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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
  • GOP debate: Trump pivots
  • GOP debate: Snoozy substance
  • Obama: Don’t blame me for Trump
  • Trump supporter sucker-punches black protester
  • Senate Dems to Obama: SCOTUS nominee please
  • Apple accuses FBI of “smear”
  • Obama goes to cool SXSW festival
  • Senate passes opioid abuse bill
 
GOP Debate: Trump Pivots (NYT, NYT, Politico, Politico, WaPo, me)
• Donald Trump’s pivot to civility to attract independents (predicted right here) was apparent in Thursday night’s CNN snoozeroo debate in Miami. For the first half of the debate, Trump took zero shots at his rivals – and they generally offered tepid criticisms of him. It seemed like they’d just given up and accepted that Trump is the frontrunner, if not the Republican candidate
 
• During a discussion of Common Core (in which Trump got his facts wrong) the billionaire announced his upcoming endorsement today from onetime rival Ben Carson, who plans to join him at a presser in Florida. Trump said Carson will be big on education
 
• While Marco Rubio and John Kasich were silent for prolonged periods (nodded off like us?), Trump and Ted Cruz sparred over federal trade policy, with the Texas senator accusing Trump of proposing a 45% tax on Chinese goods. “The 45% tax was not a tax. It was a threat,” Trump said. Cruz retorted, “We’ve got to get beyond rhetoric of ‘China, bad,'”
 
• Rubio shot down Trump’s recent comment that “Islam hates us” and said it denigrates “friendly Muslims and could alienate allies like the Jordanian and Egyptian govts. “I don’t want to be politically correct. I want to solve problems,” Trump said. “I’m not interested in being politically correct. I’m just interested in being correct,” Rubio said (but Trump was calm – #newTrump)
 
• Cruz swiped Trump for stunts at rallies where he urges attendees to raise their right hands and swear they will vote for him. “I’ve got to say, to me I think that’s exactly backwards. This is a job interview. We are here pledging our support to you.” Trump scoffed: “Everyone’s laughing, we’re all having a good time,” he said (videos don’t show a lot of chuckles)

 

• “I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Trump said at one point
 
GOP Debate: Snoozy Substance
• Cruz tweaked Trump in his closing argument. He noted that the candidates on stage were “the son of a bartender, the son of a mailman, the son of a dishwasher – and a successful businessman,” emphasizing that Trump was the only one without a working-class background – a rare jab on a bland night (interesting that class is such an issue)
 
• Trump said he would be a strong supporter of Israel, citing a somewhat unlikely list of credentials: his Jewish son-in-law, his daughter Ivanka who converted to Judaism, and his Jewish grandchildren. He also mentioned that he had served as the grand marshal of the Israeli Day Parade down Fifth Avenue (clincher)
 
• On the question of visas for high-skilled workers, Trump seemed to want it both ways. As a businessman, he said, he uses the program and “I do what I have to do.” But, he added, it’s “unfair” for workers – “and we should end it.”
 
• Trump proclaimed, days before a Florida primary, that he generally agreed with President Obama that the embargo on Cuba should end. “After 50 years, it’s enough time, folks.” “I’d make a deal” with Havana, he said, “but it’s got to be a great deal.” He worried that Cuba could sue the U.S. for reparations
 
• Rubio laid out his Cuba deal: “Cuba has free election, Cuba stops putting people in jail for speaking out, it kicks out the Chinese listening station, it stops helping North Korea evade UN sanctions, and they take the fugitives from justice, including the cop killer and send her back to the U.S. – that’s a good deal.” Crowd went wild – sustained ovation (will it help – or too late?)

 

• President Obama poked some fun at Ted Cruz’s eligibility to to be president during the state dinner with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau Thursday night. Obama toasted to shared values he said were influencing he 2016 race, and: “Where else could a boy born in Calgary run for president of the U.S?” (pic shows first ladies’ dresses – I have views on cap sleeves…)
 
Obama: Don’t Blame Me for Trump (Politico, Hill, me)
• President Obama said Thursday he found it “novel” that the GOP would argue that his efforts over the past seven years have led to the Trump phenomenon. “But what I’m not going to do is validate some notion that the Republican crackup that’s been taking place is a consequence of actions that I’ve taken,” Obama said at a joint presser with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau
 
