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Democratic debate: Clinton and Sanders spar in an increasingly bitter primary fight

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Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders face off in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Thursday in the last Democratic debate before New York’s presidential primary.

Donald Trump torments Ted Cruz over ‘New York values’ in front of a Manhattan crowd

It was a hometown crowd for Donald Trump on Thursday at a black-tie dinner in midtown Manhattan – a perfect occasion to torment his rival Ted Cruz for scoffing at “New York values.”

“What are New York values? Number one, honesty and straight talking,” Trump told Republicans at a state party fundraising gala in the Grand Hyatt hotel that he restored in the late 1970s, his first major project in Manhattan.

Trump, who hopes to win big in New York’s GOP presidential primary on Tuesday after stinging losses in Wisconsin and Colorado, moved on to hard work, family and “the energy to get things done.”

“Big energy,” he told the packed ballroom. “If Jeb Bush came here, I’m telling you he’d have much more energy than he has right now. I’m telling you he should move to New York, right?”

Bush, of course, was a favorite punching bag of Trump’s during the former Florida governor’s run for president. Trump repeatedly dinged Bush as “low energy.”

The Manhattan billionaire used the occasion to rattle off – greatest-hits style – his better-known developments in New York. He focused on his quick restoration of the Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park after years of dithering by city contractors.

“To this day it’s a great case study,” he said.

At campaign stops in New York, Cruz has been dogged by reporters asking why he criticized Trump for embodying “New York values.” The Texas senator says he was borrowing a phrase that Trump used in the 1990s to explain why he took liberal stands on abortion and other issues.

“I will admit to you, I haven’t built any buildings in New York City,” Cruz told the dinner crowd after Trump left the stage. “But I have spent my entire life fighting to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

He went on to argue that only he could carry the Republican Party to victory in November.

“If we nominate a candidate who loses to Hillary Clinton by double digits, who loses women by 20 points, who loses Hispanics by 40 points, who loses young people, who can’t win in the general election … the stakes for our country could not be higher,” Cruz said.

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Trump’s campaign manager: I was polite to the reporter who accused me of battery

Donald Trump’s campaign manager said Thursday night that he was doing “what polite people do” when he blocked a reporter from talking to Trump in an encounter that led Florida police to charge the aide with battery.

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said he was relieved that prosecutors dropped the charge against him on Thursday.

“This was a huge distraction for the campaign, and it should never have been,” Lewandowski told Fox News on Thursday night.

Police in Jupiter, Fla., had charged Lewandowski with battery for his March 8 confrontation with Michelle Fields, then a reporter for Breitbart, as Trump was leaving a news conference at one of his golf resorts. Police said Lewandowski yanked and bruised Fields’ arm to stop her from interviewing Trump.

But on Thursday, Palm Beach County State Atty. Dave Aronberg said the evidence, including video from security cameras, was not strong enough to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt

Fox anchor Sean Hannity asked Lewandowski if he felt a sense of relief when he saw the video.

“I did,” Lewandowski responded. “And that’s why Mr. Trump released that tape, because we saw that what she was saying was not factually accurate to what the tape was showing.”

Asked about the encounter, he said, “I don’t remember it at all, candidly.”

A moment later, Lewandowski said: “When I walked by Michelle Fields that night, I said, ‘Excuse me. Thank you.’ Because I was trying to walk between her and Mr. Trump. And that’s what polite people do. They say excuse me and thank you. I don’t remember anything more than that.”

Lewandowski, a former police officer whose hard-charging manner has stirred controversy, described himself as a religious Catholic.

“People deserve forgiveness who ask for it, and I’m not saying that in a bad way,” he said. “What I’m saying is, look, life is a long thing, and I don’t need enemies. I need friends.”

Fields has made no public comment about prosecutors dropping the case.

Prosecutors said Lewandowski’s lawyers had shown them a draft apology to Fields. In the Fox interview, he stopped short of apologizing.

“If Michelle Fields wanted to have a conversation, we could have had a conversation privately and not made this the story that it is today,” he said. “And I’m sorry that this has become the story that it is today.”

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Sanders: If elected, I’d ask Obama to withdraw Garland nomination to Supreme Court

While President Obama spars with Senate Republicans to confirm a justice to the Supreme Court, Bernie Sanders says he would want his own pick to fill that vacancy if he were elected president.

Sanders blasted Republicans’ “unbelievable obstructionism” in insisting that Obama should not nominate a justice to replace Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly in February.

Sanders said that as a senator, he supports Obama’s pick, federal Judge Merrick Garland.

