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: Lawmakers skeptical
  • Sandra Bland previously suicidal?
  • Texas officials: Video not edited
  • Chattanooga: “Valor” by Marines
  • Highway bill: Lurching forward
  • Welcome to Kenya, “Brother” Obama
  • House Dems slam GOP bill: “Donald Trump Act”
  • Trump: “Barking carnival act”
  • DoJ to probe Planned Parenthood flap
  • OPM hack: WH won’t name China

 

Iran Deal: Lawmakers Skeptical (Politico, AP, Reuters, TRNS, me)
• Backed by Israel, Republicans – and some Democrats – on Wednesday forcefully challenged President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran as the WH dispatched a Cabinet-level lobbying team to build support for agreement to ease sanctions in exchange for concessions on Tehran’s nuclear program
• According to lawmakers emerging from classified briefings, SecState John Kerry said the international coalition behind existing economic and military sanctions will collapse no matter what Congress decides, an assessment that touched a Republican sore spot
• Sen Bob Corker (R-Tenn), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the admin had “given up our veto at the UN on Monday,” when the UN Security Council voted unanimously to lift international sanctions
• Given the significance of the point, it’s likely to be aired extensively today when Corker convenes his committee to hear testimony from Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on the deal Obama has hailed as historic (Kerry could get pretty heated – worth watching this one – and it’s his former committee, too)
• Rep Mike Pompeo (R-Kan) complained about side issues between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, acknowledged that the text of a side deal between the IAEA and Iran over past military activity wouldn’t be given to Congress, but said none of the info would be withheld (this issue’s really ticking them off)

 

 

• SecDef Ash Carter arrived unannounced in Baghdad today to assess the govt’s progress in healing the country’s sectarian divisions and hear the latest on support for the Iraqi army’s coming attempt to recapture the key city of Ramadi from ISIS. It’s Carter’s first visit to Iraq since he took office in February (AP)
Sandra Bland Previously Suicidal? (Houston Chronicle, AP, Medium, AP, me)
• Sandra Bland, 28, who died in the Waller County Texas jail three days after police arrested her in a controversial traffic stop, disclosed on a form at the jail that she previously attempted suicide over that past year after losing a baby, although she also indicated she wasn’t feeling suicidal at the time of her arrest, docs released Wednesday show
• The suicide questionnaire notes Bland told jailers she had epilepsy and was taking medication for it. But in another doc, this one to be filled out by by the inmate, “no” is circled by the question asking if she’s on any medication. In a third doc, it’s checked “yes” that she’s taking medication
• The lawyer representing Bland’s family, Cannon Lambert, said relatives have no evidence that she ever attempted suicide or had been treated for depression. Elton Mathis, Waller County DA, said the case would receive as much scrutiny as a murder investigation. She apparently hanged herself from a noose made from a plastic trash bag
• Lambert said Bland had two job offers – the reason for her trip to Texas – and was happy and excited, not in a frame of mind that leads to suicide. Sheriff Smith said, “When the jailer said, ‘Are you depressed?’ she answered, ‘No, I’m just pissed off.'”
• Graphic: Assessing the legality of Sandra Bland’s arrest (NYT) – very helpful
Officials: Dashcam Video Not Edited

• The Texas Dept of Public Safety said Wednesday that the dashcam arrest video “has not been edited. … DPS previously requested the FBI examine the dashcam and jail video to ensure the integrity of the video. … Some of the video during this

[arrest] conversation was affected in the upload and is being addressed. We are working to repost the dashcam video.”
• Several key points in the video appear to have been edited and in several points, video appears to have been looped. At 32:37, a white car drives into the left of the frame, then disappears. Seconds later, the same car drives back in and turns left. At 33:08, the exact same footage form 32:27 is repeated, followed by the same second white car at 33:17 – other examples, too
• The video shows an escalating confrontation with DPS Trooper Brian Encinia, 30, who has been with the dept for about a year, after the trooper asks Bland to put out a cigarette and she refuses. (doesn’t seem to be a reason for asking her to put out the cigarette – wasn’t interfering with anything – just officious)

