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

  • Republicans “desperate” to stop Trump
  • DOJ: Immunity to former State staffer – Clinton emails
  • Sanders soldiers on / Dem turnout down
  • Seoul: North Korea fires missiles into sea
  • SCOTUS abortion case: Kennedy key?
  • WH vetting appeals court judge for SCOTUS?
  • House panel on fetal tissue: “Sen McCarthy”
Republicans “Desperate” to Stop Trump (NYT, me)
• Alarmed by Donald Trump’s victories in seven states on Super Tuesday, Republicans desperate to sink his presidential bid moved on Wednesday to battle him on two fronts, attacking him with millions of dollars in TV ads in Florida while getting ready for what would be the party’s first contested convention in 40 years (Cleveland is salivating at the thought)
• The focus on Florida – primary 15 March – where many of the anti-Trump forces hope to see Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla) prevail so he can continue in the race – netted $5 million of airtime in the state for three groups planning sustained attacks on Trump. Stopping Trump in Ohio, also 15 March, is also crucial to the anti-Trump forces
• Veteran GOP officials and aides to Trump’s rivals said they’re now focused above all on denying him the 1,237 delegates he would need to clinch the nomination before the party gathers in Cleveland in July. That would be the first GOP convention since 1976 without a predetermined nominee
• Today, Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee, is to deliver a speech in Salt Lake City in which he is expected to warn of the devastating consequences for the party if Trump is nominated. (he’s not going to jump in – that would be a disaster) But much of the challenge for those opposed to Trump is that there’s no consensus about who’s the best alternative

• Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) won three states Tuesday. He caught a break on Wednesday when Ben Carson said that he saw no path forward for his campaign. (buy bye) Cruz’s aides think Carson’s evangelical supporters will flock to Cruz. (maybe – maybe not) But Rubio and Gov John Kasich (R-Ohio) won’t go away – (Cruz’s people are livid)

• Republican debate tonight in Detroit. Fox News hosts – 9 pm eastern. Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly (oh yes) do the grilling. Ben Carson is out (no more fruit salad). In: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich. Michigan’s primary is Tuesday 8 March. Democrats debate in Flint on Sunday night – CNN
Contested GOP Convention? Change Rules? (NYT, me)
• If Trump’s momentum is enough to carry him to victory in Ohio and Florida – both winner-takes-all – the GOP race may effectively be over. He will have dealt Rubio and Kasich humiliating losses in their home states and netted 165 delegates, putting him on course to capture a majority before the convention (Google has exploded with “how do i move to canada”)
• Stopping Trump in Florida or Ohio makes it at least possible to hold him short of a delegate majority before the convention. Plus: Many of the remaining state contests will be closed primaries, in which only Republicans can vote – Trump has drawn heavily from independents. And all but six states after 15 March will award delegates proportionally
• A contested convention would bring into play a series of complicated and crucial procedural rules. Highly significant: A current rule stating that no candidate can be placed in nomination without having won a majority of delegates in eight states. There may even be an attempt to change the rules if Trump reaches the eight-state threshold – GOPers hope he won’t

• To actually defeat Trump at the convention, Republicans would have to hope he is first unable to win a majority on the initial floor vote. Then he’d have to be thwarted on subsequent ballots by delegates who abandon him and choose an alternate whose name has been placed in nomination – most delegates are bound on the first ballot and free in later balloting (can’t wait)

• Matt Mackowiak, vice chair of the Republican Party in Travis County, Texas (fifth largest county, includes Austin), is going nuts to remove hugely controversial newly elected chair Robert Morrow. Example gross Morrow tweet this week: “Pretty sure George W. Bush can suck a di*k better than Hillary Clinton.” Morrow also tweeted “disabled reporters should be ridiculed” (TPM)