But, Sanders said, if he won the presidential election and that vacancy had still not been filled, he would ask Obama to withdraw Garland’s nomination so Sanders could put forth his own pick.

Sanders said he seeks “a Supreme Court justice who will make it crystal clear--and this nominee has not yet done that--crystal clear that he or she would vote to overturn Citizens United,” the landmark 2010 campaign finance decision.

Hillary Clinton’s answer to the same question was more circumspect, saying she did not want to contradict Obama’s strategy.


“I fully support the president, and I believe that the president is on the right side of both the Constitution and history,” Clinton said.

But she was vague as to what she would do if elected.

“When I am president, I will take stock of where we are and move from there,” she said.


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Where is Hillary Clinton on Social Security? Bernie Sanders sees her on his side

Bernie Sanders tried to press Hillary Clinton during Thursday’s debate over whether she supports his proposal to lift the cap on taxable income to boost the Social Security trust fund.

She repeatedly declined to fully embrace the idea, saying she might also consider other options, but would agree if Congress approved it.

“If I hear you directly, Madame Secretary, you are now finally coming out in favor of lifting the cap on taxable income,” Sanders said. “If that is the case, welcome on board. I’m glad you’re here.”

Clinton responded to Sanders’ sarcasm with a reality check.

“There is still something called Congress,” she said, adding she hoped to take back the House and Senate to see through such a plan.

“It’s always a little bit challenging because, you know, if Sen. Sanders doesn’t agree with how you are approaching something, then you are a member of the establishment,” she added later.

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When it comes to NATO, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump offer similar assessments

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are both outsiders of sorts in this campaign, and though they rarely agree on issues, there appears to be common ground over NATO.

Sanders dismissed NATO decades ago as a “waste” of money for the U.S., which funds a disproportionate share of the alliance among its 28 member nations.

“The countries of Europe should pick up more of the burden for their defense,” Sanders said when asked during Thursday’s debate about his past statements.

Indeed, PolitFact noted recently that the alliance is heavily dependent on U.S. funding, which accounted in 2013 for nearly three-fourths of all NATO member defense expenditures.

Sanders’ views on NATO are somewhat similar to those recently voiced by Trump, who says NATO is unfair economically to the U.S.

“NATO is obsolete,” Trump said last month on ABC’s “This Week.” “And there’s nothing wrong with saying it’s obsolete. But it is obsolete.”

When asked whether the two have similar views, Sanders on Thursday was curt.

“You gotta ask Trump,” he said.

Sanders’ rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, stood by NATO, calling it perhaps the most effective military alliance “in human history.”

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Bernie Sanders doubles down on calling Israel’s 2014 response in Gaza ‘disproportionate’

Bernie Sanders described Israel’s response in the 2014 Gaza war as “disproportionate,” standing by earlier remarks that riled some pro-Israel advocates.

“Was that a disproportionate attack? And the answer is, I believe it was,” Sanders, the Vermont senator, said during Thursday’s debate, describing the conflict that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians.

Sanders said he is “100% pro-Israel,” but believes a different approach is necessary.

“If we are ever going to bring peace to that region … we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity,” he said.

Rival Hillary Clinton did not directly address whether Israel’s response to attacks by Hamas was disproportionate, but said Israel did not “invite rockets raining down on their towns and villages.”

She added, “I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat.”

At the same time, she said, “I understand there is always second-guessing every time there was a war.”

When Sanders said Clinton dodged the question, she accused Hamas of using civilians as cover to launch attacks.

“The way that it often has its fighters in civilian garb, it’s terrible,” she said.

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Clinton assails Sanders’ vote to grant immunity to gun makers

On a day when victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre advanced their efforts to sue the manufacturer and dealers of the weapon used in the shooting, Hillary Clinton slammed Bernie Sanders for his vote for a law that broadly granted immunity to the gun industry from such action.

“This is the only industry in America—the only one—that has this kind of special protection,” Clinton said. “We hear a lot from Sen. Sanders about the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, and I agree. ... But what about the greed and recklessness of the gun manufacturers and dealers of America?”

Clinton has long sought to outflank Sanders to the left on gun control. On Thursday, she derided her rival as “largely a very reliable supporter” of the National Rifle Assn.

Sanders, explaining his 2005 vote for immunity, said he was concerned that small gun shops in rural areas could face legal action if a weapon they sold was later used in a crime.

“I don’t believe it’s appropriate for a gun shop owner who just sold a legal weapon to be held accountable and be sued,” said Sanders, who represents a state with a strong rural hunting culture.

