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
  • Pope Francis takes Washington
  • Boehner: Pope – English/no teleprompter
  • One week to govt shutdown…
  • Hackers took 5.6m govt workers’ fingerprints
  • China’s Xi Jinping to DC: Cybersecurity
  • Amid Syria tensions, Obama & Putin to meet
  • EU leaders pledge aid to Syrians
  • Clinton juggles birtherism / health plan
  • Trump finally blows a gasket
Pope Francis Takes Washington (AP, BBC, NYT, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• Cheered by jubilant crowds across the nation’s capital, Pope Francis forged common cause Wednesday with President Obama on climate change, immigration and inequality, as the popular pontiff signaled he wouldn’t sidestep issues that have deeply divided Americans
 
• Excited crowds lined streets near the WH to catch a glimpse of the smiling and waving Francis as he passed by in his open air popemobile. In keeping with his reputation as the “people’s pope,” Francis kept Obama and other dignitaries waiting so he could spend time greeting schoolchildren gathered outside the Vatican diplomatic mission where he spent the night
 
• With flags snapping, color guard at attention and a military band playing, Francis stepped from his modest Fiat onto the South Lawn on a crisp fall morning. Pope and president stood on a red carpeted platform for the national anthems of the Holy See and the U.S.
 
• Speaking in soft, halting English, Francis said that as the son of an immigrant family, he was “happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.” Francis was enthusiastic in his embrace of Obama’s climate change agenda, specifically praising the president for taking steps to reduce air pollution

 

 • Sofia Cruz, aged 5, managed to get through the barricades and headed towards the pope. “Let her come to me,” the pope told his security detail. She handed him a letter, saying she was an American citizen of Mexican immigrants and wanted him to speak to the president and politicians because she was scared her parents would be taken away and wanted them legalized. (NYT)
 
• “Accepting the urgency, it is clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” said Francis, who has been pressing his environmental message ahead of climate change talks in Paris later this year
 
• The pope’s messages were warmly welcomed by Obama. In his own remarks heralding the pope’s arrival at the WH, Obama thanked Francis for reminding the world of the “sacred obligation to protect our planet – God’s magnificent gift to us.” The two men were also aligned in their call for addressing global poverty and inequality
 
• The pope had something for conservatives, too, with a clear call to protect religious liberties – “one of America’s most precious possessions.” “All are called to be vigilant,” he said, “to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
 
• After their remarks on the lawn, Obama and Francis met one-on-one for 40 minutes in the Oval Office, joined only by an interpreter. WH aides said the discussion was private
 
• In his remarks to U.S. bishops at the Cathedral of St Matthew of the Apostle later, Francis emphasized the need to focus less on defending church teaching and more on compassion. The pope said that “harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor” and encouraged them to speak with anyone, no matter their views

• Interactive with maps: Pope Francis’s complete schedule for U.S. visit (NYT)

 

• In his first comments in the U.S. on the clergy sex abuse scandal that erupted in 2002, the pope praised the bishops for a “generous commitment to bring healing to victims” and for acting “without fear of self-criticism.”
 
• But the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said the bishops had displayed “cowardice and callousness” in response to victims who came forward and they “hide behind expensive lawyers and public relations professionals” instead of fully confronting the scope of the problem within the church
 
• Under public pressure, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pledged to oust any guilty clergy from church work and enact safeguards for children. However, some victims say the bishops still haven’t fully accounted for sheltering abusers. This year, three bishops resigned over their failures to protect children
 
• Later Wednesday, Francis celebrated a Mass of Canonization, the first ever on U.S. soil, for Junipero Serra in Spanish at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. However, Native American groups have accused the 18th century missionary of helping wipe out indigenous people and their culture in California
 
Boehner: Pope – English/No Teleprompter (Medium)
• Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote in a highly personal post on Medium Wed night: Well, it only took me a few tries and 20 years or so. But finally, tomorrow, the Pope will visit the U.S. Capitol. We just had our last rehearsal, so I thought I’d give you a sneak preview of how all this is going to go…
 
• By about 9.15, I will be in my ceremonial office across from the House floor, getting ready to greet him. People have asked me what I’ll be thinking about. … One thing I can tell you: typically I ask our guest how their economy is doing, and go from there. We’ll have to think of something else. It’ll come to me…
 
[9:46] First, the VP and I will read the names of the Escort Committee – basically a bipartisan group of members and senators who will walk into the chamber with the pope. … Then, when the clock strikes 10:01:30, history. Paul Irving, the House Sergeant-at-Arms, will make the announcement: “Mr Speaker, the Pope of the Holy See.”

