THE FIRST PUBLIC SCHOOL FALLS VICTIM TO INVOLUNTARY TAKEOVER BY CHARTER OPERATORS: A politically connected company with a limited track record has been chosen to take over a low-performing North Carolina elementary school. The State Board of Education voted 7-4 on Thursday to hire Charlotte-based Achievement For All Children to manage Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County. Achievement For All Children is heavily connected to Oregon resident John Bryan, a generous contributor to political campaigns and school-choice causes in North Carolina. He has taken credit for passage of the law creating the Innovative School District. SchoolWorks rated AAC as meeting expectations in four of 11 areas. The other company vying for the contract, the Michigan-based Romine Group, was rated as meeting expectations in two areas.
TRUMP DENIES HE KNEW ABOUT STORMY DANIELS PAYOFF: President Donald Trump said Thursday he didn't know about the $130,000 payment his personal attorney made to Stormy Daniels, issuing a firm denial in his first public comments about the adult-film actress who alleges she had an affair with him. Asked aboard Air Force One whether he knew about the payment, Trump said flatly: "No." Trump also said he didn't know why his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, had made the payment. "You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael," he said. He added that he didn't know where Cohen had gotten the money. Trump didn't answer a question about whether he set up a fund that Cohen could tap.
MUELLER PROBES DEEPER INTO TRUMP BUSINESS DEALS HANDLED BY MICHAEL COHEN: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years. Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump’s effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings. Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.
TRUMP CALLS FOR $100 BILLION IN NEW TARIFFS AGAINST CHINA IN COSTLY TIT-FOR-TAT: President Donald Trump instructed the U.S. trade representative to consider slapping an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods on Thursday in a dramatic escalation of the trade dispute between the two countries. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a frequent Trump critic, called the escalation “the dumbest possible way” to punish China. “Hopefully the President is just blowing off steam again but, if he’s even half-serious, this is nuts,” Sasse said in a statement. “Let’s absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us.” Global financial markets had fallen sharply as the world’s two biggest economies squared off over Beijing’s aggressive trade tactics. But they had calmed down Wednesday and Thursday on hopes the U.S. and China would find a diplomatic solution.
RECORD-BREAKING 309 WOMEN RUNNING FOR CONGRESS: The number of women running for the U.S. House of Representatives set a record Thursday, most of them Democrats motivated by angst over President Donald Trump and policies of the Republican-controlled Congress. Their ranks will continue to swell, with candidate filing periods remaining open in more than half the states. In many places, women are running for congressional seats that have never had female representation. In recent years, the number of women in Congress has held steady in large part because the number of women running hasn't increased substantially from year to year. Currently, there are 83 women in the U.S. House, out of 435 seats.