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
  • Trump hunts for votes
  • Sanders: Five feverish rallies
  • GOP open convention: Messy morass?
  • Putin: Russia to start withdrawing from Syria
  • Obama: Congress will lift Cuba embargo – next prez
  • Benghazi probe: Report “before summer?”
  • US wants UN action on Iran
 
Trump Hunts for Votes (Politico, AP,  Politico, Reuters, WaPo, me)
• GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump hunted for votes in three states on Monday before a crucial round of nominating contests today in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri, and he dismissed outbreaks of violence at his campaign events as a “little disruption.”
 
• Trump attacked rival Gov John Kasich (R-Ohio) at an evening rally in Youngstown Ohio. “Your coal industry is dead. Your steel industry is deal,”Trump told Ohio voters. “Your governor is totally overrated” “I’m going to win Ohio, and it’s going to be a whole new ballgame,” Kasich said on Fox News on Monday (polls have them tied)
 
• Trump could seize control of the Republican race with a sweep and possibly knock out two of his rivals, Kasich and Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla). Polls show him leading in all five states except Ohio. “If we win Ohio and we win Florida, then everybody agrees … it”s pretty much over,” Trump said in Tampa
 
• Earlier, in an interview, Trump said of his rallies: “There is no violence. There’s lovefests. These are lovefests.” “You know how many people have been hurt at our rallies? I think like basically none, other than I guess somebody got hit once or some – but there’s no violence.” A black protester was punched by a Trump supporter last week (several other incidents)

• Watch new anti-Trump ad has women speak speak Trump’s own past comments about women, starting with: “A woman who is flat chested is very hard to be a 10”

 

• Authorities in North Carolina said there isn’t enough evidence to press charges against Trump for his behavior in connection with the sucker-punching incident. In a statement, they said the evidence doesn’t meet the requisites of North Carolina law to support the conviction for inciting a riot – did he continue to say inflammatory things was the issue
 
• WH spox Josh Earnest on Monday said, “There’s no denying that one of the reasons there’s so much energy at these events is that you have an aspiring political leader inflaming tensions, appealing to people’s darker impulses, and trying to capitalize on their anxieties to provide energy for his campaign.” (Earnest mostly hammered the GOP for not standing up to Trump)
 
• Former GOP contender and current Trump supporter Ben Carson said – astonishingly – that “even if Donald Trump turns out not to be such a great president, which I don’t think is the case, I think he’s going to surround himself with really good people, but even if he didn’t, we’re only looking at four years as opposed to multiple generations” (ummm)
 
• WaPo’s Dana Milbank went undercover as a supporter at a Trump rally on Monday. Trump mentioned Rubio. A chorus of boos and insults: “He sucks!” “Deport him!” “Send him back!” Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton. “Fu*k Hillary!” “Put her in jail!” “Waterboard Hillary!” and on it went
 

Sanders: Five Feverish Rallies (NYT, Fox News, Reuters, Hill, me)

• Bernie Sanders, campaigning at a feverish pace on Monday, made last-minute pitches to supporters on the eve of crucial primaries, holding five rallies in four states as he seized on his anti-trade message to rally people to turn out to vote today. Sanders started the day in Ohio, dashed to North Carolina, zipped over to Missouri and ended the day in Chicago
 

• In Youngstown, Ohio, Sanders was trying to deliver another surprise victory in the Midwest. He continued to attack Hillary Clinton for supporting “disastrous” trade policies and cast her as part of the reason so many manufacturing jobs have been lost. He told thousands of people he needed them to come out in droves to vote for him (if they don’t, he loses)
 

• At an MSNBC town hall, Sanders ripped into Donald Trump: “I know Marco Rubio and I know Ted Cruz and all these guys. But with Trump – what you are dealing with – and I say this without any joy. This guy’s a pathological liar”
 

• Trump was on Clinton’s mind, too, as she said at a campaign event in Chicago that “I don’t think the stakes have ever been higher, or the rhetoric on the other side ever been lower.” Her voice hoarse, Clinton said it was “time for us to unite as a country.”
 

