Patriot Act provisions set to expire on Monday … It’s the rare case when Obama’s White House and Boehner’s House are one side, and McConnell’s Senate is on the other… The stunning indictment against Denny Hastert … Congress’ image takes another hit … Another day, another Clinton Foundation story … O’Malley makes it official on Saturday … And Bevin remains ahead after recanvass in KY GOV race.
*** Patriot Act provisions set to expire on Monday: The U.S. Senate is planning to work in a rare Sunday session to address the expiring phone-data-collection provisions under the Patriot Act. But as NBC’s Frank Thorp notes, Senate leadership aides all but admit they won’t be able to get anything done before the program sunsets at 12:01 am ET on June 1. Why? Thorp says that even IF the Senate passes something Sunday night, the House is not in session to consider it until Monday afternoon – when the programs will then have already be shut down. Thorp reminds of us of the stalemate here: Last week, the Senate failed to move either a House-passed bill or any short-term extension to stop the programs from expiring on June 1. The House bill, which would take the bulk collection of data out of the hands of the government and instead rely on the telecom companies to hold it, needed 60 votes to move forward – but got only got 57.
*** The rare case when Obama’s White House and Boehner’s House are one side, and McConnell’s Senate is on the other: The reason why that Senate bill fell short of 60 votes was because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whipped against it. And here’s a fascinating – and rare – development: You have the White House and Republican-led House on the same side (in support of the House bill), but the part that’s holding things up is the Senate. It’s usually been the other way around. The other interesting thing here is the dynamic between McConnell and Rand Paul, who objected last week to the short-term extension. It’s almost as if McConnell’s opposition to adopting the House bill (or something similar) is playing right into Paul’s hands. At the end of the day, it’s hard to imagine the Senate won’t eventually pass something that’s MUCH closer to the House version. This late in the game, and there isn’t a viable compromise being floated, which means if the choice is renew as is vs the House version, the votes will probably be there for the House version in the Senate. Not a matter of IF the Senate GOP caves, but when?
*** The stunning indictment against Denny Hastert: As NBC’s Pete Williams reports, former GOP House Speaker Denny Hastert was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury. “Court documents say four years ago, he agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to that person from Yorkville, identified only as Individual A, someone who has known Hastert for most of that person’s life, the government says. The documents say Hastert agreed to make the payments ‘to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct’ against Individual A that occurred years earlier.” More Williams: “Prosecutors say Hastert paid almost $2 million, withdrawing money from his accounts, $50,000 at a time, but cut that back to less than $10,000 at a time, to illegally evade federal bank transaction rules. The indictment says when asked about the withdrawals, he lied to the FBI, saying he didn’t feel the banking system was safe and, ‘I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.’” The two big questions, per Williams: 1) Who is Individual A? And 2) What was that past misconduct committed by Hastert? And for those attempting to connect circumstantial dots, it seems safe to assume Person A is cooperating with the Feds and Hastert is not. How else did the Feds get the details of the scheme? So what pressure was exerted on Person A to cooperate?
*** Congress’ image takes another hit: If you thought Congress’ image couldn’t get worse, well think again. Average Americans who think the place is filled with crooks and creeps may have more ammo. The irony here, as others have pointed out: Hastert became speaker in the late 90s due to scandal, he lost the majority (in part) to another GOP scandal, and he now finds himself in his own scandal – after leaving office.
*** Another day, another Clinton Foundation story: The New York Times notes that Bill Clinton’s appearance at a super model’s charity came with one hitch: a $500,000 check to the Clinton Foundation. “The former president of the United States agreed to accept a lifetime achievement award at the June 2014 event after Ms. Nemcova offered a $500,000 contribution to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The donation, made late last year after the foundation sent the charity an invoice, amounted to almost a quarter of the evening’s net proceeds — enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia.” More: “Press officers for Ms. Nemcova and for the Clinton Foundation said on Thursday that the foundation had not solicited the donation and that the money would be used for projects in Haiti, as yet undetermined.”
*** O’Malley makes it official on Saturday: The next presidential candidate to officially enter the 2016 race is former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who throws his hat into the ring at 10:00 am ET on Saturday in Baltimore, where he served as mayor. O’Malley will be the third Democratic candidate to announce (after Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders). The Republican National Committee highlights one of the former governor’s weaknesses: that his state went red after he left office. “Marylanders loved O’Malley’s liberal policies so much that they elected… a Republican to succeed him. It’s true,” the RNC says in its research book on O’Malley. “By the time he left office, Martin O’Malley had become too liberal for Maryland, a state that President Obama won with 62% of the vote in 2012. But by the 2014 election, 48% of Marylanders disapproved of the job O’Malley did. Just 41% approved. That year, O’Malley’s lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown, ran as his successor. He was soundly rejected… The Washington Post called O’Malley an ‘albatross’ for Brown’s campaign.” The O’Malley team argues that charge isn’t fair because O’Malley wasn’t on the ballot in ’14. But here’s the thing about O’Malley’s predicament right now: Not only is he trying to be the chief Dem challenger to Hillary Clinton, he’s trying to be the chief challenger to Bernie Sanders.
