The Note's Must-Reads for Friday, January 24, 2014

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at www.abcnews.com

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Will Cantine and Jordan Mazza

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ABC News' Shushannah Walshe: " A Student Asks Christie: 'How Do You Keep Everything Under Control?'" New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited a school in Camden Thursday, and aside from his inauguration speech Tuesday it was his first public event since Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer accused his administration of bullying tactics. He didn't take any questions from press, instead briskly walking out of the event at Dudley Family School to shouted press questions with a "No questions today, guys." He did field some questions from children at the elementary school, though, with one asking the governor, "How do you keep everything under control?" He answered with a laugh, "Not so well sometimes, it depends on the day, man, it depends on the day." LINK

The New York Daily News' Larry McShane: " Chris Christie Best Person To Lead Republican Governors Association: RNC Chief" New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, under fire in his home state, received a pat on the back Wednesday from the head of the Republican National Committee. Chairman Reince Priebus said Christie was the right man to run the Republican Governors Association, rebutting a call for him to step down. "I don't know of a better governor right now to lead that effort - that is just a powerhouse across the country," Priebus said on CNN. "His job is to raise a lot of money for the RGA, and he can do that and I'm sure the RGA is proud to have him." LINK

EDWARD SNOWDEN ABC News' Lee Ferran: " Edward Snowden: 'Not Possible To Return To U.S. Now" Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor that exposed the agency's most closely held secrets, said today that while returning to the U.S. would be the "best resolution" for everyone, it's "not possible" now because he does not believe he can get a fair trial. Charged in the U.S. with espionage-related crimes and living quietly in Russia, Snowden answered Twitter questions today in an online Q&A. When CNN's Jake Tapper asked under what conditions Snowden would return to the U.S., the 30-year-old said the nearly 100-year-old Espionage Act, under which he is charged, "forbids a public interest defense." LINK

The New York Times' Steve Kenny: " U.S. Willing To Hold Talks If Snowden Pleads Guilty" Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday that the United States was willing to discuss how the criminal case against Edward J. Snowden would be handled, but only if Mr. Snowden pleaded guilty first. Mr. Holder, speaking at a question-and-answer event at the University of Virginia, did not specify the guilty pleas the Justice Department would expect before it would open talks with Mr. Snowden's lawyers. And the attorney general reiterated that the United States was not willing to offer clemency to Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has leaked documents that American officials have said threaten national security. LINK

The Hill's Kate Tummarello: " Snowden Expresses Desire To 'Come Home' As US Hints At Talks" National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday said he would be willing to return to the United States if he were able to mount a legal defense as a whistleblower. "Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it's unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself," Snowden wrote during an online chat. The remark came the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration would be willing to "engage in conversations" with Snowden if he accepted responsibility for his actions. LINK

SURVEILLANCE ABC News's Arlette Saenz and Steven Portnoy: " White House Rejects Board urging To Halt Surveillance" The White House sharply disagreed today with a report from an oversight board that concluded the government's surveillance program is illegally collecting phone records of Americans and recommended the practice be discontinued. "We simply disagree with the board's analysis on the legality of the program," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. The report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board comes one week after President Obama introduced his suggestions for reforming the National Security Agency's surveillance practices, including transferring the storage of metadata away from the government. The president met with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in the weeks prior to his final decision. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Siobahn Gorman and Jared A. Favole: " Watchdog Panel Urges NSA To End Phone Program" An independent privacy-watchdog board split Thursday over the National Security Agency's controversial phone-data program, with a narrow majority declaring it illegal and calling for its end. The recommendations further stoked an already-polarized national debate over surveillance, but the lack of consensus on the five-member board over the key issue of whether the bulk collection of Americans' phone data is legal seemed likely to undercut the influence of its report, some lawmakers said. LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan: " Privacy Panel Says NSA Phone Snooping Violates Federal Laws" The federal government violated the Patriot Act by stockpiling Americans' phone records and the phone companies are violating other federal laws by turning over the information, a federal privacy watchdog said Thursday, adding more hurdles for advocates who are trying to preserve the snooping program. In a 3-2 ruling, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said the National Security Agency should scrap its collection program and instead ask telephone companies for information in limited specific cases. Going further, the board said the government should destroy all of the records it has. LINK

Bloomberg's Margaret Talev and Chris Strohm: " NSA's Spying On Phone Calls Illegal: U.S. Privacy Board" A divided U.S. privacy-policy board concluded the National Security Agency's collection of bulk telephone data is illegal and should be stopped, giving fresh support for opponents of the government's surveillance programs. The five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by Congress under post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism laws, said in a 238-page report that the program to collect and store the records has provided only "minimal" help to the U.S. in thwarting terrorist attacks. LINK

FORMER VIRGINIA GOV. MCDONNELL The Washington Post's Rosalind Helderman and Carol Leonnig: " McDonnell Rejected Plea Offer To Face One Felony, Spare Wife Any Charges, Avoid Trial" Maureen McDonnell relayed to federal prosecutors last summer that she felt responsible for the relationship with a wealthy businessman who had drawn legal scrutiny to Virginia's first family, and her attorney asked whether the case could be resolved without charges for her husband. But prosecutors showed no interest, according to people familiar with the conversation. Instead, months later, authorities proposed that then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell plead guilty to one felony fraud charge that had nothing to do with corruption in office and his wife would avoid charges altogether. The governor rejected the offer, the people with knowledge of the conversations said. LINK

Politico's Manu Raju: " Bluegrass Bravado: Untested Alison Lundergan Grimes Takes On Mitch McConnell" Call it supreme self-confidence or misplaced bravado. But at 35 years old and barely two years into her public career, Alison Lundergan Grimes betrays no hint that she's even the slightest bit cowed taking on one of the toughest and wiliest tacticians in the U.S. Senate.Asked about a position she'd take "if" she were a senator, the Democratic candidate running against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) corrected a reporter: "When I'm in the United States Senate. … That's when, not if." LINK

STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS USA Today's Aamer Madhani: " Obama To Talk Minimum Wage, Immigration In Address" When President Obama heads to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to deliver the State of the Union address, expect him to endorse gradually raising the minimum wage, to offer a gentle plea to Republicans for cooperation on an immigration deal, and perhaps to touch on executive action he can take to bolster clean energy in the USA. Obama and his chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, are still deep in the drafting process of his speech that will inevitably have the familiarity of some of his past addresses, where he focused heavily on his vision for bolstering the economy while offering Congress a laundry list of legislative requests. LINK

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