&&&
 

• The pope will speak in English. He will not use a teleprompter. That’s all I know about the speech, and all I need to know, frankly. There’s been so much talk about what the pope will say, and whether he’ll address this or that. Herein lies exactly why I invited Pope Francis and two popes before him
 
• The pope transcends all of this. He appeals to our better angels and brings us back to our daily obligations The best thing we can all do is listen, open our hearts to his message and reflect on his example…
 
• When you grow up Catholic, you learn about the pope as a distant figure, closer to God than any of us. To have him here, at our Capitol, among our people, is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. A glimpse of grace

One Week to Govt Shutdown (Politico, Hill, Reuters, Hill, me)
• Eleven first-term House Republicans, who aren’t aligned with the far right tea party faction pushing for a govt shutdown, wrote an open letter to other Republicans urging support for a budget patch that would avert a shutdown, at least for a few weeks. They cited concerns about political and economic costs of such an action (and didn’t mention Planned Parenthood)

• Congress is close to the brink of another possible shutdown because conservative House Republicans have vowed not to support any federal spending plan that provides continued taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood, which has been under fire over allegations that it sells aborted fetal tissue

• House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md) said Wednesday that Democrats likely would support a stopgap govt funding bill that maintains current spending levels. Hoyer said his caucus would need to review specifics of any Senate-passed measure, but he expects House Dems will join GOP leaders to pass legislation to avert a shutdown next week

• The Senate today plans to vote on a Republican bill that would extend present govt funding through 11 Dec, but attempt to cut off a portion of Planned Parenthood’s funds. Democrats will block it, forcing Republicans to turn to a “clean” spending bill simply extending all funding (but Dems are wary of sneaky riders creeping on)

• The govt will run out of money next Wednesday if the Senate and House can’t come together to pass a funding measure. The federal govt has begun planning for the possibility of a shutdown, WH spox Josh Earnest said Wednesday. He said it was “only prudent to begin such planning.”

 

• Breaking – and updating – so my figures will likely be out of date: At least 220 people have been killed in a Hajj stampede near the Muslim holy city of Mecca, officials in Saudi Arabia say. At least another 400 people have been injured, civil authorities say (BBC)
 
Hackers Took 5.6 Million Govt Workers’ Fingerprints – OPM (NYT, WSJ, Reuters, me)
• Just a day before the arrival of President Xi Jinping for a meeting with President Obama that will be focused on cyberespionage, the Office of Personnel Management said Wed that the hackers who stole security dossiers from the agency also nabbed the fingerprints of 5.6 million federal employees (timing, much, OPM?)
 
• The attack on the govt’s main personnel agency has been attributed to China by American intel agencies. Before Wed, the agency had said that it lost only 1.1 million sets of fingerprints among the more than 22 million individuals whose records were compromised (math, much, OPM?). The admin has never publicly blamed China
 
• “Federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited,” OPM said in a written statement. But clearly, the uses are growing. The agency said that an “interagency working group” would “review the potential ways adversaries could misuse fingerprint data now and in the future.” (watch some syfy – get a clue)
 
• One of the biggest concerns about the breach of personnel records has been that China, or any other nations given access to the data, could use it to identify intel agents, defense personnel or govt contractors. Other highly personal data on the forms that were obtained could be used for blackmail
 
• During Xi’s visit to DC, he and Obama are expected to announce, at a minimum, that they’re working together on a new set of rules governing cyberspace that would amount to a first effort at a digital arms control agreement. But the rules wouldn’t cover traditional espionage – both sides do it. So the theft of personnel files wouldn’t be covered (that’s that – or hit back)
 

