By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- BOEHNER ‘CLOSER’ TO CALLING FOR SHINSEKI’S RESIGNATION: House Speaker John Boehner said yesterday that he is getting “closer” to calling on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, but said his greater concern is that he believes the VA’s inspector general lacks the capacity to investigate the agency’s growing scandal, ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON reports. “I’ve not called for General Shinseki to resign, although I have to admit I’m getting a little closer,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “This isn’t about one person. This isn’t about the secretary. It’s about the entire system underneath him.” He spoke after the House Veterans Affairs committee voted unanimously to compel three senior VA officials to testify before Congress next week regarding the destruction of documents at the center of a cover up at a Phoenix VA hospital. http://abcn.ws/1nvBD7o
- DEMOCRATS DRIP, DRIP, DRIP: Yesterday Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes called for Shinseki’s resignation, saying in a statement: “We owe a solemn obligation to our veterans, and our government defaulted on that contract. I don’t see how that breach of trust with our veterans can be repaired if the current leadership stays in place.” So did Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, a candidate for governor of Florida: “While we don’t know precisely what happened here, we do know that there must be accountability and confidence in leadership in order to get to the truth and provide veterans the medical care they’ve earned and deserve. That confidence is gone. I think it would be best if the Secretary stepped down and allowed others to get the VA fixed once and for all.”
- SHINSEKI SPEAKS: The embattled VA secretary penned a statement to veterans and their family members yesterday: “In response to these allegations at the Phoenix VA Medical Center and a number of other facilities, the VA Office of Inspector General is conducting a comprehensive, independent review. In addition to the IG’s independent review, I ordered the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to conduct a nationwide audit of all other major VA healthcare facilities to ensure understanding of, and compliance with, our appointment policy. That audit is being conducted now by more than two hundred senior VHA staff. All teams are independent of the facilities they are visiting. You and your families deserve to have full faith in your VA, and we intend to earn it every day.” http://1.usa.gov/1k93E5Y
THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: The powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics with ABC News political analyst MATTHEW DOWD, Republican strategist and ABC News contributor ANA NAVARRO, ABC News contributor and former Obama White House senior adviser DAVID PLOUFFE and Daily Beast contributor and Republican pollster KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON. Then, we discuss the latest on the VA scandal with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America founder and CEO PAUL RIECKHOFF. Plus, after the United States Justice Department charged five Chinese military officers with spying, we examine the impact on U.S.-China relations with former Utah Gov. JON HUNTSMAN — who served as ambassador to China under President Obama — and ABC News contributor STEVE GANYARD. Tune in Sunday. http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: How many times will the question be asked before they settle on an answer? Democratic challengers are dodging and perhaps flubbing a hard question, but not an unexpected one, when they’re being asked (and asked again) how they would have voted on Obamacare. The stock non-answer we’re hearing from such challengers as Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes and Georgia’s Michelle Nunn is some variation of, if I had been there, the bill would have been different. That’s nice, but it’s also not the question. It’s also the kind of non-answer that ensures more questions, through national and local media follow-up and, down the line, televised debates. Until a Grimes or a Nunn comes up with an answer that starts with “yes,” or “no,” the questions won’t go away.
ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: So what exactly is going on in Mississippi? More arrests after a conservative blogger was accused of breaking into a facility and photographing the wife of Sen. Thad Cochran. She has lived there for over a decade, suffering with dementia. It’s as nasty as it sounds and all those arrested are supporters of Cochran’s opponent, Chris McDaniel. McDaniel has denied any connection to the situation or a relationship to the individuals involved, but, it is dominating the headlines in the run up to the June 3rd primary. There is little polling in the race, but all indications are that the race is completely locked up and this is a real chance for the tea party to take down a giant. Could the extreme dirtiness of the incident bring sympathy to Cochran and actually help him? Anything is possible, but for those accused–whatever they were trying to accomplish–it’s likely it has completely done the opposite. Maybe this will help curb those nasty tricks we see too often in politics.
