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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
  • Dem 2016ers squabble: Not qualified!
  • Trump: “Great to be home”
  • Obama to Chicago: Pressure GOP on SCOTUS
  • WVa mining mogul sentenced
  • WVa: Families of dead miners unleash rage
  • WH dips into Ebola funding for Zika
  • GOP senators try to block Iran from $$$
  • Judge: Sept trial in Oregon standoff case
 
Dem 2016ers Squabble: Not Qualified! (Politico, AP, WaPo, me)
• Democrat Hillary Clinton started it. She declined three times on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday to say that rival Bernie Sanders is qualified to be president when asked point-blank by host Joe Scarborough. She raised Sanders’s interview with NYDN: It “raised a lot of serious questions,” “he hadn’t done his homework,” “leave it to voters to decide” (code?
 
• Sanders hit back at a rally in Philadelphia. “She has been saying that she thinks I am quote unquote not qualified to be president. I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds.” He also mentioned her vote on the war in Iraq, her support for trade agreements and other items (pretty long list)
 
• Following Sanders’s remarks, Clinton spox Brian Fallon quickly denied on Twitter that she had said the Vermont senator wasn’t qualified to be president. “Hillary Clinton did not say Bernie Sanders ‘was not qualified.’ But he has now – absurdly – said it about her. This is a new low,” he tweeted (what was she saying, then, Bri?)

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• Earlier Wednesday, the Sanders campaign sent out two fundraising emails reacting to Clinton’s comments on Morning Joe. “Polls in Wisconsin haven’t even been closed for 24 hours, and we’re already seeing the start of the Clinton campaign’s full-on attack before the New York primary,” said one
 
• On MSNBC, Clinton pointed to a NYDN cover criticizing Sanders for saying he didn’t think victims of a gun crime should be able to sue the manufacturer. “That he would place gun manufacturers’ rights and immunity from liability against the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook is just unimaginable to me,” said Clinton (she wants him gone, gone, gone)
 
• In the NYDN interview, Sanders said he didn’t think gun crime victims should be able to sue gun manufacturers. But he did say people should be able to sue dealers and manufacturers who sell when they know “guns are going to the hands of wrong people.” He also said he supported a ban on assault weapons

 

Trump: “Great To Be Home” (AP, Politico, me)
• Republican Donald Trump declared it’s “great to be home” at a massive rally on Long Island Wednesday, shrugging off a defeat in Wisconsin a day earlier and instead, predicting victory in his delegate-rich home state. “I love these people. These are my people,” he said to thunderous cheers
 
• Dozens of police officers amassed outside the soundstage venue as protesters chanted “your hats are made in China” and “dump Trump.” Trump supporters retaliated, declaring “socialism sucks!” and “leave this country!”
 
• The rally comes as the GOP frontrunner signaled a shift towards more “meat on the bone” in his policy speeches amid new signs of campaign discord after his stinging Wisconsin loss to rival Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) emboldened his critics and pushed the GOP closer to its first contested national convention in four decades
 
• Senior Trump adviser Barry Bennett said the businessman would soon begin to deliver a series of “presidential, substantive” speeches on his policy priorities. (who will write them?) While Trump maintains a big lead, Cruz took a big step forward with his win in Wisconsin (and Cruz is quietly going around the West, playing Pac-Mac, trying to gobble up delegates)
 
• The Texas senator has no realistic path to claim the nomination by the end of the primaries on 7 June, but he might force a contested convention by blocking Trump from getting a majority of delegates in the state-by-state voting. Trump must win 57% of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination before the convention – so far he’s winning 46%

 

• The WH is declining to offer support for draft Senate legislation that would empower judges to require tech companies such as Apple to help law enforcement crack encrypted data, sources familiar with the discussions said. WH spox Josh Earnest last month scoffed at lawmakers’ ability to tackle “simple things” (Reuters)
 
Obama to Chicago: Pressure Senate GOP on Garland  (Hill, Hill, me, )
• President Obama will return to his old stomping grounds at the University of Chicago today, where he once taught constitutional law. He will meet with law students and faculty at the University of Chicago Law School to make the case that his high court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, deserves a hearing and an up-or-down vote (all part of the drip drip campaign)
 
• The president plans to discuss “how he fulfilled his constitutional responsibility and presented the American people with an exceptional nominee for our nation’s highest court,” a WH official said. He’ll also demand the Senate “fulfill its constitutional responsibility and give this eminently qualified nominee a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote.”
 
