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
  • Inside top secret Clinton emails
  • Feinstein defends Clinton
  • Kerry in Cuba: Raising US flag
  • ISIS: Used mustard agent?
  • Ben Carson: Wobbly on fetal tissue?
  • Iran: Both sides working it
  • Kentucky clerk: No gay marriage licenses
  • Colorado court: Bakery loses in gay wedding cake case
  • Mine spill: It’s nasty
Inside Top Secret Clinton Emails (AP, me)
• The two emails on Hillary Clinton’s private server that an auditor deemed “top secret” include a discussion of a news article detailing a U.S. drone op and a separate conversation that could point back to highly classified material in an improper manner or merely reflect info collected independently – anonymous U.S. officials who have reviewed the correspondence
• The two emails were marked classified after consultations with the CIA, which is where the material originated, officials said. AP says the officials who spoke to them work in intel and other agencies (intel agencies are said to be furious with Clinton over her security breach – this leak was only a matter of time and is spitting spiiite)
• Clinton didn’t transmit the sensitive info herself, and nothing in the emails she received makes clear reference to communications intercepts, confidential intel methods or any other forms of sensitive sourcing. The officials wouldn’t detail the contents of the emails

&&&

• The drone exchange begins with a copy of a news article that discusses the CIA drone program that targets terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere. The copy makes reference to classified info, and a Clinton adviser follows up by dancing around a top secret in a way that could possibly be inferred as confirmation. Several officials described this claim as tenuous
• A second email reviewed by the intel community IG appears more suspect. Nothing in the message is “lifted” from classified docs, though officials differed on where the info in it was sourced
• Some said it improperly points back to highly classified material, while others countered that it was a classic case of what the govt calls “parallel reporting” – different people knowing the same thing through different means (this isn’t the end of bus throwing of Clinton by intel agencies. She’s going to have tire marks on her face)

• Weirdo Instagram from Trump bizarrely tries to show Hillary Clinton dancing while Benghazi burns. Starts with ominous music, then a creepy ISIS militant with a knife, then President Obama smiling in a golf cart, then a burning U.S. consulate, then Clinton dancing with former Prez Bill Clinton. Because it really happened like that…

Feinstein Defends Clinton (McClatchy, Politico, Daily Mail, me)
• U.S. officials first found classified info among Hillary Clinton’s State Dept emails last May, far earlier than known publicly, and it’s not clear what she and her lawyer did over the following weeks to fully secure the sensitive data, people familiar with federal inquiries into the matter said Thursday (suggestion she did something naughty, McClatchy?)
• Meanwhile, Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, defended Hillary Clinton’s email practices Thursday. Two days after an IG said it found “top secret” info on Clinton’s unsecured email server, Feinstein accused news reports of “missing key points.”
• For example: “none of the emails alleged to contain classified info were written by Sec Clinton,” she said – nor were they marked as “top secret” at the time they were sent. (as SecState she should have expected to receive sensitive and top secret info in the form of emails, so this doesn’t hold up)
• “The questions are whether she received emails with classified info in them, and if so, whether info in those emails should have been classified in the first place,” Feinstein said. “Those questions have yet to be answered. However, it is clear that Sec Clinton did not write emails containing classified info.” (has Feinstein read all 35,000? not the questions – see above)
• Feinstein also dropped another small news nugget, noting that the State Dept IG is conducting a “broader review of the email practices of the past five Secretaries of State and their senior staff.” (could be awkward)

 