14 FOR 14: THE MIDTERM MINUTE
TOM STEYER VS. THE KOCH BROTHERS: 2014-S BATTLE OF THE BILLIONAIRES. In an era when campaign cash can swing elections, the 2014 midterms may boil down, at least in part, to a contest between billionaires. On the left is Tom Steyer, worth $1.6 billion, an outspoken advocate for climate change legislation. The hedge-fund-manager-turned-environmentalist is reportedly prepared to spend $50 million of his own money to help elect environmentally-friendly Democrats in seven states in 2014. His Super PAC, NextGen Climate, plans to contribute another $50 million. On the right are Charles and David Koch, chiefs an oil and gas conglomerate that rakes in over $100 billion in revenue annually. The Koch brothers have consistently opposed climate change legislation and argued for looser EPA regulations. They’ve also fought against Obamacare and for a balanced budget. They and the conservative group they helped start, Americans for Prosperity, are reportedly planning a $125 million midterm push of their own. ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY takes a look at what we know about 2014-s battle of the billionaires: http://abcn.ws/RY6U8T
DARRELL ISSA: WHITE HOUSE CONTACTED YOUTUBE DURING BENGHAZI ATTACK. A still-classified State Department e-mail says that one of the first responses from the White House to the Benghazi attack was to contact YouTube to warn of the “ramifications” of allowing the posting of an anti-Islamic video, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. According to ABC’s JONATHAN KARL, the memo suggests that even as the attack was still underway — and before the CIA began the process of compiling talking points on its analysis of what happened — the White House believed it was in retaliation for a controversial video. Issa has asked the White House to declassify and release the document. In the meantime he has inserted a sentence from the e-mail in the Congressional Record. “White House is reaching out to U-Tube [sic] to advice ramification of the posting of the Pastor Jon video,” the e-mail reads, according to Issa. The e-mail was written hours before the attack was over. http://abcn.ws/1i8upTb
–WORD FROM THE WHITE HOUSE: A senior White House official told ABC News it demonstrates that the White House genuinely believed the video sparked the attack all along, a belief that turned out to be incorrect. “We actually think this proves what we’ve said. We were concerned about the video, given all the protests in region,” the official said. And the intelligence community “was also concerned about the video.”
SIN CITY AND CINCY PULL OUT OF 2016 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION RACE. The cities of Las Vegas and Cincinnati withdrew their bids to host the 2016 Republican National Convention on Thursday, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. Until this week, Vegas and Cincinnati were among the cities under consideration to host the quadrennial convention — and many believed Vegas to be the front-runner. Now just four contenders remain: Cleveland, Dallas, Denver and Kansas City, Mo. According to two RNC officials: “Vegas sent a letter withdrawing their bid for national convention based on our criteria for the arena facility and enough onside prep time. Cincinnati did as well.” http://abcn.ws/1n5GHBl
WHY FORMER SPY VALERIE PLAME THINKS HILLARY CLINTON IS A LOT LIKE FDR. Presidential candidate-in-waiting Hillary Clinton already has backing from top politicians, influential celebrities — and from a famous former spy. Former CIA agent Valerie Plame and her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, were special guests of honor at a fundraising event this week in Santa Fe, N.M., for the pro-Clinton Super PAC Ready for Hillary. The couple supported Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary, and they’ve made their renewed endorsement for 2016 known early. Approximately 30 people with wide areas of influence in northern New Mexico, along with some elected officials, attended the breakfast fundraiser Wednesday, which included remarks by the head of the group’s financial committee, Craig Smith, and a Q&A with Plame and Wilson. ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ spoke with Valerie Plame about her involvement in the growing Super PAC, why she wants Clinton to run for president, and her thoughts on the CIA’s most recent policy change: http://abcn.ws/1vMHMli
