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.
If you’re on the East Coast – keep a watch out for Joaquin – could dump very serious rain, flooding, high winds. Maybe turn into a hurricane
News Now
  • Planned Parenthood hearing: “Farce”
  • Speaker scramble / Govt shutdown – zero hour
  • Budget talks: McConnell pushes Dem shutout
  • Kim Davis: Secretly met Pope?
  • Obama: Fight ISIS with all tools
  • Obama/Castro: Bromance?
  • Frustrated pols want cyber retaliation
  • Obamacare repeal bill advances…
Planned Parenthood Hearing: “Farce” (WSJ, NYT, WaPo, Think Progress, NYT, WaPo, me)
• Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said accusations the organization broke laws in procuring fetal tissue were “outrageous and categorically untrue” in her first appearance on Capitol Hill since a string of videos that have been altered and edited were released by an antiabortion group. She testified at a
[n animal house] House Oversight Committee hearing
 

• The hearing was highly acrimonious. “Planned Parenthood has been in the news recently because of deceptively edited videos released by a group dedicated to making abortion illegal in this country,” she said, adding that no federal funds pay for abortions except in limited circumstances. “Using fetal tissue in life-saving medical research is legal.”
 

• Meanwhile, the clock ticks on a govt shutdown that will begin tomorrow if a stopgap funding bill can’t be passed (Hail Mary bill passing going on). While the funding fight is ostensibly about abortion and fetal tissue, the subtext is politics: Republicans perceive PP as a well-oiled, well-funded machine promoting Democratic candidates (welllll…)
 

• Chair Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) opened the hearing with a weird, tearful commentary in which he appeared to blame the death of his mother to cancer on PP, and possibly the death of his father to cancer, too. He said he felt strongly that federal money should be shifted away from PP so it could go to other health care research

 

• Conservative pundits were gobsmackingly embarrassed by the GOP lawmakers. Federalist co-founder Sean Davis tweeted: “Can you imagine if this band of incompetent morons had been in charge of prosecuting the Nuremberg trials? My goodness what a farce.”

 

• Chaffetz accused PP of spending millions on travel, lavish parties, and repeatedly – I mean repeatedly – attacked and hammered Richards for her salary of more than $500,000
 

• Democrats were apoplectic. Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said, “In my entire time I’ve been in Congress, I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary – and especially a woman.” Rep Gerald Connolly (D-Va) accused Republicans of “misogyny” and said he hoped that every American woman was watching the hearing (too busy gagging)
 

• Chaffetz put up a chart that purported to show PP’s breast cancer screenings going down over time as the number of its abortions spiked. Richards said she didn’t know where the numbers came from. “You’re going to deny?” – Chaffetz, incredulous. With every exchange, they raised their voices until both were practically yelling over each other
 

• Chaffetz said he pulled them from her corporate reports. Someone then whispered to her. She interrupted Chaffetz: “Excuse me, my lawyer is informing me that the source of this is actually Americans United for Life, which is an antiabortion group, so I would check your source.” He was deflated. “It doesn’t feel like we’re trying to get to the truth here,” she said

 

• American Spectator digital editor Emily Zanotti tweeted: “Say what you want, this GOP freak show of a Planned Parenthood hearing is embarrassing. Can we have actual experts testify, please?”  Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) “questions” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, repeatedly interrupting her (me, CNN)

 

• The GOP majority dodged an awkward moment when Rep Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn), a pro-life lawmaker who, according to court records, encouraged his wife and mistress to have abortions, yielded his time to a colleague (can’t make this stuff up)
 

• Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)  wanted to know what Richards had been apologizing for when she issued an apology after the first set of videos was released. Richards said because “it was bad judgment to have a clinical discussion in a non-clinical setting.”
 

• Jordan: “Why didn’t you say that?” Richards: “We may have to agree to disagree on this matter.” Jordan: “I don’t think we’re agreeing to disagree. I think you’re not answering my question.” Richards: “I think I’ve answered it repeatedly.” Interrupting – voices rising – until Jordan’s time runs out…
 

• Rep Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn) then wanted to know whether she defended the sale of fetal tissue. Richards explained it was started under the Reagan admin and was fetal tissue donation
 

• Duncan: “My time has run out. I just want to say this: It seems to me that the apology you offered was like what some criminals do. They’re not really sorry for what they have done. They are sorry they got caught and it seems to me that your apology is more because you got caught on these videos.” Richards: “I respectfully disagree.”

