CNN's GUT CHECK | for May 7, 2014| 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
PUTIN SAYS BORDER TROOPS GONE … Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian troops have withdrawn from the Ukrainian border, speaking at a press conference with the head of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), after the two met in Moscow Wednesday. "We were told repeatedly that our forces by the Ukrainian border were a source of concern,” Putin said. “We have withdrawn our forces and they are now not on the Ukrainian border but are carrying out their regular exercises at the test grounds. This can be easily verified using modern intelligence techniques, including from space, where everything can be seen."
WHITE HOUSE: WE’LL BELIEVE IT WHEN WE SEE IT … The White House says there is no evidence that Russia has withdrawn its forces from the Ukrainian border. “There is not evidence to date that there has been a meaningful and transparent withdrawal of Russian forces from the Ukrainian border,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Arkansas. Later that day, the White House announced it intends to withdraw Russia’s eligibility for preferential trade benefits typically given to developing countries.
TRAVEL NOTE: The President met with Gov. Mike Beebe, Sen. Mark Pryor and Rep. Tim Griffin Wednesday to survey the damage of the recent tornado in Arkansas.
GOWDY: NO BIG BUCKS OFF BENGHAZI … Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday his fellow GOP lawmakers shouldn't be fundraising off the Benghazi terror attack while a select committee, which he is leading, is investigating the 2012 assault. The Republican from South Carolina told CNN's Jake Tapper that he would not be asking supporters for money related to the latest investigation and his colleagues shouldn't either. "I cannot and will not raise money on Benghazi." Gowdy said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which raises money for House Republican candidates, published a blog on its website explaining the establishment of a select committee panel to investigate the Benghazi terror attack. In the same post, the NRCC also asks for contributions. Asked specifically whether the NRCC should continue to raise money on Benghazi, Gowdy said, "I also advise my colleagues to follow suit."– Sherisse Pham and Jake Tapper
ABOUT LAST NIGHT ... GOP AVOIDS MAJOR HEADACHE IN N.C.: Republicans avoided a major headache on Tuesday night when Thom Tillis, the North Carolina house speaker and establishment favorite, won the Republican Senate nomination outright, dodging a protracted summer runoff fight against a grassroots-backed opponent. With an assist from big-spending outside groups, Tillis dispatched his two main primary rivals, tea party-backed Greg Brannon and the Baptist pastor Mark Harris, with relative ease, clearing the 40% mark needed to skirt a July runoff election. Tillis moves on to face Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, one of the Senate's most endangered incumbents, in what's certain to be among the most negative - and expensive - races of 2014. – Peter Hamby
AS FOR CLAY AIKEN, IT’S TOO CLOSE TOO CALL … The American-Idol star-turned congressional hopeful, holds a razor-thin margin over opponent Keith Crisco in North Carolina's Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat, but CNN and other news organizations have not yet projected a winner. With all precincts reporting, Aiken has 40.83% of the vote, with Crisco following slightly behind at 39.4%. If the margin holds up, Aiken would exceed the 40% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
MOVING FORWARD, THE ESTABLISHMENT GOP VS. TEA PARTY BATTLE IS FAR FROM OVER ... Candidates backed by the tea party and other grass-roots conservatives effectively cost the GOP five winnable Senate elections in 2010 and 2012 in Nevada, Delaware, Colorado, Indiana and Missouri. This time, mainstream Republicans don't want another sequel. – Paul Steinhauser
OOPS! MAN TAKES WRONG TURN, SHUTS DOWN WHITE HOUSE … It seems at this point to be an honest mistake. That's what a source tells CNN's Michelle Kosinski about Tuesday's security breach that resulted in a White House lockdown. A Secret Service source explains that Matthew Goldstein, 55, got caught up in traffic-circle confusion during the heavy afternoon rush in downtown D.C. Unfamiliar with the traffic pattern, he apparently panicked and made a sharp right turn that put him immediately behind a group of cars, which turned out to be a White House motorcade.
But how did the Secret Service let him through? The guards apparently didn't have time to raise the bollards fast enough to shut Goldstein's car out. But he was stopped immediately and then was arrested.