HOUSE PASSES LAW TO CURB MASS DATA COLLECTION. Patriot Act, meet the USA Freedom Act. The House of Representatives approved a bill yesterday to curb the federal government’s mass collection of metadata, a practice revealed by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. According to ABC’s DANIEL LITKE, the USA Freedom Act codifies into law a proposal from President Obama earlier this year and was approved by a vote of 303 to 121. The bill now heads to the Senate. Revelations about the NSA’s mass collection of metadata caused a public backlash and has made Snowden, who fled to Russia, the Obama administration’s public enemy No. 1. Proponents of the legislation, H.R. 3361, say that in addition to ending bulk collection of metadata, it improves transparency and oversight of intelligence gathering programs operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). http://abcn.ws/1jb8sT5
GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST HARVEY MILK HONORED WITH POSTAGE STAMP. A new postage stamp honoring gay rights activist Harvey Milk was unveiled at the White House on what would have been the icon’s 84th birthday, notes ABC’s DANA HUGHES. Milk, who was elected as a San Francisco supervisor in 1977 and was assassinated less than a year later in front of city hall, is the first openly gay politician to receive the honor of a postage stamp. In 2009, President Obama awarded him a Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously. At the ceremony, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said that Milk embodied the best of American ideals. “He was impatient with excuses. He was intolerant of injustice. He demanded dignity for himself and for all Americans,” said Power. “In so doing, he helped to make America more fair, more just, and more equal. In short, Harvey Milk made America more American.” http://abcn.ws/1i9mbu8
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
OBAMA’S MOM JEANS DON’T MAKE IT INTO BASEBALL HALL OF FAME. Assuming the role of Tourist-in-Chief, President Obama yesterday became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. The president toured the museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., with hall-of-famer Andre “The Hawk” Dawson, checking out Jackie Robinson’s jersey and Babe Ruth’s bat as well as the ball thrown by President Taft for the first-ever presidential first pitch. Obama donated to the museum his own piece of presidential history: The jacket he wore when he threw out the first pitch at the 2009 All-Star game. He did not, however, donate the infamous ”mom” jeans he wore to that game. “With all the media attention about it, there was also some interest in the jeans I wore that night,” he joked. “But Michelle retired those jeans quite a while back.” http://abcn.ws/1nhVtYi
WHAT WE’RE READING
“THE TEA PARTY COMES OF AGE,” an ABCNews.com Op-Ed by Joe Brettell. “If you needed evidence of a smarter, wiser Tea Party, look no further than [this week], when leading conservative commentator Erick Erickson urged his followers on Red State to support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in light of his primary victory. Further, the Senate Conservatives Fund, long a thorn in the Republican leader’s side also urged their supporters to support McConnell. To an outsider, this may appear to be simply smart politics. However, it illustrates the fact that this is a movement maturing and understanding how to survive as a sustainable force – a mixed blessing for Republicans. … The conservative movement and Tea Party will always be at its best when nudging the GOP to remain solidly committed to its principles of a smaller government, strong national defense and personal responsibility. The check and balance of the Tea Party and the establishment could be a powerful tool for a party still finding its way back to national prominence, but it will take a continued effort from both sides to avoid antagonizing one another and focusing on the job at hand. If they are successful, with 2014 trends increasingly in Republicans favor, Democrats should be even more worried about a party focusing on good candidates, solid electoral infrastructure and ultimately, victory in November.”
@amyewalter: While focus is on liberal energy in ’16, Dems need to worry about turning off their moderate base http://cookpolitical.com/story/7277
@JCNSeverino: If you want more Souters and Stevens’ @GovChristie is your candidate in #2016. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/05/22/christie-angers-conservative-activists-with-court-pick/ …
@ByronYork: Link: Haley Barbour, chickens, and the DC dilemma on immigration. http://ow.ly/xbils
@davidaxelrod: I didn’t hear @mcuban DEFEND or EXCUSE his prejudices. I heard him ADMIT them. We can’t defeat biases unless we honestly confront them.