*** Rand Paul can’t find a billionaire sugar daddy: In a 2016 race where almost every candidate seems to have a billionaire backer, Politico says that the one GOP candidate who DOESN’T have one is Rand Paul. “While his rivals cultivate wealthy backers who will pump millions of dollars into their candidacies, Paul has struggled to find a similar lifeline. It’s led to considerable frustration in his campaign, which, amid rising concerns that it will not be able to compete financially, finds itself leaning heavily on the network of small donors who powered his father’s insurgent White House bids.” The Washington Post, however, reports on the pro-Paul Super PAC’s first ad, which contrasts Paul from the rest of the GOP field on the Patriot Act.
*** Bevin remains ahead after recanvass in KY GOV race: The Lexington Herald Leader: “After Thursday’s recanvass of votes cast in the Republican primary for governor, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said that there were ‘no substantial changes’ and that she thought Matt Bevin would be the GOP nominee when the vote is certified June 8. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who requested the recanvass after election night tallies showed him losing to Bevin by 83 votes, did not concede the race Thursday. Comer … has not indicated whether he will seek a costly, time-consuming recount, but the deadline to file a petition for one in Franklin Circuit Court is 4 p.m. Friday.” Regardless of Comer’s actions, Bevin is holding a press conference at the state GOP’s headquarters at 10:00 am ET.
*** On the trail: Hillary Clinton raises money in Florida… Scott Walker, Robert Ehrlich, Jim Gilmore and George Pataki attend the Belknap County Republican Committee’s Cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire… And Bernie Sanders stumps in Iowa.
OFF TO THE RACES:
Msnbc.com’s Benjy Sarlin offers his take on the humongous GOP field.
“When Republican officials in Iowa convened a planning session Thursday for their quadrennial presidential straw poll, only a handful of advisers to GOP contenders bothered to show up,” the Washington Post reports.
And the Des Moines Register writes which camps attended the straw poll meeting: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry.
CLINTON: The New York Times writes that Bill Clinton accepted an award from charity group Happy Hearts Fund after it offered the Clinton Foundation a $500,000 donation.
CHRISTIE: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the Common Core academic standards weren’t working and asked his education chief to tap a group of parents and teachers to review the program and possibly recommend new guidelines,” writes the Wall Street Journal.
CRUZ: Remember the flap over the gay hotelier who hosted Ted Cruz for an event? Turns out he did make a donation to Cruz’s campaign, but asked for a refund.
KASICH: Keeping an eye on the all-important calendar, via the Columbus Dispatch: “Ohio lawmakers set the table for Gov. John Kasich to potentially take all of the Buckeye State’s GOP presidential delegates in one swoop next year. By moving the state’s 2016 primary election back a week — from March 8 to March 15 — Ohio’s Republican vote will be a winner-take-all contest.”
PATAKI: The Washington Post editorial board: “The fact that observers easily dismiss his candidacy doesn’t just reflect on Mr. Pataki; it also is a measure of what the GOP has become.”
Perry Bacon Jr. writes on how Pataki’s moderate record makes him such a long shot.
PAUL: He’s working to leverage his NSA Senate gambit to win support in unconventional places, the AP notes.
A pro-Paul group is out with a WWE-style ad blasting Obama, Lindsey Graham and “the capitulatin’ Canadian” Ted Cruz on surveillance.
POLITICO: “In a presidential campaign defined by billionaire sugar daddy donors, Rand Paul has a problem: He doesn’t seem to have one.”
RUBIO: He’s testing his campaign message as a fresh face for the GOP in the early nominating state of Nevada.
SANTORUM: The Wall Street Journal writes on his economic message and what it says about the GOP’s ideological and demographic tilt.
And around the country…
Here’s NBCNews.com’s report on the indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert on charges of hiding payments to an individual to “compensate and conceal his prior misconduct.”
More from the Chicago Sun-Times: “Once second in line to the presidency, Hastert, 73, of Plano, now has an unwanted distinction: he’s believed to be the highest-ranking Illinois politician ever to be criminally charged. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of structuring the alleged hush money payments to avoid detection, and of lying to the FBI.”
The AP interviews a man whose son wrestled for Hastert during his high school coaching years in Yorkville. “You won’t get anyone to say anything bad about him out here.”
OBAMA AGENDA: Clock ticking on the Patriot Act
The New York Times: “As the Senate moves closer to a Sunday night showdown over whether it will let Patriot Act surveillance powers expire on Monday, supporters and critics of how the government has used those authorities have been using increasingly alarming language. But there is little evidence in the history of the expiring laws — including the one that the government uses to justify the once-secret National Security Agency program that vacuums up Americans’ phone records in bulk — to support the arguments that either side is making.
The HOPE poster designer just isn’t that into Obama these days. He told Esquire: “Obama has had a really tough time, but there have been a lot of things that he’s compromised on that I never would have expected.”
From the AP: “Two large artillery vehicles were detected on one of the artificial islands that China is creating in the South China Sea, U.S. officials said Friday, underscoring ongoing concerns that Beijing may try to use the land reclamation projects for military purposes.”
NBC News’ Mark Murray contributed.