NC PORK AND TOBACCO FARMERS CAUGHT UP IN TRUMP'S TRADE WARS: North Carolina pork producers and tobacco farmers could feel a big hit from the back-and-forth trade threats being issued by the United States and trading partners across the globe, including Mexico, Canada, China and the European Union. The Trump administration announced this week that it would implement tariffs on aluminum and steel products from Mexico, Canada and the EU on Friday. Also this week, Trump renewed his threat to place tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products. Those nations announced retaliatory measures Thursday, including threats to levy tariffs on tobacco and pork products. The state's pork producers export 25 percent of their product, said Andy Curliss, CEO of the North Carolina Pork Council. Mexico and Canada account for half of those exports. Curliss said in an email that it's hard to know the impact of the trade sparring at this moment.
NC HOUSE DEBATE HEATS UP OVER REPUBLICAN BUDGET STRONG-ARMING: Democrats complained for nearly two hours on Republican legislative leaders' decision to bar amendments to the $23.9 billion spending plan. That was followed by another three hours of criticism that the budget doesn't do enough for teachers, state retirees, people who lack health insurance and residents whose drinking water is contaminated. Republicans reacted angrily to some of the accusations, but in the end, the budget easily gained initial approval from the chamber, and a final vote is expected Friday. The Senate also gave final approval Thursday to the budget, so it could be on Gov. Roy Cooper's desk by the end of Friday. Senators were equally rancorous during debate over legislation that would allow four Charlotte suburbs to create their own charter schools. Some opponents see the proposal as an effort to resegregate schools.
DEM WOMEN FILE BILLS TO SHIELD VICTIMS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN NC LEGISLATURE: Democratic state lawmakers want to create a confidential way for General Assembly employees to report workplace harassment — including instances of sexual harassment. Rep. Carla Cunningham of Mecklenburg County sponsored House Bill 1044, which would require the Legislative Services Commission and the Legislative Ethics Committee to develop a "zero tolerance" policy regarding "sexual harassment, abuse, misconduct, gender bias, and all other forms of discrimination in the workplace." Sen. Erica Smith of Northampton County filed the Senate version of the bill. At a news conference Thursday, she said the current process to address workplace harassment leaves people with little protection. Under lawmakers' proposal, any complaints would be considered confidential. One person would be designated in the General Assembly's human resources office to receive and investigate any reports of harassment.
NORTH KOREA SENDS SANCTIONED TOP SPY TO DELIVER LETTER TO TRUMP: One of North Korea’s most powerful figures will meet President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday as high-level talks in New York wrapped up with growing signs that the stalled nuclear disarmament summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could take place in less than two weeks. Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean spy chief and four-star general who is under U.S. sanctions, will deliver a personal letter to Trump from Kim Jong Un, the president told reporters in the latest whirlwind of high-stakes diplomacy aimed at reviving the proposed summit. “I look forward to seeing what’s in the letter,” Trump said. Asked if an arms control deal was coming together, he said: “I think it will be very positive. … The meetings have been very positive.” Trump said he still hoped to sit down with Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12, as originally scheduled, but he suggested follow-up meetings may be necessary to hammer out a disarmament deal.
AFTER PREVIOUSLY BRAGGING ABOUT IT, TRUMP SAYS COMEY FIRING WAS NOT ABOUT RUSSIA PROBE: President Donald Trump declared Thursday that he didn’t fire FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation, despite previously citing that as the reason. His lawyer, meanwhile, blasted federal investigators as “a lynching mob” the Trump team will “knock the heck out of” in the end. The president has said at least twice that Comey’s firing in May 2017 was related to the FBI’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign associates coordinated with Russia in an effort to sway the 2016 election. And his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Fox News earlier this month that Trump fired Comey because the FBI director wouldn’t publicly state that he “wasn’t a target” of the Russia investigation. Trump’s attempt to revise his public statements on Comey’s firing came as Giuliani drew criticism for comparing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to a “lynching mob.” And the Justice Department released a report revealing that the special counsel’s Russia probe has cost at least $16 million so far.