REPUBLICANS FORCE FRESHMAN DEMOCRAT OUT OF HIS OFFICE SPACE: Rep. Ray Russell, D-Watauga, found out Thursday that he's changing offices mid-session, moved by the Republican leadership to one of the legislature's many windowless, concrete-wall rooms. Russell was in his district Thursday but said House Rules Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, visited his legislative assistant at the General Assembly with the news. "(Lewis said) he's sorry to tell me, but they needed my office," Russell said. "They needed to move Cody Henson's replacement into my office." Henson, R-Transylvania, resigned last week after pleading guilty in a domestic cyberstalking case. With the ongoing budget standoff making every vote key, local Republicans moved quicker than usual to name a replacement, going with Polk County Commissioner Jake Johnson, according to local media.
BOARD OF ELECTIONS ON COURSE TO REQUIRE HUMAN-READABLE PAPER BALLOTS: North Carolina elections officials voted Thursday to go ahead with plans to strengthen the state’s laws around voting machines to require “human-readable” paper records. That’s in reaction to hacking and cybersecurity concerns surrounding touchscreen voting machines. The Mueller report and other intelligence reports have recently indicated that Russia targeted US elections systems in 2016 in multiple places. A federal investigation into whether Durham County was hacked in 2016 is still ongoing. Black originally voted with Anderson and Carmon for the changes on Monday, but he then asked for Thursday’s meeting to be called so he could reverse his vote. Cordle had also opposed the delay, so it looked like Anderson’s proposal would be shot down. But with Cordle gone, Thursday’s meeting ended in a 2-2 tie. That meant the original vote from Monday, to make the change, would stand.
FERC DRAFT REPORT DOWNPLAYS ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE FROM MVP PIPELINE: “We conclude that approval of the Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts, but these impacts would be reduced to less than-significant levels through implementation of our recommendations and Mountain Valley’s proposed avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures,” reads the 421-page draft environmental impact statement released a week ago. The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate would be a 72-mile, 24-inch-diameter line connecting to the existing MVP in Pittsylvania County, Va., to carry Marcellus Shale gas to the Dominion Energy — formerly PSNC — distribution system south of Graham near Cherry Lane. The earlier stage of the pipeline is still under construction in Virginia and faced strident opposed over potential and actual damage to streams, selling gas from fracking operations, and property rights, and has been mired in litigation over numerous citations for violating state and federal environmental regulations.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY IN MANHATTAN SUBPOENAS TRUMP ORG OVER HUSH MONEY: Just weeks after federal prosecutors revealed they were through investigating hush money paid to protect President Donald Trump from allegations of adultery, the probe has been picked back up by state prosecutors in New York City. The president's family business, the Trump Organization, received a subpoena Thursday from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., according to an attorney for the company. "This is a political hit job," said the lawyer, Marc L. Mukasey, in an email. "It's just harassment of the President, his family, and his business, using subpoenas and leaks as weapons. We will respond as appropriate." The subpoena, first reported by The New York Times, was for records related to payments that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen helped arrange to the porn actress Stormy Daniels after she claimed she had an affair with Trump.
TRUMP'S PICK FOR INTEL CHIEF LIES ABOUT HIS RECORD AS PROSECUTOR: “As a U.S. Attorney, I arrested over 300 illegal immigrants on a single day,” Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) says on his congressional website. But a closer look at the case shows that Ratcliffe’s claims conflict with the court record and the recollections of others who participated in the operation — at a time when he is under fire for embellishing his record. Only 45 workers were charged by prosecutors in Ratcliffe’s office, court documents show. Six of those cases were dismissed, two of them because the suspects turned out to be American citizens. One of those citizens, a 19-year-old woman, was awakened in her home and hauled away by immigration agents, the woman said in an interview. A.J. Irwin, a former immigration investigator who was involved in the early planning stages before retiring, said in an interview that the operation was a costly failure. Later, as a private immigration consultant, he advised the poultry processor after the sweep and gathered details about the woman who was arrested. “At the end of the day, it did not deliver,” Irwin said. “It was the biggest waste of money and hype.”