improve on human rights and democracy


• Some U.S. lawmakers, including several prominent Republican presidential candidates, have vowed not to repeal the embargo and pledged to roll back Obama’s moves on Cuba. Obama’s efforts at engagement with Cuba were frustrated for years by Cuba’s imprisonment of USAID contractor Alan Gross on espionage charges


• But months of secret negotiations led in December to Gross’s release, along with a number of political prisoners in Cuba and the remaining members of a Cuban spy ring jailed in the U.S. On 17 Dec, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced they would resume full diplomatic relations, and work would begin on normalization


• Greek banks have reopened after three weeks of closures sparked by the deadlock over the country’s debt. Athens reached a cash-for-reforms deal aimed at avoiding a debt default and an exit from the eurozone. But several restrictions remain in place and Greeks face a tax increase. Germany has said it’s prepared to consider further debt concessions to Greece (BBC)


Chattanooga: Family Blames Mental Health, Substance Abuse (AP, NYT, NYT, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Reuters, TRNS, me)
• A family spox said Sunday that gunman Muhammad Abdulazeez suffered mental health problems since his early teens and also fought drug and alcohol abuse. The spox said relatives believe those struggles are at the heart of last week’s killings at a pair of military sites. The spox said Abdulazeez spent months in Jordan to get away from drugs and a bad group of friends


• The spox said Abdulazeez was first treated by a child psychiatrist for depression when he was 12 or 13 years old. “He was medicated like many children are.”  Several years ago, relatives tried to have him admitted to an in-patient program for drug and alcohol abuse but a health insurer refused to pay for the expense, said the spox


• Court records say Abdulazeez’s mother sought a divorce in 2009, alleging her husband physically abused her and their children and, citing Islamic law, wanted to take a second wife. The couple reconciled. Abdulazeez faced a 30 July court date for a DUI charge. He was dismissed from a job at an Ohio nuclear plant after 10 days, possibly for failing a drug test


• Yet some friends say Abdulazeez changed after he came back from the Middle East. And a blog that SITE Intelligence Group says was penned by him muses on the role of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, who he said “all fought jihad for the sake of Allah.”


FBI Investigates a Text
• The FBI is reviewing a text that Abdulazeez sent to a friend hours before his rampage, a law enforcement official said. That text included a link to an Islamic verse saying, “Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him.”


• At the same time, the bureau is expanding its investigation into the trip Abdulazeez made to Jordan in 2014 by dispatching agents to the country to interview Jordanian officials about the gunman’s contacts. The officials also said that the FBI started a second round of interviews with the gunman’s friends and associates in Tennessee


• So far, authorities have found no evidence that he was part of a larger network of terrorists. “Looks like it was just him,” the official said. States around the nation sought to bolster security for local military recruiters over the weekend by pulling them into safer locales or authorizing them to be armed


• Rep Michael McCaul (R-Calif), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on ABC Sunday that lawmakers will examine possible shortcomings in law enforcement or intel, adding that the case may be tied to ISIS


• Petty Officer Second Class Randall Smith, 26, a logistics specialist from Ohio who had only recently re-enlisted in the Navy, died just after 2 am Saturday from his wounds, becoming the fifth service member killed in the shootings. Four Marines died in the slaughter on Thursday. Abdulazeez was fatally shot in a face-off with police


Iran: SecDef in Israel (AP, Politico, AP, me)
• SecDef Ash Carter said Sunday he has no expectation of persuading  Israeli leaders to drop their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, but will instead emphasize that the accord imposes no limits on what Washington can do to ensure the security of Israel and U.S. Arab allies. “We can agree to disagree.”


