Sanctions Showdown

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • PUTIN MOCKS U.S. SANCTIONS: In his first reaction to a stinging set of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on some of his closest friends and advisers, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that Russia not retaliate with more sanctions, according to ABC's KIRIT RADIA. But, in remarks to Russia's Security Council, he responded sarcastically when told about who was on the American list. "Russia needs to avoid these citizens as they are compromising the country," he said. He also appeared to mock the Treasury Department's designation of Bank Rossiya, which it described as "the personal bank" for many senior Russian officials.
  • RADIA REPORTS: Putin's comments came shortly before he signed a law finalizing Crimea's unification with Russia, a sign that while Russia appears to have little appetite for a sanctions battle with the United States, this latest round of punitive measures was not enough to prevent him from completing the accession of Crimea. Yet there were signs this morning that the sanctions are biting the Russian economy. Russia's stock market immediately dropped nearly 3 percent when it opened Friday morning and the ruble, Russia's currency, ticked down versus the dollar.
  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama meets privately this afternoon with Internet CEOs in the Oval Office. While First Lady Michelle Obama has had a busy day in Beijing, visiting the Forbidden City and a local school with Madam Peng, China's first lady.

THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': ABC News covers the latest on the battle over Ukraine, Sunday on "This Week." Plus, editor-in-chief and ABC News special contributor Nate Silver - who correctly predicted the 2012 presidential election outcome in all 50 states - offers his latest analysis of the 2014 Senate midterm elections. And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., ABC News' Cokie Roberts, and Foreign Policy Initiative co-founder Dan Senor. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. Tune in Sunday: Rep. Keith Ellison takes the "This Week" Quiz:


THE WILD SIDE OF MARYLAND'S MARTIN O'MALLEY. It's Gov. Martin O'Malley like we've rarely seen him before, going on camera for the first time with his six-string banjo and guitar. ABC's JEFF ZELENY goes behind stage at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, where O'Malley talks openly about 2016: "I've made no secret about the fact that I'm looking at it." He says he won't be scared away by a Hillary Clinton run. "I really don't look at it that way," he said. "But I really look at this journey as a search for the best way forward for our country." Watch his politics - and music - here:


MAD DASH TO LAND HOME FOR OBAMA'S PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY. The search for the home of President Obama's legacy has officially begun, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. Yesterday, the Barack Obama Foundation announced it will start fielding preliminary information from potential cities that will bid to host Obama's presidential library. Among the cities known to be competing in the bidding process that the Foundation has pledged will be "open and accessible," are Chicago, Honolulu and New York City. "Our goal is to build a library of which the whole country, and hopefully the whole world, can be proud," said Marty Nesbitt, a member of the foundation board and a close friend of Obama's. "Our vision is to create a space that reflects President Obama's values and priorities throughout his career in public service and serves as force for good in the surrounding community and throughout our world." Obama has entrusted Nesbitt, Chicago businessman Kevin Poorman, and Obama campaign veteran Julianna Smoot to lead the process. Here are four things you need to know about the jousting for rights to Obama's presidential library.

-NOTED: OBAMA FOUNDATION DROPS THE MIDDLE 'H'. The foundation dedicated to erecting President Obama's presidential library quietly changed its name from the Barack H. Obama Foundation to the Barack Obama Foundation yesterday. As early as Thursday morning, the Foundation's website sported the president's middle initial, for Hussein. But later in the evening, after they blasted out requests for initial bids to host the Obama library, the 'H' was gone. So what gives? A spokeswoman for the foundation said the name was deliberately changed. "We think it's pretty clear which organization is which, but we wanted to eliminate the potential for any confusion," she said. Here's where some of the confusion might have come in. Google "Barack H. Obama Foundation" and you won't get a hit for the President's real foundation, but the foundation dedicated to Obama's father, who had the same name, Barack H. Obama.

U.S. LAWMAKERS LAUGH OFF PUTIN'S SANCTIONS. Some U.S. lawmakers are getting a good laugh at Russian President Vladimir Putin's expense, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP reports. The announcement yesterday that Russia would respond to U.S. sanctions with penalties of their own aimed at U.S. officials and lawmakers hasn't exactly gotten the response that Putin perhaps expected. Most of the six lawmakers who ended up on Putin's list, which include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Dan Coats, R-Ind., fired off statements ribbing Putin for restricting their non-existent vacation travel in Russia and imaginary bank accounts. "I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, my Gazprom stock is lost, and my secret bank account in Moscow is frozen," McCain wrote in a statement. "Nonetheless, I will never cease my efforts on behalf of the freedom, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea." Harry Reid similarly responded with a sizable dose of snark. Landrieu touted the sanctions as a "badge of honor." And Boehner said he's "proud" to be among a list of Putin's adversaries. "The speaker is proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin's aggression," said Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman. Coates added that his family vacation in Siberia is apparently off.

PELOSI CALLS OBAMACARE 'A WINNER' FOR DEMOCRATS IN 2014. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi predicted yesterday that the Affordable Care Act would be a winning issue for Democrats in swing districts during the 2014 elections, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. "You have to ask them, the member, but I believe that it's a winner," Pelosi said. She rejected the idea that Democrats are running away from defending the Affordable Care Act due to the political ramifications of the law. "This isn't about politics. This is about the health of America," she said. "We don't weigh its value as to what it means politically. We weigh its value as to what it means to the health, well-being, economic and health security of America's families. Just because people say, I don't want to repeal it, but I do want to fix it, doesn't mean they're walking away from it."

CHRIS CHRISTIE AND BRIDGE SCANDAL QUESTIONER SPAR (AND BOND) AT TOWN HALL. New Jersey town hall attendees had been warned: Gov. Chris Christie gives as good as he gets. And up until yesterday, no one had asked him about the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal that has consumed his second term. One brave man took on the challenge, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes, and both he and Christie came out of the exchange relatively unscathed. After buttering Christie up with a compliment and promising to do his laundry, the questioner finally asked the governor about his handling of the lane closings. "You look better in person than you do on TV," he told Christie at the Flemington Town Hall yesterday before asking about the closings and the staffer involved in making that decision. Christie, in response, launched into a lengthy explanation, saying that he thought what his aide Bridget Kelly and others allegedly did was "absolutely unacceptable." "But don't take from the fact that I said I fired her because she lied, that that means if she had told me the truth. If she had told me the truth, she would have gotten fired too because of what she did," Christie said. "But I never had the chance to hear the truth."


FERGIE GOES TO DC - (AND TAKES A SELFIE!) Global leaders and diplomats routinely visit the State Department - but yesterday Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns announced that they were welcoming both "a global ambassador and a musical duchess" as pop star Fergie spoke about efforts to combat violence against women, notes ABC's DANA HUGHES. The singer, who traded in her edgy rock star attire for a conservative tailored black pin-striped suit, announced a new program to help achieve justice for victims of sexual and domestic violence around the world. "The statistics shock me," she said, citing that one in three women will be a victim of domestic violence. "That is totally unacceptable." The new initiative - called the Justice Institute on Gender-Based Violence - will focus on helping countries to apply assault and abuse laws already on the books.


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