 

• A judge on Tuesday blocked an order by Utah Gov Herbert to cut off federal money going to PP in the state after the release of videos by a California anti-abortion group. An investigation by the AG’s office in Missouri has found no evidence that a PP clinic in the state illegally handled fetal tissue (AP, NYT)

 

Speaker Scramble / Govt Shutdown? Zero Hour (AP, TRNS, me)

• House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) pledged to bring together divided House Republicans on Tuesday after Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) sudden resignation Friday. McCarthy moved aggressively to lock up support, including among conservatives, for the top job, even saying that Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is “healthy for this party.”
 

• Meanwhile, the race to replace him as majority leader turned volatile, with some on the right saying they wanted to draft Benghazi Committee chair Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC). He took himself out of the running. Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La) and Budget Committee chair Tom Price (R-Ga) are battling fiercely for the No. 2 job
 

• House Republicans met behind closed doors Tuesday evening for an unusual members only meeting. Lawmakers said it was a wide-ranging discussion on how they move forward from Boehner’s stunning announcement that he’ll step down end of Oct, rather than face a tea party-driven floor vote to push him out

&&&
 

• Lawmakers aired frustration. “There needs to be a major therapy session and a lot of dialogue and a lot of putting down our knives and just having a really great heart-to-heart and coming to grips with some very, very tough things,” said Rep Matt Salmon (R-Ariz), one of the rebels. He complained of feeling excluded and unable to represent his constituents
 

• But, “Are we going to keep lying? Are we going to tell the American people, or try to fool them into believing that we can unilaterally repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood, bring down the president’s executive orders?” asked Rep Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla). “Or are we going to be serious, are we going to lead?” (no, probably not – too fractured)
 

• Stopgap legislation to keep the govt running is expected to clear Congress just ahead of tonight’s midnight deadline. Despite conservatives’ demands, the bill won’t cut off money for Planned Parenthood. The bill merely extends govt funding until 11 Dec – when another shutdown showdown looms…

 

• The U.S. military says it has conducted two more airstrikes overnight on Taliban positions around the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, seized by the insurgents this week. A U.S. army spox says coalition advisers are at the scene today “advising Afghan security forces.” Afghan forces have been massing to retake the city – likely to be a protracted battle (AP, me)

 

Big Budget Talks: McConnell Pushes Dem Shut-Out (Politico, CNN, me)
• As President Obama and top congressional leaders prepare to launch negotiations on a two year budget deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) is maneuvering to cut key Democrats out of the talks, according to sources familiar with the nascent negotiations. Drama!
 
• McConnell is privately suggesting that the discussions be limited to just him, Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), according to Democratic sources – a proposal the president and outgoing speaker have rejected (ie no Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif)
 
• Tuesday, McConnell detailed the talks, which are focused on top-line budget numbers for fiscal 2016 and 2017. Discussions are preliminary. Democrats and many Republicans are eager for a broader agreement that would lift federal spending for domestic programs – the top demand of Dems – while GOPers want more more for defense – (could be tough to agree)
 
• But many conservatives want to keep strict spending caps in place, praising them as a measure of fiscal discipline. In exchange for increasing some key spending levels, McConnell will insist on offsetting those costs and will take a hard line against any tax hikes (a bit moot anyway if Democrats aren’t part of the talks)
 
• The December spending showdown will serve as a major test for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the likely successor to speaker Boehner, who is promising to take a more aggressive approach with the Senate and WH in his bid for speaker. The talks are unlikely to conclude before Boehner leaves, so McCarthy would have to jump in – (should be fun times)

 

