Rep. Elijah Cummings endorses Hillary Clinton for president

— After Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in October, aides said she was personally gratefully for Rep. Elijah Cummings’ work as the panel’s top Democrat.

On Sunday Cummings officially endorsed Clinton, ahead of Maryland’s April 26 primary. Cummings had held out for months in endorsing Clinton, the only Democratic member of Maryland’s congressional delegation to do so.

Cummings introduced Clinton and recounted her resume highlights, including her experience as secretary of state and senator from New York.

“This is why I will be voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton,” Cummings said. “I am asking everyone one of you… to vote for Hillary. To be abundantly clear, I am endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.”

Cummings said after his speech on Sunday that he had wanted to wait until the Benghazi committee wound up. Yet with the panel continuing to work, Cummings said he felt time was short to back a candidate, a bit more than two weeks out from the Old Line State’s primary.

Clinton, in turn, lavished praise on Cummings.

“I have seen him in many settings, but sitting in front of the Benghazi Committee for 11 hours, I have got to tell you, I was so proud to see him leading the Democrats,” Clinton said. “And listening to him make the points that needed to be made. I wasn’t surprised because that is the kind of congressman he is. I just have to tell you how lucky you are to have him as one of your leaders.”

After noting his work into the investigation around the 2012 terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans, Clinton went on to call Cummings a “jewel” in Congress.

Clinton testified before the committee in October in an 11-hour session that was seen as a win for the former secretary of state, as even Republicans Republicans later said it produced no new revelations.

As head Democrat on the committee probing the 2012 terrorist attack, Cummings was known for aggressively challenging Republicans, including Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. Cummings regularly said Gowdy and other Republican lawmakers were using the investigation to damage Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“We’re better than that. We are so much better. We’re a better country,” an impassioned Cummings said to Clinton at the October hearing. “And we are so much better than using taxpayer dollars to try to destroy a campaign.”

Clinton has spent the last week largely focused on the April 19 New York primary, where 247 delegates are at stake in her race for the Democratic nomination against Bernie Sanders.

But on Sunday Clinton sprinkled her stump speech with Maryland specifics references and promises.

“We need to look for every way possible to create new jobs, we need to be focusing on how we can bring investing to places that need it,” Clinton said, touting her plan for urban revitalization. “As part of my plan, I will direct hundreds of billions of dollars to places like West and East Baltimore, including $20 billion aimed specifically at helping to create jobs for young people.”

Bernie Sanders focuses on jobs during Baltimore visit

— Bernie Sanders defended not talking about ISIS on Tuesday, moments after his national press secretary walked into a press conference and asked reporters not to ask questions about the terrorist group.

Symone Sanders, Sanders’ spokeswoman, walked into a press conference room shortly before the senator wrapped up a roundtable on urban poverty and Black Lives Matters. After outlining the topics that the group spoke about, Symone Sanders said, “Don’t ask about ISIS today.”

Press aides regularly outline the topic of meetings, but it is unusual for them to outline what questions reporters can and can’t ask.

The refrain came at an inopportune time for Sanders, too. After inspiring the terrorist attacks abroad and more recently in the U.S. in San Bernardino, ISIS has dramatically altered the 2016 campaign to be more focused on foreign policy and terror.

And Sanders has been forced to defend the fact that his campaign routinely focuses solely on economic issues.

Sanders did just that during the press conference when reporters were asked not to ask about ISIS.

“Guys, how often are these people taking about the issues we talked about today?” Sanders asked, responding to a question from CNN and laughing at the assumption that he doesn’t want to talk about ISIS. “Of course I will talk about ISIS, but today what we are talking about is a community, in which, half of the people don’t have jobs.”

He added, “You want to ask me about ISIS? We will talk about ISIS. But what I said, and let me repeat, you can agree with me or not, what I have said is that obviously ISIS and terrorism are a huge national issue that we have got to address, but so is poverty, so is unemployment, so is education, so is healthcare, so is the need to protect working families. And I will continue to talk about those issues.”

