Grill On The Hill: Eric Shinseki Edition

VIDEO: Eric Shinseki is called to Capitol Hill about allegations that VA hospitals made patients wait too long for care.

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • SHINSEKI 'ANGERED AND SADDENED': Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will tell senators today that he's "personally angered and saddened by any adverse consequence that a veteran might experience while in, or as a result of, our care," according to ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ. He will also tell members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that, if proven true, the VA delays in Phoenix are "unacceptable."
  • ACCORDING TO HIS PREPARED REMARKS, HE WILL SAY: "In response to allegations about scheduling and delays at the Phoenix VA, I invited an independent investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to conduct a comprehensive, thorough and timely review. If these allegations are true, they are completely unacceptable - to veterans, to me and to our dedicated VHA employees. If they are substantiated by OIG, responsible and timely action will be taken. … It is important to allow OIG's independent and objective review to proceed until completion, and OIG has advised VA against providing information that could potentially compromise their ongoing review." ABC's JIM AVILA previewed Shinseki's appearance on Capitol Hill today on "Good Morning America." WATCH:


ABC's RICK KLEIN: We may look back at this week as the one where Hillary Clinton started running for president - until or unless she decides to stop. After months of things being said about the Clintons, the Clintons themselves decided to talk back. Strong written statements were followed by a remarkable series of speeches Wednesday, where Bill and Hillary Clinton played off of each other - unwittingly, or more likely not - to mount an aggressive defense of a non-candidate for public office. Foreign policy, Benghazi, health care, the economy, personal health issues - it was all in there, from one or both Clintons. With Hillary Clinton doing her first political event of the year today, for a friend who happens to be Chelsea's mother-in-law, and with a book tour and then midterm campaigning beckoning, there will be no turning back.

BE RELATED! AND 4 OTHER WAYS TO SCORE A CLINTON CAMPAIGN ENDORSEMENT. All eyes will yet again be on Hillary Clinton today as she makes her first campaign appearance of 2014 with a fundraising event for Pennsylvania congressional candidate, and Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, Marjorie Margolies. Clinton, who has largely shied away from political events in the past year, is making an exception for her in-law, who could use a boost in the polls. And for Margolies, who has also had the public support of former president Bill Clinton, it's a pretty nice deal. No two political figures have as much endorsement power as the ones who bear the Clinton name. Last month a poll showed Bill Clinton's favorability to be on par with Pope Francis, and this month at a health care conference Hillary Clinton was likened to a "rock star." Their influence and star appeal makes them the most sought-after campaign surrogates in the 2014 midterm races. Just as book publishers want Oprah and designers want Anna Wintour, Democratic candidates want the Clintons. But how does one get a political push from the power couple? Is raw talent and political charisma enough for a candidate to get on their radar, or does touting a Clinton by ones side require a little something more? Here's ABC's LIZ KREUTZ's list of reasons that may compel one, or both, of the Clintons to go out and stump:



CLINTON'S DOUBLE DOWN, FIGHT BACK AGAINST KARL ROVE, STATE DEPT. CRITICS. Speaking at two events yesterday taking place during the same hour in Washington, D.C., Hillary and Bill Clinton presented a united front to defend Hillary Clinton's foreign policy record at the State Department and take aim at Karl Rove for his accusations that the former secretary of state has "brain damage," ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE AND LIZ KREUTZ report. "First, they said she faked her concussion and now they say she is auditioning for her part on 'The Walking Dead,'" Bill Clinton said at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation's 2014 Fiscal Summit. "You know, whatever it takes," Bill Clinton added. "Look, she works out every week, she is strong, she is doing great. As far as I can tell, she is in better shape than I am. She certainly seems to have more stamina than me. There is nothing to it. I was sort of dumbfounded."

