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.

Afghan govt sources say Taliban leader Mullar Omar is dead (WSJ)

News Now

  • Sparks fly in House Iran hearing
  • Chilling ISIS battle plan doc found
  • House to approve highway bill, go home
  • Fox lowers threshold for early debate
  • House conservative tries to boot Boehner
  • Hillary Clinton dodges on Keystone questions
  • Senate GOP pushes Planned Parenthood vote
  • Spy Jonathan Pollard granted parole
  • US dentist “regrets” killing Cecil the Lion
Sparks Fly in House Iran Hearing (Politico, AP, TRNS, me)
• With SecState John Kerry sitting in front of them, House Republicans on Tuesday railed against Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist groups, its Islamist theology and its imprisonment of Americans. One lawmaker mentioned 9/11. One questioned the Obama admin’s commitment to Israel’s security. There was Cuba. Oil in Texas…
• Several repeatedly cut off Kerry and his fellow witnesses when they tried to respond, pointing out that they had only five minutes of speaking time. When he wasn’t looking annoyed, Kerry appeared frustrated or beleaguered (they should have had a cardboard cut-out doll and just ranted at that, instead)
• Rep Scott Perry raged (R-Pa) that Iran is like “a crocodile or a shark” that’s about to be given more teeth. “If the ayatollah doesn’t like it and doesn’t want to negotiate it, oh, boohoo. We’re here for America. We stand for America. You represent America.” (boohoo?)
• “Congressman, I don’t need any lessons from you about who I represent,” Kerry retorted moments later. “I’ve represented and fought for our country since I was out of college. So don’t give me any lessons about that, OK?” (somebody take away his crutches, quick)

• Morgan Freeman, Jack Black and Queen Noor of Jordan appear in a new 3-minute video: “the agreement currently on the table is the best way to ensure Iran doesn’t build up a fu**ing bomb.” – Freeman. Natasha Lyonne, Farshad Farahat, former spy Valerie Plame and retired U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering are also in the Global Zero vid (Hill)

Kerry: Nothing Built on Trust

• House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ed Royce (R-Calif) asked, “Has Iran earned the right to be trusted?” “Nothing in this deal is built on trust. Nothing,” Kerry said. Kerry called the notion of a better deal a “unicorn fantasy.” (he’s frolicking with the unicorns – used that analogy last week, too)

• Kerry repeatedly said the deal was in America’s interest – as well as good for Israel and Arab allies. At one point, he practically yelled: “What this agreement is supposed to do is stop
[Iran] from having a nuclear weapon. Now I want somebody to tell me how they’re going to do that without this agreement.”
• The WH got good news when Rep Sander Levin (D-Mich), who has strong ties to Israel, said he would support the deal. “I believe that Israel, the region and the world are far more secure if Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon. I believe the agreement is the best way to achieve that,” he said in a lengthy statement
• Kerry also sounded a hopeful note regarding the Americans held prisoner in Iran. He said the admin is in “direct conversations” with the Iranians about the matter. “That’s all I’m going to say here, today. And I hope they will be returned to be with their families.” Meanwhile, President Obama has invited House Democrats to a working reception at the WH today – Iran talk
• In a letter Tuesday to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif) asked for an analysis of competing hypotheses about whether intel agencies will be able to verify Iran’s compliance with the deal, plus an analysis of Iran’s nuclear intent and a wide-ranging “out of the box” assessment on Iran (AP)
Chilling ISIS Battle Plan Doc Found (AMI, USA Today, me)
• An apparent ISIS recruitment document found in Pakistan’s lawless tribal lands reveals that the extremist group has grand ambitions of building a new terrorist army in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and triggering a war in India to provoke an Armageddon-like “end of the world.”
• The 32-page Urdu language doc details a plot to attack U.S. soldiers as they withdraw from Afghanistan and target American diplomats and Pakistani officials
• American Media Institute obtained the doc from a Pakistani citizen with connections inside the Pakistani Taliban and had it independently translated by Harvard researcher and translator Mustafa Samdani. The doc was reviewed by three U.S. intel officials, who said they believe the doc is authentic

