Good Monday morning. We’re up early and ready to start the week off right. As always, I’ll be updating this post with new content throughout the morning. Here’s our show lineup for Morning in America today:

7:05am EST: Byron York weighs in on the hottest political issues of the week, from the ongoing controversies with the Clinton Foundation to the GOP presidential sweepstakes.

8:30am EST: Chairman Paul Ryan discusses the importance of approving legislation for several new international trade deals.

Chairman Ryan delivered the latest Republican weekly address on this topic and he also weighed in via an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with Sen. Ted Cruz. Both are worth reading to catch up on the trade deal debate.

Before we get to the political stories of the day, our thoughts and prayers are with those in Nepal affected by the terrible earthquake this weekend. The images of the devastation and loss are horrific. If you want to donate to help the relief efforts in Nepal, World Vision is one of the aid groups rallying to provide relief. You can contribute to its efforts HERE.

NEPAL EARTHQUAKE UPDATE:

The death toll from Nepal’s earthquake soared past 3,300 Monday, and how much higher it would rise depended largely on the condition of vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster.

Reports received so far by aid groups suggest that many communities perched on mountainsides are devastated or struggling to cope.

Landslides hindered rescue teams that tried to use mountain trails to reach those in need, said Prakash Subedi, chief district official in the Gorkha region, where the quake was centered. Matt Darvas, a member of the aid group World Vision, said it is likely that many communities can be reached only by helicopter.

“Villages like this are routinely affected by landslides, and it’s not uncommon for entire villages of 200, 300, up to 1,000 people to be completely buried by rock falls,” Darvas said.

White House Correspondents’ Dinner 

In case you weren’t invited (I wasn’t) or didn’t watch the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this week (I hope you didn’t), here’s the link to Pres. Obama’s full remarks.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t that interested in the speech until I read Byron York’s great column about it.

You can read into the President’s comedic routine what you want, but I agree with Byron that the tone and style of his jokes do reflect a deep-seated view about his critics and their beliefs. Of course, if you raise this with anyone allied with the president they’ll respond, “It’s just a joke!” And perhaps it is. But words matter and just because something is “comedy” doesn’t mean it should get a free pass.

Clinton Foundation: In the wake of the latest allegations against the Clinton Foundation, the Foundation has finally come forward to admit a mistake. Obviously, it did not fess up to any of the allegations made in Peter Schweizer’s new book “Clinton Cash,” but even a small admission of guilt is telling. As they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Clinton Foundation admits making mistakes on taxes 

The non-profit foundation and its list of donors have been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks. Republican critics say the foundation makes Hillary Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, vulnerable to undue influence.

After a Reuters review found errors in how the foundation reported government donors on its taxes, the charity said last week it would refile at least five annual tax returns.

“So yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don’t happen in the future,” Clinton Foundation acting Chief Executive Officer Maura Pally said in a statement.

Fallout: Whenever there is a scandal in DC, regretfully, the conversation shifts from “What did he/she do wrong?” to “What will be the political consequences?” The Clintons are particularly good at doing this – moving the problem from a moral one to a political one. I thought Mark Helperin did a very good job addressing both angles yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Halperin: Someone Else Would Have Been Fired From State Dept. For What We Know Hillary Did

MARK HALPERIN: Imagine if an Assistant Secretary of State had done what Hillary Clinton– what we know Hillary did. They would be out of the State Dept. 

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULIS, THIS WEEK: What things?

HALPERIN: Co-mingling of a family foundation, donations from foreign governments, increased speech fees, and government actions.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULIS: No evidence of government actions.

HALPERIN: We know there were government actions taken, what we don’t know –and this goes to the deleted emails– is what kind of interaction did Hillary Clinton have on her private email account regarding her husband’s speeches and Foundation activities involving foreign donations.

If they hadn’t been so careless at the Foundation, if she hadn’t deleted the emails, if they put somebody out on this show today to answer these questions, I think a lot of this could be put to rest, but none of those things are true.

The Clinton Foundation’s acting chief executive admitted on Sunday that the charity had made mistakes on how it listed government donors on its tax returns and said it was working to make sure it does not happen in the future.

Baltimore Riots: Things took a turn for the worse this weekend in Baltimore as violent protestors hijacked peaceful protests over the death of Freddie Gray. CBS Baltimore had a thorough report on the destructive riots and Breitbart captured the scene:

BLACK RIOTERS IN BALTIMORE SMASH POLICE CARS, ATTACK MOTORISTS IN FRENZIED PROTEST

Protesters smashed police cars and shop windows in downtown Baltimore on Saturday when the biggest demonstration over the death of a young African-American man in police custody turned violent.

More than 1,000 people joined an orderly 90-minute rally at Baltimore city hall demanding justice for Freddie Gray, who died last Sunday from spinal injuries, a week after his arrest in the city’s impoverished west side.

…Live images from local television news helicopters showed a youthful crowd hurling soda bottles and trash cans at police officers alongside the Sports Legends museum and Camden Yards ticket booths.

“Protesters are now breaking windows and throwing items at us,” the Baltimore police department confirmed on its Twitter feed. “We are asking everyone to remain peaceful.”