• In total, 691 delegates are at stake in the Democratic contests today. Clinton appears well-positioned to win the largest contest, Florida – worth 214 delegates. Victories for Sanders today would give him fresh momentum.  AP analysis says Clinton holds 1,231 of total delegates, including superdelegates, more than half needed for the nomination. Sanders has 576
 

 
GOP Open Convention: Messy Morass? (NYT, me)
• The anti-Donald Trump brigade is banking on defeating him this week in Ohio, and possibly Florida, paving the way for an open convention that would deny him the GOP presidential nomination, and avoid what it believes would be a general election nightmare that could take down lots of Republicans (big bet)
 
• Thus the chatter and strategizing for an open convention where Trump could come in with a plurality, not a majority. This requires a multicandidate field. Also, if the protracted struggle means looking outside the contestants for a nominee, the odds-on favorite would be House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) – which would create its own frictions (and he’s said no)
 
• Members of the stop-Trump movement know that Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas), right-wing fave and only just more palatable to the establishment than Trump, has the financial and political support to stick it out for the long haul. They hope one of the others, probably Gov John Kasich (R-Ohio) wins Tuesday and goes on
 
• Trump continues to win contests. But his general election weaknesses are glaring. He runs well behind Hillary Clinton in polls this month. More alarming to Republicans, in a WaPo/ABC survey this month, only 27% of voters rated Trump as honest. In a NBC/WSJ poll this month, Trump got a 64% negative. That’s Nixon impeachment territory
 
 

• Graphic: How Trump could be blocked at a contested convention (NYT)   

 

Trump Isn’t There Yet
• Trump, despite his victories, is winning less than 45% of the delegates. If that continues, he would go to the Cleveland convention in July with fewer than 1,000 delegates, well short of the 1,237 necessary to be nominated. Cruz might have more than 800, and others about 400
 
• By party rules, almost all delegates are bound to the candidate on the first ballot, but that requirement is sharply reduced on any second ballot and subsequent tallies. It’s reasonable to expect Trump would peak on the first ballot. Then what? It’s hard to imagine giving the nomination o someone who finished second or a distant third
 
• Mitt Romney is a nonstarter – unacceptable to the Trump and Cruz factions. No senators or governors would be be a credible consensus candidate. Thus the most likely might be Ryan, who will be the chairman of the convention. After two or three ballots, he might be the only one who could get 1,237 delegates (Ryan has shut down efforts to draft him)
 
• But imagine the anger of the supporters of Trump and Cruz and other loyalists who went through the long slog if they’re forced to hand it over to someone who did none of the dirty work. It would be a zoo, and Trump would likely stoke the anger (but what great TV – oh wait – this is real life – not a reality show)

 

• SCOTUS watch continues in DC as the president is said to be getting ready to make the announcement for his pick for a nominee…

 

Putin: Russia to Start Withdrawing From Syria (BBC, Reuters, me)
• In a (total) surprise move, Russian President Putin said Monday he has ordered his military to start withdrawing the “main part” of its forces in Syria from today. He said the Russian intervention had largely achieved its object. The comments come amid fresh peach talks in Geneva aimed at resolving the five-year conflict (managed to steal spotlight from peace talks)
 
• President Obama and Putin spoke by phone Monday about Syria,. The WH said Obama welcomed the reduction in violence since the beginning of the cessation of hostilities but “underscored that a political transition is required to end the violence in Syria.” (WH officials are leery of Russia’s motives, timing and follow-through)
 
• Syrian President Assad and his office said in a statement he had agreed to the move and had spoken to Putin by phone. The pullout was “in accordance with the situation on the ground,” the statement said. Russia began its campaign of airstrikes last Sept, tipping the balance in favor of the Syrian govt
 
• Syria’s opposition responded cautiously. “If there is seriousness in implementing the withdrawal, it will give the talks a positive push,” said Salim al-Muslat, spox for the opposition umbrella groups, the High Negotiations Committee. Western powers have complained that Russian raids have hit political opponents of Assad – not just terrorist groups (mostly opponents)
 
• UN envoy to Syria, Steffan de Mistura, on Monday described the latest peace talks as a “moment of truth.” He said, “As far as I know, the only Plan B available is return to war, and to even worse war than we had so far.”

