By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: "It is transparent," President Obama declared of the NSA programs the public knew nothing about until two weeks ago. (From his context, he clearly meant he believes the programs were transparent even before the revelations that made them public.) Oversight, though, is not the same as transparency, as the president's congressional critics are quick to point out. The president also vowed to "structure a national conversation" around the programs. That conversation, though, will be decidedly one-sided until or unless some real transparency is introduced. Just for starters, is it possible that we'll learn about a government activity in this realm from something other than a leak that draws criminal prosecution?
ABC's DEVIN DWYER: Who said it had to be awkward? President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin both flashed smiles and seemed generally relaxed after a rare two-hour private meeting yesterday on the sidelines of the G8. Never mind the embarrassing disclosure a day earlier that the U.S. spied on former Russian President Medvedev in 2009 at a G20 conference. "It was a non-event at the meeting," said deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who was in the room. "As a general matter… the U.S. and Russia are well aware that each of us has an intelligence community and we have had dialogues on these issues for years," he said. As for the overall tone of the talks, Rhodes described them as "business-like," "constructive" and "in-depth." "They're each leaders who kind of get right to the point here and don't need to circle around it," he said. Both men agreed to hold another bilateral summit in Moscow in September ahead of the G20 meeting in St. Petersberg.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: 2016 in 2013? Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) became the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 this morning. Think you missed something overnight? No, the former Secretary of State did not announce her intentions in her speech last night in Grand Rapids, Michigan but McCaskill is starting early backing Clinton and the "Ready for Hillary" effort. "Hillary Clinton had to give up her political operation while she was making us proud, representing us around the world as an incredible Secretary of State, and that's why Ready for Hillary is so critical," McCaskill said in a statement from "Ready for Hillary." The Missouri senator was an early backer of then-Senator Obama and she praised "Ready for Hillary" for reaching out to not just those who supported Clinton in 2008. "They're helping to show that regardless of who you supported for President back then, we can all agree today that there is nobody better equipped to be our next President than Hillary Clinton." McCaskill may be the first sitting member of Congress, but she's not the first high profile supporter to make their intentions known. Just yesterday former governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm tweeted she would be attending a "Ready for Hillary" rally where Clinton would speak in Grand Rapids.
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
BOSTON TEA PARTY? GABRIEL GOMEZ POURS WATER ON ACCUSATIONS HE IS MEMBER OF CONSERVATIVE GROUP. With barely a week to go before the special election to fill the seat John Kerry vacated in the Senate, ABC's JEFF ZELENY, host of "The Fine Print," caught up with the two candidates at the center of the heated campaign on the trail in Massachusetts. It's taken a particular sort of Republican to win statewide elections in liberal-leaning Massachusetts, and Republican nominee Gabriel Gomez, a second-generation Latino immigrant and former Navy SEAL with a business degree from Harvard, is making the case that he fits the mold. His opponent, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. has called Gomez a "Tea Party Republican," but Gomez says that's wishful thinking on Markey's part. "He wishes he was running against a Tea Party Republican," Gomez says with a smile. "I am independent, and I'm Republican and I'm proud of it. But I'm going to represent all the people in Massachusetts." For more of the interviews with Gomez and Markey, and to hear how Gomez thinks the Republican Party will gain voters by offering a pathway to citizenship to the estimated 11 million people currently living in the country illegally, check out this episode of The Fine Print. http://yhoo.it/128DRg5
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
-DEMOCRATS ACCUSE GOP CANDIDATE CUCCINELLI OF PUTTING ENERGY COMPANIES BEFORE VIRGINIANS. The Virginia governor's race has focused on its share of complicated issues, mostly Star Scientific and GreenTech, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. Now, the Virginia Democratic Party is launching an all-out assault against Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli over his office's involvement in a gas-royalty case. Southwest Virginia residents have been pressing a suit against two energy companies for gas-drilling royalties, and a judge this month voiced "shock" that an assistant attorney general advised those companies on legal matters, as Virginia's Gas and Oil Board got involved. Cuccinelli's office told the Associated Press that the attorney intervened in a limited scope to defend the state's Gas and Oil Act, but that isn't stopping the McAuliffe campaign from portraying Cuccinelli as more concerned with helping energy companies than the mostly conservative voters in southwest Virginia - a presumptive stronghold for Cuccinelli in November's election. Virginia Democrats will run ads online in two Virginia papers and on Facebook linking to this new web video. It features Cuccinelli's own words - "Southwest Virginia has never had anybody fight harder for them than I do" - alongside negative local news coverage of the gas royalty issue. WATCH: http://bit.ly/12F7ThM