• He then orders her out of the car, tries to yank her outside, produces a taser and yells, “I will light you up!” She asks about 10 times why she’s being arrested before he answers: resisting arrest. She was originally pulled over for changing lanes without signaling, and she explains to him that she did so to get out of the way so that he could go through (changing lanes = bs)

• Greece has taken a crucial step towards a bailout after its parliament passed a second set of reforms. The passage of the measures means that negotiations on an 86 billion euro EU bailout can begin. The reforms include changes to Greek banking and an overhaul of the judiciary system (BBC)
Chattanooga: “Valor” by Marines (WaPo, CNN, NYT, TRNS, me)
• Edward Reinhold, Knoxville FBI special agent in charge, said at a presser in Chattanooga Wednesday that Mohammad Abdulazeez smashed through the gate of the naval reserve center last Thursday and was almost immediately confronted by a service member who had his own gun
• The service member fired several rounds, but it’s not yet been determined whether he managed to hit Abdulazeez, who quickly entered the reserve center looking for targets, mortally wounding the sailor inside the building. “He then made his way throughout the building continuing to shoot at those who he encountered,” Reinhold said
• Reinhold said Abdulazeez exited the back of the building, killing the Marines outside in the motor pool area as some of them tried to climb over a fence and escape. The FBI said that moments later, officers with Chattanooga PD arrived and killed Abdulazeez, ending an episode that lasted between three and five minutes at the reserve center
• A top general said the Marines, who had just returned from a training mission, had braved gunfire to save their comrades during the attack. “The legacy that day is one of valor,” said Maj Gen Paul Brier, commander of the 4th Marine Division. “Some willingly ran back into the fight.”
• “We are treating him as a homegrown violent extremist. We believe he acted on his own that day,” Reinhold said. “We don’t have any indication that anyone else was assisting him that day.” Officials are also looking at a seven-month trip Abdulazeez took to Jordan last year, where he spent time with his grandfather and uncle
• The push for a higher minimum wage gained momentum on both sides of the country Wednesday, with a NY labor board endorsing an eventual $15 an hour for fast food workers and the University of California system announcing the same raise for its employees. VP Joe Biden visited a factory in LA in an effort to push the minimum wage increase (LAT, AP, TRNS, me)
Highway Bill: Lurching Forward (Hill, Hill, me)
• The Senate late Wednesday voted 62-36 to move forward to debate with a six-year federal highway bill, giving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) a significant victory even as his legislation encounters stiff opposition from his own party in the House (leaders don’t want it)
• A day after voting against the motion, liberal and centrist Democrats provided the crucial votes to advance the bill, brokered by McConnell and Sen Barbara Boxer (D-Calif). Only six Republicans voted against the measure, compared with 11 the day before
• The vote signals that McConnell likely has the support to move the bill through the Senate. That would set up a confrontation with the House, where Republicans are backing a five-month extension of federal highway that they’ve already approved
• McConnell has vowed to work on the package this week – threatening weekend work (OMG) if necessary. That timeline suggests McConnell intends to jam the House by passing the six-year measure and then daring the House not to pass it, with just days until highway funding runs out at the end of the month. Last time McConnell tried this – on the NSA bill – it didn’t work

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• Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) says he’ll uses all tools at his disposal to block an amendment that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. McConnell has promised to give supporters of the bank a chance to vote on it. Sen Rand Paul (R-Ky) wants an amendment blocking funding for Planned Parenthood
• Even if the Senate bill passes, it might not reach the House floor. House Republicans panned the Senate bill Wednesday as fiscally irresponsible because McConnell and Boxer negotiated about $50 billion of offsets covering only three years of the legislation, putting the onus on the next Congress to pay for its second half
• At an event at the WH Wednesday, President Obama called on Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. “We can’t have American workers losing jobs because Congress doesn’t act or because of some ideological arguments that don’t make sense [and] don’t match up with the facts,” Obama said during a meeting with small business owners affected