• Greek lawmakers approved their country’s draft third bailout – $95 billion – in a parliamentary vote today that relied on opposition party support and saw the govt coalition suffer significant dissent. Marathon overnight session, angry exchanges, usual general chaos (BBC, me)
Kerry in Cuba: Raising Flag Over US Embassy (LAT, me)
• John Kerry is the first SecState to visit Cuba since 1954. He visits Havana today to raise the U.S. flag for the first time in 54 years at the newly reopened U.S. Embassy, giving another push to efforts to normalize ties between the former Cold War foes
• In an interview Wednesday with Telemundo, Kerry said he also intends to try his hand at personal diplomacy by taking a stroll in Old Havana, “meeting whoever I meet and listening to them and having, you know, whatever views come at me.” (just don’t try riding a bicycle – pavements look a bit iffy)
• The U.S. and Cuba officially restored diplomatic relations 29 July, as part of the normalization initiative President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December
Critics / Fidel Castro
• Congressional critics point to a reported surge of arrests in Cuba, including about 90 activists, including some who oppose the resumption of diplomatic relations. Kerry’s “presence in Havana on his global capitulation tour is yet another example of the Obama admin’s desire to pursue deals at any cost,” said Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla) – statement
• U.S. officials say they’re determined to push on human rights, including economic freedoms, but no dissidents were invited to the formal flag-raising ceremony at the embassy. However, dissidents and other members of Cuba’s “civil society” are expected at a much larger gathering that Kerry will host later today at the residence of the U.S. chief of mission
• Full normalization is unlikely until Cuba addresses long-standing claims by Cubans and U.S. businesses that lost billions of dollars in property and assets when the communists came to power. Cuba wants the U.S. govt to give back Guantanamo and lift the congressional trade embargo (sooo no time soon, then)
• In a newspaper column Thursday, Fidel Castro said the U.S. owes Cuba “compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars, as our country has stated with irrefutable arguments and data in all of its speeches at the UN.” Castro pointedly didn’t mention the ceremony today
• No, Al Gore isn’t running for president. #totaltempestteapot “There’s no truth to it. He’s laser-focused on solving the climate crisis,” Gore spox Betsy McManus said Thursday evening, after Buzzfeed posted a story saying that “supporters” of Gore had begun a round of conversations about a 2016 run, quoting a (single, solitary) senior Democrat (me, Politico)
ISIS: Used Mustard Agent? (WSJ, me)
• ISIS militants likely used mustard agent against Kurdish forces in Iraq on Wednesday, senior U.S. officials said Thursday, in the first indication the militant group has obtained banned chemicals. They could have obtained the mustard agent in Syria, whose govt admitted to having large quantities in 2013
• The use of mustard agent would mark a worrisome upgrade in ISIS’s battlefield capabilities, given U.S. intel fears about hidden caches of chemical weapons in Syria, where ISIS controls wide swaths of territory (suspect they have all sorts of stuff)
• It’s also possible that ISIS obtained the mustard agent in Iraq, possibly from old stockpiles that belonged to Saddam Hussein and weren’t destroyed. In addition to mustard, the Assad regime admitted to having deadlier nerve agents, such as sarin and VX. Officials said there’s no evidence that ISIS has either sarin or VX (no evidence they don’t, either)
• The intel agencies have said that they believed ISIS has used chlorine gas in attacks in Iraq. Chlorine isn’t a banned chemical agent but its use as a weapon is banned under international law (which ISIS totally ignores). It’s unclear how much mustard ISIS has. A senior military official said the amounts weren’t believed to be large
• Pentagon officials sought to play down the dangers to U.S. military personnel in Iraq since they aren’t taking part in combat ops alongside Kurdish Peshmerga fighters or other Iraqi forces. “Mustard isn’t VX or sarin,” the senior U.S. military official said. “It has to be used in high concentrations to be fatal.” (general playing down of things by Pentagon, all around)
• Jeb Bush takes to the Des Moines Register’s Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair at 9.30 am. Will someone waterboard him, for grins? Thursday, he said: “I don’t want to make a definitive, blanket kind of statement” about the future use of torture. (Cheney for Veep, anyone?) Here’s this year’s Iowa State Fair Butter Cow (WHO TV, me)
Ben Carson: Wobbly on Fetal Tissue? (WaPo, Hill, CNN, me)
• Ben Carson defended the use of fetal tissue for medical research Thursday, after Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, published on her blog excerpts of a 1992 paper describing work the neurosurgeon-now-2016er carried out using “two fetuses aborted in the ninth and 17th week of gestation.”
• “You have to look at the intent,” Carson said in New Hampshire. “To willfully ignore evidence that you have for some ideological reason is wrong. If you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it.” (OK for someone else to do the “baby killing” for you?)
• Carson, who has risen in polls since last week’s GOP debate, has condemned Planned Parenthood since edited attack videos have come out discussing its distribution of fetal tissue. In July, Carson said there was “nothing that can’t be done without fetal tissue” and that babies aborted at 17 weeks were clearly human beings
• That inspired Gunter to excavate a 1992 paper, co-authored by Carson. “Could he think his own research was useless?” Gunter asked. “If it was non-contributory to the field why was it published? Maybe he’d forgot that he’d done the research on fetal tissue.” Carson hadn’t forgotten
• Asked if fetal tissue should be banned or if it was immoral, Carson said no. He also argued that fetal tissue research can be life-saving. “It’s one of the reasons why at the turn of the last century, the average age of death was 47. Now, the average age of death is 80. Using the info you have is a smart thing, not a dumb thing.”
• Fox News’s Megyn Kelly is taking some sudden vacation. She announced Thursday she’ll be gone for the next week and a half. “It’s been an interesting week and a long six months without a vacation for yours truly.” (Shunting her out of the limelight, much?)

 

Iran: Both Sides Working It (Hill, Politico, Hill, Hill, TRNS, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• The nuclear deal with Iran will give the U.S., Israel and other countries the “freedom” to confront Tehran’s support for terrorism and violations of human rights, Energy Sec Ernest Moniz said Thursday in a webcast session coordinated by Jewish Federations of North America
• Sen Jon Tester (D-Mont) is throwing his weight behind the nuclear deal, saying: “It’s clear this deal is the only option right now to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.” Sen Al Franken (D-Minn) also announced his support, calling the deal “the most effective, realistic way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon in the next 15 years.” 20 “yes” in Senate

• Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is threatening to withhold funding from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will conduct inspections under the deal, unless the Obama admin discloses specifics of several so-called “side deals” the agency has with Iran. Graham chairs the Appropriations Committee subcommittee charged with overseeing funding

