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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.
-- European leaders are planning private meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will be in France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy on Friday. President Obama has not scheduled a meeting with Putin. G7 leaders meeting in Brussels issued a joint statement Wednesday night condemning Russia's involvement in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea. (Associated Press)
-- About a quarter of the eight million people who signed up for health care under the Affordable Care Act have discrepancies that put their coverage at risk and create a huge paperwork headache for state and federal officials. About half those discrepancies are related to income, and hundreds of thousands involve immigration data or citizenship information. (Associated Press)
-- White House officials briefed senators on Wednesday on the prisoner swap that led to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, showing a proof-of-life video from December in which Bergdahl looked sickly. Warnings from Qatar before Bergdahl's release suggested the Taliban was rethinking the value of keeping him alive. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel dismissed accusations that the hunt for Bergdahl cost the lives of U.S. troops. (Washington Post, New York Times) Bergdahl is undergoing a staged "decompression" before returning to the U.S. (Washington Post)
-- Obama's appearance with Bergdahl's parents in the Rose Garden was an attempt to humanize the prisoner swap, White House aides now say. They've been surprised by the backlash. (Politico) No kidding. Here's a list of politicians who tweeted, then deleted, happy thoughts about Bergdahl's release. Villagers in Yusef Khel, half a mile from the military installation Bergdahl left back in 2009, say the soldier seemed to be deliberately heading for Taliban strongholds. (Washington Post)
-- 30,000 Feet: Consider the last two weeks in Washington: The Benghazi panel. EPA regulations. The Bergdahl mess. The VA. Democrats in key Senate battlegrounds had clawed back to even. If Democrats lose the Senate, remember late May/early June as the two-week window, when both intentional and unintentional actions by the White House hurt their chances of keeping the Senate.
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- WH'16: Mark those calendars: Hillary Clinton's first book interview happens Monday, when she sits down with ABC's Diane Sawyer. Kevin O'Dowd, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) chief of staff, will testify on Monday before a legislative committee looking into the George Washington Bridge scandal. (Newark Star-Ledger) The Star-Ledger has its own logo for the Bridge debacle, we just noticed that.
-- Mississippi: Sen. Thad Cochran (R) and state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) will meet in a June 24 runoff, after neither candidate secured a majority of votes on Tuesday, elections officials formally declared yesterday. The Hinds County Sheriff's Department is investigating why three people, including a top McDaniel campaign official, were found locked in the county courthouse, where ballots are kept, hours after the building was closed. (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Washington Post) A total of 19 outside groups spent more than $8 million on the primary. (McClatchy)
-- South Carolina: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) leads the GOP field with 49 percent, just shy of the 50 percent mark he needs to avoid a runoff. The six challengers running against him all register in single digits, according to a new Clemson Palmetto Poll. (Clemson) Reid's Take: Graham can get to 50, but even if he faces a runoff, he's in good shape: The runoff would be just two weeks after the June 10 primary. That's not enough time for anyone to coalesce the anti-Lindsey vote.
-- Pennsylvania: Businessman Tom Wolf (D) leads Gov. Tom Corbett (R) by a shocking 53 percent to 33 percent margin, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. (Quinnipiac) There is nothing at all in here for Corbett to like: His favorable rating is a dismal 29 percent (Wolf's is 46 percent). His job approval is at 35 percent. Does he deserve to be re-elected? 58 percent say no. Cares about people like you? Corbett 35 percent, Wolf 55 percent. Ouch.
-- Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe's (D) administration is quietly planning for the process of enrolling 400,000 residents in an expended Medicaid program, even though the House of Delegates remains staunchly opposed. Officials say the plans are only preparatory, in case a legislative deal is struck, though the administration has researched whether McAuliffe has the power to expand Medicaid by executive order. (Washington Post)
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama is in Brussels for G7 meetings today. British Prime Minister David Cameron told the group about former Prime Minister John Major passing notes under the table at previous G7 meetings, which got a good chuckle, according to an early-morning pool report. Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with Cameron in Brussels before heading to Paris for dinner with President Francois Hollande.
-- Vice President Biden is in meetings at the White House today.
-- The Senate will take a final vote on Sylvia Mathews Burwell's nomination to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, and on the Carolyn Hessler Radelet's nomination to lead the Peace Corps. Then they book it home for the weekend.
-- The House returns to Washington on Monday for a three-week stretch.
