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“Ukraine lurched toward breakup Thursday as lawmakers in Crimea unanimously declared they wanted to join Russia and would put the decision to voters in 10 days. President Barack Obama condemned the move and the West answered with the first real sanctions against Russia,” AP reports.

“President Barack Obama ordered the West's first sanctions in response to Russia's military takeover of Crimea on Thursday, declaring his determination not to let the Kremlin carve up Ukraine. He asserted that a hastily scheduled referendum on Crimea seceding and becoming part of Russia would violate international law,” AP reports.

Obama and Putin spoke for an hour yesterday.

Syria’s Bashar Assad praised Putin’s moves in Ukraine in a letter yesterday.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said there is ‘no way’ he will recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, rebuffing what Palestinians fear will be key elements of a U.S. peace proposal,” AP writes. “Abbas' comments signaled that the gaps between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remain wide after seven months of mediation efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.” Here’s his quote: "They are pressing and saying, 'no peace without the Jewish state.’ There is no way. We will not accept.’”

A Washington Post/ABC poll finds broad support for building the Keystone XL pipeline with Americans saying it should be built by a 65%/22% margin.


Gillibrand’s sexual-assault bill blocked“Bowing to the Pentagon, the Senate agreed after impassioned debate Thursday to leave the authority to prosecute rapes and other serious crimes with military commanders in a struggle that highlighted the growing role of women in Congress,” AP reports. “The vote was 55-45 in favor of stripping commanders of that authority, but that was short of the 60 necessary to move ahead on the legislation sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.”

Meanwhile, this was happening… “In his immaculate blue dress uniform, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair stood ramrod straight before a judge Thursday and pleaded guilty to three charges that could send him to prison for up to 15 years,” AP reports. “It was a remarkable admission sure to end the military career of a man once regarded as a rising star among the U.S. Army's small cadre of trusted battle commanders. Sinclair, 51, still faces five other charges stemming from the claims of a female captain nearly 20 years his junior who says the general twice forced her to perform oral sex. But by pleading guilty to the lesser charges, Sinclair's lawyers believe they will strengthen his case at trial by potentially limiting some of the salacious evidence prosecutors can present.”

Viper armedSan Diego Union-Tribune: “A chastened Rep. Darrell Issa says he has apologized to a fellow senior lawmaker for abruptly cutting off his microphone during a hearing Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.” More: “Cutting [ranking member Elijah] Cummings off drew the ire of the Congressional Black Caucus, which petitioned Speaker John Boehner to strip Issa of the chairmanship he has held for the last three years. I could have offered to reopen the hearing and allowed him to make a second statement,” he said. “As chairman, I should have been much more sensitive to the mood of what was going on, and I take responsibility.”

Charlie Cook with an ode to retiring Rep. John Dingell (D-MI): “They are not making people like Dingell anymore. In the current political climate, one could argue that even the powerhouse legislators of the past would have a hard time wielding the kind of influence they once had. … Though change is constant and inevitable, John Dingell's departure from the House next January will truly mark the end of an era, a time that included Congress at its apex of influence.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Limits of electoral coalitions -- for both parties

Ron Brownstein: “The big takeaway from the 2012 election was the limits of the modern Republican electoral coalition. It increasingly appears that the big takeaway from 2014 will be the limits of the modern Democratic electoral coalition. Each side's dilemma fits neatly into a bookend. Republicans can't attract enough minorities to consistently capture the White House. Democrats can't win enough whites to consistently control Congress.”

The Hill previews today’s speakers at CPAC: “A trio of familiar faces that will take the stage Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, hoping the second time's a charm for their presidential ambitions. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R ) have all been here before, and were all at one time rockstars with the base. But those days have waned, and their White House hopes did too in very different fashions. As they look to boost their images with the grassroots base by joining the annual cattle call, all three are making early moves to reprise their presidential hopes. But to do that, they’ll need to first refine their past campaigns so version 2.0 works out better than the original.”