• AG Loretta Lynch announced a 33-count federal indictment against Dylann Roof Wed, charging him with hate crimes, firearms violations and obstructing the practice of religion in the 17 June shooting deaths at AME Episcopal Church in Charleston. He was motivated by racial hatred and a desire to commit a “notorious attack,” she said when he killed nine black worshipers. In addition to state charges (AP, TRNS)

Welcome to Kenya, Brother Obama (CNN, AP, BBC, me)
Tonight, President Obama will make his first trip to Kenya as U.S. president, a trip that will bear little resemblance to the 1988 one, when he arrived aboard a commercial flight and his luggage got lost. Obama’s visit is like “a brother coming back,” said Nelly Ngugu, customer relations manager at a Nairobi cafe
• “I’ll be honest with you, visiting Kenya as a private citizen is probably more meaningful to me than visiting as president because I can actually get outside of a hotel room or a conference center,” Obama said last week, adding that his trip still would be “symbolically important.” (which birth certificate is he using…)
• Security concerns and the logistics of presidential travel will keep Obama at a distance from most Kenyans. He’ll skip a visit to Kogelo, the rural village in western Kenya where his father was born and buried, and where his step-grandmother and other family members still live
• Obama’s two days of events will be confined to Nairobi, the capital where he will meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and speak to civil society leaders. The U.S. and Kenya are allies in the fight against Islamic militant group al-Shabab. The group may be planning attacks to coincide with and disrupt Obama’s visit
• Some critics have questioned Obama’s decision to visit Kenya and Ethiopia because of their human rights records. Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, is under indictment from the International Criminal Court because of alleged links to violence after the country’s 2007 election. Ethiopia has a poor human rights record – more on this on Friday
• Democrats in the House and Senate plan to unveil a sweeping new civil rights bill for LGBT Americans today. The bill would bar discrimination in seven areas: credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service and public accommodations. Called the Equality Act, they’re seeking Republican cosponsors (Slate) (going nowhere in the GOP Congress)
House Dems Slam GOP Bill: “Donald Trump Act” (Hill, me)
• House Democrats are slamming GOP legislation aimed at discouraging sanctuary cities. “We can do all the politicking we want. We can do the so-called ‘Donald Trump Act,’ which simply denies the cities and towns their dollars to hire police officers while attacking immigrant communities,” said Rep Xavier Becerra (D-Calif), head of the House Democratic Caucus Wed
• The GOP proposal, which would withhold federal law enforcement funds for state or local govts that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents, comes in response to this month’s fatal shooting of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant with a long criminal history
• The House vote on the GOP sanctuary city bill is scheduled for today, and it’s expected to pass. Billionaire Donald Trump launched his presidential bid with accusations that most Mexican immigrants are criminals, rapists and bringing drugs in to the U.S.
• Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced similar legislation in the Senate Tuesday. Upping pressure on Congress, Steinle’s father, Jim Steinle, urged the Senate panel to move on legislation “to take these undocumented felons off our streets for good.”
• But local law enforcement isn’t on board. “It is right to call upon us to protect the public from crime and violence, but it is wrong to demand that we engage in matters that relate solely to immigration status,” Tom Manger, chief of police in Montgomery County, Md, and president of the Major Cities Chiefs Assn, told the Senate Judiciary Committee
• Under new immigration enforcement programs the Obama admin is putting in place across the country, up to 87% of unauthorized immigrants wouldn’t be the focus of deportation operations and would have “a degree of protection” to remain in the U.S., according to a report published today by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group (NYT)
Trump: “Barking Carnival Act” (AP, CNN, me)
• GOP presidential contender and former Gov Rick Perry (R-Texas) ripped Donald Trump in a speech in DC Wednesday. “He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”
• Trump heads to Laredo, Texas, today, where he’ll hold a presser at the border, meet members of the union that represents Border Patrol agents and speak to law enforcement officers. His accusations that Mexican immigrants are largely rapists, and bringing in drugs and other crime may resonate (actually might be a barking carnival act…)
• “Let no one be mistaken,” Perry said. “Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded. It cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world.” (good speech)
• Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on CNN Wednesday, “I think Donald Trump is a political car wreck and people slow down and look at the wreck but they eventually move on. I believe when it comes to winning a national election as a Republican, Donald Trump is not the pathway forward.” Trump gave out Graham’s cell phone number in a speech on Tuesday
• Federal regulators made public info about Trump’s wealth and financial holdings Wednesday, showing he holds leadership positions in more than 500 business entities, has assets of at least $1.4 billion and debt of at least $240 million. The forms don’t pinpoint his fortune, which he says is more than $10 billion, because they report figures only in broad ranges
• Vid: How to destroy your mobile phone with Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – he sets it on fire, chops it in half with a meat cleaver, drops it from a roof and puts it in a blender with some Red Bull. “All else fails, give your number to the donald,” he says,” (IJ Review) – nicely done
DoJ to Probe Planned Parenthood Flap (Hill, Hill, me)
• AG Loretta Lynch said Wednesday her dept is going to review all info surrounding the two controversial videos of Planned Parenthood taken by an obscure anti-abortion group. “We’re going to review all the info and determine what steps, if any, to take at the appropriate time,” Lynch said at a presser (could take a while if they keep releasing videos)
• Sen Mike Lee (R-Utah) and 10 other Republican senators sent a letter to the DoJ Wednesday requesting an investigation. They say that Planned Parenthood could have violated laws that ban profiting off the sale of fetal organs. PP says it follows the law and strongly denies those claims
• The letter also states that the group could have violated a law that bans altering the abortion procedure in order to obtain fetal tissue. Two GOP-led committees, both in the House, have launched investigations (Planned Parenthood has a problem, regardless of whether it’s done anything wrong. People aren’t watching the full-length videos for any context)
• The Center for Medical Progress, which produced the videos, claims that they show PP illegally profiting off the sale of fetal organs. (where did CMP get the funding for a long project like this?) PP has fired back that the videos are heavily edited and the officials in the videos are looking for compensation for expenses, not profit
• Democrats on Wednesday called on the DoJ to investigate whether CMP had violated any laws, such as securing an LLC for a fake medical research firm it created, or the personal IDs. Also, the Democrats said the second secretly recorded video may be illegal under California law, as it was filmed without the consent of the PP doctor in that state
• The WH said Wed it was in the final stages of drafting a plan for closing the Guantanamo prison. President Obama vowed to close it within a year when he came to office in 2009. WH spox Josh Earnest said Obama would veto the defense policy bill if it blocks him from closing the prison (Reuters)
OPM Hack: WH Won’t Name China (WaPo, Hill, Hill, TRNS, me)
• Despite privately blaming China for orchestrating the massive hack that has rattled the govt and exposed sensitive data on 22 million people, the Obama admin has decided against publicly naming Beijing for the incident
• The hacks at the Office of Personnel Management compromised info including personnel files and security clearance background investigation files. It’s believed China was seeking this data as part of a cyber-espionage scheme to create a database on U.S. govt workers
• But admin officials said they’re hesitant to make a public accusation for fear of exposing evidence they’ve gathered during the investigation. The WH is also trying to manage its tense relationship with Beijing ahead of a September visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping
• “If there is no penalty, not even public identification, of the perpetrator of a cyberattack, it seems to me that it only encourages future cyberattacks from the same actors,” said Sen Susan Collins (R-Maine) during a Wednesday presser with reporters. Sen Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) agreed. The two were together to introduce a bill to strengthen Homeland Security’s cyber authority
• A senior admin official said that the admin may still impose sanctions on China unrelated to the OPM hack and “then send a private message that said, ‘Oh, by the way, part of the reason for this is OPM.'” But public naming might not “outweigh whatever loss we might [experience] in terms of intelligence-collection capabilities.”

 

• Vid: Is there a lion or some other creature on the loose in Milwaukee? Looks a bit leonine (AB News, me)


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___________________

Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, James Cullum, William Hadden and Washington Desk contributed to this report

 

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