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First Read's Morning Clips

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day

OBAMA AGENDA: The latest out of Ukraine and Russia

The latest in the downed jet, from the New York Times: "As rescue teams slowly converged on the grisly scene of Thursday’s downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet, the Russian defense ministry sharply denied any involvement in the missile strike that Ukrainian officials said ripped the Boeing 777 from the sky and many began openly questioning why the airline had chosen to fly a civilian aircraft over a combat zone."

Reuters: "The downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine could be a turning point for the Ukraine crisis, if it convinces reluctant Europeans to get behind tougher "sectoral" sanctions long-sought by U.S. President Barack Obama."

The AP: “Ukraine's security services produced what they said were two intercepted telephone conversations that showed rebels were responsible. In the first call, the security services said, rebel commander Igor Bezler tells a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane. In the second, two rebel fighters — one of them at the crash scene — say the rocket attack was carried out by a unit of insurgents about 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of the site. Neither recording could be independently verified.”

The New York Times editorial board writes: "Vladimir Putin Can Stop This War."

Obama's wording on the crash Thursday afternoon was cautious, with the president's assertion that the incident "looks like it may be a terrible tragedy ... I have directed my national security team to stay close contact with the Ukrainian government. The United States will offer any assistance it can to determine what happened and why."

In Gaza, from the AP: "Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers."

The Wall Street Journal: "The operation began at about 10 p.m. local time Thursday and by Friday morning one Israeli soldier and 14 Palestinian militants were dead, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Gaza officials said that the death toll for the conflict rose to 260 dead, with nearly 2,000 injured, figures they say includes high numbers of civilians."

As this foreign news dominates headlines, a new NBC/Wall Street Journal/ Annenberg poll shows that Americans, by a 3-to-1 margin, say domestic issues present greater challenges to the nation than problems abroad.

CONGRESS: Boehner pessimistic about border bill’s chances

House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged Thursday that chances for a compromise border bill may be waning, NBC News writes.

The House GOP working group on the border issue is poised to issue its own recommendations, but two members - Reps. John Carter of Texas and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia - are forging their own more conservative path, Roll Call writes.

OFF TO THE RACES: Wrapping Christie’s day in Iowa

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell and Doug Adams report on Chris Christie's appearance in Iowa, where he declared: "I don't care about being loved. I care about being respected."

Asked if he supports the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, Christie replied "I do."

The Des Moines Register's take on Christie's visit: "Republican Chris Christie's multicity leapfrog across Iowa, where he made time for everyone from big business chiefs to tips-earning waitresses, confirmed his own suspicion that people here really do love him."

And/but: “Christie’s Challenge: A Third of Iowa Republicans Dislike Him.”

Meanwhile... Rand Paul is going to stump for immigration hard-liner Rep. Steve King in Iowa in early August.

Our own Perry Bacon Jr. reports from Netroots Nation in Detroit: "Addressing more than 1,000 people at the annual conference for Netroots Nation, Biden broke little new ground, but repeatedly referred to himself as a "progressive" and praised the people in the room for pushing the Democratic Party to the left on issues like gay marriage."

Elizabeth Warren addresses the group today.

Here’s a head-scratcher, from Bloomberg: “As other Republicans travel the country laying the groundwork for 2016 presidential campaigns, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is raising private-equity funds for oil and gas ventures. Bush, 61, whose family made much of its fortune in Texas oil, has teamed with former Credit Suisse Group AG and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankers to create an investment firm based in Coral Gables, Florida, according to regulatory filings disclosed last month.”

ARKANSAS: The Huffington Post has audio of Tom Cotton describing some food stamp recipients as “addicts.” The quote: “I don’t think that we should be using farmers as a way to pack more welfare spending into Barack Obama’s government. Nor should we have a food stamp program that isn’t reformed, that doesn’t have job training and work requirements, that doesn't have drug testing requirements, so we can get people who are addicted the help they need. Or make sure that long-term addicts or recidivists are not abusing taxpayer dollars."

FLORIDA: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist has a running mate, per the Miami Herald: Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chairwoman Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, a Columbian-American businesswoman.

GEORGIA: A Landmark Communications poll puts Jason Carter at 49 percent over Nathan Deal at 41 percent, as Deal tries to manage an ethics complaint.

Rep. Trey Gowdy is backing Jack Kingston in the Senate runoff.

KENTUCKY: The Herald-Leader's Sam Youngman notes the fine line Alison Grimes has to walk on women's issues in red state Kentucky.

MICHIGAN: The Chamber of Commerce is backing Rep Justin Amash's primary challenger, reports the Detroit Free Press.

MISSISSIPPI: The state Supreme Court has ruled against Chris McDaniel's bid to get access to poll books, but his lawyers are pushing for a rehearing of the case, reports the Clarion-Ledger.


*** Friday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews NBC’s Jim Maceda, Kier Simmons, Jim Miklaszewski, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, NBC’s Michael Leiter, Transportation Secy. Anthony Foxx, Greg Feith, John Cox, Bob Hager, NBC’s Richard Engel, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Mike McFaul, Barry McCaffrey, Foreign Policy’s Michael Weiss, Katy Tur, Miguel Almaguer

*** Friday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Alex Witt interviews The New York Times Moscow-based correspondent David Herszenhorn, Rep. Eliot Engel (D)-New York, Time’s Michael Crowley, and Colonel Jack Jacobs on the Malaysia Airlines crash; and Israeli Consul Gen to New York Ido Aharoni on the Mideast conflict.

*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Fmr. NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, NBC Terror Analyst Michael Leiter, NBC Aviation expert Bob Hager, Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and NBC’s Richard Engel, Tom Costello, Keir Simmons, Miguel Almaguer and Katy Tur.