&&&

• The doc seeks to unite dozens of factions of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban into a single army of terror. It details chilling future battle plans, urges al Qaeda to join the group and says ISIS’s leader should be recognized as the sole ruler of the world’s 1 billion Muslims under a religious empire called a “caliphate.”
• Retired Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt Gen Michael Flynn, who also reviewed the doc, said it “represents the Islamic State’s campaign plan and is something, as an intel officer, I would not only want to capture, but fully exploit. It lays out their intent, their goals and objectives, a red flag to which we must pay attention.”
• The doc warns that “preparations” for an attack in India are underway and predicts that an attack will provoke an apocalyptic confrontation with America. “Attacking in India is the Holy Grail of South Asian jihadists,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, who served more than 30 years with the CIA
• Federal officials Tuesday charged Harlem Suarez, 23, for plotting to blow up a backpack bomb and commit mass murder. The DoJ said he filmed a video in support of ISIS and attempted to buy two AK-47s and a bomb to carry out his plot to bury a bomb beneath the sand on a beach in Key West Fla (TRNS, Hill)
House to Vote on Highway Bill, Go Home (Hill, Hill, me)
• The House plans to approve a three-month highway spending bill today and then leave town, forcing the Senate to approve the short-term measure to prevent a lapse in funding. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said to reporters: “I want a long-term highway bill that is fully paid for.” (but five weeks of vacay is more important right now for everybody)
• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) cried uncle and said he plans to take up the three-month bill today to prevent the Highway Trust Fund from expiring. A number of Democratic leaders have hammered the Republicans for launching their summer recess a day early this week without considering a long-term highway bill
• Lawmakers are facing a 31 July deadline for renewing the nation’s transportation funding. The Senate bill includes a renewal of the Export-Import Bank, which saw its charter expire last month. The House patch excludes a renewal of the bank, which conservatives oppose (uh oh), but includes language allowing Veterans Affairs to shift funds to shore a budget shortfall
• Rep Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the Democratic whip, warned Tuesday, “We are not now at a place of supporting … another short-term highway bill,” so Republicans might have to get the bill over the finish line themselves
• NY prison worker Joyce Mitchell, 51, pleaded guilty Tuesday to assisting two murderers in their elaborate prison breakout last month. Her statements to investigators read like a romance novel. Inmate Richard Matt suddenly “grabbed and kissed me” with an open mouth. Shortly after that, he asked for a screwdriver bit, which Mitchell bought and gave him… (NYT, me)
Fox Lowers Threshold for Early Debate (Politico, me)
• Fox News is opening its 5 pm #fail debate to all the announced Republican candidates who don’t make the cut for the 6 Aug prime-time event, removing a requirement that participants reach at least 1% in polling. So Carly Fiorina, former Gov George Pataki (R-NY) and Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will be in
• Now all 16 announced candidates will qualify for one of the two debates in Cleveland. The 9 pm debate will include the 10 candidates with the highest average in national polls, as determined by Fox News. The 5 pm forum will now include all the also-rans
• Politico estimates the prime-timers today would be: Donald Trump, former Gov Jeb Bush (Fla), Gov Scott Walker (WI), Sen Marco Rubio (Fla), Sen Ted Cruz (Texas), Sen Rand Paul (Ky), former Gov Mike Huckabee (Ark), Ben Carson, Gov Chris Christie (NJ) and former Gov Rick Perry (Texas) – plus his new glasses
• The next three, who would be currently relegated to 5 pm, are Gov John Kasich (Ohio), former Sen Rick Santorum (Pa) and Gov Bobby Jindal (La). They’re followed by Fiorina, Pataki and Graham. They’ve all been getting a good bit of Fox airtime – several for an hour. Tally of the total combined Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network appearances:
• 1) Paul, 35… 2) Huckabee, 31… 3) Trump, 30… 4) Perry, 24… 5-6) Fiorina and Jindal, 20 each… 7) Cruz, 17… 8) Santorum, 16… 9) Rubio, 14… 10-11) Carson and Graham, 12 each… 12-13) Kasich and Pataki, 11 each… 14) Christie, 7… 15) Walker, 4… 16) Bush, 3
NYT has a big piece on hundreds of pages of sworn testimony by Donald Trump over the past decade. “The testimony suggests that Mr Trump’s relationship with the truth can be tenuous – especially when it involves claims about his business.” Lawyer: “Ever exaggerated in statements about your properties?” Trump: “I think everyone does.” (+ much more)
House Conservative Tries to Boot Boehner (Politico, Hill, me)
• Just before 6 pm Tuesday – a day before the House was set to leave town for its five-week summer recess – conservative Rep Mark Meadows (R-NC) offered a motion to vacate the chair, an extraordinarily rare procedural move that represents the most serious expression of opposition to John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) Speakership
• If the motion were to pass – most Republicans say it will be hard to cobble together the votes – Boehner would be stripped of the speaker’s gavel, potentially plunging the House of Representatives into chaos. There’s no obvious candidate to replace Boehner. GOP leaders were gobsmacked. Meadows hadn’t even asked for a meeting
• Meadows has now declared all-out war. Some of Boehner’s close allies said they thought Boehner should call up Meadows’ resolution himself, as a way to demonstrate his power and tamp down the rebellion from the right for good. Unclear what the speaker will do. Meadows’ resolution didn’t hold back
Boehner “Caused Power of Congress to Atrophy”
• The resolution states that Boehner tried to “consolidate power and centralize decision-making bypassing the majority of the 435 members of Congress and the people they represent.” It accuses Boehner of using the “legislative calendar to create crises for the American people, in order to compel members to vote for legislation.”
• The “Speaker has, through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the Executive and Judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American People.” “Whereas the Speaker uses the power of the office to punish members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker.”
• House Oversight chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) last month tried to strip Meadows – a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus (tea party) – of his subcommittee gavel. But Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) rallied conservatives and overruled Chaffetz. Meadows now praises Chaffetz for how he handled the situation
• Meadows and Boehner haven’t had a good relationship. Boehner recently told colleagues that in 2013, Meadows dropped to his knees to beg the Ohio Republican for forgiveness for taking part in discussions about trying to oust him. Will Meadows drop to his knees again if his unlikely bid fails?
• In 2011 and again in 2014, Jon Stewart came to DC for coffee with President Obama. He shook hands with several tourists and was escorted to the Oval Office for a one-on-one sit down. Obama requested the meetings to talk policy. “Hang out. Eat nachos. Watch ‘King Ralph,'” Stewart said Tuesday night on The Daily Show (Politico)
Hillary Clinton Dodges on Keystone Questions (NYT, WSJ, me)
• The day after Hillary Clinton put forth a detailed plan that would go further than any president in using the govt to protect the environment and produce solar and wind energy, she found herself once again stumped on the question of whether or not she would support the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would bring Canadian oil to Texas
• A voter at a Nashua NH town hall, a software engineer, asked Clinton to give a “yes or no” (no no not that…) answer to whether she would support the pipeline, which liberals and environmentalists abhor. “This is President Obama’s decision and I’m not going to second-guess him. If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question,” she said
• Total silence in the un-airconditioned school gymnasium. By the time the news media got to her, Clinton sounded exasperated. “I will not do it,” she said when a CNN reporter pressed her. “I am sorry if people want me to.” (they do – and so will moderators at the debates. she needs to come up with a better answer. voters deserve it)
• “I think to signal that there is only one overriding threat really doesn’t take into account the seriousness of a whole range of issues?” Clinton said.  Clinton also punted on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on Tuesday. “I’m in a different position than any other presidential candidate – I served in this admin for four years.” (so? not now)

