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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
  • Ryan: Open convention “more likely”
  • Obama privately to donors: Unite behind Clinton
  • SCOTUS nominee: Obama: I’m still president
  • Cuban FM slams Obama’s plans
  • Sniping at Flint water crisis hearing
  • Flint hearing: “Same old crap”
Ryan: Open Convention “More Likely” (Hill, AP, Fox News, me)
• House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) said Thursday it’s looking more likely the Republican Party will face an open convention in July – meaning a floor (food) fight to pick a nominee – and that Donald Trump and the party might want to accept that “reality.” (game on, in other words)
 
• Ryan noted he’s the chairman and will have to “bone up on all the rules.” “Nothing has changed other than the perception that this is more likely to become an open convention than we thought before,” Ryan said
 
• Meanwhile, conservative leaders huddled privately in DC on Thursday looking for a plan to stop Trump. His GOP rivals braced for another Trump victory next week: Arizona. The conservative group released a statement calling for a “unity ticket that unites the Republican Party.” They didn’t endorse Ted Cruz or John Kasich and considered a contested convention (so a bit vague…)
 
• On Capitol Hill, Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he’d help Sen Cruz raise campaign cash. Graham, a former 2016er, called Cruz a “reliable Republican.” Huge shift from Graham’s recent statement that the choice between Trump and Cruz was “the difference between poisoned or shot – you’re still dead.” (poisoned, shot, then guillotined – poor Lindsey)
 
• In a speech, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) said GOP leaders encouraged Trump by not calling him out in 2011 for prominently questioning whether President Obama was born in the U.S. “After years of refusing to renounce birtherism, McConnell and Ryan are now supporting the most prominent birther in the nation. Why are they waiting to withdraw their support?”

 

Obama Privately to Donors: Unite Behind Clinton (NYT, AP, me)
• In unusually candid remarks, President Obama privately told a group of Democratic donors in Austin last Friday that Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) is nearing the point where his campaign against Hillary Clinton will come to an end, and that the party must soon come together to back her
 
• Obama acknowledged that Clinton is perceived to have weaknesses as a candidate and that some Democrats didn’t view her as authentic. But he played down the importance of authenticity, noting that President George W. Bush – whose record he ran aggressively against in 2008 – was once praised for his authenticity (implication being that Bush was a dud)
 
• Obama chose his words carefully, and didn’t explicitly call on Sanders to depart the race. Still, those in attendance said they took his comments as a signal to Sanders that perpetuating his campaign, which is now an uphill climb, could only help the Republicans recapture the WH (because it stops Clinton from focusing her sights on Trump)
 
• Those in attendance described an urgency in Obama’s tone as he suggested that Democrats needed to come together to prevent an opening for the Republicans, whose leading candidate is Donald Trump, to exploit. Obama stressed he wasn’t endorsing either candidate, but went on to lavish praise on Clinton
 
• Sanders said Thursday he still maintains a “path toward victory.” “I don’t believe they have an insurmountable lead,” he told AP in a phone interview. “Secretary Clinton has done phenomenally well in the Deep South and in Florida. … But we’re out of the Deep South now.”
 
• Bernie Sanders won’t seek a recount in Missouri, conceding defeat to Hillary Clinton. She will get two extra delegates from the state. The Republican race in Missouri remains too close to call between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz (AP)

 

SCOTUS Nominee: Obama Weighs In (NYT, Reuters, Politico, Hill, WaPo, me)
• On a conference call with activists Thursday, President Obama was direct: “Republican leaders have said they believe the American people should have a say. Well, the American people did have a say back in 2012 when they elected me president. And they had a say when they elected the current senators as senators.”
 
• “They didn’t add a caveat that said, ‘We want you to be president except for your last 300 days in office when you don’t have to fulfill your duties’,” he said on the call. “And they didn’t elect senators and say, you know what, this is only a three-quarters or a half a term,; you get elected for the full term and you’re expected to do your job during that entire time.”
 
• Sens Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz), members of the Judiciary Committee that would hold any confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, said it was possible the Senate could act on his confirmation in a “lame-duck” session after the election and before a new president and Congress take office in January – (panicked a Pres Clinton would appoint a more liberal justice)
 
• But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas tried to slam the door on a lame-duck confirmation. “I think that is a terrible idea,” he said on the Senate floor. “I, for one, believe we ought to be consistent, and that consistent principle is the American people deserve to be heard.”
 
