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/Cruz Badger State battle
  • GOP insider: Ryan 54% chance to be nominee
  • Democrats bicker over minimum wage
  • Panama Papers: Probes…
  • US officials met Belgians before attacks
  • Senate GOP files SCOTUS brief: Immigration
  • Obama defends NATO from Trump
 
Trump, Cruz Battle in Badger State (Fox News, AP, NYT, me)
• After Donald Trump’s Very Bad Week, he and Ted Cruz made spirited pitches Monday to Wisconsin voters, who vote today in a key Republican primary. After today, there’s a two-week lull before the next important voting, in New York. Polls show Cruz with a lead in Wisconsin (though Trump has been closing on Cruz)
 
• “You know how many times I’ve been given the end? I’ve been given the last rights, how many times? Like 10?” Trump joked Monday. In an apparent effort to shore up his support among women, Trump brought out wife Melania, 45, who wore a short baby-blue dress. She spoke for just over a minute and read from notes, praising her husband as a “great leader.”
 
• During a town hall on Fox News, Cruz predicted a “great victory,” “This fevered pipe dream of Washington that at the convention they will parachute in some white knight who will save the Washington establishment, it is nothing less than a pipe dream,” Cruz told reporters (“White knight” is supposedly Paul Ryan – see story below)
 
• Trump “seems to have a problem with strong women,” Cruz told Megyn Kelly on Fox. Trump in recent weeks retweeted a (revolting) picture of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and suggested “some form of punishment” for women who got an abortion if the procedure was illegal – then clarified himself x zillion. Now a WSJ/NBC News poll shows 70% of women have an unfavorable view of Trump
 

GOP Insider: Ryan 54% Chance to be Nominee (Politico, Politico, me)
• One of the nation’s best-wired Republicans, with an enviable prediction record for this cycle (according to Politico), sees a 60% chance of a convention deadlock and a 90% chance that delegates turn to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) – so a 54% chance that Ryan, who will be chair of the Republican National Convention, will be the nominee

• Ryan, who’s more calculating and ambitious than he lets on, (that’s definitely so) is running the same playbook he did to become speaker: saying he doesn’t want it, that it won’t happen. In both cases, the maximum leverage is to not want it – and to be begged to do it. He and his staff are trying to be as Shermanesque as it gets (look it up)

• “People put my name in this thing, I said, ‘Get my name out of that,” Ryan told radio host Hugh Hewitt Monday, speaking from Israel. “That is – if you want to be president, you should run for president. And that is the way I see it.” (but you can run unannounced, can’t you, foxy?)

• In this environment, saying you don’t want the job is the only way to get it. If he was seen to be angling for it, he’d be stained and disqualified by the current mess. But Ryan, 46, a likable Midwesterner, could look too tempting to resist as Republicans finally focus on a beatable Hillary Clinton. He got rave (GOP) reviews for a “State of American Politics” speech on 23 March

• In the speech, Ryan offered himself as the anti-Trump, without mentioning Trump. A Ryan friend chuckled when asked if Ryan wants it. “That was somebody who was laying out the speech that, in most cases, you’d give six months before you announce you’re going to run.” (why give it at all during an election campaign that you’re not in? unless…)

 

Democrats: Minimum Wage (AP, me)
• Hillary Clinton linked herself to a successful effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour Monday, part of an effort to woo working class voters, joining New York Gov Andrew Cuomo (D) at a raucous midtown Manhattan rally celebrating the state’s newly-approved higher minimum wage. Democrats vote today in a Wisconsin primary – rival Bernie Sanders is ahead in polls
 
• “We need to build on what was done here in New York and go all the way to Washington and raise the minimum wage for everybody,” Clinton told several hundred union workers. But Clinton didn’t mention that she actually backs Senate legislation that would enact a federal minimum wage of $12 an hour, with the ability of states and cities to set it higher (another sneaky fox…)
 
• That position puts her at odds with a vocal coalition of fast-food workers and union members who’ve made the “fight for $15” a rallying call in their push for higher wages and better benefits. Sanders has linked himself with that movement, turning the $15 wage into a central issue in his candidacy
 
