President Barack Obama privately told a group of Democratic donors in Austin last week that Bernie Sanders' bid for the White House was all but done, and that it was time to unite behind Hillary Clinton for the party's nomination, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

The remarks, which were confirmed by the White House, even included a defense of Clinton's character and addressed criticism that she isn't authentic, particularly when compared with the Vermont senator. From the Times:

But he played down the importance of authenticity, noting that President George W. Bush—whose record he ran aggressively against in 2008—was once praised for his authenticity.

Obama's quiet exhortations came just days before Sanders' disappointing performance in the March 15 primaries. They also preview how the president may be preparing to play an active role in the 2016 election.

Obama and his advisers have reportedly been strategizing for weeks about how to ensure a Democrat defeats Donald Trump, should the real estate magnate secure the Republican nomination. According to the Washington Post, they've been specifically returning to the president's 2008 and 2012 campaigns for potential tactics.

When asked in January if Sanders' campaign reminded him of his own 2008 bid, Obama quickly rejected the comparison.

"I don't think that's true," he said in an interview with Politico, a response many perceived as a subtle jab at Sanders. His most recent discussion with donors reveals, however, that the president may be ready to abandon such restraint.

Some good news for Sen. Ted Cruz today: He finally got a second senate colleague to endorse him. According to CNN, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham will endorse and raise money for the Texas conservative, as part of a last-gasp effort by Republicans in Washington to stop Donald Trump from winning the party's nomination.

Graham wasn't much help to his previous pick, Jeb Bush, though. And, given the former presidential candidate's past comments about Cruz, his endorsement doesn't carry much weight. It does, however, display the increasing desperation of the Republican establishment. Just last month, Graham told Wolf Blitzer that, "If you're a Republican and your choice is Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in a general election, it's the difference between poisoned or shot—you're still dead." In that same interview, Graham said Cruz was worse than President Barack Obama on foreign policy. A few weeks later, he'd taken an even darker turn. "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate and the trial was in the Senate," Graham told a group of journalists, "no one would convict you."

Clinton Backers Edit Trump Ad to Make Him the Punch Line

A day after Donald Trump posted an ad on his Instagram account featuring Hillary Clinton barking like a dog, a super-PAC backing Clinton for president has responded in kind.

The ad, from Priorities USA, formed in 2011 and now supporting Clinton, repeats the motifs from the Trump video—Vladimir Putin doing martial arts, an ISIS fighter with a gun—but replaces the barking Clinton footage with a garbled response from Trump to a question about whom Trump consults for policy ideas. Instead of a clip of Trump laughing, there's a clip of Clinton laughing. The closing text is the same: "We don't need to be a punchline!"

With effectiveness rates of close to 100 percent, intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants have long been hailed as a safe and easy way to reduce unintended pregnancies. But a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics sheds light on a downside to their increasing use: teens who use these long-acting birth control methods may avoid unintended pregnancies, but are also less likely to use condoms, placing them at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections.

The researchers called on doctors to specifically promote condom use as a way for patients to prevent STIs, no matter which contraceptive method they chose. "A clear need exists to incorporate messages about condom use specifically for sexually transmitted infection prevention," they wrote.

The study examined the contraceptive methods of 2,288 sexually-active girls in high school, using data from a nationally representative 2013 survey. Only 1.8 percent of girls in the sample used an IUD or an implant, while 22 percent used the pill, and 41 percent used condoms. But those with IUDs or implants were 60 percent less likely to use condoms compared with their peers using the birth control pill, Depo-Provera injection, patch, or ring. They were also 2.6 times as likely as those on the pill to have more than one sexual partner, and almost twice as likely to have more than four partners. 

CDC data shows that the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives has increased nearly five-fold in the last ten years, and at least 5 percent of young women aged 15 to 24 currently use some form of long-acting, reversible contraceptive. At the same time, almost half of all new STD infections occur during that same age span, but using a condom dramatically reduces the risk of contracting nearly all of them—including chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, HIV, and HPV.

Teen girls who choose IUDs and implants "may no longer perceive a need for condoms even if they have multiple sexual partners," the study's authors wrote, often overlooking the risk of STIs, and the health benefits of condoms. Researchers concluded: "Improving dual protection among adolescents will be key to maximizing both pregnancy and STI prevention goals."

Trump Ad Shows Clinton Barking Like a Dog

 

Is this what we want for a President?