 

• The House on Monday approved 393-0 a resolution that condemns as genocide the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. SecState John Kerry is leaning towards making a genocide determination against ISIS and could do so as early as this week – congressional deadline (AP)
 
Obama: Congress Will Lift Cuba Embargo – Under Next President (Hill, Reuters, me)
• President Obama told CNN en Espanol Monday ahead of a historic visit to Cuba: “My strong prediction is that sometime in the next president’s admin, whether they are a Democrat or Republican, that the embargo in fact will be removed.” Obama hopes to make his opening to Cuba irreversible for the next president
 
• The president has relied on his executive powers to establish new trade and travel links with Cuba, but it would take an act of Congress to fully lift the 5-decade-old embargo, which bars large-scale U.S. business operations on and tourism to the island. “There is bipartisan support to do so,” Obama said, “but it is not yet at a critical mass.”
 
• The president’s remarks echo those of Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-Tenn) who said last month it’s “possible” the embargo could come down under Obama’s successor if Cuba improves its human rights practices (never under Obama – they wouldn’t ever give him that win)
 
• Ahead of his 20/22 March trip to Havana, the stage is set for a further easing of trade restrictions and a string of business announcements. Major corporations such as AT&T, Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Marriott are seeking to complete deals in Cuba. Commercial airlines have begun to apply to fly direct to the island
 
• Obama stressed he would meet with dissidents on the island, saying it was “part of the deal” for his visit. “During my visit I intend to meet with dissidents, critics of the Cuban govt, just as I did when I was in Panama, and I had the opportunity to meet with activists from Cuba.” Obama will also meet with President Raul Castro. (not Fidel – that’s off the table)

 

• Jason Dalton, the Uber driver charged with fatally shooting six people in Kalamazoo, told investigators he was being controlled by the ride-hailing app through his cellphone, police said Monday. Police report said “it feels like it is coming from the phone itself” and told of something “like an artificial presence” (AP)
 
Benghazi Probe: Report “Before Summer?” (AP, me)
• Nearly two years after it was created, the House Benghazi Committee is interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents and promising a final report “before summer” – certain to have repercussions for Hillary Clinton’s bid for the WH

• Panel chair Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said in an email to AP that the committee has made “considerable progress” investigating the deadly 2012 attacks that killed four Americans, including US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. Gowdy wouldn’t elaborate on “considerable progress,” except to list new witnesses and documents


 
• The Benghazi inquiry has gone on longer than the 9/11 Commission took to investigate the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept 11, 2001, spending  more than $6 million in the process, Democrats said. They say the only goal of the investigation is to undermine Clinton’s candidacy (congressional Republicans have said so themselves)
 
• Clinton, who was SecState at the time of the attacks, noted she testified before the panel for nearly 11 hours and answered every question “and when it was over the Republicans had to admit they didn’t learn anything.” Gowdy struggled immediately after the 22 Oct hearing to explain what the committee had learned that was different from previous times she testified
 
• Committee ranking member Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Md) said the 22-month-old panel is “nothing more than a taxpayer-funded effort to bring harm to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” There have been seven previous congressional investigations and an independent panel led by former Amb Thomas Pickering and retired Adm Mike Mullen

 

US Wants UN Action on Iran (Reuters, me)
• The U.S. on Monday vowed to continue pushing for UN Security Council action on Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests and accused Russia of looking for reasons not to respond to Iranian violations of a UN resolution. “This merits a council response,” U.S. Amb Samantha Power told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the security council
 
• “Russia seems to be lawyering its way to look for reasons not to act,” she said. “We’re not going to give up at the Security Council, no matter the quibbling that we heard today about this and that.” Power was referring to Russian comments that Iran’s tests didn’t violate council resolution 2231, adopted in July (she sounded ticked off)
 
• “A call is different from a ban so legally you cannot violate a call, you can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you cannot violate a call,” Russian Amb Vitaly Churkin said. “The legal distinction is there.” Resolution 2231 “calls upon” Iran to refrain from certain ballistic missile activity. Western nations see that as a ban, other council members don’t
 
• Iran’s UN mission issued a statement opposing Monday’s council discussion of its missile tests. It added that statements Iranians made about Israel were merely a response to Israeli threats. (what threats?) A senior Revolutionary Guards commander was quoted recently as saying that Iran’s medium range ballistic missiles were designed to be able to hit Israel
 
• Ahead of the closed-door meeting, Israeli Amb Danny Danon urged council members to take new “punitive measures” against Tehran over the launches. “We cannot and we will not bury our heads in the sand in the hope that the ayatollahs act responsibly,” Danon said. Israel opposed the nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers last year

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Victoria Jones – Editor