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

  • Senate smackdown: Cruz squelched
  • Huckabee compares Obama to Hitler
  • Obama meets with African leaders: South Sudan
  • Obama challenges Kenya
  • Clinton: No classified info sent/received
  • Trump vs Clinton: 2 Iowa rallies
  • Sandra Bland mourned
  • Oops: Fed economic forecasts released early
  • Boy Scouts to end ban on gay leaders
  • Louisiana theater shooting: Gun safety
Senate Smackdown: Cruz Squelched (Politico, Hill, Hill, AP, Roll Call, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• Senior Senate Republicans lined up Sunday to smack down Sen Ted Cuz (R-Texas) for harshly criticizing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), an extraordinary display of intraparty division played out live on the Senate floor (I gained about 3 lbs watching it – popcorn, chocolate, pizza…)

• As the Senate met for a rare Sunday session, Sens Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) each rose to counter a stunning floor speech Cruz gave Friday accusing McConnell of a “flat-out lie.” None of them mentioned Cruz by name. Cruz looked stunned – gobsmacked – at what had just happened

• The drama came as the Senate defeated a procedural vote to repeal President Obama’s health care law 49-43 and took a step towards reviving the federal Export Import Bank 67-26, both amendments on a must-pass highway bill

• “Squabbling and sanctimony may be tolerated in other venues and perhaps on the campaign trail, but they have no place among colleagues in the United States Senate,” scolded Hatch, the Senate’s president pro tempore. Cruz is running for president. Hatch said impugning a senator’s character was “blatant disregard for Senate rules.” – Rule XIX

Alexander: Learn in Kindergarten
• After Hatch spoke, Cruz rose to defend himself for making the accusation that McConnell had lied when he denied striking a deal to allow the vote to revive the Export Import Bank. He said he agreed with Hatch’s calls for civility, but declared: “Speaking the truth about actions is entirely consistent with civility.” “That promise was made and that promise was broken.” (mouth open here)

• No senator rose to Cruz’s defense. And by voice vote, the Senate defeated an attempt by Cruz to overturn a ruling made Friday that blocked him from offering an amendment related to Iran, with senators refusing even to agree to his routine request for a roll call vote. “You learn that in kindergarten: You learn to work well together and play by the rules,” said Alexander (gobbling here)

• McConnell said that given support for the Export Import Bank, despite his own opposition, no “special deal” was needed to bring it to a vote. The bank is a federal agency that helps foreign customers buy U.S. goods. Conservatives oppose it as corporate welfare and are trying to end it. Congressional inaction allowed it to expire on 30 June

• Now that senators voted to revive it, it’s likely to be added to the highway bill, which the Senate is trying to complete ahead of a 31 July deadline. If Congress doesn’t act by then, states will lose money for highway and transit projects in the middle of the summer construction season

Cornyn: Cruz’s Effort – “Chaos”
• Alexander said in a floor speech that Cruz’s effort to overturn a ruling that blocked him from offering his own amendment to the highway bill “would create chaos in the Senate.” Cornyn said “We will lose all control of the Senate’s schedule,” and that Cruz’s effort would create “chaos.” (literally stuffing my face with excitement at this point)

• But with the Export Import Bank added, the legislation faces an uncertain future in the House, where there’s strong opposition to the bank as well as to the bill. The House has passed a five month extension of transport programs without the bank included, and House leaders don’t want to take up the Senate’s version

• Complicating matters, Congress is entering its final days of legislative work before its annual August vacation, raising the prospect of unpredictable last-minute maneuvers to resolve the dispute on the highway bill and the bank

• At one point on Sunday, Cruz referred to McConnell as “the so-called Republican leader.” (I choked, had to be revived) Sen Mike Lee (R-Utah) is expected to try again today to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority vote of 51 senators, effectively circumventing the 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster after Democrats defeated the repeal vote on Sunday