• “Not too long ago, the establishment told us that a $15 wage was unrealistic,” Sanders said in a statement released before Clinton took the stage. “But a grassroots movement led by millions of working people refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
 
• New York and California are the first states to approve a $15 minimum wage, passing laws that will phase in the new standard over several years. Los Angeles, Seattle and other cities have recently approved $15 minimum wages, while Oregon officials plan to increase the minimum to $14.75 an hour in cities and $12.50 in rural areas by 2022

 

• A federal judge on Monday approved a $20.8 million settlement between the federal govt and BP over the energy giant’s role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and caused a 134-million gallon oil spill (AP)

 

Panama Papers: Investigations Begin (Reuters, me)
• Govts across the world began investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful on Monday after a leak of four decades of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specialized in setting up offshore companies (oopsy)
 
• The Panama Papers revealed financial arrangements of global politicians and public figures, including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin (err proxies is what the papers are saying), relatives of the PM of Britain, Iceland and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine
 
• While holding money in offshore companies isn’t illegal, journalists who received the leaked docs said they could provide evidence of wealth hidden for tax evasion, money laundering, sanctions busting, drug deals or other crimes (this is just the beginning – more shoes and boots to drop)
 
• MF, which says it has set up more than 240,000 offshore companies from clients around the globe, denied any wrongdoing and called itself the victim of a campaign against privacy. WH spox Josh Earnest said that “in spite of the lack of transparency that exists in many of these transactions” there were U.S. experts who can find out whether they violated sanctions and laws

 

• The head of Mossack Fonseca, Ramon Fonseca, has denied any wrongdoing, but said his firm had suffered a successful but “limited” hack on its database. He described the hack and leak as “an international campaign against privacy”  (bad day, Ramon?) (leak is way bigger than Wikileaks, Edward Snowden and Pentagon Papers combined)
 
Panama Papers: Probes
• Financial prosecutors in France – looking into aggravated tax fraud; Germany is looking into things; financial market watchdog Bafin is looking into it; Australia, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands have begun investigations based on more than 11.5 million documents. Banks are under the spotlight over allegations they helped clients hide wealth offshore
 
• Argentina – political furor; Brazil – politicians from seven parties were named as MF clients. The docs, covering a period from 1997 until last December, were leaked to more than 100 news organizations around the world in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which is U.S. based
 
• Docs apparently show that a network of secret offshore deals and loans worth $2 billion led to associates of Putin. The Kremlin dismissed the reports as “Putinophobia.” A spox for British PM David Cameron said his late father’s reported links to an offshore company were a “private matter” (as was anything else you might like to ask about – the Labour Party is going nuts…)
 
• Pakistan – denied wrongdoing by family of PM Nawaz Sharif after daughter and son linked to offshore companies; Ukrainian President Poroshenko defended his commitment to transparency after lawmakers called for a probe into allegations in the docs that he had used an offshore firm to avoid tax
 
• Iceland’s PM Gunnlaugsson faced calls for resignation and thousands of protesters after he refused to quit after ICIJ said he and his wife were connected with a secretive company in an offshore haven. Australia is investigating more than 800 wealthy MF clients. China has limited access to news on the leaks – lots of top people implicated… (and the U.S.? so far quietish)
 
 
US Officials Met Belgians Before Attacks (NYT, me)
• A “foreign fighter surge team” of experts from the FBI, State Dept and Dept of Homeland Security met with their Belgian counterparts a month before the Brussels terrorist attacks to try to correct gaps in Belgium’s widely criticized ability to track terrorist plots, American officials said
 
• The experts focused on long-term structural fixes to the Belgians’ failure to share intel effectively and to tighten porous borders, but not on providing info on suspected ISIS fighters. The recommendations, even if accepted, wouldn’t have prevented the attacks in Brussels last month, the officials said
 
• But the gaps addressed, held at Belgium’s request last month, underscore the urgency and the frustration senior American officials say they feel as they prod many European allies to embrace the kind of counterterrorism lessons the U.S. learned after the Sept 11 attacks. The American experts have visited Greece and expect to visit France and Germany in coming weeks