• Current and former Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are trying to persuade their colleagues to back the deal by pointing to past intel assessments. Classified reviews available to lawmakers make it clear that Iran wouldn’t be able to cheat without being detected, 10 Democrats wrote in a letter on Thursday
• The lawmakers also seek to address “side deals.” “
[O]ur intelligence is far more comprehensive and accurate than the statements we are likely to obtain from Iran’s scientists or the info we can gather from IAEA access to sites Iran has had a decade to bulldoze and sanitize,” they said
Kentucky Clerk: No Gay Marriage Licenses (AP, me)
• A gay couple marched into the Rowan County, Ky, clerk’s office Thursday, carrying a federal judge’s order that said the clerk can’t deny them a marriage license based on her deeply held Christian beliefs. Still, clerk Kim Davis’ office turned them away
• Davis was the first to be sued after SCOTUS legalized gay marriage in June, and her attorneys vowed to keep fighting in a case legal experts have likened to resistance some officials put up five decades ago when SCOTUS legalized interracial marriage
• “We’re going to fight this to the very end,” said Karen Roberts, shaking, after she was denied a license. Gov Steve Beshear (D) has told defiant clerks, who are elected, to issue licenses or resign
• U.S. District Judge David Bunning said in his ruling Wednesday that David has likely violated the Constitution’s protection against the establishment of a religion by “openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expense of others.” Davis’ attorneys have asked the judge for a stay, and Bunning hasn’t yet ruled
• David Ermold broke down in the county judge-executive’s office after he was denied a license to marry David Moore, his partner of 17 years. “I will say that people are cruel, they are cruel, these people are cruel,” he said. The county judge’s exec secretary, Lois Hawkins, started to cry with him
Colorado Court: Bakery Can’t Refuse Wedding Cake to Gays (Hill, Politico, NYT, me)
• The Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled under the state’s anti-discrimination law that Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who is opposed to same-sex marriage, may not refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. He had argued that baking the cake violated his First Amendment Rights
• “We conclude that the act of designing and selling a wedding cake to all customers free of discrimination does not convey a celebratory message about same-sex weddings likely to be understood by those who view it,” Judge Daniel Taubman wrote in the 64-page opinion
• If it [the bakery] wishes to operate as a public accommodation and conduct within the State of Colorado CADA [Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act] prohibits it from picking and choosing customers based on their sexual orientation.” The couple suing Phillips were David Mullins and Charlie Craig, and were represented by the ACLU
• Phillips contended that refusing to bake a wedding cake for gay couples doesn’t constitute discrimination, citing his willingness to bake other items for gay customers. The court rejected the argument, calling the distinction “one without a difference.” (it’s a nonsense argument)
• Phillips, represented by the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, hasn’t announced whether he’ll appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court. Rick Mar with the ACLU, said: “In America, no one should be turned away from a shop or restaurant because of who they are or who they love.”
• President Obama’s summer reading list: “All That Is” – James Salter, “All The Light We Cannot See” – Anthony Doerr, “The Sixth Extinction” – Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Lowland” – Jhumpa Lahiri, “Between The World and Me” – Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Washington: A Life” – Ron Chernow – would have to read one every two and a half days (sooo not going to happen) (me, TRNS)
Mine Spill: It’s Nasty (AP, me)
• The EPA announced, under increasing political pressure on Thursday, that surface-water testing revealed very high levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals as a sickly-yellow plume of mine waste flowed through Colorado. Lead = 3,580 times higher than fed standards for human drinking water. Arsenic = 823 times level for human ingestion
• Those levels were in the hours after the 5 August spill, which sent 3 million gallons of wastewater through three Western states and the Navajo nation. The EPA said its analysis shows the heavy metals quickly returned to “pre-event” levels once the plume passed through the area it tested. EPA chief Gina McCarthy has taken full responsibility and will pay
• The 100-mile long plume has dissipated, its heavy metals settling into riverbeds. McCarthy said Thursday the results showed the river is “restoring itself.” She spoke during a visit to Farmington, NM, where she announced the EPA has released $500,000 to help supply clean water for crop irrigation and livestock in northwestern NM (big deal)
• Outside experts are warning of the potential for continued risk to both wildlife and humans for many years to come as the toxic metals settle into river bottoms and seep into groundwater. Over the long term, these metals can seep into the surrounding water table, potentially polluting drinking wells. EPA has offered some well testing for homeowners

• Meanwhile, New Mexico’s environment sec, Ryan Flynn, slammed Colorado Gov John Hickenlooper for putting an iodine tablet in a bottle of Animas River water to kill bacteria before taking a gulp. He was trying to prove the river was back to normal. Flynn said Hickenlooper may as well have lit 15 cigarettes at once…


• Rocking into the weekend with “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” – Jamie XX feat Young Thug and Popcaan (great, catchy summer anthem from the cool English remix artist – er, might be a bit naughty later in song)

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___________________

Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Loree Lewis and Sydnee Fried contributed to this report

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