By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
with ABC's SCOTT WILSON
CHRIS CHRISTIE KICKS OFF CAMPAIGN BEFORE THE CAMPAIGN. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie returned to Iowa for the first time in two years, launching what looked like his campaign before the campaign in the state that gets the first crack at sizing up political candidates, notes ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. He insisted he has made no decision about his political future and that although he appreciated the rousing reception it wouldn't factor into his decision to run for president. "The decision to seek the presidency or not is such a deeply personal one," Christie told reporters. "While it's wonderful to get as much encouragement as I got inside here and in other places in Iowa, to consider running I've said the same thing to everyone: I'll decide at some point whether I'm going to or not, but that's a really personal decision." He stopped at M.J.'s diner here and was greeted by a standing-room-only crowd of Iowans and reporters. Voters clamored to shake his hand, get an autograph, or pose for a photograph. Introducing himself as "Chris" to some of the patrons, he told them he was "happy to be back." http://abcn.ws/Uel9Y7
ANALYSIS - ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was greeted by a mass of supportive voters, as well as a large group of reporters tailing him yesterday in Iowa. He clearly loved the reception, playing off those famous words he told ABC's Diane Sawyer in March: "I think they love me in Iowa, too," telling Republicans at a fundraiser last night of those words, "'Heck I don't know, we just met, but the early indications are good.'" The crowd burst into cheers. Republicans last night in Davenport paid just 25 dollars to get in opening up the event to average voters. In the morning Christie held a fundraiser for the Republican Governors Association, luring in high dollar donors instead. The event with about 40 people in the Des Moines suburb brought in 25,000 to 100,000 dollars per person at the tiered event, making Christie's day in the Hawkeye state not just successful for the Iowa headlines, but also for the RGA. He noted to supporters in Marion, Iowa that he would "be back," and while rallying the faithful in Davenport reminded them the fight for 2016 will start soon: "When we get done on November 4th, 2014 we will all turn our eyes towards 2016 and taking our country back, but first thing's first everybody."
SOME SENATORS DEMAND DISMISSAL OF TOP GM LAWYER FOR 'STUNNING FAILURE'. Some U.S. senators Thursday called on General Motors CEO Mary Barra to fire the company's top lawyer as executives testified on the ongoing investigation into the ignition switch malfunction in some GM cars, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., asked Barra why she has not fired Michael Millikin, GM's corporate counsel, who said he first heard about the problems with the ignition switches this year." This is either gross negligence or gross incompetence," said McCaskill, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation's subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance. Barra, who appeared on Capitol Hill for the fourth time this year, defended her decision not to sack Millikin, saying she needed him on her team to help fix the company's problems and enhance their products' safety."I think there's been a blind spot here," McCaskill said in response. "I really do. I think the failure of this legal department is stunning." Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Millikin and his staff "enabled a cover-up, concealment, deceit and even fraud." http://abcn.ws/1jUiEH5
EMOTIONAL WARNING FROM FATHER OF WOMAN KILLED IN GM CAR. Lara Gass, 27, was headed to work in March when her 2004 Saturn Ion rear-ended a tractor-trailer on a Virginia highway, ABC's ELISE WIDERLITE reports. Her airbag failed to deploy. The third-year law student at Washington and Lee University was driving a car that was recalled due to a faulty ignition switch, which can shut off car power and airbags without warning. In February, GM recalled more than 2.6 million vehicles due to the problem. At least 13 people have died due to reasons linked to the problem. Jay Gass said he received the recall notice in the mail one month before his daughter's death. In an emotional interview with ABC News, Jay Gass said, "GM is relying on a piece of paper through the United States Postal Service to make it to an address that they have on file for that car and maybe not even the driver of that car." After his daughter was killed, Gass received another letter from the automaker saying they now had the parts. http://abcn.ws/1tXgtXf
WHAT LIBERALS REALLY WANT: 5 GOALS FOR END OF OBAMA'S PRESIDENCY. From reducing student loan debt to expanding voter rights to dealing with the scourge of violent crime, liberals have laid out an ambitious agenda for the waning years of the Obama presidency. At a day-long summit Wednesday organized by Generation Progress, the youth division of the influential Washington-based think tank Center for American Progress, speakers such as Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi articulated their goals to a Washington audience of more than 1,000. ABC's CALEB JACKSON highlighted five issues that came up again and again at the Make Progress National Summit, and the ones most likely to be focal points for Democrats in the next two years: http://abcn.ws/1l8tdRu
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
FAA PROBES CONGRESSMAN'S WEDDING VIDEO SHOT BY DRONE. As New York's first openly gay congressman, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney must have known his June 21 wedding to longtime partner Randy Florke would be a little controversial, notes ABC's ERIN DOOLEY. But he probably didn't realize that video footage from the ceremony would spark a government investigation. The video, which features stunning aerial footage of the church where the wedding took place in Cold Spring, New York, apparently was filmed using an unmanned commercial drone. The video has attracted the interest of the Federal Aviation Administration, which bans the unauthorized commercial use of drones because of safety concerns. In a statement provided to ABC News, the FAA did not mention the congressman by name but announced that it was investigating "a report of an unmanned aircraft operation in Cold Spring, New York, on June 21 to determine if there was any violation of federal regulations or airspace restrictions." According to the FAA, drone operations "not for hobby or recreation" are authorized "on a case-by-case basis. Violators could face warning notices, letters of correction, and civil penalties."
FEDS STRUGGLING TO COPE WITH MEDICAL 'BREAKDOWN' AT THE BORDER. The federal government is so overwhelmed by the current tide of migrants crossing the border it can't provide basic medical screening to all of the children before transporting them - often by air - to longer-term holding facilities across the country, according to ABC's JIM AVILLA JOSH MARGOLIN and SERENA MARSHALL. The director of refugee health in the federal Health and Human Services Department "has identified a breakdown of the medical screening processes at the Nogales, Arizona, facility," according to an internal Department of Defense memo reviewed by ABC News. The "breakdown" a systemic failure of the handoff of these children between CBP and HHS. Inside the government, officials are sounding alarms, fearing that they and their teams who come in contact with the sick children face potential exposure to infectious diseases from chicken pox to influenza, including rare cases of H1N1, more commonly called swine flu. Two unaccompanied children were flown from Nogales to California despite having 101-degree fevers and flu-like symptoms, according to the Department of Defense memo. http://abcn.ws/1pdeGGJ
@Dgood73: Malaysia Air Victims Come Into Focus as US Poised to Inspect http://abcnews.go.com/International/malaysia-airlines-flight-17-victims-focus-fbi-ntsb/story?id=24612351 …
@mattyglesias: Malaysia Airlines offering 100% refunds for people who want to cancel tickets. Its overall business is in chaos: http://www.vox.com/2014/7/17/5913523/malaysia-airlines-stock-decline-air-asia-competition?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=mattyglesias&utm_content=friday …
@jillrussia: Analysis: Missile that hit MH17 most likely fired by separatists http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/18/world/europe/ukraine-malaysia-airlines-crash/index.html?sr=sharebar_twitter …
@statedeptspox: Hard to believe this was just last weekend-in depth read by Michael Crowley http://time.com/3001703/kerry-afghanistan-civil-war/ …
@csmonitor: Malaysian plane downing: Will it change course of Ukraine conflict? (+video): The downing of a Malaysian passe… http://bit.ly/1wDOMia