Talk Media News
 

Victoria Jones created and edits Quick Morning News. She is chief White House correspondent with Washington DC-based Talk Media News, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.
 

Quick News
  • Democratic debate: 9 Key Moments
  • Sanders’ Fidel Castro “stumble”
  • Trump calls for party unity
  • Justin Trudeau in DC: Collective swoon
  • Senators spar over SCOTUS
  • Barack won’t meet Fidel in Cuba
  • Air Force vet guilty: Trying to aid ISIS
 
Democratic Debate: 9 Key Moments (NYT, Politico, WaPo, me)
• Early in Thursday night’s contentious Democratic debate in Miami, Univision’s Jorge Ramos pressed Hillary Clinton on whether she would drop out of the race if she were indicted on charges related to her private email server. Boos groans from audience. Moderators pushed. Then: “Oh, for goodness – that is not going to happen. I am not even answering that question.”
 
• In response to Clinton’s charge that Bernie Sanders supported the Minuteman patrols along the Mexican border, Sanders bristled. “No, I do not support vigilantes, and that is a horrific statement and unfair statement to make. … Madam secretary, I will match my record against yours any day of the week.” WaPo was co-moderator with Univision – (good jobs, tough)
 
• Clinton mocked Donald Trump’s plan for a wall on the Mexican border, saying he’d build the “most beautiful tall wall, better than the great wall of China” to be “magically” paid for by Mexico.” A “fantasy.” Sanders said on immigration, “we do not, as Donald Trump and others have done, resort to racism and xenophobia and bigotry.” (both declined to call Trump a “fascist”)
 
• In response to a question about a WaPo poll saying many Americans didn’t trust her, Clinton repeated a recently rolled-out self-deprecating line: “I am not a natural politician, in case you haven’t noticed, like my husband or President Obama, so I have a view that I just have to do the best I can, get the results I can, make a difference in people’s lives.”

 

• Backdrop to the Miami debate was an upset victory for Sanders in Michigan on Tuesday, where he made surprising inroads with African Americans. Next big test: Votes next Tuesday for Democrats and Republicans in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio

Sanders’ Fidel Castro “Stumble”
• The Latin Times has a brutal headline today: “Bernie Sanders stumbles on Fidel Castro question in Miami” The paper asks whether Sander’s refusal to “disavow” Castro was his “David Duke” moment – his answer to a question about 1985 praise for Castro in a video is too long for here. He praised Cuba’s health care, not its authoritarianiam, but didn’t separate from Castro – Clinton pounced

 

• A woman in the audience asked in Spanish what each would do to reunite families such as hers who have been divided by U.S. immigration policy. “Ma’am, I will do everything I can to unite your family,” Sanders said. “It’s time to bring families together,” Clinton said
 
• Clinton hammered Sanders for voting against a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 sponsored by Sen Edward Kennedy (D-Mass). Sanders said there were provisions in the bill on guest workers “akin to slavery.” He said he voted for a 2013 bill that fixed some of those problems. Back and forth – totally unresolved. Clinton was a senator from New York at the time
 
• After playing a video in which the mother of an American killed in Benghazi questioned whether Clinton had told the truth about the attacks, Ramos bluntly asked, “Did you lie to them?” Clinton was taken aback. “She’s wrong. She’s absolutely wrong. When we had information, we made it public, but then sometimes we had to go back and say we have new information that contradicts it.”
 
• Clinton said of Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Sanders: “What Secretary Clinton is saying is that the U.S. should continue to be the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all of our people.” Clinton: “I do believe in universal coverage. Remember I fought for it 25 years ago.”
 
