UNC BOG CHAIRMAN "DISAPPOINTED" IN BEHAVIOR OF ECU TRUSTEES: One East Carolina University trustee resigned and another was censured Friday after they were recorded offering to help finance a student body president campaign on the Greenville campus. Phil Lewis, who had been appointed to the ECU Board of Trustees by the UNC System Board of Governors, offered his resignation. It was accepted effective immediately. The UNC board voted to censure ECU trustee Robert Moore. It was the strongest action the board could take against Moore because he was appointed to the ECU trustees by the state legislature. The legislature would have to decide to remove him. “I’m incredibly disappointed,” Board of Governors Chairman Randy Ramsey said during a specially called meeting Friday to address the turmoil among the ECU trustees. “Personally, if I could remove the entire board today, I probably would.”
HK ON J MASS MORAL MARCH ON RALEIGH TAKES PLACE TODAY: The 14th annual “Mass Moral March on Raleigh" scheduled for Saturday morning draws support from the state NAACP, over 200 other organizations and their supporters. Participants march to the old Capitol building for a 14-point “People’s Agenda” that includes laws that expand health care coverage, create livable wages, redress racial wrongs and grant collective bargaining for government employees. The event began in 2007 with the leadership of then-state NAACP president the Rev. William Barber of Goldsboro, who is now president of the national organization Repairers of the Breach. Barber was expected to speak to the crowd on Saturday. Another scheduled guest was Dontae Sharpe, who was freed from prison in August after serving since 1995 a life sentence for a murder that he didn't commit in Pitt County.
KANSAS LEGISLATURE TRIES (AND FAILS) TO GET ABORTION BAN ON BALLOT: Neither side expected Friday's vote in the Kansas House to be the last word on whether the abortion measure ultimately is put to a vote in a statewide election, when a simple majority would change the state constitution. It would overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision last year that declared access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state's Bill of Rights. Anti-abortion lawmakers struck back immediately with moves aimed at intensifying pressure on four Republicans who broke with the GOP on Friday's vote and some Democrats in relatively conservative districts. They promised to hold up the bipartisan plan to expand the state's Medicaid health coverage to as many as 150,000 additional people — a top priority for Gov. Laura Kelly. Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, sent all 11 House-passed bills on the Senate's debate calendar and another two Senate health care bills back to committee. She declared that no House-passed bill on any subject would clear committee until the abortion measure goes on the ballot.
TRUMP FIRES IMPEACHMENT WITNESSES VINDMAN AND SONDLAND: President Trump on Friday punished two witnesses who testified in the investigation that led to his impeachment, removing them from their posts in an apparent campaign to exact retribution on his perceived enemies in the wake of his acquittal in the Senate this week. The White House ousted Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his post on the National Security Council and recalled U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, moves that were quickly condemned as vindictive and an attempt to intimidate government officials who speak out against Trump. Vindman, a decorated combat veteran who testified in November that he was disturbed by Trump’s call for Ukraine to investigate the president’s political rivals, was escorted out of the White House on Friday, according to his lawyer, David Pressman. Several other officials who testified during the House impeachment inquiry have left the government, including former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch; William B. Taylor Jr., her replacement; vice presidential aide Jennifer Williams; State Department official Michael McKinley; special envoy for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker; and NSC official Tim Morrison. More firings are possible.
TRUMP BRINGS BACK LAND MINES AND CLUSTER BOMBS: The Trump administration, which came into office pledging to end “endless wars,” has now embraced weapons prohibited by more than 160 countries, and is readying them for future use. Cluster bombs and antipersonnel land mines, deadly explosives known for maiming and killing civilians long after the fighting ended, have become integral to the Pentagon’s future war plans — but with little public rationale offered for where and why they would be used. These new policies, endorsed by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, can be traced to 2017 when the Pentagon chief at the time, Jim Mattis, was drafting a military strategy that named Russia and China as the United States’ great power rivals. Both have significant ground forces, and mines historically have been used to deny an adversary’s troops the ability to advance on the battlefield. “How can these policies be justified knowing that so many people have decided that these weapons have no place in war fighting and what these weapons do to people all over the world, including American service members?” asked Rachel Stohl, an arms control expert at the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan policy research organization. “It’s mind-boggling.” The Trump administration’s abolishment of past policies that limited the development and use of these weapons has already drawn condemnation from some of the United States’ closest allies in Europe, further fraying strained relations.