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Putin, Ukraine continue to test Obama

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Simone Pathe and Rachel Wellford  April 21, 2014 at 9:07 AM EDT
An armored personnel carrier with a Russian flag drives outside the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk Monday. Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

An armored personnel carrier with a Russian flag drives outside the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk Monday. Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Ukraine violence threatens peace deal
  • Keystone delay won’t eliminate the pipeline midterm politics
  • The Jeb scrutiny cometh
  • Where money’s spent as important as how much

Ukraine: The fragile peace deal in Ukraine looks to be in serious jeopardy after three more people were killed, this time by pro-Russian separatists. Both sides traded blame with Ukraine’s prime minister accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to “restore the Soviet Union.” Don’t miss that he also asked for “real support” from the West to build up its military to hold off Russia. With President Barack Obama’s approval of his handling of the situation in Ukraine in the 40s, some in the U.S. continue to use it as a political cudgel. Sen. Bob Corker, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said he believes Russia will take control of Eastern Ukraine and accused the Obama administration of enabling. “I think the administration is basically saying to Russia, look, don’t do anything overt, don’t come across the border with the 40,000 troops, don’t embarrass us in that way, but you can continue to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine by doing the things that you’ve done,” the Tennessee senator said on Meet the Press. The New York Times, however, reports that President Obama is aiming to isolate Russia and Putin in a similar way to after World War II “by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state.” Vice President Biden will be in Ukraine for the next two days. Mr. Obama Tuesday is set begin travel to Asia, where he would rather focus on trade. It’s yet another Asia trip complicated by other issues. He canceled an Asia trip in October because of the government shutdown.

Keystone politics: The Obama administration’s indefinite extension of the government’s review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline may punt a decision beyond November’s midterm elections, but it’s unlikely to take the issue off the table for the rest of the campaign. Republicans seized on the delay to hammer vulnerable red state Democrats who support construction of the pipeline as “completely powerless” when it comes to their influence with the president. For some Democrats, such as Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, the move provides an opportunity to highlight their differences with Mr. Obama, who holds low approval ratings in their home states. Landrieu called the decision “irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable,” while Begich said he was “appalled” by the delay. Politico notes the decision is more complicated for other Democrats, like Colorado Sen. Mark Udall and Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, who’ve yet to take a firm stance on the project. It’s also important to remember that environmental activists provide Democrats with a fair amount of grassroots energy — and MONEY, which will be needed to help mobilize voters this fall. By pushing off a final decision, the administration is hoping it can keep those folks engaged while not causing at-risk members too much political heartache.

2014/2016: House Majority PAC has reserved $6.5 million in fall television advertising in 24 districts, but as the Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan notes, three-quarters of those districts are Democratic-controlled, “underscoring Democrats’ challenge this year: Even as the minority party in the House would like to make gains, it has plenty of vulnerable seats to protect.” The reservations are coming several months earlier than in 2012 — a clear response to GOP outside spending. Some of the biggest buys: AZ-1, AZ-9, CA-52, CO-6, FL-18 and NY-18. … Dan Balz reports that Democrats aim to spend more on field organizing in places like North Carolina than on television buys than in past elections. … And Jeb Bush is attracting a similar level of presidential scrutiny as Hillary Clinton, with the New York Times looking into how he made his money after leaving office.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this date in 1789, John Adams was sworn in as the first U.S. Vice President. Adams was later elected to the presidency. How many vice presidents have become presidents by being elected? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer @NewsHour, @rachelwellford, @DomenicoPBS, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Friday’s trivia correctly. The answer was: the Nixons met doing community theatre.

LINE ITEMS

  • Some 36,000 runners from around the world will compete in the 118th Boston Marathon on Monday. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that this year’s marathon will be “a fun day and a safe one.”
  • A new report from the Government Accountability Office details how the Obama administration solicited private funds to promote the health care law.
  • Ukrainian officials allege covert Russian forces are behind unrest in the East.
  • The Obama administration’s lack of decision on the controversial Keystone Pipeline could create campaign woes from Democrats.
  • In an interview with ABC News, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said politics can dictate when a justice chooses to step down. Judy Woodruff will speak with Justice Stevens on Monday’s NewsHour about his newest book: “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.”
  • Rick Perry’s political prospects could be in peril, with a grand jury considering whether the Texas governor abused his power by threatening to veto $7.5 million in state funding for the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates public corruption.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., are still trying to salvage an extension of long-term unemployment benefits.
  • The Clinton Presidential Library on Friday released the “conspiracy commerce memo,” which was created by the Clinton administration to detail how Republican conspiracy theories made their way to mainstream media.
  • Jonathan Martin: “Democrats could ultimately see some political benefit from the [health care] law. But in this midterm election, they are confronting a vexing reality: Many of those helped by the health care law — notably young people and minorities — are the least likely to cast votes that could preserve it, even though millions have gained health insurance and millions more will benefit from some of its popular provisions.”
  • White House records from the George W. Bush administration could be available faster than any of his predecessors.
  • In a very atypical race in the current political climate, a moderate Republican is looking to upset a conservative California congressman.
  • House Republicans have proposed legislation that would suspend the pay of federal officials who are found in contempt of Congress.
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee outraised their Republican counterpart by $400,000 in March.
  • Getting back to fundraising after a year off, American Crossroads raised more in March than in the previous 14 months combined, but their fundraising base includes three corporations and just 21 individuals, with the average donation exceeding $218,000.
  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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