-PLANNED PARENTHOOD LAUNCHES FINAL-WEEK PUSH IN MASSACHUSETTS SENATE RACE. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and its independent expenditure committee, Planned Parenthood Votes plans to make an estimated 145,000 calls and will send mail pieces to 74,300 households in Massachusetts ahead of next week's Senate special election. The mail pieces from the group, which has endorsed Democrat Ed Markey, say, "when it comes to women's health, we can't trust Gabriel Gomez." They accuse Gomez, the Republican candidate, of dodging questions about his views on abortion and other issues. Here are the two mailers being sent to Massachusetts voters http://bit.ly/1acjl6a and: http://bit.ly/13M8N8J
OBAMA, PUTIN DON'T 'COINCIDE' ON SYRIA BUT CALL FOR END TO VIOLENCE. President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that the bloodshed in Syria must stop and that there should be a renewed push for negotiations. But, as ABC's MARY BRUCE reports, they also stated the obvious: their positions on Syria differ greatly. "Our opinions do not coincide," Putin said, in a tense photo-op with Obama yesterday following their first meeting in a year. "All of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria, to stop the growth of victims and to solve the situation peacefully, including by bringing the parties to the negotiating table in Geneva," he said. Russia continues to arm Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and Putin does not agree that his longtime ally must step down from power for a political settlement to be successful. We do have differing perspectives on the problem," Obama said, in a carefully-worded statement, "but we share an interest in reducing the violence, securing chemical weapons and ensuring that they're neither used nor are they subject to proliferation; and that we want to try to resolve the issue through political means, if possible." http://abcn.ws/13OGqsf WATCH ABC's JONATHAN KARL on "Good Morning America" this morning reporting on the latest from the G8 Summit: http://abcn.ws/10tjkJd
LIGHTNING ROD EX-'OBAMACARE' OFFICIAL TO RUN FOR MASS. GOVERNOR. Donald Berwick, a former controversial figure in the Obama administration who served as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said he will run for governor of Massachusetts next year, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP writes. "As a doctor, an educator, an innovator and someone who has dedicated his professional career to making things work better and to helping people, I am ready to lead," Berwick, who is a professor at Harvard Medical School and a licensed pediatrician, said yesterday in a statement announcing his candidacy. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a key ally of President Obama's, announced that he would not run for a third term. Berwick, 66, is a key figure in the political battle over President Obama's health care law, which goes into effect across the country at the same time that he will be running for the governor's mansion in Massachusetts. He served as both a lightning rod to conservatives who opposed the law in 2010 and a hero to Democrats who hailed his academic work on reducing costs in health care systems. http://abcn.ws/10qP1TF
SUPREME COURT REJECTS PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP FOR FEDERAL ELECTIONS IN ARIZONA. The Supreme Court yesterday struck down part of an Arizona law that requires proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in federal elections, reports ABC's ARIANE DE VOGUE. Arizona's Proposition 200 passed in 2004 and required, among other things, any registrant who does not have a driver's license issued after 1996 or a non-operating license to provide documents such as a copy of a birth certificate or a passport. The law went further than a federal law that established a nationally uniform voter application form on which the registrant is required to check a box indicating U.S. citizenship and to sign the form under penalty of perjury. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for a 7-2 majority, said yesterday that the state law conflicted with the federal law, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which is sometimes referred to as the Motor Voter law. The NVRA was enacted in 1993 to establish uniform procedures to vote in federal elections. Scalia said a state-imposed requirement of evidence of citizenship that is not required by the federal form is "inconsistent" with the NVRA's mandate that states accept and use the federal form. http://abcn.ws/11jExEa
WHAT WE'RE READING
"BOEHNER AIMS TO MOVE IMMIGRATION BY CAPITALIZING ON A CONSERVATIVE RIFT," by the National Journal's Chris Frates. "John Boehner wants immigration reform to pass. To get it done, the House speaker will have to capitalize on the widening gap among conservatives, and he's preparing the groundwork to do it. … As a senior GOP leadership aide put it, 'Our conference is all over the place. Our goal here is to try and find that little slice of land where we can walk through and we're not crucified on either side.' … So House leaders have been meeting privately with members, making the case that inaction on immigration will be more costly than doing something. Weeks into the debate, it remains a hard sell among reform opponents, particularly members who do not want to offer citizenship to people here illegally. They worry that any House legislation - such as a tough border-security bill most of them are after-will ultimately be watered down in negotiations with the Senate. 'What will have to happen, and is happening in private discussions, is that we have to convince these guys if we're going to go to conference, we're not going to cave on our principles,' a senior House GOP aide said. 'That is the sales job you have to make to those guys.'" http://bit.ly/128B3j2