• Donald Trump ended a massively long one week boycott of Fox News and went on The O’Reilly Factor Tuesday night – via satellite. Couldn’t be bothered to go the 8 blocks or so. Said it’s a “wonderful thing” for Putin to fight ISIS. O’Reilly pointed out that actually strengthens Putin in the Middle East. Trump flailed wildly. Had no clue. Was an embarrassment to himself
 

Kim Davis: Secretly Met Pope? (NYT, me)

• Pope Francis met secretly in Washington last week with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who defied a court order to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, her lawyer said in a phone interview Tuesday night. Francis gave her rosaries and told her to “stay strong,” the lawyer said
 

• Davis and her husband, Joe, were sneaked into the Vatican Embassy by car Thursday afternoon, according to Davis’s lawyer, Matther Staver. The couple met for about 15 minutes with the pope, who was accompanied by security, aides and photographers
 

• Davis spent five days in jail for disobeying a federal court order to issue marriage licenses. Staver said that Vatican officials had been aware of Davis, and that the meeting had been arranged through them. On the plane trip home, the pope said “conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right” in answer to an American reporter’s question
 

• Davis asked the pope to pray for her, which he said he would, and then the pope asked Davis to pray for him, Staver said. They spoke in English, he said, and the pope gave the Davises two rosaries. Davis gave the rosaries to her mother and father, who are Catholics. Davis is an Apostolic Christian
 

• Staver said that he, the Davises and Vatican officials had agreed to keep the meeting secret until the pope had left the U.S. because, he said, “we didn’t want the pope’s visit to be focused on Kim Davis.” The meeting was first reported by Inside the Vatican

 

• The African Union says a special court will be set up to try war crimes suspects in South Sudan, which has been hit by a brutal conflict since 2013. The move is aimed at providing an “African solution” to the conflict. An inquiry has found that both govt and rebel forces have committed atrocities, the AU said (BBC)

 
Obama: Fight ISIS With All Tools (NYT, AP, me,)
• President Obama on Tuesday pledged all possible tools – military, intelligence, economic, ideas – to defeat ISIS, but acknowledged the extremist group has taken root in Syria and Iraq, is resilient and continues to expand. Obama said the approach would take time. “This is not an easy task.” (understatement)
 
• Obama spoke as chairman of a UN gathering of world leaders working to expand the battle against terrorism, a day after he and the leaders of Russia, China and Iran addressed the General Assembly. The fight has been complicated by a Russian military buildup in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad
 
• Even VP Joe Biden acknowledged in a candid moment when he arrived in New York that little would come of Tuesday’s meeting. He asked a group of reporters who were following him if they would stay awake at the UN meeting and “30 speeches about how we’re going to go after ISIS.” (wonder if he had a little trip to the woodshed after that comment)
 
• The conclave seemed to heighten the bewilderment of world leaders over how a movement like ISIS, which slaughters opponents, enslaves women and destroys historical artifacts, can continue to attract followers from around the world. And international efforts to combat ISIS’ online propaganda have been an abysmal failure – recent State Dept assessment
 
• Nearly 30,000 recruits from more than 100 countries have poured into Syria since 2011, almost doubling the total that was estimated a year ago, officials have said. The increase occurred despite international efforts to tighten borders, share intel and enforce antiterrorism laws

 

• The meeting on combating violent extremism coincided with an announcement Tuesday by the Treasury Dept in DC that it was freezing the assets or blocking the banking transactions of 15 people considered to be critical facilitators for ISIS (NYT)

 

Obama/Castro: Bromance? (NYT, Politico, ABC News, Hill, me)
• President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba met Tuesday for the second time in six months, continuing a gradual warming of ties that has upset conservative critics of Obama and some Republican presidential candidates – but world leaders gave Obama his big applause line when he mentioned Cuba in his UN speech Monday
 
• Obama smiled broadly during a brief photo op before the meeting with Castro, who said with a laugh that the American president, far taller, towered over him. The meeting comes as the U.S. and Cuba are working through the thorny process of normalizing relations after five decades of hostility
 
• In July, the two countries re-opened embassies, shuttered since 1961. The Obama admin announced last week it would further ease business and travel restrictions with Cuba. Commerce Sec Penny Pritzker is traveling to Cuba next week to discuss new rules to conduct financial and business transactions
 