Pew Research Center surveys show that half of Millennials (50%) now describe themselves as political independents and about three-in-ten (29%) say they are not affiliated with any religion. These are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics. At the same time, however, Millennials stand out for voting heavily Democratic and for liberal views on many political and social issues, ranging from a belief in an activist government to support for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.”

Lindsey Graham took shots at Ted Cruz and Rand Paul for their support of Kristen Gillibrand’s sexual assault bill, The Hill reports. Here’s Graham: “You want to be commander in chief? You told me a lot today about who you are as a commander in chief candidate. You were willing to fire every commander in the military for reasons I don’t quite understand. We’ll have a good discussion as to whether or not you understand how the military actually works.”

Hillary Clinton will speak in Kentucky at the United Women’s Methodist Assembly April 26. Will she campaign with Alison Lundergan Grimes then, too?

Clinton may, after all, get a primary challenger in 2016… from Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Jonathan Martin: “Alarmed by the rise of noninterventionist voices in his party, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, is aiming to revive his political prospects in an unlikely way: trying to become the leading voice for a muscular brand of foreign policy. … The party has been pulled by competing forces before — such as when Pat Buchanan’s more isolationist leanings contrasted with the internationalist views of the first President George Bush in 1992 — but the ascent of the Tea Party and its skepticism about foreign entanglements is now framing an even larger internal debate.

KENTUCKY: Mitch McConnell’s campaign is up with a radio ad hitting the Senate Conservatives Fund as an “out-of-state special interest group” and it cites Politifact as a “non-partisan fact checker.”

MICHIGAN: As Republicans have expanded the Senate map over the past couple of weeks, Democratic Senate candidate Gary Peters is replacing his campaign manager.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: The Wall Street Journal notes that Republicans still don’t have a candidate for the Senate.


*** Friday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: Chuck interviews Reagan Biographer Craig Shirley on CPAC, Garry Kasparov on the latest news out of Ukraine and Russia plus NBC’s Deputy Political Editor Domenico Montanaro about the political money race. Then we’ll continue our #TDR50 focus on Texas with Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). All that plus the latest unemployment numbers and Chuck’s Friday Takeaway.

*** Friday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: Chris Jansing interviews Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Amb. Marc Ginsberg, and Investigative Reporter for Reuters David Rohde to discuss the situation in Ukraine. Joining Chris from CPAC today will be the Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Republican Strategist Rick Tyler. Amy Ziering, Producer of "The Invisible War" will join Chris to discuss military sexual assault. Also, in the lineup today will be the Grio’s Perry Bacon, National Correspondent for the New York Times Josh Barro, and MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor.

*** Friday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Rudy Bell, History professor at Rutgers University on the faculty protesting Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker; Zachary Karabell, Author of Leading Indicators on the February jobs report; Fmr. US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul with the latest on Ukraine; Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on the reported cure for the second baby born with HIV; and Sally Armstrong, author of “Uprising: The New Age is Dawning for Every Mothers Daughter” with her book and International Women's Day.

*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Senator John McCain, Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, NBC’s Mark Murray, Great Granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev Nina Khrushcheva and NPR Executive Editor Madhulika Sikka on her book “A Breast Cancer Alphabet.”

*** Saturday’s and Sunday’s “Weekend with Alex Witt” line-up: As part of her weekly “Office Politics” segment, MSNBC’s Alex Witt interviews GOP strategist Nicolle Wallace.

*** Saturday’s “MSNBC Live Weekends” line-up at 2:00 pmET: Craig Melvin’s guests include Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), CBN News’ David Brody, DC Council Member Yvette Alexander, Cornell Prof. Deborah Estrin, David Rohde of Reuters, Dennis Ross of Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jane Martinez Dowling of KIPP Through College, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, Esther Armah of, Fmr. Senate Speechwriter Amy Holmes, and 101-year-old Congressional candidate Joe Newman.

*** Sunday’s “MSNBC Live Weekends” line-up at 3:00 pmET: Craig Melvin’s guests include Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, Reason Magazine’s Peter Suderman, Prof. Peniel Joseph, author of “Stokely: A Life”, Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, CEO of YWCA and Marc Hurlbert of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade

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