• AG Loretta Lynch said on ABC Sunday that admin officials are concerned that ISIS or other foreign enemies might develop the capacity to commit cyber attacks. “That is the thing that keeps me and many of my colleagues in law enforcement up at night,” she said (Hill)
Huckabee Compares Obama to Hitler: Iran Deal (Reuters, Politico, WSJ, Guardian,
• In a pathetic effort to out-Trump Donald Trump and to get some needed polling attention, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said on Saturday that President Obama’s foreign policy is so “feckless” and “so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

• Nothing compares with the Holocaust. Nothing. If you start talking about the president marching Israelis to the door of the oven, you’ve lost what little credibility you ever had – not much. President Obama is not Adolf Hitler. Not a Nazi. But the former Arkansas governor has demonstrated that he himself is a fool

• Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Friday that the Iran deal will give the U.S. better access to monitor the country than in the absence of an agreement. “It puts us in a far better place in terms of insight and access,” Clapper said at the Aspen Security Forum. Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khameini tweeted an image of Obama with a gun to his own head (detente…)

• CIA deputy director David Cohen said at the Forum that intel officers were “reasonably” confident that the terms of the deal would prevent Iran from cheating: “We would be able to detect Iran if it were trying to deviate from the requirements that they’ve signed up to,” Cohen said, in the first public statements by a CIA official since the deal was reached

• Iranian authorities have ordered their media not to criticize the recent nuclear agreement. A top secret doc has surfaced online. Issued by the ministry in charge of the press, it says editors should praise the deal and the negotiating team – goes into some detail, seems to target hardline papers (BBC)

• The Economist magazine says: “in a meticulous detailed document”… “the most intrusive nuclear inspection arrangements ever designed are described.” “This deal implicitly assumes that Iran will attempt to cheat unless it knows it will get caught.” “Mr Obama was right to say that its every pathway towards a bomb has been blocked.” (Economist)
Obama Meets With African Leaders: South Sudan (WSJ, Politico, AP, me)
• The Obama admin is poised to levy new sanctions aimed at pressuring South Sudan’s rival leaders if they don’t accept a peace deal by a mid-August deadline, senior admin officials said Sunday. An arms embargo is also on the table, but the drawback is it’s seen as “more one-sided than two-sided,” an official said

• President Obama today will convene a meeting in Abbis Ababa, Ethiopia, with regional leaders who have been trying to broker a peace deal to end South Sudan’s civil war. The meeting will include the leaders of Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia; the chair of the African Union; and the Sudanese foreign minister

• A senior admin official speaking to reporters on Air Force One said the U.S.’s preferred outcome is that both sides accept the plan by 17 August, but the official held out little expectation that they will. President Obama arrived in Ethiopia yesterday as part of his two-country Africa tour. He’s also holding talks on counterterrorism, human rights and regional security issues today

• “I don’t think anybody should have high expectations that this is going to yield a breakthrough,” the official said. “The parties have shown themselves to be utterly indifferent to their country and their people, and that is a hard thing to rectify.”

• Obama will discuss with regional leaders concrete steps for moving to an alternative plan if the deadline passes with no agreement. Options under consideration include additional sanctions on individuals that target their assets and travel abilities, as well as broader U.S. sanctions and once done in coordination with African countries, the EU or the UN

• At least 13 people were killed and more than 40 others injured in a huge bomb explosion at a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Somali militant Islamist group al Shabab claimed responsibility. The blasts came as President Obama was leaving Kenya for Ethiopia. The U.S. condemned the “abhorrent” attack (BBC)

Obama Challenges Kenya (NYT, WSJ, WSJ, me)
• In the signature speech of his long-awaited visit to the nation where his father was born, President Obama on Sunday said before several thousand people, “I’m here as a friend who wants Kenya to succeed.” He called for creating a society more inclusive of women and girls as critical to the country’s future

• “Imagine you have a team, and you don’t let half the team play – that’s stupid,” Obama said, referring to the traditional treatment of women and girls in African cultures. “Just because something is part of your past doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean it defines your future.”

