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More questions than answers in aftermath of Malaysia Airlines crash

BY Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  July 18, 2014 at 9:21 AM EST
Pieces of wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Shaktarsk Friday. Photo by DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Pieces of wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Shaktarsk Friday. Photo by DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Little certain in immediate aftermath of Malaysia Airlines crash
  • Obama, Boehner offer measured responses
  • Pressure to build for tougher response with Russia if separatists are found responsible
  • Lawmakers still deadlocked on path forward with border crisis

Crash brings more questions than answers: The downing of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 298 people on board left debris strewn across several square miles of Ukrainian farmland and officials around the globe searching for answers to the crash. President Barack Obama on Wednesday called for “a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible.” The president added: “While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, materiel, and training.” Mr. Obama urged Russia to “immediately take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to support a sustainable cease-fire.” The White House confirmed Thursday that President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the crash during a phone call about additional sanctions on Russian banks and energy companies announced Wednesday. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also issued a measured response, calling the event “horrifying,” but saying, “we await the facts.” The majority of the passengers on board were from the Netherlands. The U.S. government said it was still trying to determine if any Americans were on the flight, which left Amsterdam bound for Kuala Lumpur. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on Ukraine at 10 a.m. ET Friday, with Britain pressing for the organization to release a press statement demanding “a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident.” The Washington Post reports that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine “offered a two- to four-day truce on Friday to allow international specialists to investigate the wreckage.”

U.S. officials say missile was Russian-made: The New York Times reports Friday that “American intelligence and military officials said the plane had been destroyed by a Russian SA-series missile, based on surveillance satellite data that showed the final trajectory and impact of the missile but not its point of origin.” Ukrainian leaders have implicated pro-Russian separatists and Russia itself, while the separatists and Russian officials have pointed the finger at the Ukrainians. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle noted that it was “too soon” to draw any conclusions about the crash or how the U.S. should respond. The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, said, “If evidence emerges that Russia was involved, that would obviously be extremely concerning.” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said, “It’s way too early to tell exactly what happened.” The key word in all of this is “if.” If it is determined that the separatists are responsible for the strike, pressure is likely to build for a tougher response from the U.S. beyond the measures imposed by the president earlier this week. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the U.S. would need to apply more severe sanctions on Russia if the separatists were found to be at fault.

On immigration, everyone’s a critic: A passenger jet flying over Ukraine was shot down, Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza and Iraq and Syria are both in the midst of civil wars. But back home, America’s crisis continues to be immigration. In the 10 days following President Obama’s request of $3.7 billion from Congress to deal with the mass influx of migrants, everyone from members of the House to the Senate and even political pundits have offered up their immigration two cents. Just this week, we saw bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, to expedite the removal of children who cross the border, a proposal from Republican Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake that would aid the deportation of migrant children by employing more immigration judges, and two separate proposals from Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, and Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., that lean further right than some of their Republican colleagues would like. And there are even more to come. Members of the House and Senate have offered their input during floor speeches, town hall meetings and media interviews. A House working group led by Texas Rep. Kay Granger is set to submit its proposals to House leadership soon. Among the things included in the group’s guidelines is the dismantling of the “catch and release” system for unaccompanied minors. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, would like to go a step further, by completely ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which he says will send the people of Central America a message: “making clear that we won’t give amnesty to those who are here illegally.” Amidst the flurry of legislative proposals and cable news hits, one fact remains — it is unlikely that anything will happen before lawmakers leave for the summer recess. Speaker John Boehner told reporters Thursday he is doubtful Congress will be able to fulfill the president’s funding request before the summer break. “I would certainly hope so, but I don’t have as much optimism as I would like to have.” Boehner added, “There’s just been some comments made by our colleagues across the aisle that are going to make this much more difficult to deal with.” The majority of Democrats continue to support Mr. Obama’s funding request and want to keep the 2008 law that gives child immigrants additional protection intact. But with the House only meeting for eight more days before the recess, the outlook for action looks grim.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1947, President Truman signed the Presidential Succession Act, which placed the speaker of the House and then the Senate president pro tempore next in the line of succession after the vice president. Who is next in line for the presidency after the speaker and the Senate president pro tempore? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Ray Caliendo‏ (@rjcaliendo) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: What weapon of war was successfully tested just one day before Truman went to the Potsdam Conference? The answer was: the atomic bomb.

LINE ITEMS

  • After a 10-day exchange of aerial strikes between Israel and Hamas, Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza Thursday night. The Palestinian death toll has almost hit 250 since the aerial bombardment began.
  • Without a long-term fix for the Highway Trust Fund, Mr. Obama on Thursday announced his intentions to create the Build America Investment Initiative to foster public-private partnerships, specifically to fund transportation projects.
  • Kentucky’s Senate race is predicted to be one of the most expensive races in history.
  • The heated primary runoff between Rep. Jack Kingston and Dollar Store General CEO David Perdue in Georgia will come to an end Tuesday.
  • Vice President Joe Biden earned praise at NetRoots Nation Thursday for speaking out in support of same-sex marriage ahead of Mr. Obama. Biden said he knew the president agreed with his comments on Meet the Press, but that there were “tactical differences” within the White House about when to make that announcement.
  • There are no accounts or assets on Michigan Republican Terri Lynn Land’s financial disclosure form that are worth enough to have supplied the $3 million she gave to her own campaign this year and last. Her campaign now says she failed to disclose a joint account with her husband, but it’s unclear whether Land’s husband transferred those funds from another account, and if so, whether that would violate FEC contribution limits.
  • Americans for Prosperity is expanding its reach with two new offices in Alaska and South Dakota.
  • In a sparsely populated state like South Dakota, there’s an art to going negative — cross a line, and it might backfire. So far though, Democrat Rick Weiland’s musical jibes at former Gov. Mike Rounds are resonating with voters.
  • Want to pick up a win in a national election? These days, especially if you’re running in a lower-profile congressional district, you have to have rich friends — or a Super PAC.
  • New York City has formed a task force to manage the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America.
  • In Iowa to campaign for Gov. Terry Branstad, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upstaged him. “At times,” The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro writes, “it was hard to identify who the actual candidate was.”
  • While in Iowa, Christie said he supports the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.
  • In Florida’s gubernatorial race, former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist has chosen the female and Hispanic head of Miami-Dade’s Democratic Party to be his running mate.
  • Washington state voters currently support two conflicting ballot initiatives on background checks for gun purchases.
  • The Justice Department indicted FedEx Thursday for not having sufficient safeguards against online pharmacies shipping illegal drugs.
  • Presidential hometowns are surprisingly bipartisan, The Fix notes.
  • One of the least restrictive marijuana laws went into effect in the nation’s capital Thursday.
  • Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer is once again accusing the GOP of spying on his campaign — this time, after Democrats discovered raw footage of GOP staffers filming a private Schauer campaign event. Now his campaign has uploaded the footage to YouTube, complete with “Inspector Gadget” theme music.
  • A photographer at the wedding of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., filmed aerial scenes of the ceremony using an unmanned drone. Now he might be in trouble with the FAA.
  • 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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