• Vid: In Ethiopia, President Obama delivers a blunt message to the African Union. Says democratic progress is blunted when leaders refuse to step aside at the end of their terms. “I actually think I’m a pretty good president. I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t. … The law is the law.” (AP) – applause – but not from all the audience members at the event

Senate GOP Pushes Planned Parenthood Vote (AP, Hill, Hill, me)
• The Senate will vote before its August recess on a Republican effort to block federal aid to Planned Parenthood, GOP leaders said Tuesday, as anti-abortion groups clamored for action by lawmakers
• The obscure anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, released a third heavily edited and covertly recorded video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing procedures for obtaining tissue from aborted fetuses for research. Planned Parenthood has hired a crisis communications firm
• “Good luck with that,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), said of the uphill Republican effort to garner the 60 of 100 Senate votes they’ll need to cut off Planned Parenthood’s money. “We’re dealing with the health of American women, and they’re dealing with some right-wing crazy.”
• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said a group of senators led by Sen Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) were crafting a measure to respond to “these horrendous videos.” Planned Parenthood spent $500,000 targeting Ernst’s position on birth control and abortion in last fall’s election (payback…)
• Planned Parenthood has said it’s done nothing illegal or improper. It receives more than $500 million annually in govt aid, including some state funds. Federal funds cannot be used for abortions except for pregnancies involving rape, incest or where the mother’s life is in danger. It’s illegal to sell fetal tissue for profit, but legal for a group providing it to recover costs of the procedure
• Texas authorities on Tuesday released several hours of video footage of Sandra Bland during her three days in jail to address rumors that she was dead before arriving there (AP)

Spy Jonathan Pollard Granted Parole (AP, WSJ, Fox News, TRNS, me)

• Jonathan Pollard, the former Naval intelligence analyst whose conviction of spying for Israel stoked fierce international passions, has been granted parole and will be released from prison on 21 November after nearly 30 years