• Obama also called on Kenyans to “break the cycle” of govt corruption. “It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could. Ordinary people have to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.'” Many attendees said the mention about corruption hit closest to home for them

• On Saturday at a joint presser, there was an awkward moment of tension when Obama condemned Kenya’s treatment of gays and lesbians as “wrong – full stop” while standing alongside Kenyan President Kenyatta. “For Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue,” Kenyatta said, stressing economic and security concerns

• Obama used himself as an example. “As an African American in the United States, I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law,” said Obama, whose father was born and raised in Kenya. Homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya, punishable by 14 years in jail

• Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton late Sunday unveiled (vid) a set of goals to expand the use of renewable energy and solar power specifically as part of an effort to fight climate change. As president, Clinton would try to reach a level of 500 million solar panels installed throughout the country, eightfold increase, by the end of her first term (Hill)
Clinton: No Classified Info Sent/Received (AP, Politico, MarketWatch, CNN, TRNS, me)
• Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in Iowa on Saturday, “I am confident that I never sent or received any info that was classified at the time it was sent and received. What I think you’re seeing here is a very typical kind of discussion, to some extent disagreement among various parts of the govt, over what should or should not be publicly released.”

• Intel investigators told the DoJ in a letter last week that secret govt info may have been compromised in the unsecured email system Clinton used in her New York home during her tenure as SecState. Asked if DoJ should investigate, Clinton said: “They can fight over it or argue over it. That’s up to them. I can tell you what the facts are.”

• In addition to alerting the DoJ to the potential compromise of classified info, the IG of the U.S. intel community sent a memo to members of Congress indicating that “potentially hundreds of classified emails” were among the 30,000 that Clinton had provided to the State Dept. Donald Trump called Clinton’s email practices “criminal” on CNN on Sunday

• A spox for Hillary Clinton’s campaign said Saturday she would testify in a public session 22 October before the House Benghazi committee. But a committee spox said the committee and Clinton’s lawyer were “still in negotiation” and nothing has been finalized, including terms under which she’d testify… (AP, me)
• The IG’s office said it also raised that concern with FBI counterintelligence officials and was recommending changes in how the emails are being reviewed and processed for public release. State is reviewing 55,000 pages of emails with the goal of releasing all of them by 29 January

• The intel IG, I. Charles McCullough, and his counterpart at State, Steve Linick, said that McCullough’s office found four emails containing classified info in a limited sample of 40 emails. The referral to DoJ doesn’t seek a criminal probe and doesn’t specifically target Clinton. Reporting, including in News Notes, on Friday mentioned a criminal probe

• The letter to oversight committees said none of the emails was marked “classified” at the time it was sent or received but that some should have been handled as such and sent on a secure computer network
Trump vs Clinton: 2 Iowa Rallies (Politico, me)
• More than 1,000 people crowded the grounds of Oskaloosa High School Saturday afternoon, enjoying free pulled pork sandwiches. Donald Trump was in town. Gov Scott Walker (R-Wis) was his target. “Wisconsin’s doing terribly. It’s in turmoil. The roads are a disaster because they don’t have any money to rebuild them.”

• Meanwhile, hours away under a big sycamore tree on the ground of the Madison County Historical Complex, Hillary Clinton met with an intimate group of less than 100 Iowa Democrats. “i spent all those years with Bill in Arkansas and we used to campaign under trees from one part of the state to the other. We were outdoors all the time.”

• “The schools are a disaster. The hospitals and education was a disaster. And he was totally in favor of Common Core,” Trump raged to big cheers. “I wrote all this stuff down though I don’t need to though because I’ve got a really good memory.” Also: “I’m really good with contracts, don’t you want that? … I went to Wharton School of Finance. I was a really good student.”

• Clinton was calm and at ease, sometimes close to suggesting she’s the Democratic nominee. “Once we get into this contest we’ll be able to show … our ideas are superior. But don’t be mistaken: This will be a tough election.”