But, he added, he would support legal action against gun dealers who knowingly sell “thousands of rounds of ammunition or ... a whole lot of guns” to someone who should not have them.

When pressed, Sanders said he said he did believe that families of the victims of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., have a right to sue gun manufacturers and dealers. Their case got a boost on Thursday when a judge allowed their suit to proceed.

In an interview with the New York Daily News editorial board last week, Sanders said he did not believe victims of crimes should be able to sue gun manufacturers. He said the suit by the Sandy Hook families was “not baseless. I wouldn’t use that word. But it’s a back-door way.”

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The Brooklyn crowd makes its voice heard at the Democratic debate

At one point during Thursday’s Democratic debate, Wolf Blitzer asked Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to tone it down so they weren’t shouting over each other.

The same recrimination could be directed at the crowd watching at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Members of the audience cheered their favorite candidate, and even cheered a local television anchor when he prepared to ask a question.

Neither Clinton nor Sanders appeared to have a clear edge with the crowd, and each earned their share of applause and derision.

“I love being in Brooklyn,” Clinton said at one point, breaking into a big smile.

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The last Democrat to drop out of the race is watching at home just like the rest of us

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Hillary Clinton sticks to her commitment that she’ll only release Wall Street speech transcripts if other candidates do

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders often pontificates on the campaign trail over why Hillary Clinton won’t release the transcripts from her paid speeches to Wall Street firms.

The question came up again during Thursday’s debate in New York, and the pair acted out the same back-and-forth they have many times over in debates.

“If everyone agrees to do it -- because there are speeches for money on the other side -- let’s set the same standard for everybody,” Clinton said, alluding to the Republican candidates. “When everybody does it, OK, I’ll do it.”

In interviews, Clinton, who is the strong favorite to win Tuesday’s New York primary, has said she will release transcripts from the speeches when other candidates release theirs.

Her response on Thursday drew some boos from the crowd, before Sanders offered the response he almost always does when the question comes up -- that he never addressed Wall Street groups.

“Secretary Clinton, you just heard her -- ‘Everybody else does it, she’ll do it.’ I will do it,” Sanders said. “I’m going to release all of the transcripts of the speeches I gave on Wall Street, behind closed doors. ... There were no speeches.”

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Clinton touts New York, California action on minimum wage as she warms to $15

Bernie Sanders preceded Hillary Clinton in backing a $15 minimum wage, but Clinton has sought to shore up her credentials on the issue by being in the right place at the right time.

Clinton joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month as he signed a law implementing a statewide $15-an-hour minimum wage. That same day, Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s law, which will eventually set a wage floor of $15.

Clinton called the New York law “a model for the nation,” praising how its implementation varies by region.

While Clinton has called for a $12 federal minimum wage, she said she would sign legislation for a $15 wage should it reach her desk as president.

Sanders quickly pounced on Clinton’s shift.

“History outpaced Hillary Clinton,” he said.

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Hillary Clinton’s effort to blame Vermont for New York’s gun violence has mostly been debunked

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From the start, Clinton emphasizes her New York ties

In case there was any doubt where Thursday’s debate took place, Hillary Clinton made it clear from the outset: It’s all about New York, New York.

Clinton, in her opening statement, immediately referenced her tenure representing New York in the Senate from 2001 to 2009, noting she served during Sept. 11 and said she “worked hard to rebuild” the state.

Clinton vowed to “keep New York values at the center of who we are and what we do together,” a subtle knock on Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, whose jab at Donald Trump’s “New York values” was not intended as a compliment.

Clinton said her campaign sought to “build on the values that we share here in New York, take those to Washington and to knock down those barriers” that are holding people back from economic success.

Clinton’s New York love extended into a spirited exchange with rival Bernie Sanders over Wall Street regulation, pausing before she sparred with him to remark, “I love being in Brooklyn. This is great.”

Sanders, who was born in Brooklyn, made little nod to the debate’s location in his native borough. Instead, his opening remarks hewed largely to his stump speech, noting how his insurgent campaign has mounted an improbable challenge to Clinton, the front-runner.

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What Bernie Sanders said about big banks that has him explaining himself during the debate

Bernie Sanders was pressed during Thursday’s debate on his recent apparent stumble during an interview over his plan to break up big banks, a cornerstone of his message to fight income inequality.

Here’s what you need to know about what Sanders said in that interview with the New York Daily News editorial board.

