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First Read’s Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA: New sanctions on Russia

NBC's Andrea Mitchell on the newly escalated sanctions on Russia: "The sanctions affect firms across the energy and financial sectors — limiting two major banks and energy firms from getting financing from U.S. capital markets. Officials said this move will, in effect, close their access to markets for medium and long term investments."

More from the Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Putin bristled at the new sanctions. "They tend to have a boomerang effect, and without a doubt, in this case they have driven Russian-American relations to a dead end, causing very serious damage," he said. "I am convinced that is to the detriment of the long-term national interests of the American government and its people.""

From The Hill: "President Obama will unveil a new federal initiative to help cities and states find private financing for transportation infrastructure during a trip to Delaware on Thursday."

The latest in Gaza, from the New York Times: "The Israeli military said it foiled an attempt by Gaza militants to infiltrate a kibbutz through a tunnel early Thursday, hours before the two sides briefly halted fire for a humanitarian lull in which Gaza residents tentatively stepped into the streets, hoping to find one of the handful of cash machines that opened for the first time since the conflict escalated July 8."

From NBC's Pete Williams: "The Justice Department is looking into the loss of a former Internal Revenue Service official's e-mails, according to a senior justice official. But the official says it's part of the overall investigation into allegations that the IRS targeted conservative organizations for additional scrutiny and audits."

"President Obama said on Wednesday that he believed the United States had “a credible way forward” in its nuclear negotiations with Iran, and strongly suggested that after consultations with Congress, which has been threatening additional sanctions, he would seek an extension of the talks beyond Sunday’s deadline," writes the New York Times.

The head of the Veterans Affairs Department says he needs an additional $17.6 billion over the next three years to fix systemic problems at the agency.

CONGRESS: Senate GOP blocks Dems’ response to Hobby Lobby decision

NBC News: "Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation aimed to reverse some of the effects of last month’s Supreme Court ruling that companies with religious objections do not have to provide contraception coverage. The 56-43 vote fell short of the 60 needed to advance the measure. Three Republicans -- Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- voted yes."

House Republicans still haven't unveiled their border bill, but they say it's beginning to come together, writes Roll Call.

OFF TO THE RACES: Previewing Netroots Nation

From our own Perry Bacon Jr: “Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will try to ramp up enthusiasm among liberal activists this week, offering a preview of a potential Democratic presidential contest if Hillary Clinton opts against running.”

Here's a wrap of our NBC/Marist 2016 numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire, from one of us(!)

Bloomberg writes that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 moves look a lot like her 2008 ones – a race she lost. “She’s on track to making the case for her candidacy on her resume rather than a vision for the future.”

Also, a third of Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans aren't fans of Chris Christie.

Chris Christie, yesterday, on deciding to run for president: "The fact is you should beware of people, in my opinion, who are overanxious to make that decision before they need to,” he said during an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood. “That would, it seems, indicate to me ambition before wisdom. And I don’t think that’s what you want from the person sitting in the Oval Office."

Potential 2016er Martin O'Malley is tangling with the Obama administration over his immigration policy, notes the Washington Post. "The conflict made clear that, despite O’Malley’s passionate rhetoric, the immigration issue poses for him some of the same challenges and political complexities that it does for Obama on the national landscape."

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which represents "Elizabeth Warren Wing Candidates and Campaigns," announced Wednesday that it has brought in over $1 million in direct fundraising for progressive candidates this cycle, per a release.

COLORADO: Mark Udall says he opposes two ballot initiatives to restrict oil and gas drilling in Colorado -- measures that Gov. John Hickenlooper tried and failed to resolve with a broad compromise in the statehouse.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Gardner leading Udall 44 percent to 42 percent.

GEORGIA: It's unclear whether Georgia Senate candidate Rep. Jack Kingston favors impeaching Obama, writes the Washington Post.

ILLINOIS: The Wall Street Journal looks at the criminal investigation weighing down Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in his re-election bid.

IOWA: Joni Ernst narrowly outraised Bruce Braley, with both candidates bringing in about $1.7 million. (But Braley has more cash on hand.)

KENTUCKY: Alison Lundergan Grimes didn't just bust Kentucky fundraising records; her $4 million haul was the most of any other Senate candidate this quarter.

And/but: a super PAC supporting her, We Are Kentucky, spent more than it raised this quarter as well.

MICHIGAN: Trouble brewing for Terri Lynn Land? The Detroit Free Press: "Republican U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land has given her own campaign nearly $3 million this year and last, but nowhere in her federal financial disclosure form has she listed any bank accounts or other assets in her control worth that much. Her campaign says it’s an oversight, claiming Land — who for two terms as Michigan’s secretary of state oversaw the enforcement of election laws — inadvertently failed to disclose a joint account she has with her husband, Dan Hibma. But it still leaves unanswered questions about the source of the funds. And it raises questions about if such a transfer — if from her husband’s assets — violates the spirit of the campaign contribution law."

MISSISSIPPI: The Clarion-Ledger writes that lawyers for Chris McDaniel will file a runoff challenge within the next 10 days.

So who paid for those newspaper ads aimed at getting black voters to support Thad Cochran in the runoff? Donors including Mike Bloomberg, Haley Barbour and Sean Parker, the New York Times reports.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: AFP is up with new ads attacking Democrats Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Ann Kuster on Obamacare.

NORTH CAROLINA: McClatchy notes how the debate over the Ex-Im bank is roiling Republican ranks in the Carolinas.

TEXAS: Bad headlines for Wendy Davis, Part ?: “Davis Money Haul Less Than Advertised” by the Texas Tribune’s Jay Root.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Thursday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews Marist’s Lee Miringoff, USA Today’s Susan Page, Dem strategist Jamal Simmons, Fmr. Bush 43 political dir/CNBC’s Sara Fagen, Fmr. Rep. Todd Akin, Sen. Martin Heinrich, NBC’s Richard Engel

*** Thursday’s “José Díaz-Balart” line-up: José Díaz-Balart interviews Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), GOP Strategist & former Director of Hispanic outreach for the RNC Bettina Inclan, Democratic Strategist & MSNBC Contributor Jimmy Williams, and Gabriela and Luis Hernandez who are going through the process to become eligible to be foster parents for children that are coming across the border. Also, Jose will interview Dr. Sophia Momand who has been who has been helping the homeless in Los Angeles for over 12 years.

*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Consul General to NY on the crisis in the Mideast; Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson on Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees ; MSNBC.com’s Trymaine Lee in Chicago on Oakland’s fight to save young African American males; Law professor and attorney Dorothy Roberts on a mother arrested for leaving her 9 year old daughter in a park while she went to work; and Bill Nye, “The Science Guy” on a group of top NASA scientists’ statement that aliens are likely to be discovered within 20 years.

*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Sen. John McCain, Fmr. Rep. Jane Harman, Fmr. Palestine Liberation Organization Legal Advisor Diana Buttu, Israeli Prime Minister Chief Spokesman Mark Regev, NBC’s Richard Engel and Martin Fletcher, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, the Atlantic’s Molly Ball and MLB Ambassador of Inclusion Billy Bean.

*** Thursday’s “Ronan Farrow Daily” line-up: MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow interviews Time Magazine Columnist Joe Klein, MSNBC’s Joy Reid, MSNBC Political Analyst Jonathan Alter, and NBC News Science & Environmental expert Jeff Corwin talks about Argentina’s depressed polar bear Arturo.