• Obama pointed a finger at conservative media and GOP leaders for fueling “a notion that everything I do is to be opposed; that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal; that maximalist absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous; that there is a ‘them’ out there and an ‘us’ and the ‘them’ are the folks causing the problems.” – Obama being them
 
• “I don’t think I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example,” Obama said. “I don’t recall saying, ‘hey, why don’t you ask me about that. Why don’t you question whether I’m American or whether I’m loyal or whether I have America’s best interests at heart?'” (was having a good time with his new bromantic pal, Justin, by his side)
 
• “I think it is very important for them
[thoughtful conservatives] to reflect on what it is about the politics that they’ve engaged in that allows the circus we’ve been seeing transpire,” he said. “And to do some introspection, because ultimately, I want an effective Republican Party.”
 
• The current political climate “within the Republican Party, is to some degree, all those efforts over a course of time creating an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive,” he said. Other Republicans running for president have similar views on things like immigration, but “Mr Trump might just be more provocative in terms of how he says it.”
 
Trump Supporter Sucker-Punches Black Protester (WaPo, Yahoo News, NYT, Politico, Politico, me)
• A black protester being escorted out of a Donald Trump rally on Wednesday in Fayetteville NC was sucker-punched and shoved by a white Trump supporter, several videos show (it’s pretty astonishing to watch – the seems to punch him twice in the side of the face – hard)
 
• Protester Rakeem Jones, 26, was being walked by what appear to be sheriff’s officers up an aisle at the event, amid loud boos from the crowd, when a white man in a cowboy hat stepped towards Jones, punched him in the face and shoved him off-balance. “It’s not the America they portray on TV,” Jones said, the day after he was punched
 
• Jones stumbled, then could be seen on the ground surrounded by deputies. As he was led away, Jones said he could hear Trump shout: “Go home to your mama!” Jones’ mother died eight years ago. (oh how absolutely ghastly to hear that) Thursday, WRAL reported that John McGraw, 78, of Linden NC had been charged in the case – bail $2,500
 
• There have been several violent incidents at Trump rallies, and it wasn’t the first with racial overtones. Another African American protester, a female student at the University of Louisville, was pushed and jostled at a rally in Louisville this month and called “leftist scum” and racial slurs

 

Trump Campaign: “No Control” Over Supporters
• Trump campaign spox Hope Hicks called such incidents unfortunate but said the campaign had “no control” over its supporters’ behavior. “We obviously discourage any kind of physical contact or engagement with protesters,” she said. Trump hasn’t been quick to discourage the violence, to put it politely
 
• At a rally in Las Vegas last month, he said “There’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches.” Security officials said the man didn’t punch anyone. “You know what they used to do to a guy like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out in a stretcher,” Trump said. He added: “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya.”
 
• Nearly 90 minutes into the CNN debate Thursday, Jake Tapper cited to Trump a number of his incendiary lines at rallies. Had he helped create a tone where this behavior would be encouraged? “There’s some anger there’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects.” (really?) Then he appeared to blame “bad dudes” who “are swinging”
 
• Multiple videos of Wednesday’s attack show no evidence of the protesters physically hurting anyone or attempting to. Notably – and disturbingly – none of Trump’s rivals opted to condemn the violence
 
• McGraw, the man arrested for assault in North Carolina, said: “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.” Asked why he punched Jones: “We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American.” (um – thought protesting was American?)
 
Senate Dems to Obama: SCOTUS Nominee Please (Hill, Hill, me)
• Democratic senators met with senior aides to President Obama on Thursday, urging the WH to make a Supreme Court nomination as soon as possible. After the meeting, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Pat Leahy (D-Vt) said, “I think it’s going to be public pressure” on Republicans to back down from their blockade
 
• Obama is expected to make a nomination any day to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Judiciary Committee member Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the group didn’t discuss specific names on Obama’s list. He added, “We don’t want a political victory. We want a Supreme Court justice.” (maybe a two-fer?)
 
• “Why all this ‘outrage’ about a hearing?” Judiciary chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said earlier during a committee business meeting. “Why the ‘demands’ for a hearing that everyone knows would never result in a confirmation? It’s because the other side is committed to using this process to score as many political points as possible.”
 
• Meanwhile, Sen Roger Wicker (R-Miss) suggested that Democrats had violated Senate rules with their weeks-long rhetorical attacks on Grassley’s strategy – “a concentrated effort to impugn the reputation and honor of the chairman.” It’s a breach of Senate Rule 19, he said, to suggest another senator’s motives are unworthy or unbecoming a senator. Not Rule 19??
 
