TIM MOORE AIDE PRESSURED DEQ OVER GRANT FOR POLLUTION CLEANUP: In March 2016, a top aide to House Speaker Tim Moore asked a state Department of Environmental Quality official about two underground storage tanks removed from a former chicken processing plant in Siler City that was up for sale. One of those tanks had leaked gas. “Mitch Gillespie is asking about the status of the Siler City UST (underground storage tank) issue,” Caroline Daly, DEQ’s legislative liaison, wrote in the March 2, 2016, email to the section chief who oversees underground tank regulations. “Do you know what this is about and can give me an update to share?” That triggered several emails within the department. Within hours, DEQ officials reported back that the site had the green light for entry into a state program that subsidizes the cleanup costs for underground tanks. Daly then relayed the decision to Gillespie so he could pass it along to the property owners, who ultimately received $22,000 from the state. Among them: his boss, Speaker Moore.
TWO WOMEN ARRESTED FOR SEXUALLY ASSAULTING TRANSGENDER PATRON IN RALEIGH BAR: Two women have been charged with assaulting a 29-year-old transgender person in a bathroom at a popular Glenwood South bar last month. According to investigators, the victim was inside the women's bathroom at Milk Bar on Dec. 9 when she was sexually assaulted by two other women. Authorities said the assault continued at the bar, where a bartender saw what was happening and repeatedly told the two women to stop. Amber Harrell, 38, and Jessica Fowler, 31, are both charged with second-degree kidnapping and sexual battery in connection with the incident. "One of the girls is still touching all over me. She would not let go. I asked her numerous times. She (bartender) could see I was visibly uncomfortable," the victim told the dispatcher. Witnesses said it was clear the women were targeting the person because she is transgender.
TAMI FITZGERALD TRIES TO REVERSE RACHEL HUNT'S GENERAL ASSEMBLY VICTORY: A right-leaning advocacy group has called on the General Assembly not to seat the winner of a close House election in Mecklenburg County when the new legislative session begins Wednesday. The North Carolina Values Coalition said Tuesday that it combed through absentee ballot records in the House District 103 race, and there are enough votes in question to throw the race to outgoing Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, who lost to Democrat Rachel Hunt by 68 votes. The lion's share of votes the group targeted are valid, though, under State Board of Elections rules. The group questions those rules. The House district lies completely within the 9th Congressional District, where results have been held up by a state investigation into absentee ballots, and Fitzgerald said throwing out these ballots would likely increase Republican Mark Harris' margin in that race.
TRUMP'S TELEVISED APPEAL FOR BORDER WALL FUNDING LACED WITH MISINFORMATION: Schumer said Trump "just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration." In his dire address, Trump ticked off a string of statistics and claims to make his case that there is a crisis at the border, but a number of his statements were misleading, such as saying the new trade deal with Mexico would pay for the wall, or suggesting through gruesome examples that immigrants are more likely to commit crime. Trump, who has long railed against illegal immigration at the border, has recently seized on humanitarian concerns to argue there is a broader crisis that can only be solved with a wall. But critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation. Trump used emotional language, referring to Americans who were killed by people in the country illegally, saying: "I've met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I've held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible."
MANAFORT DOCUMENTS REVEAL DIRECT CONNECTION BETWEEN TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA: The document gave no indication of whether Mr. Trump was aware of the data transfer or how Mr. Kilimnik might have used the information. But from March to August 2016, when Mr. Manafort worked for the Trump campaign, Russia was engaged in a full-fledged operation using social media, stolen emails and other tactics to boost Mr. Trump, attack Mrs. Clinton and play on divisive issues such as race and guns. Polling data could conceivably have helped Russia hone those messages and target audiences to help swing votes to Mr. Trump. Both Mr. Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Mr. Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination, according to a person knowledgeable about the situation. Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said. It is unclear whether Mr. Manafort was acting at the campaign’s behest or independently, trying to gain favor with someone to whom he was deeply in debt.