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Hillary Clinton opens debate talking ‘New York values’

Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders

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We’ve moved from ‘qualifications’ to ‘judgment’ in the Democratic primary

Bernie Sanders pivoted from questioning Hillary Clinton’s qualifications to be president to questioning her judgment, quickly sparking a sharp exchange in the opening minutes of the Democratic debate Thursday.

“Does Secretary Clinton have the experience, the intelligence to be president? Of course she does,” Sanders said. But he criticized her ties to Wall Street and her vote for the war in Iraq, saying, “I don’t believe that is the kind of judgment we need.”

The discussion over “qualifications” was tied to Sanders’ criticism of Clinton during a recent speech in Philadelphia, in which he listed her vote for the war in Iraq and support of trade deals as disqualifying her to be president.

“I don’t believe that she is qualified,” he said at the time.

Clinton dismissed Sanders’ comments.

“I’ve been called a lot of things in my life; that was a first,” she said Thursday.

Then she suggested that Sanders wasn’t ready for the White House, saying he hadn’t adequately fleshed out his policy proposals for breaking up Wall Street banks.

“Talk about the kinds of problems he had answering questions about his core issues,” Clinton said. “You need to have the judgment on Day One to be president and commander in chief.”

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Sandy Hook gun lawsuit is a likely subject in the Democratic debate

Hillary Clinton often jabs at her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, for being insufficiently stringent on gun control. Now, developments in an effort to hold a gun manufacturer liable for the Newtown school shooting adds a new wrinkle to her criticism.

Some families of the victims of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School can proceed with their lawsuit against both the manufacturer and seller of the rifle used in the massacre, a Connecticut judge ruled Thursday.

The defendants sought to dismiss the suit, arguing that gun manufacturers have been shielded from liability thanks to a 2005 federal law granting broad immunity against lawsuits over most conduct involving firearms. Sanders voted for the law.

But the court allowed the case to move forward. The families are arguing that the AR-15, the semi-automatic rifle used by gunman Adam Lanza, is a military-style weapon that should not have been sold to civilians.

“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied,” Josh Koskoff, a lawyer representing the families, said in a statement. “The families look forward to continuing their fight in court.”

The developments are likely to come up in Thursday’s Democratic debate between Clinton and Sanders. Clinton swiftly praised the court’s ruling.

“Today’s ruling in Connecticut is an important step forward for these families, who are bravely fighting to hold irresponsible gun makers accountable for their actions. They deserve their day in court. Period,” Clinton said.

She also criticized the federal law granting immunity to gun companies that Sanders backed.

Sanders, who represents a state with a strong hunting culture, told the New York Daily News editorial board recently that he did not believe victims of gun violence should be able to sue manufacturers.

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Donald Trump’s top Bible verse

An eye for an eye…When you see what’s going on with our country, how people are taking advantage of us, and how they scoff at us and laugh at us…They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our money.

Donald Trump, when asked Thursday on WHAM-AM radio in New York to name a Bible verse or story that has informed his life.

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Florida prosecutor drops battery charge against Trump campaign manager

(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

A Florida prosecutor said Thursday he would not prosecute Donald Trump’s campaign manager for grabbing and bruising a reporter’s arm, saying the battery charge could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

Palm Beach County State Atty. Dave Aronberg agreed with police in Jupiter, Fla., that there was “probable cause” to find Trump aide Corey Lewandowski committed battery on March 8 when he yanked the arm of Michelle Fields, then a reporter for Breitbart.

But the standard for criminal prosecution is higher than it is for filing police charges, Aronberg said. The case that police filed against Lewandowski was not strong enough to succeed in court, he said.

“If we know in advance that reasonable doubt exists, and we’re not going to be able to get a conviction, or even beyond a judgment of acquittal by the judge, we can’t ethically file those charges,” Aronberg said at a news conference in Florida.

Trump’s campaign released a statement saying Lewandowski was gratified by the decision “and appreciates the thoughtful consideration and professionalism” of prosecutors “who carefully reviewed this matter, as well as Mr. Trump’s loyalty and the support of his colleagues and family during this time.”

“The matter is now concluded,” the statement said.

The battery charge that police filed against Lewandowski on March 29 rattled Trump’s campaign before the Wisconsin Republican presidential primary, which he lost a week later to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. It came as Trump’s approval rating among women was hitting new lows.

Prosecutors said that Fields, who posted a photo of her bruised arm on Twitter after the incident, expressed disappointment when they informed her Thursday of their decision.

On Twitter, Fields complained Wednesday that the decision to drop the case was leaked to the media before prosecutors informed her.

“Ugly,” she wrote.