DOJ: Immunity to Former State Staffer – Clinton Emails (WaPo, Politico, NYT, me)
• The Justice Dept has granted immunity to Bryan Pagliano, a former State Dept staffer who worked on setting up Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as part of a criminal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified info, according to a senior law enforcement official – WaPo
• As the FBI looks to wrap up its investigation in the coming months, agents are likely to want to interview Clinton and her senior aides about the decision to use a private server, how it was set up and whether any of the participants knew they were sending classified info in emails, current and former officials said (lovely timing for her campaign)
• So far, there’s no indication that prosecutors have convened a grand jury in the email probe to subpoena testimony or documents. In a statement, Brian Fallon, a spox for the Clinton campaign, said the campaign is “pleased” that Pagliano, who invoked the Fifth before a congressional panel in Sept, is now cooperating with investigators (i’ll bet…)
• Law enforcement officials will look at the potential damage had the classified info in the emails been exposed. The Clinton campaign has described the probe as a security review. But current and former FBI officials and at DOJ have said investigators are trying to determine whether a crime was committed (huge diff)
• Current and former officials said the conviction of retired four-star general and CIA director David Petraeus for mishandling classified info is casting a shadow over the investigation. They think that Petraeus’s actions were more egregious than Clinton’s. After negotiations, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. FBI officials predicted that would affect the outcome of other cases

• Clinton and State have said that none of the material was marked classified at the time it was sent. However, it’s the responsibility of individual govt officials to properly handle sensitive material. Former prosecutors said investigators were probably feeling the pressure of time because of the election – timing is terrible for them whether they act before or after the election

• State Dept said Wednesday it’s trying to fix language issues at a 24-hour telephone hotline it set up for Syrians to report alleged violations of the ceasefire that took effect (sort of) last weekend.  Spox Mark Toner acknowledged that the Arabic language skills of some of the operators, State employees, “weren’t properly vetted”… (come on – only – people’s lives) (AP, me)
Sanders Soldiers On / Dem Turnout Down (Politico, NYT, me)
• After a mixed Super Tuesday showing that included big wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma – but a stinging loss in must-win Massachusetts and big losses across delegate-rich southern states like Texas and Georgia – the Sanders campaign will fight an increasingly confident Hillary Clinton until the party’s July convention in Philadelphia
• Forget the arguments about uniting the party behind Clinton in the long-term war against Donald Trump, say leading members of Sanders’ deep-pocketed campaign. The next few states scheduled to vote are favorable terrain for Sanders, they insist, and Clinton had better be prepared for an escalation from the Sanders campaign – as if on cue – – –
• Speaking to a rally of 10,000 people at Michigan State University on Wednesday night, Sanders pointed to Clinton’s support of “disastrous” policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. Sanders said trade deals have contributed to the loss of manufacturing jobs in Michigan and the shuttering of thousands of factories across the nation
• Democratic turnout has fallen drastically since 2008, the last time the party had a contested primary, with roughly three million fewer Democrats voting in the 15 states that held caucuses or primaries through Tuesday, according to unofficial election results. Fall-off often reveals whether a candidate is exciting voters (they voted for Barack Obama; Hillary isn’t so inspiring)

• Turnout declined in virtually every state, dropping by roughly 50% in states like Minnesota and Texas (whoa). In Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia, the number of Democrats voting decreased by roughly a third. The fall-off reached deeply into some of the core groups of voters Clinton must not only win in November, but turn out in large numbers (Trump has excitement)

