The Note's Must-Reads for Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Will Cantine, and Janine Elliot

BERGDAHL DEAL ABC News' John Parkinson: " Bowe Bergdahl Appeared 'Drugged' in Proof-of-Life Video" Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl appeared drugged but not near-death in a proof-of-life video, several U.S. senators said this evening after a classified briefing where a clip was shown as part of a multimedia presentation by several senior administration officials at the Capitol. "It appeared that [Bergdahl] was drugged, and that he was barely responsive in the video itself," Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters. LINK

Wall Street Journal's Nathan Hodge: " Release of Taliban Detainees Alarms Afghan Villagers" Taliban forces led by Mohammed Fazl swept through this village on the Shomali plain north of Kabul in 1999 in a scorched-earth offensive that prompted some 300,000 people to flee for their lives. Fifteen years later, local residents here are responding with fear and dismay to the U.S. release of the notorious commander, along with four other Taliban leaders in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American prisoner of war who was held by the Taliban. The group released a video on Wednesday showing the hurried handover a few days earlier of the American captive, looking gaunt and dazed. LINK

USA Today's Susan Page: " News Analysis: How the Bergdahl Celebration Became a Mess" It was supposed to spark a national celebration. Instead, the White House now faces another political mess.The furor over the swap of American POW Bowe Bergdahl for five top Taliban commanders has angered key members of Congress, including some top Democrats. It has fueled a debate about the wisdom of President Obama's decision-making on national security. LINK

The Washington Times' Guy Taylor and Stephen Dinan: " Congress twice rejected release of Taliban from Gitmo in trade for Bergdahl" President Obama's aides met with unanimous opposition from Congress when they first raised the possibility of releasing five Taliban guerrillas from Guantanamo Bay in 2011 and 2012, and administration officials publicly and repeatedly vowed to return to Capitol Hill before making any final moves. But with what they now say was a closing window to secure the release of ArmySgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Mr. Obama made the call to bypass Congress and make a deal swapping the five Taliban fighters in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl - and sparking a major constitutional battle with Congress. LINK

The Hill's Alexander Bolton and Erik Wasson: " Bergdahl deal explanations flop" A special briefing by senior administration officials Wednesday evening failed to sell skeptical senators concerned about President Obama's decision to trade five Taliban commanders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release. The officials, led by Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken and Jim Dobbins, the special representative for Afghanistan, showed senators a video of Bergdahl in apparent poor health while in Taliban custody. LINK

The New York Daily News' Dan Friedman: " Obama administration officials show senators Taliban video of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl that prompted President to make prisoner swap" Trying to calm angry members of Congress, the Obama administration on Wednesday showed senators a video of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl that apparently influenced the President to trade five Taliban for the captured American. Even some Republican critics of the swap said Bergdahl looked ill in the video, and spoke in a weak and "halting" voice as he recited information to verify his captivity. LINK

MISSISSIPPI SENATE RACE ABC News' Shushannah Walshe: " Haley Barbour Not Backing Down in 'Nasty' Mississippi Race" The Mississippi GOP Senate primary, the nastiest this cycle, is officially headed for a runoff, possibly just a three-week extension of more intraparty warfare. Backers of six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran now need to make the decision about whether to keep the fight up against tea party challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel when he might very well end up as their nominee. LINK

Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook and Beth Reinhard: " Mississippi Sen. Cochran, McDaniel Face Runoff for GOP Nomination" Sen. Thad Cochran is the underdog as he heads into a likely three-week runoff campaign in Mississippi's Republican primary, hampered by anti-Washington sentiment and an enthusiasm gap in the fight against his tea-party-backed rival, analysts from both camps say. His opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, emerged from the inconclusive Senate contest Tuesday with a hair's-breadth lead and momentum on his side for the next round of balloting. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Lisa Mascaro: " Does GOP's Mississippi showdown give Democrats a shot at Senate seat?" As the cliff-hanger GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Mississippi dragged toward a bitter runoff between Sen. Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel, a new name ascended to center stage: Democrat Travis Childers. Childers, the former congressman who easily won his primary as a party conservative, is poised to play a starring role in the Republican Party's new nightmare - a prolonged GOP slugfest that gives Democrats a shot at what should be, under normal circumstances, a safely Republican seat. LINK

The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman: " Democrats See A Break In A Gain For The Tea Party In Mississippi" It is a major headache for the national Republican Party and perhaps the biggest break Democrats have been handed in this difficult election year: a three-week runoff campaign in Mississippi between a party elder, Senator Thad Cochran, and the sometimes unpredictable Tea Party favorite, Chris McDaniel. Mr. McDaniel, whose showing in the primary on Tuesday forced the runoff and shook the Republican establishment, carries the kind of baggage the party is eager to shed as it seeks to win over female and minority voters: He threatened to leave the country rather than pay reparations for slavery and described trying to pick up Mexican women by calling them "mamacitas." LINK

The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane: " Tea Party Groups Vow Not To Back Down Against Sen. Cochran In Republican Runoff" An army of national tea party groups eager to claim what would be their biggest victory of 2014 vowed Wednesday to intensify their efforts to unseat Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.) in the next round of the GOP Senate primary. Wednesday began a three-week runoff campaign that promises to serve as the staging ground for the conservative movement's most fervent push against targeted Republican incumbents this year. The runoff follows an election Tuesday in which Cochran won 49 percent of the vote and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who was backed by the tea party, took 49.5 percent. Realtor Thomas Carey had 1.5 percent. Because no candidate won a majority, the race between the top two will go on. LINK

Politico's Alexander Burns: " Thad Cochran Allies Gird For Battle" Jolted by a brush with political oblivion in this week's Mississippi Senate primary, Republican Sen. Thad Cochran and his top allies are regrouping - and hunkering down for an arduous three-week runoff campaign against conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Cochran advisers and outside operatives supporting the campaign spent Wednesday huddled in closed-door meetings, assessing the path forward and beginning to lay out a strategy for the one-on-one race against their tea party opponent. Acknowledging that they face a difficult fight against McDaniel, Cochran allies sketched out the beginnings of a plan to take on the 41-year-old litigator. LINK

Bloomberg's John McCormick and Greg Giroux: " Tea Party Regains Steam With Cochran U.S. Senate Runoff" A Mississippi Republican primary race that became a proxy battle for a larger internal struggle over the party's future will go to another round, with a veteran U.S. senator facing a Tea Party-aligned challenger in a June 24 runoff. By forcing a runoff with Senator Thad Cochran, Chris McDaniel breathed new life into a Tea Party movement that had mostly been contained this year by the efforts of business-aligned entities allied with national Republican leaders. LINK

GOP USA Today's Susan Davis: " 2014 Senate Landscape Tilts in GOP's Favor" Contests are set in nearly half the states for November's elections, and with few contested primary elections remaining on the calendar, Republicans are enjoying clear advantages in their quest for a Senate takeover. "The environment is really good right now, and the quality of candidates is superior," said Scott Reed, a veteran GOP strategist and senior political aide at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. LINK

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