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First Read's Morning Clips

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OBAMA AGENDA: The latest out of Ukraine

The latest on Ukraine, from the New York Times: "The Kremlin said Friday that “all hope” for an internationally negotiated settlement in Ukraine had been destroyed, hours after two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down as government forces launched an assault to dislodge pro-Russian separatists from the eastern city of Slovyansk."

The AP on Obama's meeting with Merkel: "As the crisis in Ukraine has deteriorated, Merkel has spoken to Putin perhaps more frequently than any other European leader. As such, the U.S. sees her as a critical channel of communication with the unpredictable Russian leader, as well as a key player in the effort to prevent other EU nations from going soft on sanctions."

"The effort to remake the intelligence relationship between the United States and Germany after it was disclosed last year that the National Security Agency was tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone has collapsed, according to German officials, who say there will be no broad intelligence sharing or “no-spy” agreement between the two countries when Ms. Merkel arrives at the White House on Friday," the New York Times reports.

Benghazi isn't going away for the White House, as the administration faced a second day of questions about a newly released email and a new witness on Capitol Hill said the military should have done more to try to save the victims.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in South Sudan to try to calm ongoing violence there, Reuters writes.

One of us(!) writes on the American habits and activities that have changed over the past 15 years, including a spike in tattoos and a decrease in newspaper reading.

Today marks the one-year of Precision Strategies, the strategic consulting firm built by Stephanie Cutter, Jen O’Malley Dillon, and Teddy Goff following the 2012 Presidential Election.

CONGRESS: Keystone vote coming soon

A Senate vote on the Keystone XL pipeline looks like it's coming soon, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid telling the Wall Street Journal that the controversial vote would be "not bad for Democrats."

The House will take up a contempt resolution for former IRS official Lois Lerner next week.


The AP looks at how possible/likely GOP runoffs in North Carolina, Georgia and Iowa “could expose conservative-vs.-establishment rifts and allow relatively tiny numbers of voters to pick the nominees.”

Former President George W. Bush says he hopes his brother Jeb runs.

The New York Times writes that establishment donors are beginning to signal that their first loyalty will be to former Gov. Jeb Bush if he decides to run for president -- not to Gov. Chris Christie.

ARKANSAS: The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold profiles Sen. Mark Pryor, who's anything but flashy. "Mark Pryor graduated from Walt Whitman High School in suburban Maryland, where football teammates called him “Donny” because he looked a little like teen heartthrob Donny Osmond. And that might be the single most colorful fact in the entire Mark Pryor biography."

Seriously, though: note the wording of this quote from Pryor: "“I’m not there to represent the president and his party. I’m not there to oppose the president and his party. I’m there to represent Arkansas.”

COLORADO: Vice President Joe Biden will campaign for Sen. Mark Udall later this month, the Denver Post reports.

GEORGIA: Rep. Jack Kingston's campaign released internal polling Thursday showing the Senate candidate leading the crowded primary field at 20 percent. (A robo-poll by InsiderAdvantage released earlier in the day showed Kingston in third place with former Secretary of State Karen Handel surging.)

Derrick Grayson, the only black candidate in the state's GOP Senate primary, says Cliven Bundy was "simply telling you the truth."

MICHIGAN: NBC's Frank Thorp talked to Democratic Rep. John Conyers about concerns that he doesn't have enough valid signatures to get on the ballot for re-election.

NEBRASKA: The debate over a mystery group's ad in the Nebraska governors' race got personal in a debate last night, the Omaha World-Herald writes.

NORTH CAROLINA: We see what you did there. Roll Call's lede for its story about Clay Aiken's dwindling chances of riding his celebrity status to a win next week: "American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken could come in second place again on Tuesday – this time in a congressional primary in North Carolina."

OHIO: A fun read from The Columbus Dispatch's Joe Vardon on the ex-stripper running for governor includes a male performance group named "Luscious Larry and the Raw Deal."

TEXAS: The spokesman for Democratic candidate Wendy Davis has resigned.

VIRGINIA: Gov. Terry McAuliffe may try to bypass the legislature to force a Medicaid expansion, reports the Washington Post.


*** Friday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews The New Republic’s Sasha Issenberg, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Reporter, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, MSNBC’S Steve Kornacki and Senator Dan Coats (R-ID).

*** Friday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: Chris Jansing interviews Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), NBC’s David Gregory, MSNBC Contributor Steven Clemons, The Tulsa World’s Ziva Branstetter, Economist Peter Morici, The Daily Beast Columnist Dan Gross, GOP Strategist Alice Stewart, Democratic Strategist Chris Kofinis, The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, and E! Correspondent Alicia Qualres.

*** Friday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Zachary Karabell on the April jobs report; Kostya Kennedy on reports that Donald Sterling has cancer & L.A. NAACP president stepping down; Caitlin Emma from Politico on 55 schools facing Title IX sex abuse investigation; Samuel Okey-Mbonu from Nigerian American Leadership Council on the Nigerian girls taken; and Ellie Krieger from the Food Network on calorie labels on chain menus.

*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Al Jazeera Senior Correspondent Sue Turton, Bloomberg’s Jeanne Cummings, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Democratic strategist Bob Shrum.

*** Friday’s Reid Report: MSNBC’s Joy Reid interviews the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar and Republican strategist Katon Dawson about the Tea Party vs. the GOP establishment. Plus, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry joins Joy to talk about the search for 200 girls abducted from Nigeria.

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