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Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders join forces in lawsuit over Arizona voting delays

Democrats have done a lot of hand-wringing about how to unite the party amid an increasingly acrimonious rivalry between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But one issue brought the candidates together ahead of their debate Thursday in Brooklyn.

Clinton, who won the state’s primary, and Sanders joined the Democratic National Committee to sue over long delays faced by voters in Arizona’s primary last month.

The lawsuit argues that the state’s decision to slash the number of polling places in Maricopa County, its largest and home to a significant Latino population, infringed on voting rights by forcing voters to wait up to five hours to cast a ballot.

“The handling of the primary election in Arizona was a disgrace,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, in a statement. “What happened in Arizona is part of a pattern of voter disenfranchisement by Republicans.”

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook also issued a statement.

“Hillary for America is committed to fighting for all voters to be able to exercise their fundamental right to have their voices heard in this election,” he said.

The lawsuit appears to be aimed in part at ensuring reliably Democratic voting blocs, including Latinos, will not be put off by such lines and skip the general election in November.

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Less than two hours to go until Democratic debate in Brooklyn

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How can Donald Trump secure the nomination? One supporter on Capitol Hill has a path

Outsider candidate Donald Trump turned to a small group of congressional insiders Thursday as his campaign launched the first of weekly strategy sessions with its handful of backers on Capitol Hill.

A top Trump aide, Ed Brookover, huddled at the stately Capitol Hill Club, adjacent to Republican Party headquarters, to discuss delegate strategy with the GOP lawmakers.

“It makes sense for the outsider to have some connection with the people who are here to hear what’s going on,” said Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), an early Trump supporter, who attended.

“He now needs some people from here who can provide some of that background.”

Just half a dozen GOP lawmakers, and one senator, have publicly endorsed Trump, a kitchen cabinet of sorts that will provide input to the billionaire’s campaign.

On Thursday, Brookover outlined Trump’s pathway to 1,237 delegate votes he needs to win the party’s nod.

It was a bit of a tough sell.

“There’s still a pathway there, but along with that comes some of the advice I’m giving,” said Barletta, whose state primary is later this month. “You don’t get there if you fall short with the delegates.”

Trump has called the GOP’s nominating system “rigged” as his campaign lags behind in scooping up delegates despite his primary victories.

Pennsylvania has a unique system for directly electing most of its delegates, forcing the campaigns to make sure they have supporters contesting those races.

“It is weighted against an outsider because the delegates are people who are active in politics,” Barletta said. “Donald Trump’s support is an organic, grass-roots support.”

They’ll be back at it again next week.

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Snapshots from the trail: Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton prepare to debate in Brooklyn

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Local TV stations counting on political ads worry about Donald Trump’s ability to get free airtime

GOP bigwigs aren’t the only ones worried about Donald Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump has emerged as the candidate to beat while spending far less than his rivals — a potentially troubling development for local TV stations, which rely heavily on revenue from political ads.

“In an environment like this where somebody is proving a disruptive model — Trump is saying, ‘I’m a reality TV star, and I know how to move things without using television advertising’ — it’s a scary space,” said Bill Day, a vice president for Frank N. Magid Associates, a consulting firm with a number of broadcasting clients.

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Pro-Donald Trump graffiti at UC San Diego sparks debate

Some students at UC San Diego expressed outrage this week after finding anti-Mexico and pro-Donald Trump graffiti scrawled on a sidewalk on campus on the eve of a schoolwide celebration.

The chalk writing was discovered Friday night close to the Raza Resource Centro, where Latino student groups hold meetings and events. It was the latest instance of pro-Trump graffiti appearing at university campuses around the country.

Included were messages like “Build the wall,” “Deport them all,” “Mexico will pay” and “Trump 2016.”

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Colorado GOP chairman hopes the uproar fueled by Donald Trump calms down

The threatening phone calls have come at all hours of the night, leading Steve House, chairman of Colorado’s Republican Party, to seek police protection.

House said he never envisioned such intrusions when he was elected to the position last year.

“Unfortunate, really, it’s just unfortunate,” said House, who estimates he’s received nearly 4,000 phone calls since Saturday’s Colorado GOP convention in which presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz won the state’s 34 delegates. “Really, I just hope everything calms down.”

The calls appear to be coming from supporters of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who has protested the outcome of the convention, calling it undemocratic and “rigged.” Colorado’s GOP ditched its nominating contest amid national-party rule changes and instead elected national delegates at the state convention. hey will support a candidate of their choosing rather than represent the will of voters.

