MCCONNELL TRIES TO BLAME DEMOCRATS FOR HARRIS ELECTION FRAUD: Republican leader Mitch McConnell recently used North Carolina’s election fraud case as an opportunity to shame Democrats for overlooking the existence of fraud in elections. McConnell has been criticizing a recent Democratic proposal to make voting easier (HR 1) for not addressing "sketchy" ballot harvesting like the kind found in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. In a speech on the Senate floor last month, McConnell said he and other Republicans "for decades" have called for "commonsense" election safeguards — only to be "demonized by Democrats and their allies." McConnell’s speech gained attention after Vox reporter Aaron Rupar tweeted C-Span footage of his Feb. 26 speech.
CHERI BEASLEY SWORN IN AS FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN FEMALE CHIEF JUSTICE: Beasley began her judicial career as a district court judge in Cumberland County in 1999. She also previously served four years as an associate judge for the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Governor Beverly Perdue appointed her to the Supreme Court in 2012. "I know Justice Beasley to be fair and deeply committed to all North Carolinians," said Governor Roy Cooper on her appointment in February. "I appreciate her willingness to serve our state in this appointed role." Governor Cooper appointed Beasley to the top seat after Chief Justice Mark Martin announced his retirement. Beasley will be up for re-election in 2020.
HOUSE DEMOCRATS PASS REVISED ANTI-HATRED BILL AFTER STRONG SUPPORT FOR OMAR: Divided in debate but mostly united in a final vote, the House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry Thursday, with Democrats trying to push past a dispute that has overwhelmed their agenda and exposed fault lines that could dog them through elections next year. The one-sided 407-23 vote belied the emotional infighting over how to respond to freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent comments suggesting House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances. For days, Democrats wrestled with whether or how to punish the lawmaker, arguing over whether Omar, one of two Muslim-American women in Congress, should be singled out, what other types of bias should be decried and whether the party would tolerate dissenting views on Israel. Republicans generally joined in the favorable vote, though nearly two-dozen opposed the measure. Generational as well as ideological, the upheaval was fueled in part by young, liberal lawmakers — and voters — who have become a face of the newly empowered Democratic majority in the House. This group is critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, rejecting the conservative leader’s approach to Palestinians and other issues.
TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIR MANAFORT GETS 47 MONTHS IN PRISON: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Thursday to nearly four years in prison for tax and bank fraud related to his work advising Ukrainian politicians, much less than what was called for under sentencing guidelines. Manafort, sitting in a wheelchair as he deals with complications from gout, had no visible reaction as he heard the 47-month sentence. While that was the longest sentence to date to come from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, it could have been much worse for Manafort. Sentencing guidelines called for a 20-year-term, effectively a lifetime sentence for the 69-year-old. Manafort has been jailed since June, so he will receive credit for the nine months he has already served. He still faces the possibility of additional time from his sentencing in a separate case in the District of Columbia, where he pleaded guilty to charges related to illegal lobbying.
NINTH CIRCUIT COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF ASYLUM SEEKERS: Creating yet another roadblock to the Trump administration’s efforts to deport ineligible migrants, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that immigration authorities can no longer swiftly deport asylum seekers who fail an initial screening, opening the door for thousands of migrants a year to get another shot in the federal courts to win asylum in the United States. The ruling broadens constitutional protections for undocumented immigrants at the border and opens a new legal gateway for some of them to appeal for permission to stay in the country, even when an asylum officer and an immigration judge have made a determination that they do not have a credible fear of persecution in their homeland. “The historical and practical importance of this ruling cannot be overstated,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the appeal on behalf of a Sri Lankan migrant who had been turned away at California’s border with Mexico in 2017. He said the ruling “reaffirms the Constitution’s foundational principle that individuals deprived of their liberty must have access to a federal court.”