-NOTED: BILL CLINTON WARNS DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES NOT TO 'RUN AWAY' FROM OBAMACARE. Former president Bill Clinton offered a vigorous defense of Obamacare yesterday, while sending a message to election-year Democrats who might be inclined to put some distance between themselves and their vote for the Affordable Care Act, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. "I think it's a terrible mistake for people who voted for the health care bill to run away from it," Clinton said at a fundraiser for the Center for American Progress at the Newseum in Washington this evening. "I think it is a colossal error to be afraid to discuss policy with the American people or to think they don't care or to think they can't get it."

-HILLARY CLINTON TOOK 6 MONTHS TO 'GET OVER' CONCUSSION. Bill Clinton did more yesterday than defend his wife, Hillary Clinton, from recent accusations leveled by GOP strategist Karl Rove that she suffered brain damage after falling in December 2012, ABC's MARY BRUCE AND DANA HUGHES note. The former president revealed that his wife's injury "required six months of very serious work to get over," he said during a question-and-answer session at the Peterson Foundation in Washington. "They went to all this trouble to say she had staged what was a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over," he said. "It's something she never low-balled with the American people, never tried to pretend it didn't happen." But Bill Clinton's timeline appears to differ from official comments from the State Department at the time.

NIGERIA MILITARY HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES WON'T STOP AMERICAN SEARCH ASSISTANCE, OFFICIAL SAYS. An American law that prevents the United States from helping foreign security forces guilty of human rights abuses applies to parts of the Nigerian military but doesn't affect U.S. efforts to find the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, a senior State Department official said yesterday, ABC's ALI WEINBERG AND DANA HUGHES note. The so-called "Leahy Law" does, in fact, bar the U.S. from giving training and other assistance to specific units in the Nigerian military, including, the official said, one counterterrorism unit. But, the official added, "we separate that specific from our ability to help now." "We are doing human rights training and appropriate use of force [training] with the military for those elements that we can work with," the official said on a conference call with reporters. The official underscored that the U.S. still has concerns about Nigeria's human rights record.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: BRIDGE LANE CLOSURES SCANDAL WILL HAVE NO IMPACT ON POLITICAL FUTURE. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said yesterday the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal will have no impact on his political future and blamed the media attention it has received on politics, according to ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. "As far as the impact on my political future, I think it will have none," Christie said, when asked by CBS News' Bob Schieffer about potential implications of the scandal known as "Bridgegate." "Because I didn't do anything. So listen, I understand the circus that this becomes. You get 61 percent of the vote in a blue state in November, and then, all of a sudden, a couple of staff people do something that they shouldn't have done. I fire them and, all the sudden, this becomes the biggest story in the country for a couple months. 'Cause I guess you guys weren't doing anything else down here? So, this is what needed to be focused on, right?"

-CHRISTIE SAYS RUNNING AGAINST JEB BUSH WOULD BE 'STRESSFUL.' Christie doesn't relish the idea of campaigning against Jeb Bush in 2016, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY reports. In fact, a presidential primary tussle with the former Florida governor would be "stressful," Christie acknowledged Tuesday. "You like to run against people that you don't like, not run against people that you do like and respect, so of course it would be stressful," Christie said on New Jersey radio station 101.5-s "Ask the Governor" program. "I am close with the Bush family … [Jeb] has been a wonderful friend to me, especially during [superstorm] Sandy and the aftermath," he said.

HOLLYWOOD TITANS RAKE IN CASH FOR WENDY DAVIS' TEXAS GOVERNOR'S RACE. Some of Hollywood's biggest power players are about to open up their wallets for Democrat Wendy Davis's gubernatorial campaign in Texas. J.J. Abrams, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg are hosting a celebration and fundraiser for Wendy Davis on May 22 in Santa Monica, Calif., the Davis campaign confirmed, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. The soiree will be hosted on the rooftop of Bad Robot, the production company owned by Abrams. A donation of $1,000 will get you in the door, but to be a co-host, you must raise or contribute $10,000, while hosts will fork over $25,000. Contributions will be evenly split between Davis' gubernatorial campaign and Battleground Texas, a Democratic political action committee aimed at making Texas a swing state.

