Ukraine Heats Up

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • SAMANTHA POWER - PUTIN'S ACTIONS SUGGEST HE WANTS EASTERN UKRAINE. In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS yesterday on "This Week," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power had harsh words for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the wake of pro-Russian soldiers' recent takeovers of government buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities, reports ABC's ADAM TEICHOLZ. Asked by Stephanopoulos if the U.S. believes that Putin "wants" Eastern Ukraine, Power responded, "I think the actions that he is undertaking certainly give credence to that idea. But I will say in the conversations that we have, of course, they keep insisting, 'No, that's not what we want, that's not what we want.' But everything they're doing suggests the opposite." "The leadership in Ukraine have made very clear that they're prepared to have a conversation about autonomy and decentralization," Power added regarding eastern Ukraine, but Putin's continued provocations "make you think that a military solution is what" he is seeking.
  • SANCTIONS JITTERS: The Kremlin and its allies may act defiant in the face of what will likely be another round of American sanctions in the coming days, but the markets are already voting with their feet, ABC's KIRIT RADIA notes. The Russian stock exchange dropped at the opening today and remains down about 1.4 percent amid renewed unrest in Ukraine. The Russian ruble also slipped. Meanwhile, the European Union is meeting to discuss sanctions today. The Obama administration is likely to wait and see what they say. Europeans remain wary of imposing more sanctions, given their economic ties to Russia, and so the U.S. may have to go it alone this time. The ultimate question is whether these sanctions will be effective - the aim is to deter Russian behavior, not punish them after the fact. So far it appears they have not been enough.
  • IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Both the State Department and the CIA put out aggressive statements this weekend calling out Russia for its "fiction" on Ukraine, according to ABC's DANA HUGHES. The State Dept. put out a top ten list of Russia's biggest falsehoods, disputing them one by one and then an additional statement on the weekend's escalation blaming Russia for instigating the violence. The CIA gave ABC a rare on-record statement calling Russia's accusations about director Brennan helping Ukraine plan tactical operations "completely false."

RAND PAUL WEIGHS CONTAINMENT OF IRAN NUCLEAR THREAT. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told ABC's JONATHAN KARL he believes "all options should be on the table" to prevent a nuclear Iran, but the U.S. should not immediately accept the idea of war when the threat of a nuclear Iran could be contained as it has been with other nuclear powers. "I've repeatedly voted for sanctions against Iran. And I think all options should be on the table to prevent them from having nuclear weapons," Paul said on "This Week" Sunday. But he said those who oppose the idea of containment - or living with an Iran with nuclear weapons - ignore that such an outcome has been necessary in the past, according to ABC's FREDA KAHEN-KASHI. "They said containment will never ever, ever be our policy," Paul said of those who oppose Iran getting nuclear weapons at any cost. "We woke up one day and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. If that would have been our policy toward Pakistan, we would be at war with Pakistan. We woke up one day and China had nuclear weapons. We woke up one day and Russia had them."

-PAUL: GOP 'NEEDS TO EVOLVE, CHANGE, GROW'. Sen. Paul joined ABC News on the trail Friday near Manchester, New Hampshire, where he traveled for Saturday;s conservative Freedom Summit, which featured several GOP leaders considering 2016 presidential bids. Paul, who has climbed to the top of the 2016 field, weighed in on the future of the Republican Party, fellow Republican Jeb Bush's recent remarks on immigration, and his own potential presidential candidacy. Despite winning several recent straw polls, and leading the Republican field in a new CNN poll on 2016, Paul is still shying away from being labeled the GOP frontrunner. "I don't know if that's good luck or bad luck. So why don't we not go there?" Paul said. "I guess it's better than not being noticed." He may be ambiguous about his candidacy, but Paul is adamant on his views about the Republican party and its future. "No matter what happens, I think the Republican Party needs to evolve, change, grow if we're going to win again," Paul said. "And so I do want to be part of that."

-PAUL ON IMMIGRATION: 'WE CAN'T INVITE THE WHOLE WORLD.' Earlier this week, another conservative superstar, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, made headlines with his comments on immigration, saying that while illegal immigrants break the law by crossing the border, "it's not a felony, it's an act of love." While Paul didn't dispute Bush's comments, he did say he may have framed them differently. "If it were me, what I would have said is, people who seek the American dream are not bad people." "But here's the way I'd finish up," he added. "We can't invite the whole world. When you say they're doing an act of love and you don't follow it up with but we have to control the border, people think, well, because they're doing this for kind reasons, that the whole world can come to our country."