Trump is trying to amass support for the state to return to a primary system, including protests planned for Friday at the state Capitol and state GOP headquarters.

“The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians,” Trump tweeted this week.

Cruz’s campaign, as well as establishment Republicans trying to stop Trump from securing the nomination, dismiss his complaints, saying the rules were clear and that Trump was simply outmaneuvered.

Trump’s criticisms are unfair, House added.

“We announced our rules last year -- all of the candidates knew about our process,” House said. “Now, for some to say it was rigged or whatever is just wrong.”

Requests for comment from Colorado Votes Matter, the grass-roots group organizing the protests, and the Trump campaign were not immediately returned.

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Marco Rubio talks about delegates, endorsements and why he won’t be VP

Marco Rubio walks alone these days.

After delivering a Senate speech Thursday, the former Republican presidential hopeful made the long walk back to his office.

No entourage. No scrum. Trailed by just a few reporters.

But go quietly he will not, and Rubio made a couple of points during the basement stroll.

First, thanks, but no thanks, to Ted Cruz’s suggestion that Rubio could be his presidential running mate.

“I’m not going to be vice president,” Rubio said, the same disinterest he showed after dropping out of the presidential race.

Perhaps it’s tough to envision being the veep when you aimed for the presidency?

“No, that’s not the thought process for me. The vice president is important,” he said. “It’s just not what I’m focused on. I ran for president.”

Another White House run?

“I haven’t thought about running for anything else right now,” he said.

“I want to be pr— I ran for president — now I’m going to focus on two things: finishing strong here in the U.S. Senate — I’m really enjoying being back and representing the state — and then I’ll be a private citizen in January, and I’ll continue to try and contribute any way I can.”

Rubio still has a role to play in presidential politics even though he has yet to endorse a rival and declined to do so Thursday. His delegates remain bound to him on the first convention vote, despite efforts by Cruz and Donald Trump to peel them off for subsequent ballots.

While other GOP lawmakers are avoiding the party’s convention in Cleveland, he’ll likely be there.

“I haven’t reserved a plane ticket or anything yet, but sure ... it would be great to go.”

As for Trump’s complaints of a “rigged” nominating system, forget it, Rubio said.

“The process has been what it’s always been, which is political parties elect their nominees,” Rubio said. “If you don’t get a majority of the delegates in the primary, then delegates decide the nomination. ... Political parties are private organizations who can choose their nominees, basically, any way they want.”

At the end of the long basement hallway, Rubio sought to dispel the impression that he finds the Senate dreary.

“I never said I hated the Senate,” he said, showing off his notebook full of trips and initiatives planned in his remaining months.

“I’ve enjoyed very much being a senator. It’s been a tremendous honor,” he said. “It’s even more fun now than it was before because I have more time to do it.”

But White House dreams are tough to shake.

“I enjoy being a senator, but I really believed the best place for me to contribute was as a president,” he said.

“Senators can help shape the agenda but only presidents can set the agenda, and I thought we had something meaningful to offer in that regard.”

Voters, at least for now, thought otherwise.

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Bernie Sanders’ view of Hillary Clinton: Happy to take special interests’ money, unwilling to take them on

If Bernie Sanders’ appearance Thursday before an African American audience in Manhattan was any indication, tonight’s debate between the Vermont senator and the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, could get a little heated.

Hours before the debate was to begin, Sanders cast Clinton as a “very intelligent” person who was not up to the next president’s job of battling powerful special interests.

Speaking to delegates at a convention of the National Action Network, an activist organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Sanders said that he would be a president “who is prepared to take on the billionaire class, not take their money.”

After taking heat last week for saying the former secretary of State was “not qualified” to be president, a charge he later withdrew, Sanders went out of his way to declare his respect for Clinton.

But he also went out of his way to cast her as the candidate beholden to wealthy Americans who have donated to her campaign.

“If you run for office, have a a super-PAC and raise tens of millions from wealthy special interests and then go out and take on the big money interests and protect working families — well, if you think that, you’ve got a very good candidate out there but it’s not Bernie Sanders,” he said.

Sanders ticked off a host of issues — the criminal justice system, campaign finance, poverty, climate change — all of which Clinton had discussed when she appeared before the group on Wednesday.

“If you believe those issues can be addressed by establishment politics and establishment economics, you’ve got a very good candidate to vote for, but it’s not Bernie Sanders,” he said.

Thursday’s debate will serve as one of the last opportunities for Sanders to dramatically cut into the lead that polls show Clinton holds in the state where she lives, served for eight years as U.S. senator and won the 2008 presidential primary.