THE BUZZ: That time Rand Paul wore a baseball uniform to a speech … Sen. Rand Paul's unconventional style in politics apparently extends to his wardrobe, as well. The Kentucky Republican delivered a speech Wednesday morning while wearing a baseball uniform–white pants and all. Paul spoke at the Leadership Institute just outside of Washington, D.C. at a 7:30 a.m. ET breakfast. Wearing a red and white jersey with "Republicans" emblazoned across his chest, Paul had been practicing earlier in the morning for the upcoming Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. – Ashley Killough
MARKET WATCH: Blue-chip stocks rally with Dow rising 118 points. But NASDAQ falls 0.3% on selloff in tech and Whole Foods.
The names of Rep. Trey Gowdy’s three dogs characterize his experience working in which field prior to Congress?
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: First on CNN: O'Malley to mingle with 2016 players at D.C. fundraiser
Martin O’Malley will mingle with a handful of early primary state power brokers next week at a closed-door Washington fundraiser for a top South Carolina Democrat. The Maryland governor, who has been candid about his inclination to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has signed on to co-host the May 14 Capitol Hill fundraiser for South Carolina lieutenant governor candidate Bakari Sellers, a Democratic source in the state told CNN. – Peter Hamby
Leading CNNMoney: NBC nails Olympics rights through 2032
NBC has agreed to pay $7.7 billion to broadcast the Olympics through the 2032 Summer Games.The deal extends the current rights deal that runs through the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The agreement covers various platforms including free television broadcasts, pay television, Internet and mobile distribution. – Chris Isadore
Leading Tampa Bay Times: Charlie Crist may visit Cuba
In a move that would have been unthinkable for any statewide Florida candidate just a few years ago, Charlie Crist is looking into visiting Cuba this summer. Nothing is final, but Crist is eager to learn more about the country as he calls for normalizing relations with Florida's neighbor. – Adam Smith
Leading Drudge: Feds Warn Drudge Faces Regulation
Government officials, reacting to the growing voice of conservative news outlets, especially on the Internet, are angling to curtail the media's exemption from federal election laws governing political organizations, a potentially chilling intervention that the chairman of the Federal Election Commission is vowing to fight. – Paul Bedard
Leading HuffPo: Low Blow
Kentucky's Senate race reached a new level of nasty as a tea-party-backed candidate characterized the presumptive Democratic nominee as just a young woman short on life experience. Republican businessman Matt Bevin explained Monday that he's better qualified than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to take on Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) because, in his words, she's just a collection of demographics rather than a serious candidate. – Samantha Lachman
Leading Politico: Harry Reid embraces earmarks
Harry Reid is comparing Republicans to “greased pigs” — but he’s not afraid of a little pork. The majority leader gave a strong defense of congressional earmarks on Tuesday afternoon and said President Barack Obama is “wrong” to support a ban on congressional earmarks installed by the tea party wave of Republicans. Reid, perhaps the president’s closest ally in the Senate, made sure that reporters did not second-guess his remarks boosting the controversial spending practice, advising that journalists “underline, underscore” and use “exclamation marks” when writing about the Nevada Democrat’s position. – Burgess Everett
Leading New York Times: Sotomayor Finds Her Voice Among Justices
Justice Sotomayor, 59, is approaching her fifth anniversary on the Supreme Court, where she has emerged as an increasingly confident figure. In the last term, she asked more questions than any other justice. In the current one, she has staked out positions that have led to testy exchanges with colleagues across the ideological spectrum. – Adam Liptak
Leading Washington Post: The undercover senator: Tim Scott goes anecdote shopping in South Carolina
This year, he (Tim Scott) is poised to be the first black politician to win statewide election in South Carolina since Reconstruction. He’s young (for the Senate), affable and able to blend in where his colleagues would stand out — just try to imagine Sen. Mitch McConnell talking about understanding the misguided allure of drug dealing, or being asked if he had been assigned mandatory community service.– Ben Terris
The political bites of the day
– Palin on Clinton: Being grandmother will 'open her eyes' on abortion –
FORMER ALASKA GOV. SARAH PALIN IN AN INTERVIEW WITH EXTRA WEDNESDAY: “Just knowing that her daughter Chelsea is pregnant, with a baby–It's a real baby!–It's not some disposable something, and I know that's going to be controversial … And of all places, it should be in the womb that these babies are protected, So maybe even on a social issue like that, she'll open her eyes.”