• “One of the reasons this deal is a good one is that it does nothing to prevent the military option – the U.S. military option, which I’m responsible for” and which will be improved and preserved, Carter said, although the deal is intended to preclude military force by resolving issues diplomatically


• Carter meets with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon today and with PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday before traveling to Saudi Arabia and Jordan to consult on the implications of the Iran deal and to assess progress in the regional campaign against ISIS


• In his remarks, Carter repeatedly mentioned that the Iran deal places no limitations on the U.S. defense strategy or its military presence in the Middle East, which includes warplanes, an aircraft carrier and tens of thousands of troops. He gave no indication that the Pentagon plans immediate moves to bolster that presence


• Two months ago, Washington announced a $1.9 billion arms sale to Israel for a range of missiles and bombs, including bunker busters that can penetrate reinforced defenses to reach underground targets. Israeli officials say they aren’t prepared to discuss American “compensation” for the Iran deal, saying that would imply acceptance of the accord


• President Obama’s admin sent the nuclear deal to Congress on Sunday. Obama has promised to exercise his veto if Congress rejects the deal. In an unusual move Sunday, Obama took three Democratic congressmen golfing with him: Reps Joe Courtney (Conn), Ed Perlmutter (Colo) and John Yarmouth (Ky)


• SecState John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz hit all five major morning news shows Sunday to sell the Iran deal. Kerry noted that no country has “anytime, anywhere” inspections of suspect facilities. “We never, ever had a discussion about anytime, anywhere.” Elsewhere in Washington: lobbying campaigns! Ad campaigns! Think tanks! Iran deal = $$$$$


Iran Deal: Everybody’s Talking (Hill, Hill, Hill, WSJ, me)
• Ayatollah Ali Khameini said in a major speech in Tehran on Saturday: “We have repeatedly said we don’t negotiate with the U.S. on regional or international affairs; not even on bilateral issues. There are some exceptions like the nuclear program that we negotiated with the Americans to serve our interests.”


• Khameini tweeted a 30 second YouTube video this morning (yes, I follow him), saying Israel’s security will not be ensured whether there will be an Iran deal or not (so that’s helpful, then)


• British PM David Cameron, whose nation took part in the negotiations, said on NBC on Sunday: “This deal says it’s never acceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” “It’s so much better than the alternative. If there wasn’t a deal, I think we would face an Iran with a nuclear weapon.”


• Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said on CBS on Sunday: “This regime has just received the dream deal. This deal paves Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal.” “It makes the problem of terrorism in the region and the world much worse by giving Iran billion of dollars for the war and terror machine.”


• Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CBS on Sunday: “This is our one opportunity.” “It is very likely that regardless of what we do, these nations will drop their sanctions,” she said of the U.S. allies involved in the deal

• Pic: Compassion personified. Police Chief Leroy Smith, who’s black, helps a white supremacist wearing a swastika T-Shirt, who’s suffering from heat stroke, to water and shelter during a KKK rally in Charleston SC on Saturday (NBC News)


Govt vs Hackers: Guess Who’s Winning (NYT, me)
• The White House is set to announce, possibly today, that teams of federal employees and volunteer hackers have made progress over the past 30 days to correct the weaknesses and plug glaring security holes in govt computer networks. But senior cybersecurity officials, lawmakers and tech experts said that the effort is little more than digital triage


• Asked in congressional testimony this month to grade the federal govt’s cybersecurity efforts on a scale of A to F, a senior govt auditor gave the govt a D. The govt is still struggling to procure the latest technological defenses or attract the kind of digital security expertise necessary to secure its networks – and good people don’t stay


• A January audit of the FAA cited “significant security control weaknesses” in the agency’s network, “placing the safe and uninterrupted operation of the nation’s air traffic control system at increased and unnecessary risk.” But the agency had been warned for years that its computer networks were wide open to attack (in other words, the skies aren’t safe)


• At the Dept of Energy, after other breaches there, a hacker spent a month stealing personnel records from an unencrypted database in the summer of 2013. By the time the dept’s top cybersecurity official was notified, the hacker had drained 104,000 names, addresses and Social Security numbers from the systems (what else have they got, you wonder)


