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OBAMA AGENDA: Making Castro to HUD official

Driving Obama's day: He'll formally tap San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as his housing chief. An administration official Thursday praised Castro's "practical, on-the-ground success" and said he's "the right person to build on his critical work at HUD based on his work in San Antonio." He'll replace Shaun Donovan, who's becoming the new budget director.

VA head Eric Shinseki vowed to stay on the job Thursday despite mounting calls for his ouster over allegations of mismanagement at VA hospitals.

Bob Dole has "mixed feelings" about whether Shinseki should resign, but he blasted the VA scandal as a "disaster" in an interview with USA Today.

Optics of this pushback? The White House is concerned that the House Veterans Affairs reform bill could result in litigation against the government.

"The Internal Revenue Service said Thursday that it has delayed and is revamping new rules intended to curb political activity by tax-exempt groups and that were proposed after the agency was accused last year of targeting Tea Party groups," the New York Times writes.

NBC's Suzanne Gamboa: "Amid the revving engines and high-speed laps of race cars at this weekend's Indianapolis 500 will come a message aimed at getting the House GOP to give the immigration reform issue some gas.A pro-immigration group of law enforcement, faith leaders and business owners known as Bibles, Badges and Business will launch its "No Excuses" ad campaign Friday through race day Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where it will be broadcast on an entryway Jumbotron."

In an interview with CNBC, Russian president Vladimir Putin slammed the use of sanctions against Russian businesses and individuals.

The Wall Street Journal: "Top military officials are pressing for permission to publicly defend American drone strikes against criticism in the U.S. and abroad, defense officials said."

"By the end of June, the president will have headlined 30 fundraisers for his party’s four major campaign committees this year, according to the White House, and he has committed to appear at events for House and Senate super PACs to help counter the money conservative groups are funneling into midterm-election campaigns," the Washington Post writes.

Reuters profiles DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

CONGRESS: House passes NSA reform

The House passed a "watered down" measure Thursday that gets closer to ending NSA bulk data collection, writes the AP. More: "But almost no other major provision designed to restrict NSA surveillance, including limits on the secret court that grants warrants to search the data, survived the negotiations to get the bill to the House floor."

The Senate has confirmed David Barron to a seat on the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overcoming the objections of Sen. Rand Paul and others concerned about his memos on the drone killing of an American citizen.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is the first member of House GOP leadership to call for Eric Shinseki's ouster, Roll Call notes.

Roll Call: “Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has challenged three top Senate Democrats to a duel — but “not like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton,” the lawmaker was quick to clarify.” (Thank goodness!)

OFF TO THE RACES: Mississippi Mud

Jon Huntsman won't say he's ruling out another presidential bid, but he says he has "no sight set on it at all" right now, the Wall Street Journal writes.

As we reported yesterday, Las Vegas and Cincinnati, Ohio, have pulled out of the competition to host the Republican National Convention. The four remaining contenders are: Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, and Kansas City.

DELAWARE: Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell says she'd "rather slam my hand in a car door" than mount a rematch Senate race this year.

GEORGIA: The Georgia delegation is beginning to circle the wagons around Jack Kingston in the GA-SEN runoff, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

The battle lines are being drawn for the nine-week contest, with Kingston accusing David Perdue of flip flopping on Common Core and gun rights, while Perdue calls the longtime congressman a D.C. insider.

IOWA: Mitt Romney is headed back to Iowa to campaign with Joni Ernst next week.

KENTUCKY: Alison Lundergan Grimes called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, saying it's necessary to repair the "breach of trust" with veterans.

MICHIGAN: The Wall Street Journal reports that Republicans are using Michigan - a state that Mitt Romney lost by nine points in 2012 - as a testing ground as it tries to modernize its ground game and technological tools.

MISSISSIPPI: Two more people - including local Tea Party leader Mark Mayfield - have been arrested in connection with the bizarre case involving pictures of Sen. Thad Cochran's bedridden wife. A third man has also been charged; all three face felony conspiracy charges.

The Clarion-Ledger also reports: "While all three men arrested Thursday are McDaniel supporters, none of them have any official role with the campaign. Furthermore, the three men seem relatively unconnected from each other save for their association with various tea party groups and their shared support of McDaniel's campaign to knock off incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the GOP primary on June 3. But they all intersect online — especially on Facebook."

The Washington Post looks at Chris McDaniel's efforts to notch a win for the Tea Party against Sen. Thad Cochran.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Friday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: Guest host Richard Lui interviews Darrell Richardson who’s brother Dennis was a Vietnam Veteran who died after delayed treatment for liver cancer at the Phoenix VA, Washington Post White House Reporter David Nakamura, New York Times Political Reporter Nicholas Confessore, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, President and CEO of Voto Latino Maria Teresa Kumar, Former Bush-Cheney Senior Advisor Robert Traynham, and MSNBC ContributorSteve Clemons.

*** Friday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Craig Melvin interviews Huffington Post’s Senior Military Correspondent on the VA scandal; Rep. Linda Sanchez, one of the Democrats named to the Benghazi committee; Attorney Torreya Hamilton, who represents a woman who is accusing Chicago police of brutality; Attorney Lisa Linsky on newly uncovered papers showing government efforts to drive gay people from jobs in the 1950’s and 60’s ; and James Garvin, chief NASA scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center on Friday’s meteor shower.

*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews MSNBC counterterrorism analyst Michael Leiter, Ken Fisher CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Julie Pace from the Associated Press, Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer, Congressman Dan Kildee and Author Mark Greenblatt and Army Special Forces Commander Mike Waltz .

*** Friday’s “The Reid Report” line-up: MSNBC’s Joy Reid interviews Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Nina Khrushcheva from New School University and msnbc.com’s Zachary Roth.

*** Friday’s “Ronan Farrow Daily” line-up: Ronan Farrow interviews former US Ambassador to the United Nations and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson about Vladimir Putin’s comments on Ukraine’s elections. Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Huffington Post’s Sam Stein on the Veteran Affairs scandal, and the dirty Mississippi Senate GOP primary. Douglas Brinkley and Jonathan Alter break down the hits and misses of this season’s commencement speeches so far. Policy Mic’s Jake Horowitz and Rock the Vote’s Ashley Spillane on the youth vote.

*** Saturday’s and Sunday’s “Weekends with Alex Witt” line-up: As part of her weekly “Office Politics” segment, MSNBC’s Alex Witt interviews NBC’s Jenna Wolfe.

*** Saturday’s “MSNBC Live Weekends” line-up at 2pmET: Craig Melvin’s guests include Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Former Boston Mayor and Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Raymond Flynn, Former Rep. Patrick Murphy, Houston City Councilor Ellen Cohen, Wise Latina Club founder Viviana Hurtado, Reason Magazine’s Peter Suderman, and Ron Stallworth, an undercover black member of the KKK.

*** Sunday’s “MSNBC Live Weekends” line-up at 2pmET (special time): Craig Melvin’s guests include Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), David Rohde of the Atlantic and Reuters, The Grio’s Zerlina Maxwell, Former Ohio Secretary of State Kenn Blackwell, Bloomberg News’ Jonathan Allen, TheGrio’s Chris Witherspoon, and Les Carroll, producer of “Bringing the Fallen Home” *** Saturday’s and Sunday’s “Disrupt with Karen Finney” line-up: On Saturday, Karen will be joined by Manu Raju, Bob Cusack, Igor Volsky, Sabrina Siddiqui, MI State Rep. Harvey Santana and FL State Rep. Ana Rivas Logan. And on Sunday, Karen interviews John Fugelsang, Raul Reyes, Tara Dowdell, Michael Waldman, and Christopher Parker.