Sanders’ campaign has faced scrutiny before for reportedly wanting to avoid questions related to foreign policy. When organizers wanted to change a debate to put more of a focus on terrorism last month — following the Paris terror attacks — an aide to Sanders reportedly “threw a fit.” Sanders’ campaign later rejected the depiction, saying the discrepancy was in regards to the debate’s format and not the content of the questions.


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Hillary Clinton launches second presidential bid

— Hillary Clinton put an end to months of speculation on Sunday by officially announcing her candidacy for president, giving the former secretary of state another shot at cracking the highest glass ceiling in American politics.

The initial word came in an email to supporters from John Podesta, a longtime Clinton ally, then a video launched on YouTube and a newly minted Facebook page.

“I’m getting ready to do something too. I’m running for president,” Clinton said in the video. “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion — so you can do more than just get by — you can get ahead. And stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong. So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote, because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”

The video was shot last week, a campaign official told CNN. Clinton’s part was shot in New York with the rest of the video shot in places including Iowa and New Hampshire, a campaign official told CNN.

Clinton was at her home in New York for the launch of her campaign. She will be making some calls to top Democrats Sunday, as will her senior staff, according to a campaign official.

Following the video release, the Clinton campaign sent our a press release detailing her next steps.

“She’s committed to spending the next six to eight weeks in a ‘ramp up’ period where her team will start to build a nation-wide grassroots organization, and she will spend her time engaging directly with voters,” according to the release. “In May, once her supporters in all 50 states are organized for house parties or to watch over live streams, Hillary will hold her first rally and deliver the speech to kick off her campaign.”

She’ll travel to Monticello, Iowa on Tuesday before heading to Norwalk on Wednesday, according to a campaign aide.

Clinton’s second presidential run is another chapter in a life that has seen the former first lady go from a child raised in a conservative home outside Chicago to one of the most recognizable women in the world. Clinton became a household name in 1992 when her husband, Bill Clinton, won the presidency.

Since then, Hillary Clinton has become a force in her own right, serving in the Senate for eight years, unsuccessfully running for president in 2008 and leading the State Department from 2009 to 2013.

Over the coming months, Clinton’s campaign will plot how to reintroduce the former first lady — on her own terms — to the American people. Democrats close to Clinton have started to call her the most unknown famous person in the world. Their argument is that people know of Clinton — she has near 100% name recognition in most polls — but they don’t know her story.

Using small, controlled events with everyday people, the campaign will hone in on Clinton’s personal story, using themes such as her Midwestern upbringing, her mother’s perseverance in the face of neglectful parents and Clinton’s own time raising a daughter to cast the presidential hopeful in a more favorable, softer light than she was seen during much of her 2008 presidential run.

Clinton’s candidacy has been widely anticipated. Even since before Clinton left the State Department in early 2013, speculation that she would take another shot at the White House has followed her.

For her part, Clinton willingly teased those expectations for the better part of the last two years as she crisscrossed the country delivering paid speeches, selling her new memoir and stumping for Democrats during the 2014 midterm elections. Throughout all of it, Clinton was consistently peppered with questions about her presidential ambitions and plans for the future. She was reluctant to tease a bid in early 2014 — telling an audience in New Orleans that she wasn’t even thinking about a run — but grew less coy this year when she began to embrace the expectations around her.

Prohibitive favorite

Clinton, the first to enter the Democratic presidential field, enters the race as the prohibitive favorite for the nomination, even though some of her poll numbers have slipped of late, likely because of a nagging email controversy.

A CNN/ORC International poll in March found that Clinton held a 50-point lead over her closest competitor, Vice President Joe Biden. What’s more, the three Democrats most actively teasing a presidential run — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — all received no more than 3% support among Democrats and independents that lean Democratic.