• Obama plans to take questions from the audience, which will also include judges from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and other local jurisdictions. The event will be heavy on symbolism meant to highlight Obama’s background as a constitutional law instructor. He’ll appear on stage with a professor and former colleague at the law school
 
• The event takes place in the home state of Sen Mark Kirk (R-Ill) who faces a tough reelection race in November. Kirk has met with Garland – one of three GOPers so far. Kirk circulated a memo to his GOP colleagues on Wednesday urging them to consider the nomination of Garland, who also hails from the Windy City. (not likely so far – it’s an election issue)
 
• Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will have breakfast with Garland next Tuesday. A Grassley spox said they could discuss “the nomination and why the Senate will not consider a nominee until the next president takes office.” (poor Garland – what a lousy few months. He doesn’t even get a t-shirt at the end. what will he get? interesting)

 

• Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) on Wednesday asked a federal judge to keep him out of jail and sentence him to probation instead, saying that he is “deeply sorry” for evading banking rules. Hastert lawyers said he “apologizes for his misconduct” years ago – was allegedly paying off someone from his time as a high school wrestling coach/sexual abuse allegations (Hill)
 
WVa Mining Mogul Sentenced: Families of Dead Unleash Rage (Charleston Gazette-Mail, WVLY, me)
• Six years and a day after Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine exploded killing 29 men, Don Blankenship stood in federal court and tried to express his (pretend) sorrow to the men’s families. “The lost coal miners were great coal miners,” Blankenship, former Massey CEO and a towering figure in West Virginia coal country, said. “Great guys.”
 
• U.S. District Judge Irene Berger, a coal miner’s daughter, gave Blankenship the maximum allowable sentence for his actions leading up to the explosion – one year in prison, one year supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Blankenship plans an appeal. For the families of the dead miners, it was too little, too late
 
• As Blankenship left the courthouse Wednesday afternoon, Tommy Davis, who lost his brother, son and nephew at UBB, shouted at him: “You don’t have a heart; you don’t miss your kids like we miss ours. I hold a picture, I hold a tombstone, you hold nothing.”
 
• Afterwards, shaking with emotion, his voice breaking, Davis said Blankship’s apology “didn’t mean nothing, and it still won’t mean nothing.” Davis’s son, Cory, age 20, was the youngest miner killed at UBB. “He never come to me in six years, never come to me, never come to my mom, my dad who’re gone now. They grieved themselves to death.”

 

• How about Blankenship serves his 365 days down one of his former coal mines, alone, with no light and no canary?
 
365 Days = 12 1/2 Days Per Miner
• Annette Workman, who lost her husband Ricky Workman in the mine, approached Blankenship: “Did you ever go down in that mine?” she shouted. She pointed at her daughter Monica, who was holding the Workmans’ granddaughter, Makenzie. “That’s one he never got to see,” Workman said
 
• Gary Quarles, who lost his 33-year-old son Gary Wayne Quarles at UBB, said: “It’s a little too late to apologize now, you know? I don’t know why he did that.”
 
• Clay Mullins, who lost his brother Rex Mullins, noted that 365 days in prison amounted to about 12-and-a-half days for each dead miner. “This man made millions of dollars at the expense of our loved ones,” he said. “Rex Mullins’ family wants their 12-and-a-half days paid in full.” “He’s not sorry, he’s sorry he got caught,” Mullins said. “He’s been nothing but arrogant.”
 
• Because Blankenship’s conviction wasn’t directly connected to the explosion, Berger didn’t allow any family members to speak in the courtroom before she sentenced him. She also cut Blankenship off when he began to talk about the explosion. Beth Harrah, who lost her brother, Steve Harrah, said: “If I could just be there when the damn
[prison] door closes behind him.”

WH Dips Into Ebola Funding for Zika – as US Temps Rise (Hill, NYT, Reuters, me)
• The WH said Wednesday it will redirect $589 million in funds to prepare for the Zika virus before the mosquito that carries it begins to emerge in the continental U.S, but urged Congress to act quickly on its request for more money – the money came from a fund reserved for fighting Ebola. There are no vaccines or treatments for Zika

• “We should not play with fire here. We should not risk spreading and getting out of control before Congress acts. The need to move immediately,” Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters Wednesday. “There are real consequences and risks in waiting.” (this is soo not going to end well)

• The Zika virus, which is mostly spread by mosquitoes, has moved rapidly across South and Central America. Researchers say the virus is linked to a severe birth defect called microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads, as well as to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis

• Zika is expected to begin spreading in the southern U.S. sometime in the “spring and summer months,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Wednesday. Already, as many as 60 pregnant women in the U.S. may have been exposed to the virus. One baby infected with Zika has been born with microcephaly

• The West African Ebola outbreak has been declared over man times, but a dozen new cases recently appeared in Liberia and Guinea. More than 1,000 contacts of those cases are being traced, and people close to them are being vaccinated with experimental Ebola vaccines. American funds are paying for many of those efforts

 

• The U.S. govt is close to issuing a rule that will for the first time require banks and other financial institutions to find out the identities of people hidden behind shell companies. The rule is meant to close a major loophole in the American banking system that enables the sort of secretive financial maneuvers thrust into the spotlight by the leak of the Panama Papers (NYT)
 
GOP Senators Try to Block Iran From $$$ Access (AP, Hill, me)
• Sens Marco Rubio (R-Fla) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill), both opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, introduced legislation Wednesday that would bar the Treasury from permitting foreign banks to conduct foreign currency trades in U.S. dollars for transactions involving Iran. A copy of the bill was obtained by AP
 
• Admin officials have denied they’re considering giving Iran direct access to dollars or to the U.S. financial system as part of nuclear sanctions relief, but have left open the possibility of easing some rules on the indirect use of dollars for transactions with Iran as long as they didn’t involve U.S. or Iranian banks (so are they or aren’t they)
 
• AP reported last week that Treasury has prepared a general license that would permit offshore financial institutions to conduct foreign currency trades in dollars in support of legitimate business with Iran. (so they are?) Rubio argued Wednesday that the Obama admin has been “moving the goalposts on Iran since the nuclear deal”
 
• The Iran nuclear deal in July agreed by the U.S. and five other powers provided Iran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief for curtailing programs that could lead to nuclear weapons. But the Iranians say they haven’t benefited to the extent envisioned under the deal because of other U.S. measures linked to human rights, terrorism and missile development concerns
 
• No final decision has been made on the license and several restrictions would apply. The license wouldn’t give Iran access to the U.S. financial system and it wouldn’t allow Iran itself to conduct business in American dollars (so they’re not? – now i’m as confused as pols were in a recent hearing – goalposts appear to be zooming all over the place, a bit like a game of Quidditch)

• Watch and listen to Gov Rick Scott (R-Fla) get an earful and pretty much get run out of a Gainesville Starbucks by a woman who’s livid over his cuts to Medicaid and other services. Scott’s apparently not used to constituents giving him what-for

 

Judge: Sept Trial in Oregon Standoff Case (AP, Oregonian, me)
• U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown, who is overseeing Oregon’s wildlife refuge standoff case, scheduled a 7 September trial on Wednesday during a testy hearing, and reinforced her decision to send Ammon and Ryan Bundy to Nevada next week for a court appearance in connection with a 2014 standoff at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch
 
• The packed courtroom included a majority of the 26 defendants charged with taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days this winter in a protest over land policy. Lawyers for all the defendants were there as well, and their competing interests and schedules add to the complexity of the case
 
• There’s also the chance of two different trials, one for defendants who want to go early and one for those who want next year. Defense lawyers have said it’s improper to make their clients defend two cases at once in different states. They’ve asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule Brown, who wants 7 Sept. The court has yet to indicate when it will rule
 
• Defendant Jason Patrick nearly got tossed from the courtroom after the judge, who had been snapping at lawyers to stay on point, told him to stop talking. “I was just asking if there will be more violent outbursts by the judge,” Patrick replied. Brown ordered him removed, but ultimately let him stay, if he behaved (he snarked and quipped through most of the hearing)
 
• Later, another defendant, Kenneth Medenbach, who’s acting as his own lawyer (oh boy), demanded that Brown prove she took an oath of office, an issue he’s raised previously. Brown told him she publicly took the oath in November 1999. “Why is there no record of it?” a supporter of the occupiers shouted from the gallery. Brown said she wasn’t spending any more time on the issue…

 

• Country giant Merle Haggard, who rose from poverty and prison to international fame through his songs about outlaws, underdogs and an abiding sense of national pride, died Wednesday at 79, on his birthday, of complications from pneumonia. He was a masterful guitarist, fiddler and songwriter, as well as singer, of hits such as “Sing Me Back Home”
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Victoria Jones – Editor