• At the IRS, auditors identified 69 vulnerabilities in the agency’s networks last year, but when officials there told GAO auditors this year that they had fixed 24 of those problems, investigators found only 14 had been resolved. Last year, there were more than 67,000 computer-related incidents at federal agencies, up from about 5,000 in 2006


• Vid: Black Lives Matter activists take over stage at Netroots Nations to confront former Gov Martin O’Malley (D-MD). He told the crowd: “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.” He later apologized and clarified that black lives do matter. Black Lives Matter protesters also disrupted Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) when he spoke (AP, Mediaite)


Obama Admin in Push to Ban Guns – Social Security (LAT, me)
• Seeking tighter control over firearm purchases, the Obama admin is pushing to ban Social Security beneficiaries from owning guns if they lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs, a move that could affect millions whose monthly disability payments are handled by others


• The push is intended to bring the Social Security Admin in line with laws regulating who gets reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS, which is used to prevent gun sales to felons, drug addicts, immigrants in the country illegally and others


• A potentially large groups within Social Security are people who, in the language of federal gun laws, are unable to manage their own affairs due to “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition or disease.” The admin’s move is part of its post-Sandy Hook massacre response


• No simple way to identify that group, but a strategy used by the Veterans Affairs Dept since the creation of the background check system is reporting anyone who has been declared incompetent to manage pension or disability payments and assigned a fiduciary. About 4.3 million adults receive monthly Social Security benefits managed by “representative payees.”


• Ari Ne’eman, a member of the National Council on Disability, said the independent federal agency would oppose any policy that used assignment of a representative payee as a basis to take any fundamental right from people with disabilities. The NRA issued a statement: “…ready to pursue all available avenues to stop them
[Obama admin] in their tracks.”

• Vid: Australian surfer and 3-time world champion Mick Fanning fights off a shark attack. He was waiting in the water in the J-Bay Open surfing competition final in South Africa when he felt something. “I just saw fins. I punched it in the back.” … Fanning was unharmed (CBS News, 7 News)


Naughty Cheaters’ Network Hacked! (Verge, me)
• Uh oh. Casual sex and cheating network Ashley Madison has reportedly been hacked, compromising the user databases, financial records and private details of the service’s owners and 37 million users. Security researcher Brian Krebs first reported the leak last night, confirmed by Noel Biderman, the CEO of Avid Life Media, who also runs Cougar Life and Established Men


• A hacker or group calling itself The Impact Team claimed to be behind the breach. The team’s trying to hold ALM ransom with the info, threatening to release “all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and address and employee docs and emails – Ashley and Established Men must come offline


• The Impact Team hit out at ALM’s business practices and the people who used the service in a lengthy doc. Ashley Madison offers a “full delete” feature by which it offers to scrub your payment and address details from its records for a $19 fee. “Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014,” the group says. “It’s also a complete lie.”

• Champion cheater Bill Cosby says in a 2005 deposition, when asked whether a woman was in a position to consent to sexual intercourse after he gave her quaaludes in 1976, “I don’t know.” The woman is suing Cosby for defamation – lengthy NYT piece. It obtained the deposition


• “Too bad for those men,” the doc reads. “They’re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion.” The manifesto hit out at “the internet’s number one cheating website,” Ashley Madison, but was most vehemently against Established Men – – –


• – – – Which it characterized as “a prostitution/human trafficking website for rich men to pay for sex.” Among those the team said would be having “a very bad day” if the info came to light were “many rich and powerful people” in the the U.S. and Canada


• Biderman said that rather than a random outsider targeting his company, the investigation points to someone who had at one point “touched [ALM’s] technical services,” suggesting that a former employee or contractor may have had a hand in the leak. ALM had hoped to go public this summer with an IPO, hoping to raise $200 million in investment – ooopsie


• Trailer: “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” Official extended trailer – Sharknado 3 flies in to Washington DC and the entire East Coast at 9 pm this Wednesday. Why aren’t you in it? Everyone else is – NYT says it’s totally absolutely must-see TV

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Anna Merod contributed to this report


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