REPUBLICAN PAC HAS SPENT $3 MILLION IN DEM SENATE PRIMARY: A group with Republican ties is out with another television ad promoting Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Erica Smith’s progressive credentials and hitting Democratic front-runner Cal Cunningham from the left on guns and gay rights issues. The Faith and Power PAC, which has not disclosed its donors but has several ties to Republicans, spent about $500,000 on the 30-second ad. The Super PAC has spent nearly $3 million in the race, most of it touting Smith, who has struggled to raise funds on her own, according to campaign finance reports. “What we’re concerned about is that people are sending a message that I can’t be trusted because I’m working with Republicans,” Smith said in a phone interview Tuesday. “That’s so far from the truth of what this is. I have no dealings with this Super PAC. I have denounced their interference in this primary. Once again, these underhanded tactics are being played to undermine the democratic process and voters should be outraged.”
REPUBLICAN NC HOUSE CANDIDATE EMBROILED IN BANKRUPTCY AND FRAUD CASE: A local N.C. House candidate's home was auctioned off late last month as part of her husband's bankruptcy case, which was triggered by a $2.3 million fraud verdict involving satellite television. Kim Coley, a Wake County Republican running in House District 36, has moved to another address in the district and changed her voter registration, meaning she's still qualified to run under North Carolina's residency requirements. But a federal judge deemed her and her husband's testimony "not credible" last fall as part of Randy Coley's bankruptcy proceedings, and now there's litigation to block the couple from shielding their assets from the verdict. Coley's campaign website is "trustkimcoley.com." The underlying case goes back to before 2013, when a federal court in Virginia held Randy Coley liable for more than $2.3 million "for conducting a fraudulent scheme involving the unauthorized transmission of television programming," according to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld that judgment in 2018.
SOME 82ND AIRBORNE TROOPS RETURN HOME FROM MIDDLE EAST DEPLOYMENT: Nearly two months after a U.S. Army rapid-response force was activated amid tensions with Iran, instantly deploying 3,000 soldiers to the Middle East, some are returning home. By the end of the weekend, nearly 800 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force are slated to have returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. On Thursday morning, eager family members waited in the base’s iconic Green Ramp to greet their loved ones. On New Years Eve, an initial wave of 750 paratroopers was deployed to the Middle East within 18 hours after an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as tensions flared with Iran. The remainder of the 1st Brigade was deployed in the following days. The sudden deployment marked the most significant no-notice deployment of combat forces in more than 30 years. Roughly 2,000 members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team are still deployed to the region for “any missions deemed necessary.” It’s not clear when the remainder will return.
TRUMP OFFICIALS OVERRULED THE CDC IN ALLOWING INFECTED PASSENGERS ON RESCUE PLANE: But as the buses idled, U.S. officials wrestled with troubling news. New test results showed that 14 passengers were infected with the virus. The U.S. State Department had promised that no one with the infection would be allowed to board the planes. A decision had to be made. Let them all fly? Or leave them behind in Japanese hospitals? In Washington, where it was still Sunday afternoon, a fierce debate broke out: The State Department and a top Trump administration health official wanted to forge ahead. The infected passengers had no symptoms and could be segregated on the plane in a plastic-lined enclosure. But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagreed, contending they could still spread the virus. The CDC believed the 14 should not be flown back with uninfected passengers. The State Department won the argument. But unhappy CDC officials demanded to be left out of the news release that explained that infected people were being flown back to the United States — a move that would nearly double the number of known coronavirus cases in this country.
CONGRESS RECEIVES WARNING ABOUT RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE, TRUMP REPLACES INTEL CHIEF: The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, the president berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump was particularly irritated that Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the leader of the impeachment proceedings, was at the briefing. Though intelligence officials have previously told lawmakers that Russia’s interference campaign was continuing, last week’s briefing included what appeared to be new information: that Russia intended to interfere with the 2020 Democratic primaries as well as the general election. On Wednesday, the president announced that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and an aggressively vocal Trump supporter. And though some current and former officials speculated that the briefing might have played a role in that move, two administration officials said the timing was coincidental. Mr. Grenell had been in discussions with the administration about taking on new roles, they said, and Mr. Trump had never felt a kinship with Mr. Maguire. While Republicans have long been critical of the Obama administration for not doing enough to track and deter Russian interference in 2016, current and former intelligence officials said the party is at risk of making a similar mistake now. Mr. Trump has been reluctant to even hear about election interference, and Republicans dislike discussing it publicly.