After the debate, Sanders will take a 4,300-mile detour to Italy, where he was due to speak briefly Friday afternoon at a Vatican conference. The Vatican has said he will not meet privately with Pope Francis.

Sanders has said he could not pass up the opportunity to go, even if it costs him two days of campaigning in the state where he would like to hobble Clinton’s candidacy.

In campaign stops this week, Sanders has leaned strongly on a repudiation of the centrist Democratic policies pushed by Bill Clinton and his wife when they were in the White House from 1992 to 2000.

Sanders has hit Hillary Clinton for her past support of trade deals that he said decimated manufacturing jobs in America, and for a crime bill signed by her husband that many African Americans blame for disproportionate imprisonment of black men.

On Thursday, Sanders reminded the audience of the welfare reform bill pushed by Bill Clinton in his 1992 campaign and enacted during his presidency.

“That was an easy bill to be for because it scapegoated the poorest people in America…. all of the ‘welfare queens,’ remember that?” he said, drawing on Reagan-era language used to criticize some welfare recipients. “A very easy bill to go for -- but I didn’t go for that. I voted against that bill.”

He also pressed his campaign refrains — holding police officers “accountable” in cases where unarmed citizens are shot or killed, and spending more money on domestic needs than international ones.

He injected another criticism of Clinton into that last pitch, noting that while in the U.S. Senate, Clinton had voted to authorize use of force in Iraq, while he did not.

“How does it happen we have trillions of dollars available to spend on a war in Iraq we never should have gotten into,” he asked, “but then we’re told we don’t have the funds available to rebuild inner cities in America? I disagree.

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A Sanders supporter’s ‘Democratic whores’ insult just exposed the party’s risk of splitting

(Peter Foley / European Pressphoto Agency)

A supporter’s inflammatory rhetoric at a massive rally for Bernie Sanders on Wednesday — capped by a reference to Hillary Clinton as being among “corporate Democratic whores” beholden to the pharmaceutical industry — underscored the concerns of some Democratic leaders about unifying the party heading into the general election.

Dr. Paul Song, a Santa Monica radiation oncologist and leader of a major California progressive group called the Courage Campaign, was one of the first speakers at Sanders’ evening rally in New York’s Washington Square Park. He used his remarks to rail against what he called “an immoral and unjust healthcare system” even after some improvements through President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“Please do not believe ... that our healthcare system is OK,” he pleaded with the crowd, which the Sanders campaign said numbered more than 27,000. “Please do not believe that we only need minor tweaks.”

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Bernie Sanders fares poorly against Hillary Clinton with fellow Jews, polls indicate

Sen. Bernie Sanders has gone further than any other Jewish candidate in a presidential campaign, but he’s not garnering much support from Jewish voters, polls indicate.

The Vermont senator’s standing among Jews has been much speculated about since his campaign started to take off late last year. But until recently, the Democratic campaign has taken place in states with too few Jewish voters to measure — or to really matter.

In Florida, for example, which has one of the country’s largest Jewish populations, Jews made up only 4% of the Democratic primary turnout — too small for exit polls to analyze.

Now that the campaign has moved to New York, however, which has the nation’s largest Jewish population, the numbers are in, and they’re not favorable.

That shouldn’t be terribly surprising. Both Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton have long been popular among Jewish voters, and while American Jews tend to be liberal, they’re more often regular Democrats than the sorts of independents most drawn to Sanders.

On the other side, Sanders is not actively engaged in Jewish life. He has also been critical of Israel, although he lived briefly as a young man on a secular, socialist kibbutz. When asked about his faith, his responses have reflected a generalized commitment to liberal concepts of social justice as opposed to any specific link to Jewish ideals of equality.

None of that is unique to Sanders, of course — a large percentage of American Jews lead largely secular lives, and many are critical of Israel — but it may have dampened any connection that large numbers of Jewish voters might have felt toward him.

The best evidence so far comes from two recent polls of New York voters.

The Sienna College Poll, which has a long track record of surveying New York voters, found Clinton leading Sanders among Jewish voters 60%-38%. That’s almost as large as her lead among black voters, the poll found. Overall, she led 52%-42%, the poll found.

African Americans make up about 20% of the expected turnout for the Democratic primary, the poll projected. Jews make up just over 10%.

The NBC/Wall St. Journal/Marist poll found roughly the same breakdown, Clinton leading among Jews 65%-32%, part of an overall lead of 57%-40%. That poll pegged Jewish voters as likely to make up 16% of the electorate for the primary.