Trump Calls for Party Unity (AP, me)
• The often-brash Donald Trump softened his tone, at least temporarily, on Wednesday, hours after securing three more primary victories, praising House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) as a man he respects and encouraging Mitt Romney to promote party harmony. Trump said he’s poised to score a knockout in next week’s winner-take-all primaries in Florida and Ohio
 
• Meanwhile, former Gov Jeb Bush (R-Fla) planned to confer with all the candidates – save Trump – ahead of tonight’s GOP debate. He met privately with Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla) on Wednesday, and planned to meet with Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov John Kasich (R-Ohio) today, his spox said (fly on walls)
 
• Rubio in recent weeks has poked fun at Trump’s hair, tan and hand size. Now: “My kids were embarrassed by it and if I had to do it over again I wouldn’t,” Rubio said on MSNBC Wednesday night (analysts say it’s hurt him and that had he stayed above the fray, he would have stood out)
 
• Cruz received a welcome endorsement from former rival, retired business exec Carly Fiorina. Acknowledging many mainstream Republicans fear Cruz is too conservative, she told a Miami crowd that she’s “horrified” by Trump. “The truth is that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two sides of the same coin,” she said (still unpacking that)
 
• Trying to keep the focus on Clinton’s emails, the Republican National Committee on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama admin trying to force the release of additional communications. “If this admin claims to be the ‘most transparent in history,’ and Clinton the ‘most transparent person in public life,’ then they should prove it,” the RNC said

 

• Republican debate is tonight in Miami. CNN hosts. Jake Tapper moderates – has been quite tough recently. Supposed to start at 8:30 EST. Florida’s primary is Tuesday. Next Republican debate is 21 March in Salt Lake City – no further details (Politico)
 
Justin Trudeau In DC: Collective Swoon (Time, Reuters, me)
• When President Obama congratulated Canadian PM Justin Trudeau by phone on the young Liberal’s sweeping victory last October, he remembers saying: “I just want to point out that I had no grey hair when I was in your shoes seven years ago. So if you don’t want to have grey hair like me, you have to start dying it soon.”
 
• Obama admin officials previewed a hearty agenda ahead of Trudeau’s WH visit today, with topics ranging from the fight against ISIS to climate change. The two leaders are also expected to discuss trade, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal world leaders etched out after years of negotiation (which is likely going nowhere in the Senate any time soon)
 
• “I think there is a developing special relationship between this president and the PM,” National Security Council Senior Director for Western Hemispheric Affairs, Mark Feierstein, said Tuesday. “Both young leaders with similar visions. Both have a progressive vision of governing. … Both are committed to diversity.”
 
• Though the men share common interests, one of the two leaders is on his way out of the door. And among the people standing in line to replace him are fierce critics of existing trade policies, immigration and the acceptance of refugees from countries like Syria – who Canada has welcomed with open arms
 
• In a 60 Minutes interview this week, Trudeau offered a subtle criticism of Donald Trump, saying that “being open and respectful towards each other is a much more powerful way to defuse hatred and anger than … big walls and oppressive policies.” (will be interesting to see whether candidates comment on Trudeau’s visit today)

 

• The Obamas are hosting a state dinner for the Trudeaus tonight. Vivid greens and white are the colors to evoke the coming of spring. Baked Alaska halibut casserole with spring vegetables. Herb-crusted Colorado lamb with a splash of Canadian whiskey. Cake with toasted Texas pecans and New England maple syrup. Assortment of pastries
 
Senators Spar Over SCOTUS (Politico, Hill, me)
• Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Pat Leahy (D-Vt) called for hearings for a Supreme Court nominee at the committee’s first hearing since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month. “The Senate’s consideration of the next Supreme Court nominee should not be a question of politics or electoral math,” he said
 
• Leahy also complained: “The Republican members met behind closed doors to unilaterally decide, without any input from this committee, that this committee and the Senate as a whole will refuse to consider any nominee this year. It’s a dereliction of our Constitutional duty.”
 
• Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) replied: “It isn’t any different than if the president of the U.S. notifies Congress well in advance of passing a piece of legislation that he’s going to veto it. It’s up to the Senate to decide how we do our job with regard to ‘advise and consent.'” Grassley added there’s nothing nefarious about party caucuses
 
• It was (sort of) a regular oversight hearing for the Justice Dept, featuring AG Loretta Lynch – who (probably smartly) announced Tuesday night that she had asked not to be considered for the vacancy. “There’s so much that I want to push through and cross that goal line before the end of this administration,” Lynch said during an event Tuesday
 
• Sen Al Franken (D-Minn) tweaked the GOP on the Supreme Court issue. “It’s good that we’re here doing our job. I think we should maybe say that we should continue doing our job when the president puts forward a nominee for the Supreme Court.” Grassley said he expects more debate on SCOTUS today as the committee takes up judicial nominations (fireworks?)

 

• At least five people were killed in a mass shooting in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg on Wednesday night. Three women and a man were killed at the scene of a backyard cookout, with another woman dying at a local hospital. Three more reported wounded. Motive unknown. Multiple shell casings. Two shooters on the run, (NYDN)
 
Barack Won’t Meet Fidel in Cuba (Reuters, me)
• The WH has ruled out an encounter between President Obama and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in Cuba this month and is confident the govt will not create obstacles to a meeting between Obama and dissidents in Havana, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Wednesday (optics of a Fidel meeting = GOP gift)
 
• Cuban dissidents in the past have reported being detained in their homes or picked up by police en route to major international events such as summits or papal visits. Two of Cuba’s most prominent dissidents, Berta Soler and Jose Daniel Ferrer, were detained on Tuesday, according to dissident groups
 
• Rhodes said the list of participants hadn’t been finalized and the meeting would take place in a U.S. facility, which suggests the U.S. embassy or ambassador’s residence. The meeting would take place after official events with President Raul Castro
 
• The admin plans to roll out further measures next week to chip away at decades-old restrictions to commerce. However, the Cuban govt has done little so far to reciprocate for a series of U.S. measures that eased restrictions on U.S.-Cuba travel and trade
 
• The Obama admin isn’t considering returning the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo to the Cuban govt, and Rhodes said it wouldn’t make changes to the Radio and TV Marti U.S. anti-communist broadcasters at this time. “There’s only so much you can get to,” Rhodes said

• A Syrian opposition newspaper has published hundreds of what it says are leaked ISIS recruitment docs that purport to show secret details of foreign fighters, including nationalities, names, age, experience, preference to be a regular fighter or suicide attacker, level of obedience etc (CNN)

 

Air Force Vet Guilty: Trying to Aid ISIS (Reuters, NYT, me)

• Tairod Pugh, 48, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was found guilty Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court of attempting to join ISIS. The conviction marks the first case in more than 75 ISIS-related prosecutions brought since 2014 by the Justice Dept to reach a jury verdict
 

• Prosecutors said Pugh immersed himself in violent – crucifixions, beheadings etc – ISIS propaganda for months before buying a one-way flight from his home in Egypt to Turkey, where he hoped to cross the Syrian border into territory controlled by the extremist group. He was detained by Turkish authorities at an Istanbul airport and eventually flown to the U.S. (eventually?)
 

• Pugh’s defense lawyers argued that his only offense was to express “repugnant” views about ISIS in Facebook posts and to watch dozens of the group’s slickly produced recruitment videos. They said he traveled to Turkey to find work, not to become a jihadist
 

• But prosecutors pointed to a letter he drafted to his Egyptian wife, found on his laptop, in which he vowed to fight for Islam and declared he had two options; “Victory or Martyr.” (clue?) The letter was written days before he flew to Turkey, though unclear whether he ever sent it
 

• He also took with him to Istanbul a black facemask, (err clue) a map depicting ISIS’s strongholds in Syria (bigger clue) and a chart of the border crossings between Turkey and Syria (sort of nailed). Pugh served as an avionics specialist in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990 and later worked as an Army contractor in Iraq from 2009 to 2010, prosecutors said


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Victoria Jones – Editor