• Though the Jewish American community has wrestled with how much leniency he should get, Israelis have long campaigned for his freedom. The govt there has recognized him as an Israeli agent and granted him citizenship. “We are looking forward to his release,” Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Tuesday

• WH and Israeli officials denied that the release was in any way tied to the nuclear deal on Iran, or intended as a concession to Israel. SecState John Kerry told reporters Pollard’s parole was “not at all” connected. Israeli officials have said the release wouldn’t ease their opposition to the Iran agreement

• The DoJ noted that federal sentencing rules in place at the time of Pollard’s prosecution entitled him to parole after 30 years of his life sentence. His lawyers said they intend to ask President Obama for clemency, as well as for the authority for Pollard to leave the U.S. and move to Israel

• Pollard’s supporters maintain that he provided info critical to Israel’s security interests at a time when the country was under threat from its Middle East neighbors, but prosecutors and many in the U.S. intel community have long maintained that his disclosure of voluminous classified docs constituted a criminal breach on par with that of America’s most infamous spies

• NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for his role in the deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship game in Jan, partially based on Brady ordering the destruction of his cellphone, which was evidence. Brady and the union will seek an injunction in federal court stopping the suspension until the case is heard and ruled on (NYT, AP)
US Dentist “Regrets” Killing Cecil the Lion (Guardian, AP, me)
• Oh please. The creep who killed Cecil the iconic Zimbabwean Lion (happy pic) was Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota. He was said to be “quite upset” as the hunter became the hunted on Tuesday. Zimbabwean police warned that he faced poaching charges. Facebook users called for his teeth to be pulled without anesthetic or him to be hunted (sounds legit)
• Cecil the lion, known for his black mane, was about 13 years old and a famous attraction for wildlife tourists in cash-strapped Zimbabwe until, earlier this month, he was tempted outside his sanctuary in a national park using food and shot with a bow and arrow (cruel). Cecil took at least 40 hours to die (incredibly cruel)
• In a statement, Palmer said, “I hired several professionals and they secured all proper permits. To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted.” (except that you cruelly botched the totally unnecessary killing of a beloved animal – whether or not you claim it was legal)
• Palmer, from just outside Minneapolis, said he hadn’t been contacted by authorities from Zimbabwe or the U.S., but was willing to answer questions. “I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity that I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.” (not taking – killing – thus Palmer distances himself from the animal’s death)

Claim: Dentist Beheaded, Skinned Lion

• Johnny Rodrigues, chair of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity, said: “They tracked him down and found him 40 hours later when they (was Palmer) shot him with a gun. The hunters then found that the dead lion was wearing a tracking collar, which they tried unsuccessfully to hide.” (yet locals should have known Cecil by his black mane – he was famous)
• Palmer then allegedly skinned and beheaded the lion, leaving his remains to rot on the park’s outskirts (disgusting). Rodrigues said, “The saddest part of all is that now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho, will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females.” (so Palmer effectively killed several lions – a whole bloodline)
• In a statement late Tuesday, Rep Betty McCollum (D-Minn) called for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to see whether any U.S. laws were violated

• The U.S. has a generous extradition treaty with Zimbabwe. Plus, Palmer may have committed a crime under the U.S. Travel Act – the alleged bribery of wildlife guides to gain access to his prey. The killing apparently isn’t a crime under U.S. law (should be). The U.S. doesn’t consider the African lion endangered, just threatened

Zimbabwe “Looking For Palmer”
• The Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife Authority said professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and local landowner Honest Ndlovu (honest, really?) will appear in court today to face poaching charges. If convicted, the men face 15 years. A police spox said, “We are looking for Palmer in connection with the same case.”

• According to court records, Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to U.S. Fish and Wildlife about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin. He had a permit to hunt but shot the animal outside the authorized zone, then tried to pass it off as being killed elsewhere. Probation and a fine – but he was allowed to keep his bow and arrows

• A 2008 photo shows Palmer posing next to a variety of slain animals, including a wood bison and a lion. In other photos Palmer sits next to a slain rhino – South Africa – or holds up a 175-pound leopard in Zimbabwe (teeth pulled sounds about right – let’s get Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man to be the dentist)

• Minnesota Board of Dentistry records show that Palmer was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint settled in 2006, with Palmer admitting no wrongdoing and agreeing to pay a former receptionist more than $127,000 (speechless at this point – not only teeth pulled out, some might suggest…not me, of course)


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___________________

Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ James Cullum and Anna Merod contributed to this report

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