• Essential – and scary – interactive graphic: How many times has your personal info been exposed to hackers? (I’m toast – how about you?) (NYT, me)

 

China’s Xi Jinping to DC: Cybersecurity (AP, AP, me)
• WH officials previewing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington DC today and Friday say they expect robust discussions on cyber, trade and human rights, and they will also look for more ways to improve cooperation to stem global warming and improve global health. The two countries worked together to tackle Ebola in West Africa
 
• Wednesday in Seattle, Xi told a group of CEOs: “China will open up still wider to the outside world. Without reform, there will be no driving force; without opening up, there will be no progress. … There is good news, and I believe there will be more good news in the future.”
 
• Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, said that cracking down on the theft of intellectual property will be a centerpiece of discussions. “We are increasingly hearing concerns about activities that the Chinese have been engaged in, so we want to make very clear this puts at risk China’s ability to continue on its growth if businesses don’t have confidence.”
 
• Xi is scheduled to arrive this afternoon and he and President Obama will have a private dinner tonight. Rhodes said a private dinner allows the two men to put away their talking points. “Far and away, the most constructive engagements they’ve had have been in their private dinners.”
 
• On Friday, there will be an arrival ceremony at the WH followed by meetings and a joint presser. A state dinner honoring the Chinese president will be held at the WH on Friday night (can find all of the details by asking at the Chinese embassy, sure they’ve hacked all the good bits…)

 

Amid Syria Tensions, Obama & Putin to Meet (NYT, me)
• President Obama has decided to meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in New York next week, if it can be arranged, for their first face-to-face encounter in nearly a year as tension rises over the civil war in Syria, American officials said Wednesday
 
• Obama, who has resisted seeing Putin amid deep division over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine last year, concluded that a meeting might now be useful to reinforce the message that the Kremlin should uphold a ceasefire along its border and at the same time press for diplomacy in Syria
 
• The leaders would sit down while they’re both in New York for the annual session of the UN General Assembly, but the two sides were still trying to finalize a mutually convenient time. Russia had indicated for weeks that it wanted a meeting
 
• Advisers to Obama debated whether it was engaging Russia given its rising involvement in the Middle East. But SecState John Kerry supports trying to work with Russia even with the risks, and European allies want Obama to meet Putin to deliver a unified message that Putin needs to fulfill the peace process in Ukraine known as the Minsk accord
 
• As for Syria, an admin official said Obama would argue that Russia should drop its support for President Assad and join a political effort to transition to a new govt. “When it comes to Syria, we’ve always said the only way to resolve this conflict is through diplomacy,” the official said (Putin’s not going to drop his support for Assad unless he’s given a very good reason to)

 

• Colombia’s president and the leader of the Farc rebel group have announced a deal on setting up special courts to try crimes committed during more than five decades of conflict. They also announced the creation of a truth commission and an amnesty law. The agreement is seen as a major breakthrough after nearly three years of peace talks (BBC)
 
EU Leaders Pledge Aid for Syrians (BBC, me)
• EU leaders have pledged another $1.1 billion to help UN agencies support Syrian refugees in the Middle East, as part of renewed efforts to tackle the EU’s refugee crisis. More help will be extended to Syria’s neighbors, where millions have fled since the country’s conflict began. The leaders also agreed on strengthening EU external borders
 
• European Council president Donald Tusk warned that “greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come.” About half a million refugees have arrived in Europe this year, exposing deep divisions within the EU
 
• The emergency summit in Brussels got underway amid a bitter row over the relocation of 120,000 refugees. Several countries opposed the scheme, which imposes mandatory quotas on EU members, with Slovakia launching a legal challenge (several countries are still furious)
 
• France called for an international conference on refugees, with President Francois Hollande singling out the U.S. and Canada for having “to do their bit.” (some resentment) A further EU summit is scheduled for October, with Tusk and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also due to hold talks with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
 
• Also at the conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Syrian president Assad should be involved in talks aimed at ending his country’s civil war, amid fresh diplomatic activity over the conflict