• Trump meandered through his remarks, slamming his targets. “We use Caroline Kennedy in Japan. She couldn’t even believe she got the job. They said: ‘Would you like the job?’; she said ‘Really?’ – but my daughter Ivanka likes her, so she has to be a good person.” Trump moved to the top of the GOP 2016 field in a CNN poll released Sunday, at 18% above Jeb Bush at 15%

Raw vid: White Cleveland transit cop pepper sprays a crowd a crowd protesting the removal of an intoxicated 14-year-old boy as a Black Lives Matter conference was ending. Transit officials say the officer used pepper spray when the crowds wouldn’t allow the cruiser the boy was placed in to leave. No arrests – it’s pretty shocking (AP, Guardian, me)
Sandra Bland Mourned (AP, WaPo, AP, NYT, me)
• Family and friends of an Illinois woman found dead in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell remembered her Saturday as a “courageous voice” for social justice and promised to keep fighting for clarity on the circumstances surrounding her death. Waller County has a history of racial tension

• Hundreds of people attended Sandra Bland’s funeral near the Chicago suburb where she grew up. “I’m going to find out what happened to my baby,” her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said in remarks that brought mourners to their feet. “My baby has spoken. She’s still speaking and no, she didn’t kill herself.”

• She and other mourners said they were still struggling to understand how a traffic stop for failing to use a turn signal escalated into a physical confrontation and landed her in the cell where authorities say she killed herself three days later

• Loretta Lynch, the nation’s first African American woman to serve as AG, said on ABC on Sunday that the custody death “highlights the concern of many in the black community that a routine stop for many members of the black community is not handled with the same professionalism and courtesy that other people may get from the police.”

• Meanwhile, former Gov Rick Perry (R-Texas) said on CNN Sunday that it’s clear the trooper didn’t follow protocol. “Transparency is really important in this process. So that all the citizens of the state of Texas know that this has been appropriately investigated.”

• Hundreds of people gathered at a Prairie View, Texas, church, for a vigil and march Sunday night in memory of Sandra Bland. They marched across Prairie A&M University, which Bland attended. Also, dozens protested outside a residence in Katy, Texas, believed to belong to the state trooper who arrested Bland (AP)
Oops! Fed Economic Forecasts Released Early (WSJ, me)
• Sensitive internal economic forecasts have been available on the Federal Reserve’s website for nearly a month – years before their planned release – the central bank said Friday in a disclosure that drew criticism from lawmakers. It’s not the first time in recent years that the Fed has had trouble with sensitive info (below)

• Staff projections prepared before the 16-17 June Policy meeting were “inadvertently included in a computer file” that was posted to the Fed’s website on 29 June, the Fed said in a statement. Normally, staff projections are released to the public after a five-year lag

• A Fed spox said the release went unnoticed at the central bank until Tuesday. (nearly a month!) The Fed Thursday referred the matter to the IG and Friday alerted financial marker regulators. The Fed on Friday also notified its congressional overseers, the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee (flying things hit fans)

• In an additional complication, the Fed said late Friday that some of the projections posted online in late June differed from the actual staff projections prepared ahead of the June policy meeting. The Fed released the actual staff projections and said it was looking into the source of the incorrect info (I’ll bet) But nobody commented

• Federal Reserve officials are likely to emerge from their policy meeting Wednesday with short-term interest rates still pinned near zero. Chairwoman Janet Yellen emphasized in congressional testimony this month she expects the central bank to start lifting its rate at some point before year-end. But July is seen as too early by Fed watchers (WSJ, me)
Fed: Accident / Previous Problems
• The Fed (in a massive understatement) said the forecast release was an accident. An employee in the Fed’s economic research division uploaded the projections with other files related to FRB/US, an economic model used by the Fed, the spox said. The package of files was downloaded many times, but the Fed can’t tell how many times the info was accessed (oy)

• The forecasts for key economic indicators, as well as the Fed’s benchmark short-term interest rate, offered some insights ahead of its policy meeting this week. For instance, Fed staff last month predicted a lower path for rates over the next few years than did the officials who set the rates (interesting chats in the Fed break room over that…)

• The House Financial Services Committee plans to vote Tuesday on a bill that would curb the Fed’s powers and permit audits of its monetary policy decisions, among other things. (conservatives are on a Fed-hunt) A spox for Sen Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), top Dem on the Banking Committee, said the incident “raises serious questions” that need investigating