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• The team was part of a little-noticed WH plan announced after the Paris terrorist attacks in November to help Western European allies shore up their defenses and borders to avert the next big attack that European and American terrorism officials feared was inevitable (sounds like the WH wants to get this story out)
 
• European nations still refuse to share basic intel, even within a govt, leading to blind spots across the continent that make it easier for terrorist groups to strike. Brussels alone has more than a dozen different police forces, and French intel, police and judicial officials don’t routinely share terrorism info, American intel and counterterrorism officials said
 

• The security situation is aggravated by the fact that many European countries depend on U.S. intel analysis for counterterrorism, but also argue for privacy reasons against more American intel collection. “You can’t have it both ways,” Matthew Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said (more doesn’t mean all, Matt)

 

• Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday invited President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland to breakfast to explain, face to face, why Republicans have no intention of holding hearings on his appt (enjoyable eggs…). No date set. Garland set to meet today with GOP Sens Susan Collins (Maine) and John Boozman (Ark)
 

Senate GOP Files SCOTUS Brief: Immigration (Politico, AP, me)

• Senate Republicans filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on Monday that declares President Obama’s executive actions on immigration a “stark contravention to federal law.” The legal brief is an assertion from most members of the Senate GOP conference that Obama’s actions should be ruled unconstitutional
 

• The key point from the 43 out of 54 GOP senators who signed the brief is that Obama, through his immigration programs, is essentially making law from the WH, threatening the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution. The legal push was spearheaded by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)
 

• Oral arguments in the high-stakes case will be held at the Supreme Court on 18 April. The legal case against Obama’s actions was triggered by Texas and now joined by more than 24 GOP-led states (get ready for demos outside the Supreme Court and lots of posturing)
 

• If allowed to go through, the programs would give work permits to potentially more than four million immigrants here illegally but who came to the U.S. as children or are parents to U.S. citizens or permanent residents
 

• More than 200 Democratic lawmakers from both the House and Senate have submitted multiple amicus briefs backing Obama’s actions. Meanwhile, the GOP-led House voted last month on a resolution that greenlights an amicus brief arguing against the Obama admin (the court has 8 justices, if it splits 4-4, the ruling would favor Texas and the GOP)

 

• The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously – 8-0 – endorsed the way Texas draws its legislative districts based on total population and not just eligible voters – the same method used by all 50 states – rejecting a conservative challenge in a case focusing on the legal principle of “one person, one vote” (Reuters)

 

Obama: NATO “Linchpin” of US Security Policy (AP, Hill, me)

• President Obama said Monday that, “NATO continues to be the linchpin, the cornerstone of our collective defense and U.S. security policy” in the fight against terrorism, indirectly countering Republican Donald Trump’s recent claims that the 67-year-old alliance is obsolete (poke in the eye with a sharp stick, more like)
 

• Speaking after an Oval Office meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Obama praised the alliance’s contributions to the fight against ISIS, its partnership in Afghanistan and assistance in the refugee crisis in southern Europe (and anything else kitchensinky he could think of to demonstrate its relevance)
 

• Obama didn’t name Trump and ignored a reporter’s question about the GOP presidential candidate’s recent statements. Still, his comments struck a strong contrast to Trump’s assertion that NATO is irrelevant and ill-suited to fight terrorism. As president, Trump has said he would force member nations to increase their contributions, even if that risked breaking up the alliance
 

• Stoltenberg described the alliance “as important as ever.” “NATO has been able to adapt to a more dangerous world,” he said, noting that NATO had begun training Iraqi soldiers last week. Obama said he and Stoltenberg had discussed NATO’s potential role in Libya, as well as its plans to assist the EU with the migrant crisis (etc etc etc etc etc)

• Kris Jenkins buried a buzzer-beating three-pointer to lift Villanova to a thrilling 77-74 upset victory over North Carolina in the U.S. college basketball championship game in Houston on Monday. The victory gave the Philadelphia-area university a second national title, adding to a 1985 upset victory over Georgetown (Reuters)

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Victoria Jones – Editor