NC GOP COMMITTEE MAY REMOVE WOODHOUSE AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: A key group of North Carolina Republicans will meet Sunday to plot the state party’s path forward after the indictment of its chairman and a top donor and two of his associates on federal bribery charges. Among the changes it could discuss: Removing NC GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse, the outspoken Raleigh operative who has become the face of the state party in recent years, attacking Democrats and defending Republicans whenever necessary. The state party’s central committee, a group of 30 or so elected officials, district chairmen and party loyalists, is responsible for hiring and firing the executive director, according to the state party’s 2018 organizational plan. It is the only position the committee is responsible for. No staff will be on Sunday’s conference call.
FORMER NC REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN USED (HIS) RUSSIAN BANK FOR MONEY LAUNDERING: The Commercial Bank of Ivanovo “failed on multiple occasions to comply with Bank of Russia regulations” on money laundering “of criminally obtained incomes and the financing of terrorism,” the Bank of Russia said in a press release. The bank lied about its assets and reserves, the central bank said, “in order to improve its financial indicators and conceal its actual financial standing.” The bank also artificially inflated its capital to make it look like it was in line with Russian regulations, the press release said. The central bank said most of CBI’s business involved corporate and individual loans, but 70% were “low-quality loans.” The Bank of Russia said it will forward its findings “bearing signs of a criminal offence to law enforcement agencies.” Charles Taylor owns 80% of the bank, according to Bloomberg.
EFFORTS TO PURGE SOCIAL MEDIA OF ANTI-VACCINATION PROPAGANDA ARE STRUGGLING: The effort to screen out bogus vaccine information online is one more front in the battle by social media to deal with fake news of all sorts, including political propaganda. (Researchers have even found Russia-linked bots trying to sow discord by amplifying both sides of the vaccine debate.) Pinterest, the digital scrapbooking and search site that has been a leading online repository of vaccine misinformation, took the seemingly drastic step in 2017 of blocking all searches for the term "vaccines." But it's been a leaky quarantine. Recently, a search for "measles vaccine" still brought up, among other things, a post titled "Why We Said NO to the Measles Vaccine," along with a sinister-looking illustration of a hand holding an enormous needle titled "Vaccine-nation: poisoning the population one shot at a time." Facebook, meanwhile, said in March that it would no longer recommend groups and pages that spread hoaxes about vaccines, and that it would reject ads that do this. This appears to have filtered out some of the most blatant sources of vaccine misinformation, such as the website Naturalnews.com.
TRUMP PERMIT FOR KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE IS BACK IN COURT: Opponents of the long-stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline asked a federal court Friday in a lawsuit to declare President Donald Trump acted illegally when he issued a new permit for the project in a bid to get around an earlier court ruling. In November, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled that the Trump administration did not fully consider potential oil spills and other impacts when it approved the pipeline in 2017. Trump's new permit, issued last week, is intended to circumvent that ruling and kick-start the proposal to ship crude oil from the tar sands of western Canada to U.S. refineries. White House officials have said the presidential permit is immune from court review. But legal experts say that's an open question, and the case could further test the limits of Trump's use of presidential power to get his way.
TRUMP LAWYER MOVES TO BLOCK CONGRESS FROM GETTING PRESIDENT'S TAX RETURNS: President Trump’s personal lawyer on Friday asserted Mr. Trump’s right as a citizen to keep his tax returns private and told the Treasury Department not to hand the returns over to House Democrats, foreshadowing what has the potential to be a far-reaching legal fight that could reach the Supreme Court. The lawyer, William S. Consovoy, argued that Democrats who have demanded to see Mr. Trump’s tax information had no legitimate legislative reason to request it and that Representative Richard E. Neal’s decision this week to ask for six years of the president’s personal and business returns flouts “fundamental constitutional constraints.” He also called it a “gross abuse of power.” If Mr. Neal prevails and gains access to the president’s long-hidden returns, it would allow Democrats for the first time to peek past Mr. Trump’s public claims about his wealth and investments and into the heart of his personal and business finances.