Clinton’s dominance in the polls — along with the work of a number of outside pro-Clinton organizations — has helped freeze the Democratic field. But a dozen or so Republicans may ultimately line up for the chance to take Clinton on.

Ahead of her expected announcement, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush released a YouTube video Sunday attempting to connect Clinton to the “failed big government policies” of President Barack Obama.

Though she just announced her candidacy on Sunday, she is already surrounded by a sizable Democratic operation; Clinton has had around 30 people “volunteering” on her behalf in recent weeks.

Podesta, her anticipated campaign chairman, and Robby Mook, her expected campaign manager, began assembling a campaign apparatus this year, and a number of political operatives moved to New York in March and April to work for the nascent campaign. All of the new hires, however, have been considered volunteers until this point, meaning they have not been paid for weeks of work.

The team includes a handful of top aides and advisers from her 2008 run, but has intentionally drawn from new sources, including Democratic committees in Washington and, most notably, Obama’s presidential runs in 2008 and 2012.

Early states

Clinton’s top aides have already dispatched senior Democratic operatives to critical early states — namely Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Those hires are an attempt by Mook and others to signal that Clinton isn’t taking the nomination for granted this time around, a charge that many early voters and experts leveled against her 2008 campaign.

In a memo distributed at meeting of campaign staff on Saturday, Mook stressed the importance of staying humble, disciplined and united.

“We are humble,” reads the memo, which was obtained by CNN from a Democrat in the room. “We take nothing for granted, we are never afraid to lose, we always outcompete and fight for every vote we can win. We know this campaign will be won on the ground, in states.”

Iowa’s most active Democrats, who watched Clinton finish in an abysmal third in 2008, couldn’t agree more.

“She kind of thought she was inevitable and her staff were going to tell us how to do things,” said Monica McCarthy, the former Union County Democratic Party chair and a Biden supporter in 2008. “Iowa, we are really spoiled, we are used to that pressing the flesh and talking to these people. We expect that.”

The Clinton campaign will start that process right after the Clinton video is released, according a Democrat with knowledge of the planning.

Clinton’s headquarters will be in Brooklyn, a culturally and economically diverse borough of New York City that the campaign will likely use as a backdrop for a message, it says, will focus on equality, inclusion and prosperity for all Americans.

The road to Clinton’s second presidential run has been far from flawless.

Democrats close to Clinton say the former first lady had preferred waiting until summer to make her presidential ambitions official and had a number of top aides discouraging her from getting into the race at all. But once Clinton decided to run, the start of 2015 — a period defined by multiple controversies around the former first family — crystallized for Clinton and her team why a campaign apparatus was critically needed.

Her family’s foundation, the Clinton Foundation, came under fire this year for not properly vetting foreign donations while Clinton was secretary of state. The controversy was a headache for Clinton aides and supporters who were caught somewhat flat-footed, and provided Republicans a tailor-made opportunity to charge the former first family with cronyism and selling access.

Clinton resigned from the foundation’s board on Sunday.


March found Clinton at the center of her own controversy over her exclusive use of private — rather than official — email during her time running the State Department. Republicans seized on the news and Clinton was forced to respond in a quickly organized press conference at the United Nations.

“With respect to any sort of future issues, I trust the American people to make their decisions about political and public matters,” Clinton said in response to a question about her presidential aspiration at the press conference. “I look forward to having a discussion about that.”

Republicans are near certain that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. On a surrogate call preparing Republicans for her announcement, Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee communications director, said that he felt Clinton losing the nomination was as likely as him “getting struck by lightning riding a unicorn.”

Republicans have been near solely focused on Clinton for more than a year, knocking the former secretary of state on different controversies and looking to cast her as an out-of-touch plutocrat unable to connect with the needs of everyday Americans.

Clinton’s recent controversies over the foundation and her emails have already featured prominently in attacks against her. After news broke on Friday that Clinton was announcing, the Republican National Committee spent more than $100,000 on a web ad that hits Clinton for her recent controversies. The ad is targeted at independent voters in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa.

