Saturday News: Freedom to harass


MEADOWS FINED AND REPRIMANDED OVER CODDLING SEXUAL HARASSER: Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from western North Carolina, must repay the government more than $40,000 after the House Ethics Committee found that Meadows didn’t do enough to address or prevent harassment by his former chief of staff. Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, also received a reprimand from the committee, which began an investigation in 2016 after getting a referral from the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. “Meadows’ failure to take prompt and decisive action to deal with the alleged sexual harassment in his congressional office was troubling,” the committee wrote in its report released Friday afternoon.

DEMOCRATS WON SEVERAL CLOSE RACES FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY SEATS: After the election, Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, held a 52-vote lead over Democratic challenger Rachel Hunt, daughter of former Gov. Jim Hunt. But mail-in, overseas, military and provisional ballots flipped that lead, giving Hunt a 70-vote advantage out of more than 38,000 votes cast. That's a 0.18 percent margin, and Brawley has already requested a recount. Democratic challenger Kirk deViere led Sen. Wesley Meredith, R-Cumberland, by 306 votes in Senate District 19. The final numbers increased deViere's lead to 433, still within recount range at 0.74 percent. Democratic challenger Michael Garrett led Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, by 763 votes, or 0.84 percent, in Senate District 34. The final canvass increased Garrett's lead to 937, knocking the race out of recount range at 1.04 percent.

NC SUPER NINTENDO MARK JOHNSON USES SWEEPSTAKES SCHEME ON PARENTS: State Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson is offering parents a chance to win $250 if they take an online survey about student testing, which critics are calling a public relations stunt. A total of 22,571 survey responses have come in since Johnson emailed North Carolina parents on Thursday about participating in the “2018 Parents’ Perspective Survey: Testing Contest.” To encourage people to respond, Johnson says parents who take the 5-minute survey “can enter for a chance to win $250 right before your holiday shopping.” But critics say the survey is just a way for the Republican superintendent to promote his image among parents. “Suffice it to say that this is a ridiculous and inappropriate scheme that ought to be beneath the dignity of (a) supposedly serious public official entrusted with overseeing the education of the state’s children,” Rob Schofield, director of the liberal N.C. Policy Watch, wrote in a post on Thursday.

TRUMP HEADS TO CALIFORNIA FIRE AREA AFTER MAKING IDIOTIC COMMENTS ABOUT "RAKING": President Donald Trump heads to Northern California on Saturday to see firsthand the grief and devastation from the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, as confusion continued over how many people remain unaccounted for. Authorities confirmed a new death toll of 71 and say they are trying to locate 1,011 people even as they stressed that not all are believed missing. But Trump has stirred resentment among survivors over comments he made two days after the disaster on Twitter, then reiterated on the eve of his visit. In an interview taped Friday and scheduled for broadcast on "Fox News Sunday," Trump said he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire, adding, "This should have been all raked out." Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said: "Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management."

CIA SAYS SAUDI CROWN PRINCE ORDERED ASSASSINATION OF JOURNALIST: The C.I.A. made the assessment based on the crown prince’s control of Saudi Arabia, which is such that the killing would not have taken place without his approval, and has buttressed its conclusion with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince’s calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince. The C.I.A. has believed for weeks that Prince Mohammed was culpable in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing but had been hesitant to definitively conclude that he directly ordered it. The agency has passed that assessment on to lawmakers and Trump administration officials. The increasingly definitive assessment from the spy agency creates a problem for President Trump, who has tied his administration to Prince Mohammed and proclaimed him the future of Saudi Arabia, a longtime American ally.