• But there’s only so much Obama can do with the trade embargo still in place, and there’s little chance Congress will lift the embargo without clear signs that Cuba is changing politically. In his speech Monday, Castro called for the lifting of the embargo and for the return of the American military base at Guantanamo (Gitmo sooo not going to happen)
 
• 2016er Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla) wrote a letter to Obama Tuesday expressing concerns about reports speculating that the U.S. might abstain from voting on an anti-embargo resolution in the UN. Top admin officials have said they can’t say how they’ll deal with the Cuba-backed resolution until the text has been completed (dodge – I mean, really?)

 

• George executed Kelly Gissendaner, 47, its only woman on death row, today, the first time in 70 years the state has executed a woman. She was convicted for plotting the killing of her husband. The man who actually killed him received a life sentence. Pope Francis had urged clemency (Reuters)
 
Frustrated Pols Want Cyber Retaliation (Hill, Reuters, TRNS, me)
• Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle laid into top intel and defense officials on Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, days after the WH announced a “common understanding” with China that both countries would refrain from conducting or supporting digital economic theft
 
• The deal came after the Obama admin appeared to back away from slapping China with economic sanctions for hacking the U.S. private sector. “Why wouldn’t we take hard actions against them?” asked Sen Joe Manchin (D-WVa), referencing myriad reports that Chinese hackers have pilfered technology from U.S. defense contractors
 
• The Obama admin has been under increasing political pressure to stymie the flood of attacks that industry leaders say are eroding their global competitive advantage. National security experts are also worried that foreign govts like Russia and China are hacking into federal networks with no repercussions
 
• Asked if he was optimistic the deal would eliminate Chinese cyber attacks, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said simply, “No.” “Such malicious activity will continue and probably accelerate until we establish and demonstrate the capability to deter malicious state-sponsored cyber activity,” he said, describing the environment as “the Wild West”
 
• Clapper warned the U.S. conducts its own cyberspace espionage and so is limited to how it can respond to something like the OPM hack – a legit spying target. Sen John McCain (R-Ariz) said, “So it’s OK for them to steal our secrets that are most important, because we live in a glass house?” “I did not say it’s a good thing. I’m just saying both nations engage in this,” Clapper said

 

• Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked thousands of docs about NSA surveillance, joined Twitter on Tuesday – @Snowden – and now has 902,000 followers. He follows (trolls…) just one account – the NSA’s. His first tweet was “Can you hear me now?” Yup
 
Obamacare Repeal Bill Advances… (Hill, AP, me)
• The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation that would repeal several major Obamacare provisions through the fast-track process known as reconciliation. “We’re going to pass a bill that can dismantle Obamacare and reach the president’s desk,” said chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis) (this one actually could, too)
 
• The measure would repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates for obtaining and providing insurance (gutting the law), along with two major taxes used to pay for the law: a 40% tax on high-cost health plans – “Cadillac Tax,” (Hillary Clinton wants to get rid of it), and a 2.3% excise tax on medical devices
 
• It would abolish a board charged with recommending Medicare cuts if spending rises above a certain level, called the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Reconciliation will allow Republicans to get the repeal bill to President Obama because the bill won’t be subject to a filibuster in the Senate
 
• While Obama is sure to veto the package, Republicans are determined to show that their majority is fighting to scale back the law. The package will include a provision slashing federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an issue that had threatened to derail work on a govt funding bill
 
• Democrats denounced the GOP efforts, pointing to CBO projections that repealing the individual mandate would reduce the number of people with insurance by 14 million in 2025. They also pointed to CBO projections that premiums would increase by 20% in the individual market without the mandate enticing healthier people to sign up (oh goody)
 
Get a hanky – viral pic! As a father prepares to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding, he halts the procession and makes a gesture that’s resonated with stepparents around the world. Todd Bachmann approaches Todd Cendrosky  and invites him to walk the bride down the aisle together. Cendrosky hadn’t expected it and began to cry as he was led by the hand

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___________________
Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald and Loree Lewis contributed to this report

 

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