– GOP Reps. return from trip to Asia, say our allies there are watching American response in Syria and Ukraine –
REPS. Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Pat Meehan, Mac Thornberry, Kay Granger, Kristi Noem, Aaron Schock, Paul Cook in a cnn op-ed: “Our allies and adversaries alike have seen how America failed to enforce its ‘red line’ in Syria, and they are questioning whether we have the resolve to respond decisively to challenges in Asia. Our partners are watching America's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They fear allowing an assault on Ukraine's territorial integrity to stand will invite challenges to the established international order and fuel already tense maritime territorial disputes that threaten stability in Asia.”
– Dem. leader on Select Committee on Benghazi: Stop the circus -
Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley, D-New York, at a News Conference: “Instead of focusing on a hearing on immigration reform and getting a bill on the floor … House Republicans are now focused on the creation of a new select committee. To me, it's just outrageous and I hope they start to hear from their constituents and from the American people to stop the games and the circus and start to get things done.”
– Boehner on Benghazi committee: ‘This is not going to be a circus’ –
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, ON THE HOUSE FLOOR: “It was time for us to bring this together in one place and to focus our efforts. This is all about getting to the truth. It is not going to be a sideshow. It is not going to be a circus. This is a serious investigation.”
– McConnell: Senate Dems. trying to ‘muzzle’ us with climate change –
SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL ON THE SENATE FLOOR: “They’re completely out of ideas — and apparently they don’t want anybody to know that Republicans aren’t. So they’re attempting to muzzle us, at a time when Middle class Americans are in need of some relief … For the President and his political pals, it must feel like Mission Accomplished.”
– Could Simpson be gunning for a column in Cosmo? –
FORMER SEN. ALAN SIMPSON IN A JOINT INTERVIEW WITH HIS WIFE FOR NPR: “Then when you talk about (sex), you think, well there’s a couple of horny people. No, that’s not the point. It’s called intimacy. Scratch my back. Give me a hug. Just a hug. I’d say, ‘Ok.’ Just a touch, you know, a whack on the fanny in the kitchen.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Crystal Wright (@GOPBlackChick)
"If I had a daughter. . . Oh wait, I have two," hasn't said Obama on the 300 Nigerian school girls kidnapped. But if he had a son. Well.
West Wing Reports (@WestWingReport)
Politics taking backseat to President's visit to Arkansas; top GOP officials in Razorback state say they welcome/appreciate his visit
Shawna Thomas (@ShawnaNBCNews)
POTUS has finished his aerial tour of some of the Arkansas tornado damage. Gov. Beebe, Sen. Pryor & Rep. Griffin were with him on M1.
lesley clark (@lesleyclark)
In Israel, Susan Rice tells @netanyahu that US "remains convinced that lasting peace can only be secured through direct negotiations"
David M. Drucker (@DavidMDrucker)
Resolution creating select #Benghazi cmte calls for a panel of 7 Rs & 5 Ds. Vote likely Thurs: http://washex.am/1fUfQYg h/t @susanferrechio
Clyburn says Dems should reject Benghazi select committee unless they get equal # seats. "I'm not bringing a noose to my own hanging."http://slate.me/1fNVKP8
Megan Eckstein (@maeday22)
“this will be hopefully a very productive day and hopefully not a long day" says @BuckMcKeon. And so begins his last #HASC markup. #fy15ndaa
John Dingell (@john_dingell)
I suggest that the @HouseCommerce report on ACA #s be reviewed with the utmost of care & then immediately placed in the nearest wastebasket.
Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake)
Pig selfies are in. Especially at the @GovWaste Pig Book Press Conference pic.twitter.com/C7Lksq5NUf
Cindy Boren (@CindyBoren)
Kevin Durant's MVP speech pays tribute to his mom. Warning: this will make you weepy. http://wapo.st/1jA0eYY pic.twitter.com/SzhE652fc4
TRIVIA ANSWER from @sarafischer
Given Rep. Trey Gowdy’s extensive background in law, it is only fitting that the names of his three family dogs are “Judge,” “Jury” and “Bailiff.”
Prior to his service in Congress, Gowdy was a 7th Circuit Solicitor, leading an office of 25 attorneys and 65 total employees, receiving statewide recognition in victim’s rights law, drug enforcement law and death penalty prosecutions. Before that, Gowdy worked as a federal prosecutor with the United States Attorney of South Carolina for six years.
He earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1989 and was a member of their scholastic honor society “Order of the Wig and Robe.”
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