SUSAN RICE: 'DANG IF I KNOW' WHETHER MORE BENGHAZI INFO WILL BE REVEALED. National Security Adviser Ambassador Susan Rice expressed exasperation when asked yesterday whether the new House Select Committee investigating the Benghazi consulate attack will actually lead to the administration producing new information to the public about the terror attack, according to ABC's DANA HUGHES. "Dang if I know," she said to crowd gathered at luncheon honoring women in foreign policy in Washington. "I mean, honestly, the administration has produced, I think, 25,000 pages of documents, or 25,000 individual documents. They've supported, participated in, contributed to the investigations of, you know, seven, I think, different committees. We have had an accountability review board by a very distinguished group of outsiders. "You know, House and Senate committees have pronounced on this repeatedly. So it's hard to imagine what further will come of yet another committee," she added.

-U.S. WON'T RULE OUT MORE MILITARY HELP IN NIGERIA, RICE SAYS. Rice would not rule out the United States' providing more military help to Nigeria in locating the 200-plus girls abducted from their school dormitories a month ago, but emphasized that the girls need to be located before any discussions of something beyond mostly advisory assistance can be had . Rice said the administration has been "gripped" by the situation, echoing the president and first lady's sentiment of feeling a personal connection as parents. "For those of us who are policymakers, but also those of us who are parents, as I am, it's just heartbreaking to imagine your teenage girl taken away and potentially at risk of being sold into captivity or worse," Rice said.

OBAMA CHIDES GOP FOR FAILING TO ACT ON INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION. Standing before a crumbling New York bridge, President Obama yesterday made an urgent plea for lawmakers to pass infrastructure legislation, saying rebuilding America "shouldn't be a partisan issue," ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. "If they don't act by the end of the summer, federal funding for transportation projects will run out. … There will be no money. The cupboard will be bare," Obama said as he stood before the Tappan Zee Bridge, just north of New York City. "Let's not fight about something we all know makes sense," he said. The president slammed Republicans for failing to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, warning that unless they act, nearly 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year. "Not only have they prevented so far efforts to make sure funding is still in place for what we've already got, but their proposal would actually cut job-creating grant programs that have funded high-priority transportation projects in all 50 states," Obama said. "Instead of putting more workers back on the job, they'd put those workers' jobs at risk."


-BARBARA WALTERS GETS RETIREMENT SHOUT OUT FROM WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY. Press Secretary Jay Carney paid tribute to ABC News' Barbara Walters at the White House yesterday, joking that he doesn't believe she's actually going to retire at the end of this week, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. "I expect we'll be getting an interview request within weeks," he quipped at the top of the daily briefing. "She has interviewed every president and first lady since Richard Nixon, been on television for more than five decades, and claims she's retiring on Friday. I don't believe it," he said.

-SHOULD MEMBERS OF CONGRESS BE FORCED TO FLY COACH? Sometimes life can be hard, especially for members of Congress who have to commute back and forth from Washington to their home states every week or so. And a new bill introduced by Rep. Paul A. Gosar, R-Ariz., and three of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives - Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and John Barrow, D-Ga. - is not exactly going to make it easier, ABC's ALINA KLEINEIDAM notes. The proposed "If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then So Should Congress Act" would prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to fly first-class. "The bill is a continuation of my efforts to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government," co-sponsor Gosar said in a statement. "It's a very simple bill. All it does is prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer funds to purchase first-class airfare.


@mattbai: What we're looking at is a campaign orchestrated by nervous Democrats and aimed at persuading Clinton herself. …

@psteinhauserCNN: New Quinnipiac 2016 poll in Ohio indicates Clinton still ahead of potential GOP opponents, but her lead has shrunk

@mikememoli: Good @markzbarabak look at NV Gov. Sandoval and his standing in the GOP

@maggiepolitico: Stepien says Christie knew about lane closures before Dec. presser where he said he didn't. …

@zbyronwolf: In other @nytimes news… their home page is leading with a gif.

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