-- D.C. fire chief Kenneth Ellerbe said Wednesday he will step down July 2, after a rocky three-year tenure. Ellerbe made clear in an interview he isn't being forced out, but he recognized he wouldn't survive in the job through the end of the year. Assistant Chief Eugene Jones will take over the department on an interim basis when Ellerbe leaves. (Washington Post)
TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.
-- Iowa: Rep. Bruce Braley (D) didn't wait long after the polls had closed to start his ad blitz against state Sen. Joni Ernst. Braley's campaign has purchased $63,000 in broadcast and cable time through the weekend (Here's the ad). Senate Majority PAC will begin $270,000 in advertising on Friday on broadcast stations in Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Des Moines.
-- Michigan: The DGA has reserved $6 million in October airtime on behalf of former Rep. Mark Schauer (D). They've already spent about $1.9 million against Gov. Rick Snyder (R), while the RGA and Snyder's campaign have tossed in $2.9 million of their own airtime. (Politico)
-- Louisiana: Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) shows up in his doctor's coat with a stethoscope around his neck in his first TV ad of the cycle, attacking the Affordable Care Act. Cassidy says he would replace the law. The campaign is spending $150,000 on early airtime. (Associated Press) Context: Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D) camp has already spent almost $2.8 million on TV.
The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.
-- "If [NASA's] goal is a human landing on Mars, the current strategy won’t work." That's the conclusion of a 286-page National Research Council report which finds NASA's current strategy is unsustainable and unsafe and will prevent the U.S. from landing a manned vehicle on Mars for the foreseeable future. Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), a committee co-chair: "Absent a very fundamental change in the nation’s way of doing business, it is not realistic to believe that we can achieve the consensus goal of reaching Mars." (Washington Post)
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- Miami is out of the running for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Organizers say they just don't have enough time to put together a winning bid. Orlando has also dropped out, leaving a dozen cities competing for the Democratic convention. (Miami Herald)
-- Dick Cheney surprised RNC site selection committee members on Wednesday in Kansas City and urged them to hold an early summer convention. K.C. has a leg up over other finalists: No NBA or NHL team that might be competing in playoffs in June 2016, when the RNC would need access to a possible convention site to start building. Cheney remembered the last time Kansas City hosted the convention -- 1976, when Cheney's old boss Gerald Ford beat back a challenge from Ronald Reagan. (Kansas City Star)
-- Two vultures have made a home at the corner of K Street and 11th Street Northwest. How appropriate. (Washington Post)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- Rick Perry has been governor of Texas for 14 years, and what does he have to show for it? If Texas Republicans have anything to say about it, not much. A new generation of leaders of Perry's own party looks set to sweep away his programs aimed at attracting jobs to Texas, stockpiling money for rainy day infrastructure projects and offering in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants. (Dallas Morning News) Rick Perry: Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, and now he's passé.
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- This week won't go down as the best ever for Annette Bosworth, a Republican who ran for Senate in South Dakota. First, she found out on national television she'd lost the primary to former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) (Washington Post). Then, she turned herself in after a warrant was issued for her arrest for alleged felony violations of election law. (Sioux Falls Argus Leader). RT @jmartNYT: Tough 24 hours.
-- Map of the Day: The largest non-Christian religious traditions in each state. Islam, Buddhism and Judaism carve out the largest non-Christian niches
-- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won re-election this week with 88.7 percent of the 11.6 million votes cast. (Wall Street Journal) As it turns out, that's not so great for a despot. Twenty-three members of Congress won re-election with higher margins than Assad did. (Slate)
Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.
-- The Gervais School District, about an hour south of Portland, Ore., will begin offering free condoms to students starting in sixth grade. The school board decided to include middle school students because the middle school and high school are close together, and because middle school girls are getting pregnant too. (Reuters) Policy will be reversed under pressure in 3, 2, 1...
Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today
-- “A politician, a Muslim and an illegal alien walk into a bar, and you know what the bartender said? Good evening, Mr. President.” Ah, the dulcet tones of Larry Nordvig, executive director of the Richmond Tea Party, introducing radio host Laura Ingraham at a campaign event for college professor David Brat (R), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R) opponent in next week's primary. (Richmond Times-Dispatch) Also, Ingraham is campaigning against Cantor?
-- The Ohio state House is considering a measure that would make it illegal for insurance companies to cover abortions even in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of a mother. The bill would also ban insurance coverage for public employees and Medicaid recipients for birth control such as IUDs. (Columbus Dispatch)