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

 

Donald Trump has used a wide array of tactics to contrast his tough-talking machismo with the supposed wimpiness of his rivals, from "Little Marco" Rubio to "low-energy" Jeb Bush. On Wednesday, he trained his sights on Hillary Clinton, using his Instagram account to post an ad against his likely November opponent. Trump's short Instagram video features Russian President Vladimir Putin and a member of ISIS looking tough, before showing looped footage of Clinton barking like a dog.

The footage is real: Clinton did bark like a dog at a rally in Nevada, to describe a radio ad she heard while in Arkansas. Trump's ad cuts out that context, and instead splices in a laughing Putin, followed by the words "We don't need to be a punchline!"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took no time to reject President Barack Obama's nomination for the Supreme Court, declaring his refusal to even consider Merrick Garland in the hearing process.

"It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize for purposes of the election," McConnell said.

The senator's response is no surprise. Since Justice Antonin Scalia's unexpected death in February, Senate Republicans have vowed to block any nominee the president puts forward to replace the late justice.

"The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualification of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be," McConnell said on Wednesday shortly after the president's announcement of his nominee, the chief judge of the influential DC Circuit.

On Wednesday morning, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, saying the top judge on the influential DC Circuit has earned the respect of both Republicans and Democrats and is "uniquely prepared to serve immediately."

"I've selected a nominee who is widely recognized, not only as one of America's sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, evenhandedness, and excellence," Obama said in a press conference from the Rose Garden with Vice President Joe Biden and Garland. "These qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle. Today I am nominating Chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court."

Garland called the president's nomination the "greatest honor of his life" and was visibly emotional in his acceptance speech. His nomination should now be considered by the Senate. But following the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, Senate Republicans have refused to hold hearings and vowed to block any of Obama's nominations to replace the late justice's seat on the bench. They argue the next justice should be the choice of the next president.

Obama has hit back at such demands, slamming Republicans for politicizing the court system.

"The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now," Obama said after Scalia's death. "When there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the president of the United States is to nominate someone. The Senate is to consider that nomination—and either they disapprove of that nominee or that nominee is elevated to the Supreme Court. Historically, this has not been viewed as a question."

Obama stressed the same point Wednesday: "In putting forward a nominee today, I am fulfilling my constitutional duty, I'm doing my job. I hope that our senators will do their jobs and move quickly to consider my nominee. That is what the Constitution dictates, and that's what the American people expect and deserve from their leaders."

On March 8, Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski asked Donald Trump whether he had a foreign policy team. Trump gave a rambling response, saying, "Yes, there is a team. There's not a team. I'm going to be forming a team. I have met with far more than three people." On Wednesday morning, Brzezinski gave Trump another shot at the question. She asked him again about his foreign policy team and strategy and, more specifically, whom he consults with consistently. 

Trump replied: "I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things. I know what I'm doing, and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people, and at the appropriate time I'll tell you who the people are. But my primary consultant is myself and I have, you know, a good instinct for this stuff."

After crushing Sen. Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida on Tuesday, Donald Trump addressed supporters from his Mar-a-Lago estate to rebut recent allegations that his campaign manager assaulted a female reporter during a rally last week.

"There's nothing like it—lies, deceit, viciousness, disgusting reporters," Trump told the crowd in Palm Beach.

While Trump did not specifically call out Michelle Fields—the former Breitbart News reporter who filed a criminal complaint against Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, for allegedly grabbing her forcefully—the Republican front-runner did take a moment in his victory speech to commend Lewandowski and effectively brush aside Fields' accusations.

"Good job, Corey," Trump said. "Good job to our whole squad, right?"

In recent days, the real estate magnate has fired back at Fields, claiming she "made up" the attack, despite growing photo and video evidence of the assault.

Trump was also declared the winner in Illinois and North Carolina, but lost big in the winner-takes-all state of Ohio to Gov. John Kasich, who won his first primary tonight.

"We have to bring our party together," Trump said in Florida. "We have something happening that actually makes the Republican Party the biggest political story anywhere in the world."

Rosemary Carver, a Donald Trump supporter, arrives at his primary election night event at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday night.

On Tuesday night, Donald Trump's campaign reportedly turned away a Politico reporter who covers the candidate, after the reporter had helped write a story critical of Trump's campaign manager earlier in the day.

So who did get into the ritzy victory party at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida? Rich people. NBC reporter Katy Tur shared the decadent outfits at the party for the candidate whose campaign depends on economically struggling voters.

Trump did have cause to celebrate: He is the projected winner in the Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois primaries on Tuesday. John Kasich won his home state of Ohio, while Missouri has not yet been called.