The Sienna poll also indicates that Sanders’ poor showing among New York’s Jewish voters is not a reaction to recent campaign controversies.

During an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News on April 1, Sanders significantly exaggerated the death toll of Arab civilians in the last fighting between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza. Several Jewish groups sharply criticized him afterward.

But the poll, which was taken April 6-11, showed Sanders doing somewhat better than a survey Sienna had taken at the end of February in which he got support of 27% of Jewish voters.

The Sienna poll, conducted by telephone using cellphones and landlines, surveyed 538 likely Democratic primary voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for the full sample.

The Marist poll was conducted April 10-13 and also has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 points.

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Jane Sanders: Hillary Clinton will be ‘just short’ of delegates for the convention

Bernie Sanders’ wife doesn’t think the parties’ nomination systems are “rigged” as Donald Trump has suggested, but she said on Thursday that the process fails to reflect democratic ideals.

“We’re bringing a lot more people into the party, and the party is shutting the door on them,” Sanders’ wife, Jane, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Ahead of next week’s closed New York primary, she argued for open nominating contests allowing anyone to vote, not just registered Democrats. Such a system would likely benefit her husband, particularly in New York, where the progressive Working Families and Green parties have strong presences.

She also predicted that front-runner Hillary Clinton will fall short of the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination before the Democratic convention in July.

“Going into the convention, I’ll think she’ll be just short,” she said. “We’ll hopefully be just short [too], and I think then we will have a discussion.”

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New York Daily News endorses Kasich, says ‘never’ to Trump and Cruz

John Kasich is a “principled” and “pragmatic” choice for the Republican nomination, the New York Daily News editorial board said in its endorsement of the Ohio governor on Thursday.

The newspaper refused to even consider front-runners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as viable options for the nomination, with its cover screaming “Never Trump” in large type Thursday with "(Never Cruz, either!)” below.

“Both men would be disastrous as president — Cruz because he is an absolutist ideologue, Trump because he suffers from the irreparable, disqualifying defect of being Trump,” the editorial board wrote.

The board said Kasich’s platform of cutting top income tax rates, limiting government spending, opposing abortion and supporting 2nd Amendment gun rights aligns with GOP voters’ values, if not the Daily News’ ideals.

And as for the alternatives — Cruz and Trump — the board painted a descriptive picture of each.

“Cruz has alienated every member of the Senate with destructive, self-promoting stunts. Personality alone would hobble his presidency,” the board wrote.

As for Trump? “Event by outrageous event, this very strange race has exposed Trump the man to be a self-loving egotist, demagogue and bully who suffers from severe deficits of wisdom and maturity.”

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Hillary Clinton has plenty of fodder for attack in Thursday’s debate, but will she use it?

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders wasted no time honoring New York’s tradition of bare-knuckled politics when they started campaigning in the state’s primary.

Now they’ll have another chance in Thursday night’s debate in Brooklyn, the borough where Sanders was born and Clinton established her campaign headquarters.

But at a time when Sanders desperately needs a big win in New York’s primary on Tuesday to stay in the hunt for the Democratic nomination, he’s provided Clinton plenty of fodder to use against him.

Most notably, he prompted a backlash from Democratic leaders in an ill-fated attempt to question Clinton’s judgment by saying she wasn’t “qualified” to be president.

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Hillary Clinton fights to secure black vote in New York in face of recent racial missteps

Hillary Clinton and her surrogates have courted African American voters across New York in advance of Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The results: a mixed bag of comfortable alliances and uncomfortable stumbling.

Black voters will make up about 1 in every 5 Democrats casting ballots here, and Clinton spent part of Wednesday delivering a speech honed by repetition and necessity before activists at a Manhattan convention of the National Action Network, a group founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

She recounted her long involvement in African American politics. She outlined an expansive plan to fight against racial, economic and environmental woes that disproportionately affect minorities. She scorned Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas as having unleashed “ugly currents” with their controversial proposals about immigrants and Muslims.

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Trump rails against the GOP nomination process, but it’s hardly novel

By Donald Trump’s telling, crooked Republican operatives have rigged the selection of the party’s presidential nominee and plan to defy the will of the millions of Americans who have voted for him.

“The Republican National Committee, they should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this kind of crap to happen,” Trump told supporters Tuesday in upstate New York after griping about losing all of Colorado’s GOP delegates to rival Ted Cruz at gatherings of party insiders.

Trump’s charge feeds into a widespread misconception that political parties choose their White House nominees by popular vote.

They don’t.

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