• The DoJ, the Fed’s IG and House Republicans are investigating the disclosure of confidential info from a Fed policy meeting in 2012. House Financial Services Committee chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) issued a subpoena to the Fed for docs, but the Fed has said turning over all the info now could threaten the separate criminal investigation. Republicans are livid

• The new cover story in New York magazine interviewed and photographed 35 of Bill Cosby’s alleged victims, and has video interviews with six. The 35 women are photographed on the cover. The link to the magazine seems to have crashed for now

Boy Scouts to End Ban on Gay Leaders (NYT, me)
• The Boy Scouts of America is expected today to end its blanket ban on gay leaders, but some scouting groups will still be able to limit leadership jobs to heterosexuals. “It doesn’t mean the Mormons have to pick a gay scoutmaster, but please don’t tell the Unitarians they can’t,” said Michael Harrison, a businessman who led Boy Scouts in Orange County and lobbied for change

• In a contentious meeting in 2013, the Scouts decided to permit participation by gay youths but not adults. Today, bowing to still-accelerating shifts in opinion and law, the Scouts will relax their policy barring openly gay adults from serving as the den leaders, scoutmasters and camp counselors who are at the heart of the scouting experience

• The Scouts will also today bar discrimination based on sexual orientation in all official facilities and paying jobs across the country, heading off potential suits and violations of employment discrimination laws

• But to keep some of the larger church sponsors in the fold, Scout execs concluded that they must allow for diverse policies for local volunteers. Church-based units may “continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”

• The proposal follows a public warning in May by Robert Gates, the Scouts’ voluntary two-year president and a former SecDef, that the ban on gay adults “cannot be sustained.” The national governing board, which includes scores of corporate, civic and church leaders, is expected to provide overwhelming support for the resolution in a meeting today by phone

• John Sewel, 69, a senior member of Britain’s House of Lords, has resigned his posts as deputy speaker and chair of a committee for upholding parliamentary standards, after the Sun tabloid on Sunday published stunning pics, video and text showing him sniffing cocaine from a prostitute’s breasts, wearing an orange bra and stripping naked in his apartment. Today, he’s been suspended from the Labour Party and urged to resign (Sun, BBC, me)
Louisiana Theater Shooting: Gun Safety (Hill, Hill, TRNS, me)
• “That should never have happened,” Gov Bobby Jindal (R-La) said on CBS Sunday, when asked about Louisiana theater shooting suspect, John Houser, 59, purchasing a gun despite a history of mental illness, including being involuntarily committed to a hospital by family in Georgia in 2008

• “Here in Louisiana, we actually passed tougher laws a couple of years ago so that, for example, if Houser had been involuntarily committed here in Louisiana, … we would have reported that to the national background check system.” “He wouldn’t have been able to go into a pawn shop and buy a gun as he did in another state,” Jindal said

• Police have said that House legally purchased a handgun from a pawn shop in Phenix City, Ala, early last year, the same gun that was used in the shooting. Houser opened fire in a crowded movie theater in Lafayette Thursday night, killing two people and injuring nine others, before committing suicide, according to law enforcement

• Sen Joe Manchin (D-WVa) said Sunday on CBS that Congress should “shut down the loophole” that allows some mentally ill people, like Houser, to slip through the govt’s system for vetting gun sales. “I need my friends on the Republican side of the aisle to help us with a most reasonable, sensible path forward,” he said (good luck)

• Under federal law, licensed gun dealers are required to conduct a background check, either online or by phone, before each firearms sale using the National Instant Criminal Background Check. In every state, the system searches for criminal convictions. But the system only searches mental health records in 30 states because it’s not required under federal law. Not gun shows, either
• Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22, the only daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, died Sunday in Duluth, Ga, about six months after she was found face down and unresponsive in a bathtub in the suburban Atlanta townhome she shared with Nick Gordon, the man she called her husband. A police report called it a “drowning.” Houston also died in water in a bathtub (AP)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, Loree Lewis, Anna Merod and Sydnee Fried contributed to this report

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