 

Presidential debates: 26 Sept at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. 9 Oct at Washington University in St Louis, Mo, 19 Oct at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Hofstra University, NY, as the backup site. VP debate will be 4 Oct at Longwood University in Farmville, Va (TRNS, Politico)

 

Clinton Juggles Birtherism / Health Plan (Politico, Hill, me)

• Democratic 2016er Hillary Clinton responded to claims by Donald Trump that she or her campaign were behind questions starting in the 2008 election over Barack Obama’s birthplace. “Did you or your campaign start the whole birther thing and did you have any confrontation with the president?” CNN host Don Lemon asked Clinton (such crap by Trump)
 

• “No, that is so ludicrous, Don,” the former secstate replied. “You know, honestly, I just believe that – first of all, it’s totally untrue. And secondly, you know, the president and I have never had any kind of confrontation like that.” Clinton said. (Politifact points out that after Clinton conceded to Obama, a former Clinton volunteer played a key role in spreading the rumor – Clinton knew nothing)
 

• Tuesday night, Donald Trump tweeted: “Just remember, the birther movement was started by Hillary Clinton in 2008. She was all in!” (untrue) “This is such a bad example of what’s wrong with instantaneous reaction and Americans getting all worked up and people feeding prejudice and paranoia like Donald Trump,” Clinton said
 

• Wednesday, Clinton touted a plan to address fast-rising out-of-pocket costs for those who have health coverage. Her proposal would require that insurers pay for at least three doctors’ visits for patients when they get sick. Currently, most patients face steep deductibles when they go to the doctor because they’re sick (good idea – GOP has nothing to compare)
 

• She also proposes a refundable tax credit for Americans with health insurance who are still facing steep medical bills. Her proposal also addresses “surprise” medical bills and would prohibit providers from charging out-of-network rates when a patient visits a facility covered by their insurance plans – more proposals in the Politico article

 

• Donald Trump is in the lead with 26% in a post-debate Fox News poll. Ben Carson is second with 18%. Marco Rubio (watch for him creeping up – man to watch) and Carly Fiorina tie for third place with 9%. Ted Cruz is fourth with 8% and Jeb Bush is sixth with 7%. Trump, Carson, Fiorina and Rubio have all gained since August. Bush and Cruz have slid (Hill, me)
 

Trump Finally Blows a Gasket (Politico, CNN, me)

• Donald Trump blew a gasket Wednesday, telling a crowd: “I’m so sick of this politically correct crap.” Speaking to the Greater Charleston Business Assn and the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce (room was half empty), Trump called Hillary Clinton “shrill” and said, “Hillary is a birther.” (takes one to know one…)
 

• Then he laid into Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla). “He’s got no money, zero. I think that’s OK, [but] … I mean, he’s got nothing. [Rubio] announced he was  going to run because he was overly ambitious, too young – and I have better hair than he does, right?” Trump said to cheers from the crowd
 

• Trump riffed extensively on the sweat of other candidates at last week’s debate. “That room was hot. I mean, poor Chris Christie.” After some gasps and laughter, Trump said, “No, it’s true. “[Christie’s] a nice guy. It wasn’t fair. It was an amazing thing; I was like a piece of water.” (his speech was basically a Vegas lounge act – here all week, enjoy the veal)
 

• “Rubio – I’ve never seen a young guy sweat that much. He’s drinking water, water, water. I never saw anything like this with him with the water,” Trump said. Mike Huckabee? “A nice guy … was seriously hot. I grabbed him around his back … and he was soaking wet. He was drenched.”
 

• Meanwhile, Trump announced in a huge huff that he won’t do any more Fox News shows after The O’Reilly Factor canceled an appearance with him. A Fox News spox said “He doesn’t seem to grasp that candidates telling journalists what to ask is not how the media works in this country.”
 

 
• Cutest thing in history of world: 80-year-old man built a train for all the stray dogs he has rescued and he drives them around in it – and they love it. It’s a dog train (Buzzfeed)

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___________________
Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Nicholas Salazar, James Cullum and Washington Desk contributed to this report

 

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