• Adam Jentleson, a spox for Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) – who has been vocal – fired back that if Grassley “is sensitive about people pointing out his blind obedience to the dictates of Donald Trump and Senator McConnell, Senator Grassley should simply stop obeying the dictates of Donald Trump and Senator McConnell.” (meow)

 

Apple Accuses FBI of “Smear” (BBC, NYT, me)
• Apple has accused the Justice Dept of trying to “smear” the company with “desperate” and “unsubstantiated” claims. It followed the DoJ’s latest court filing over its demand Apple create software to unlock an iPhone used by Syed Farook, an attacker in the San Bernardino mass shooting last year
 
• The DoJ said Apple’s stance was “corrosive” of institutions trying to protest “liberty and rights.” It also claims Apple helped the Chinese govt with iPhone security. Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewell told reporters on a conference call: “The tone of the brief reads like an indictment.” (this is either a game of chicken or a urination contest – haven’t decided which yet)
 
• “Everybody should beware because it seems like disagreeing with the Dept of Justice means you must be evil and anti-American, nothing could be further from the truth.” Prosecutors claim Apple’s own data shows that China demanded info from Apple regarding more than 4,000 iPhones in first half of 2015, and Apple produced data 74% of the time
 
• But Sewell said the new filing relies on thinly sourced news reports to inaccurately suggest that Apple had colluded with the Chinese govt to undermine iPhone buyers’ security
 
• Sewell likened the DoJ’s comments on China to Apple arguing that the FBI can’t be trusted because there are rumors that the bureau was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy and citing “conspiracytheory.com” as its source (this is getting good, now – back to you, FBI…)
 
Obama: to Totally Cool SXSW Festival (Hill, Forbes, me)
• President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will headline the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival to promote participation in politics and girls’ education. The annual gathering in Austin, Texas, blends together music, film and emerging technology. It’s been a key stop for tech-minded lawmakers over the years but Obama is the first sitting president to go
 
• Obama will headline the interactive – or tech focused – portion of the event today, when he’ll “call on the audience to apply their ideas and talents to make technology work for us – especially when it comes to tackling big challenges like increasing participation in the political process and fighting climate change,” SXSW said
 
• Michelle Obama will speak next Wednesday during the music portion of the conference to highlight Let Girls Learn, a program to get more girls around the world into schools – 62 million girls around the world aren’t in school, more than half of whom are adolescent. (appalling stat) Today, the first lady is attending former first lady Nancy Reagan’s funeral in California
 
• In his weekly radio address, Obama said: “On my campaign in 2008, we saw how technology could bring people together and help them engage as citizens in their own communities. That’s why I’m going to Austin.” (but will he dump the jacket and tie? – that’s what inquiring minds want to know)
 

Senate Passes Opioid Abuse Bill (NYT, Hill, me)

• The Senate passed 94-1 a bipartisan opioid abuse bill Thursday, despite Democratic concerns about a lack of funding tied to the legislation. Sen Ben Sasse (R-Neb voted against the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), saying he wasn’t sure fighting addiction was best addressed by the federal govt (maybe everybody can help?)
 

• GOP Sens Rob Portman (Ohio) and Kelly Ayotte (NH) spent weeks promoting the measure on the floor after seeing opioid-related crime and addiction soar in their states. Ahead of the vote, Democrats took to the floor to express disappointment that Republicans rejected an amendment from Sen Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to include $600 million in emergency funding
 

• Among other things, the bill authorizes money for various treatment and prevention programs for a broad spectrum of addicts, including those in jail. It also strengthens prescription drug monitoring programs to help states and expands the availability of the drug naloxone, which helps reverse overdoses, to law enforcement agencies
 

• The fate of the bill in the House is uncertain. A companion bill there lacks strong Republican support by several committees there have been working on the issue. Portman said Thursday he had left voice mails and texted a House colleague “with the initials Paul Ryan.” (quite funny – but the issue is some conservative Republicans don’t think govt should be involved)
 

• According to the CDC, drug overdose was the leading cause of death in 2013 among Americans 25-64 years old, surpassing car crashes. Some public health experts have argued that the FDA has made things worse by continuing to approve new opioids in a market already flooded with them

 

• Rocking into the weekend with “Hymn For The Weekend” – Coldplay

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Victoria Jones – Editor