Seoul: North Korea Fires Missiles Into Sea (Reuters, AP, BBC, me)
• North Korea fired several short-range projectiles into the sea today, hours after the UN Security Council voted to impose tough new sanctions on the isolated state and South Korean President Park Geun-hye vowed to “end tyranny” by the North’s leader. The firing escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula
• The State Dept said it had seen reports of the launches and was monitoring the situation. Park welcomed the move by the Security Council and said today: “We will cooperate with the world to make the North Korean regime abandon its reckless nuclear development and end tyranny that oppresses freedom and human rights of our brethren in the North.”
• In its latest barrage of insults against the South’s leader, the North’s official media carried a commentary on Wednesday likening Park to an “ugly female bat,” fated to “die in the dreary cave, its body hanging down.” (vj poll: whose ad hominem insults are the best? North Korea? ISIS? Trump? – errr – weirdo company for a possible future U.S. president…)
• The harsh new sanctions against North Korea for its weapons program passed unanimously by the Security Council on Wednesday, drafted by the U.S. and backed by the North’s main ally, China
• President Obama said the international community was “speaking with one voice” to tell the North it “must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people.”
SCOTUS Abortion Case: Kennedy Key? (AP, NYT, me)
• In 90 minutes of intense arguments on Wednesday, the court’s liberal and conservative justices appeared sharply divided as they tried to figure out what to do about abortion clinic regulations that Texas says are aimed at promoting women’s health. The clinics say the real purpose of the regs is to reduce access to abortion. Decision likely in June
• Justice Anthony Kennedy holds the key to whether the court splits 4-4, a result that would leave the regs in place, but not resolve the issue nationally. He could side with his four more liberal colleagues to rule for the clinics and roll back the regs
• Kennedy also suggested another outcome that would in essence put the issue on hold for a time to see whether the remaining clinics in Texas are able to accommodate the demand for abortion in the nation’s second most populous state
• Kennedy appeared concerned that one effect of the 2013 law is that it has lowered the number of abortions resulting from women taking pills and increased the number of more invasive surgical abortions, which he said “may not be medically wise.”

• Other than Kennedy, justices on both sides of the ideological divide posed pointed questions that seemed to leave little doubt where they stood concerning the regs. The rules require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and they force clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery

WH Vetting Appeals Court Judge for SCOTUS? (NYT, me)
• The WH is vetting Jane Kelly, a career public defender turned federal appellate judge, as a potential nominee for the Supreme Court, as President Obama closes in on a decision that could shape the court for decades and create an election year showdown with Republicans. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died three weeks ago, creating a vacancy
• The FBI has been conducting background interviews on Kelly, 51, according to an anonymous person with knowledge. The WH declined to comment and Kelly said through a judicial assistant in her Iowa chambers that she wasn’t granting interviews. If selected and confirmed, Kelly would be the only public defender to serve on the high court (total new perspective)
• Kelly won quick and unanimous confirmation by the Senate three years ago to her current post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In a Senate speech in 2013, current chair of the Judiciary Committee Sen Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) effusively praised Kelly, who has spent her career in Iowa and is well regarded in legal circles there (ouch now, chuck)
• Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) have said that they don’t plan to grant Obama’s nominee even a courtesy call in their Capitol Hill offices and that they have no intention of holding hearings, arguing that the task of filling the vacancy should be left to the next president (this president only serving for seven years)

• Democrats have said privately that they believe selecting Kelly might force Grassley to change his stance and hold hearings after all, out of a sense of obligation to a prominent jurist from his home state and concern about tarnishing his reputation in Iowa months before he faces reelection (don’t hold your breath)

• Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr, said he didn’t intentionally do an interview with a white supremacist radio host who once wrote, “For blacks in the Americas, slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to them.” The interview is set to air on Saturday…
House Panel on Fetal Tissue: “Sen McCarthy” (Hill, AP, me)
• House Democrats suggested on Wednesday that a House panel investigating Planned Parenthood could be complicit in future assaults or even murders of abortion providers at the Republican-led committee’s contentious first hearing on the ethics of fetal tissue research
• The panel was created last year following right wing furor over secretly recorded (and heavily edited) videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they sometimes supply fetal tissue for medical research. In Feb, the panel subpoenaed docs from groups the GOP lawmakers said were withholding info, including abortion providers
• Chair Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn) said the subpoenas are necessary as part of the probe to answer questions “the American people are asking.” “There is something going on that deserves investigating and that demands our best moral and ethical thinking,” Blackburn said (probes in many GOP-led states into PP have struck out)
• Ranking member Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill) called the probe a “partisan and dangerous witch hunt.” She said there were no rules in place to protect the names of those subpoenaed. “The chair’s abuse of her position as chair to compel this info is reminiscent of Senator Joe McCarthy’s abusive tactics,” Schakowsky said (she went there)

• Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said the panel could be “complicit with physical assaults or murders” of the researchers if their names became public and they are then killed. Democrats cited the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. Nadler moved to quash the subpoenas, but the GOP-led panel voted 8-6 against Nadler’s motion

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Victoria Jones – Editor