Same-sex Marriage at the Supreme Court: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in the most consequential marriage case to date – “Obergefell v. Hodges.”

Supreme Court set to hear same sex marriage arguments

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in highly anticipated cases about the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Just two years ago, the high court struck down part of the federal law that denied a range of government benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The 2013 United States v. Windsor decision did not address the validity of state marriage bans. But lower courts judges across the country, with few exceptions, said the ruling compelled them to invalidate state laws that prohibited gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

The number of states allowing same-sex marriage has grown rapidly.

As recently as October, just over one-third of the states permitted same-sex marriage. Now, same-sex couples can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Rubio Weighs In: Sen. Rubio jumped into the discussion this weekend in an interview with David Brody. Rubio declared forcefully there is no constitutional right to gay marriage and the Supreme Court should not create one. Given the state of gay marriage and public opinion, many Republicans had been leaning towards the states’ right argument for marriage. However, that could all become void if the Supreme Court crafts a right to same-sex marriage, no matter what a state may decide. If so, Republicans will have to find a new path on this issue.

Marco Rubio To Brody File: There Is No Constitutional Right To Gay Marriage

In a one-on-one interview with The Brody File in Des Moines Iowa this weekend, GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio says there is NO constitutional right to gay marriage…

David Brody, “Marriage in the Supreme Court, a big case coming this week to be argued. Where are you on this whole idea of a constitutional right that many people think…”
 

Marco Rubio, “ It doesn’t exist. There is no federal constitutional right to same sex marriage. There isn’t such a right. You have to have a ridiculous reading of the U.S. constitution to reach the conclusion that people have a right to marry someone of the same sex. There is no such constitutional right. Can a state decide to change their laws? Yes, but only through the political process…”
 
Marco Rubio: “They (advocates of same sex marriage) want to stigmatize, they want to ostracize anyone who disagrees with them as haters. It’s very simple. This is not a policy against anyone. I believe, as do a significant percentage of Americans, that the institution of marriage, an institution that existed before government, that existed before laws, that institution should remain in our laws recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”

Punishing Christians: If you want to know what the stakes are in this debate, read the following story from the Daily Signal about the Christian bakers in Oregon punished for refusing to serve a same-sex wedding. Note, they weren’t punished for refusing service to same-sex couples, but a same-sex wedding.

State Says Bakers Should Pay $135,000 for Refusing to Bake Cake for Same-Sex Wedding

An Oregon administrative law judge recommended today that the bakers who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding should be fined $135,000.

“[T]he forum concludes that $75,000 and $60,000, are appropriate awards to compensate [the same-sex couple] for the emotional suffering they experienced,” wrote Alan McCullough, administrative law judge for Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries in his proposed order.

Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa located in Gresham, Ore., say the fine is enough to potentially bankrupt their family of seven.

…One of the women, whose name was redacted to protect her privacy, listed 88 symptoms as grounds for compensation. The other, whose name was also redacted, listed 90.

Examples of symptoms include “acute loss of confidence,” “doubt,” “excessive sleep,” “felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “pale and sick at home after work,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain” and “worry.”

Foreign Policy: Switching gears to foreign policy, it’s clear that Saudi Arabia’s bombing reprieve in Yemen was short lived. The air campaign is back in full gear now. If Saudi Arabia ups the ante, it’s only a matter of time before Iran does too.

Saudi-Led Air Campaign Resumes in Yemeni Capital

Warplanes of the Saudi-led military coalition bombed targets in the Yemeni capital on Sunday for the first time since Saudi officials said they were shifting the focus of their campaign against a Yemeni rebel group toward political negotiations and humanitarian relief.

Also on Sunday, at least seven people were killed and dozens wounded in escalating violence in the southern city of Taiz, which was emerging as the latest lethal flash point in Yemen’s civil war.

In addition to the bombings in Sana, the capital, which struck a military base and the presidential palace, the coalition carried out airstrikes in several other provinces, suggesting a broadening, rather than a scaling back, of the monthlong Saudi air offensive against Houthi rebels.

Syria: Here’s a very interesting story from the Washington Post about the rebels advancing in Syria and threatening President Assad’s regime. This story took me by surprise because the conventional wisdom had been that Assad was safe and secure and that he would hold on to power. If his regime falls, the U.S. needs to be prepared for what will happen next, namely, an all-out struggle for regime control between the various rebel factions, ISIS, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Assad’s hold on power looks shakier than ever as rebels advance in Syria 

A surge of rebel gains in Syria is overturning long-held assumptions about the durability of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which now appears in greater peril than at any time in the past three years.

The capture on Saturday of the town of Jisr al-Shughour in northern Idlib province was just the latest in a string of battlefield victories by rebel forces, which have made significant advances in both the north and the south of the country.

As was the case in the capital of Idlib province last month, government defenses in Jisr al-Shughour crumbled after just a few days of fighting, pointing as much to the growing weakness of regime forces as the revival of the opposition.

…“We’re seeing a game changer right now in Syria,” said Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist. “I think we are going to see an end to the Assad regime, and we have to think now about what will happen the day after, because the day after is near.”

 

Photo Credit:http://tinyurl.com/lrdh4uu