Our attacks “ultimately have to lead to questions that Hillary can’t answer,” said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and a longtime Clinton foil. “I think if we keep her in a situation where she can never do a press conference and she can never take questions, she shrinks. … I am pretty optimistic that she will shrink steadily throughout the next year.”

CNN’s Mark Preston, Jeff Zeleny and Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.

Marion C. Barry to run for his late father’s seat

Like father, like son.

Marion Christopher Barry, the 34-year-old son of Marion Barry, the iconic former D.C. mayor and council member who died last year, is running for his father’s seat on the district’s council.

Barry — who goes by Christopher — declared his candidacy Monday, according to the D.C. Board of Elections. A special election to fill the late Barry’s seat will be held on April 28, 2015.

The newly minted candidate, whose candidacy has been rumored since shortly after his father died, later sent a tweet about making his bid official.

In December, Barry told The Washington Post that he was “just listening to what the people want,” adding that “God will send me the message” about whether to run or not.

Despite his name recognition, the path to the council will not be an easy one for Barry. He enters into a race with 24 declared candidates, including a number of prominent Democrats in Ward 8.

During his years of power in D.C., the older Marion Barry became a national symbol of African-American political leadership.

Barry was infamously busted in 1990 on law enforcement surveillance tape smoking crack cocaine in a drug sting involving the FBI and Washington police. That footage was televised. Barry was convicted of possession and served six months in prison.

Barry, however, made a comeback and was elected to a fourth term as mayor in 1995. After leaving the mayor’s office, the older Barry was elected to the council of the District of Columbia where he served until his death.

Christopher Barry avoided prison in 2011 by pleading guilty for one felony PCP charge and another misdemeanor marijuana charge, according to the Washington Post. Barry received 18 months of supervised probation for the plea.

O’Malley preparing ‘ground work’ for potential 2016 run

— Gov. Martin O’Malley told reporters on Monday that while he is focused on his last year as governor, he is also weighing the possibility of a presidential run in 2016.

“Leadership is important and we will have a need for a new leader once President Obama’s term in office is over,” O’Malley said. “So, I have been preparing in terms of the tough work, the policy work, the ground work necessary to offer a better direction for our country.”

The governor added that while he is “not here to make an announcement,” he has been “giving the thought time and the preparation to a better way forward for our country for the next eight years.”

O’Malley, who was at St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore for an event focused on raising the minimum wage, has been the focus of 2016 speculation since he told The Washington Post on Saturday that while he has “a great deal of respect for Hillary Clinton,” he can’t wait for the former secretary of state and prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2016 to decide whether she will run.

“For my own part, I have a responsibility to prepare and to address the things that I feel a responsibility to address,” he told the Post. “To squander this important period of preparation because of horse-race concerns and handicapping concerns is just not a very productive use of energy.”

O’Malley confirmed what he said in the Post, but he told reporters on Monday that he wasn’t interested in detailing how prominently Clinton will weigh in his decision making process.

“I am not really about the handicapping in this, I will leave that to you all and to others. I am about the thought work necessary,” the governor said. “No one ever goes down this road without giving it a lot of consideration and a lot of preparation and a lot of thought work. And so that is what I am doing.”

Should O’Malley run in 2016, he finds himself as a dark horse candidate in a field dominated by Clinton. In last month’s Washington Post/ABC News poll, O’Malley didn’t register as one of the candidates Democrats would choose for 2016. In a November 2013 CNN/ ORC International Poll, 2% of Democrats said they would like to see O’Malley nominated for president in 2016.

On the other hand, Clinton — who has yet to declare her candidacy and says she is still mulling a run — has held historic leads over her possible Democratic challengers. In the recent Washington Post/ ABC News poll, 73% of Democrats said they would nominate her to run for the White House in 2016.


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