WHAT'S HOT, WHAT'S NOT AMONG POTENTIAL 2016 GOP HOPEFULS. The 2016 campaign arrived two years early in New Hampshire this weekend, as Republican politicians pitched their message to the state that hosts the first-in-the-nation primary. Here's ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ's look at which political figures and policy issues were hot - and which were not - at the inaugural Freedom Summit, which was sponsored by conservative groups Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United.

-HOT: SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, AND SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY. It sure seemed Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul were all "in" when it comes to the 2016 campaign. Prior to speaking at the conservative summit, both senators traversed the Granite State to attend Republican rallies, glad-handing with voters and selling their prescription for the Republican Party. Neither senator has made an official presidential campaign announcement (and they are not likely to for quite a while), but their visit to New Hampshire sure had the feeling of politicians interested in pursuing a run for the White House.

-NOT: NEW JERSEY GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE. Gov. Chris Christie, who's still dealing with the George Washington Bridge scandal in New Jersey, wasn't even invited to attend the summit, event organizers told ABC News. Other potential 2016ers were missing from the summit too: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. Both were lucky enough to score an invite to speak at the conference but decided not to attend.

-HOT: NSA JOKES. Jokes about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs abounded at the conservative conference Saturday. "Please leave your cell phones on. I want to make sure President Obama hears every word I say," Cruz said to laughter.

-NOT: COMMON CORE. Calls to repeal the Common Core, uniform education standards adopted by many states across the country, were consistently cheered by Republicans at the New Hampshire meeting Saturday, showing that the issue could be a tricky one should Jeb Bush, who is a strong supporter of the Common Core, decide to run.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK: 'VERY THOROUGH' PLANNING TO PROTECT BOSTON MARATHON. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said yesterday the state is taking all necessary steps to secure the Boston Marathon after the attack on last year's event that left three dead and hundreds injured. "I think we are very well prepared and people should come out and enjoy themselves," Patrick said this morning on "This Week," according to ABC's BENJAMIN BELL. "I think we have struck an appropriate balance between having more law enforcement presence, but also assuring that it continues to be a family outing and a civic ritual," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "The planning has been very, very thorough. The teams are well coordinated. … We had a sort of table-top exercise, a practice session, a full day, a couple of weeks ago with there were 450 people in the room from every state, federal and local agency and municipal leadership, as well, for each of the cities and towns along the route," he continued.

SENATORS SEEK TO ABOLISH AGENCY, INTRODUCE 'LET ME GOOGLE THAT FOR YOU' BILL. Call it the "google-ization" of the United States, reports ABC's BETSY KLEIN. A new bill has been introduced in the Senate called the "Let Me Google That For You Act." This is a real thing - really, let me google it for you. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is working across the aisle with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., on the bill, which is intended to "streamline the collection and distribution of government information." Translation: If passed, the "Let Me Google That for You Act" would repeal the National Technical Information Service, also known as NTIS, which was created more than 40 years before the creation of the Internet as a means to distribute government-funded information and reports.


HOW PAKISTAN HID OSAMA BIN LADEN FROM THE U.S. AND FUELED THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN. What if the United States has been waging the wrong war against the wrong enemy for the last 13 years in Afghanistan? Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall, who spent more time covering the war in Afghanistan since 2001 than any other Western journalist, concludes just that in her new book, "The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014." Gall told ABC's MARTHA RADDATZ, host of "On the Radar," that Pakistan - not Afghanistan - has been the United States' real enemy. "Instead of fighting a very grim and tough war which was very high in casualties on Afghans, as well as NATO and American soldiers, the problem wasn't in the Afghan villages," Gall said. "The source of the problem, the radicalization, the sponsoring of the insurgency, was all happening in Pakistan." Gall said she first had the realization that Pakistan was fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan "very soon" after the Sept. 11 attacks.


-THE COALITION FOR MORTGAGE SECURITY is launching the first phase of a digital ad campaign today targeting key states. Ads in Idaho will be critical of Sen. Mike Crapo, R- Idaho, while ads in Pennsylvania will praise Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. The theme: Winding down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "the right way," according to the coalition, which is spending $50,000 on the first phase. More from the coalition's director, Ken Blackwell, in a Fox News Op-Ed:


@NancyPelosi: Prayers are with families & friends of those lost in Kansas City. All Americans stand united against such acts of hatred & anti-Semitism.

@clairecmc: In 06 Dems refused KC shooter Glenn Miller's filing fee( trying to run for Congress)because he was an avowed white supremacist.

@SheThePeople: GOP seeks army of female volunteers to counter Democratic attacks

?@sbg1: "I wld compliment Bush on nailing Putin's blank sociopathy" Must-read Molly Crabapple on Bush

?@jasondhorowitz: Eric Lesser may be the face of the promised Obama generation, but he is also one of its few participants. …

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