• Meanwhile, Garland began the customary meetings with senators that kick off the confirmation process. He visited the offices of Democrats Harry Reid (Nev) and Patrick Leahy (Vt) (alas, poor Merrick…)
 
• With senators leaving town Thursday night for a two-week Easter recess (yes they do get two weeks), Dems and the WH hoped that Republicans would hear from voters in their home states. “Why can’t Republicans do what they’re supposed to do, do their jobs?” Reid said at a presser after meeting with Judge Garland at his office
 
• North Korea has fired two medium range ballistic missiles, which flew about 500 miles, before landing in the water. Pentagon spox Lt Col Michelle Baldanza said, “We call on North Korea to refrain from actions that further raise tensions in the region.” The launch came a day after President Obama imposed new sanctions following Pyongyang’s nuclear test (BBC)
 
Cuban FM Slams Obama’s Plans (AP, me)
• Cuba’s govt said Thursday it plans to do away with a 10% penalty on converting U.S. dollars inside the country, but in a stern and lengthy speech in Havana, foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez dismissed President Obama’s lofty rhetoric about speaking directly to the Cuban people about their future during his trip, which starts Sunday (ouch – nice welcome mat)
 
• Aside from lifting the currency penalty, Rodriguez offered no indication that Cuba would respond to Obama’s recent policy changes with corresponding steps of its own. – until embargo lifted “Various U.S. officials have declared in recent days hours that the objective of Obama’s measures is empowering the Cuban people. The Cuban people empowered themselves decades ago.”
 
• The tough talk from the Cuban govt came as Obama prepared for a history-making trip to Havana aimed at cementing the normalization in relations that he and Cuban President Raul Castro began. Nationalist, anti-embargo rhetoric is a feature of Cuban govt statements. Yet Rodriguez’s speech – just three days before Obama’s visit – was striking for its strong language and acid tone
 
• The Obama admin’s latest attempt to ease restrictions on Cuba despite the embargo came earlier Thursday when the U.S. removed Cuba from its list of countries deemed to have insufficient security in their ports, eliminating a major impediment to the free flow of ships in the Florida Straits
 
• The shift clears the way for U.S. cruise ships, cargo vessels and even ferries to travel back and forth with much less hassle. No longer will all ships have to wait to be boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard for inspections, though the Coast Guard can still conduct random inspections

 

• A poster featuring President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro side by side has popped up on the wall of the private restaurant La Moneda Cubana in Havana – Hope and Change, commie comrades, Hope and Change…
 
Sniping at Flint Water Crisis Hearing (WaPo, Politico, Hill, Hill, me)
• “Let me be blunt. This was a failure of govt at all levels,” Gov Rick Snyder (R-Mich) told the House Oversight Committee Thursday in speaking about Flint’s lead in drinking water crisis. “Not a single day goes by that this tragedy doesn’t weigh on my mind, the questions I should have asked, the answers I should have demanded, how I could have prevented this.”
 
• EPA chief Gina McCarthy, while recognizing that her agency could have done more to prevent and mitigate the disaster, put plenty of blame on Snyder. “Looking back on Flint, from day one, the state provided our regional office with confusing, incomplete and incorrect information. Their interactions with us were intransigent, misleading and contentious.”
 
• Rep Matt Cartwright (D-Pa) ripped Snyder over ignoring a letter from the mayor of Flint seeking help.. “Governor, plausible deniability only works when it’s plausible, and I’m not buying that you didn’t know about any of this until Oct 2015. You were not in a medically induced coma for a year. And I’ve had about enough of your false contrition and your phony apologies.”
 
• And former trial attorney Cartwright ridiculed Snyder’s comments about “failures at all levels” as an attempt to dilute the blame. “Pretty soon we will have men who strike their wives saying, ‘I’m sorry dear, but there were failures at all levels,” he said, drawing gasps from the packed hearing room

 

“Same Old Crap”
• Rep Elijah Cummings (D-Md) thundered that Snyder had bragged about running the state like a business, so: “There is no doubt in my mind that if a corporate CEO did what Gov Snyder’s admin has done, he would be hauled up on criminal charges. There will now be an entire generation of children who suffer from brain damage, learning disabilities.”
 
• Chair Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) scolded McCarthy: “If you want to do the courageous thing … then you too should resign,” referring to another administrator’s resignation. “You had the opportunity, you had the presence, you had the authority, you had the backing of the federal govt, and you did not act when you had the chance.”
 
• Rep Paul Gosar (R-Ariz) was ready for a fight. “This is the same old crap,” he spat at McCarthy. “Americans should be sick of this bureaucratic nepotism and you’re the culture of problem. Not only am I asking you to be fired, if you’re not going to resign, you should be impeached.”
 
• And this is the heart of the case with the Flint water issue: Was it the federal bureaucrats who messed up because bureaucracy is inherently slow and ineffective? Or was it Snyder, who tried to run govt like a business and fit a square peg into a round hole? (if Snyder hadn’t started it to save money on the backs of the poor, the EPA wouldn’t have continued the mess-up – which it did)
 

• Rocking soulfully into the weekend with “Foto de Familia” – Carlos Varela – considered the Bob Dylan of Cuba, he’s the embodiment of Cuban soul. One of the greatest singer/songwriters in the Spanish language. More than a protest singer. Has performed in the States over the last 20 years, including recently with Jackson Browne
 

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Victoria Jones – Editor