Saturday News: Cuddling with the Bear


FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR CARTER PAGE HERO TO RUSSIAN NATIONALISTS: Page also received largely unreported attention from nationalist organizations within Russia that could have invited scrutiny. The Moscow television station Tsargrad covered him before, during and after his speech to the New Economic School in Moscow. Tsargrad is owned by right-wing nationalist Konstantin Malofeev, who was sanctioned by the Obama administration and European allies for allegedly bankrolling Russian nationalists in the Crimean peninsula, which was seized by Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s forces in February 2014. Tsargrad is affiliated with a nationalist think tank called Katehon, also funded by Malofeev. Tsargrad’s editor in chief is Aleksander Dugin, a conservative sage who wrote confidently on Katehon’s website in February 2016 that Trump’s nationalist message would carry him to the U.S. presidency.

NEW TRUMP RULE WOULD HIDE THE IDENTITIES OF WHITE HOUSE VISITORS: Under the new policy, logs of people entering the White House to lobby or meet with the president or his aides will not be made public until five years after President Donald Trump leaves office. Watchdog groups on the left and right quickly denounced the decision, arguing it casts a shroud on whom the president is meeting with and what groups are trying to influence him. “This new secrecy policy undermines the rule of law and suggests this White House doesn’t want to be accountable to the American people,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group. “The only excuse for this policy is that the Trump administration has something to hide,” said David Donnelly, who heads Every Voice, a liberal group that tracks influence in politics. “This kind of secrecy will allow big donors, lobbyists and special interests to have unknown levels of influence in the White House.”

POWER STRUGGLE DEEPENS BETWEEN JOHNSON AND DPI BOARD: According to court documents, Johnson said he asked the state board "to hire a certain candidate who shares my vision" and would be "a positive change agent for DPI" for the CFO position. Instead of voting on his candidate, Johnson said, the board posted an ad for the job and had a committee review the applicants. The committee then made its own recommendation to the state board, which the board supported. On March 2, the board voted to hire Levinson, who previously served as chief of staff for former Superintendent June Atkinson, who lost to Johnson in November's election. In his affidavit, Johnson accused the board of promoting "more of the same" and failing to hire "a positive change agent" as CFO.

GUN-DEALER TURNED CONGRESSMAN HOLDS "CHAT" WITH ATTENDEES: U.S. Rep. Ted Budd stood at the center of a pressing circle of constituents for more than three hours Friday morning, fielding questions and listening to concerns while dozens of people hovered in the background, straining to hear. The meet-and-greet, which allowed Budd to meet with individual constituents, left some attendees unhappy because they were unable to hear the questions and answers as they would in a town hall-style meeting. For some, it was less than ideal. “I was hoping for something different,” said Sarah Davis, a Greensboro resident who waited for more than two hours to speak to Budd about health care, then received what she called a ‘non-answer.’ “A lot of people have been asking the same questions, but no one can hear them, and he’s not accountable for his answers, because no one will know what he said.”

MORE FACTORY FARM "BUYOUTS" COULD PROTECT RIVERS FROM FLOODS: Last year offered proof of the effectiveness of moving large-scale hog farms out of the floodplains of eastern North Carolina. The strategy was first put in place in 1999 after the devastation of farming regions during Hurricane Floyd and the subsequent decline in water quality. The Clean Water Management Trust Fund was tapped for $18.7 million in grants to buy out 43 farm operations and close more 106 waste ponds that were operating in the 100-year floodplain. State agriculture officials estimate that 32 of the 43 swine farm buyout sites would have flooded during Hurricane Matthew. Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr said the lesson from last year is that the buyout strategy worked. “The agreement to refund this voluntary program is a win-win, which is something hard to come by in today’s political climate,” Starr said. “Removing the remaining industrial swine facilities from the 100-year floodplain makes sense for the environment, public health and for the economy of eastern North Carolina.”