Thursday News: Lame Superducks


GOP LEADERS EYE LAST CHANCE TO PASS VETO-PROOF LEGISLATION: Republican state legislators in North Carolina plan to write more laws this month to take advantage of the last weeks that they hold a veto-proof majority. Legislative leaders have said they planned to take action on voter ID in the November session. Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, said Wednesday that staff was just beginning to work on the voter ID and victims’ rights laws, and it was too soon to say what the proposals would look like. The legislature could take up other bills that Republicans want to pass before next year, when Cooper gets the power of vetoes that can stick, said Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat. McKissick said he was prepared for legislation needed for the amendments “and any and all other matters before they lose the supermajority.”

BLUE MOON MID-TERMS SAW SAW $29 MILLION IN TELEVISION ADS IN NORTH CAROLINA: In the Charlotte market, the race for the open 9th Congressional District seat between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready saw more than $7 million worth of ads. More than half of that was spending by the candidates themselves, who on their own aired about 10,000 commercials throughout the year. While spending in favor of McCready's candidacy outmatched those for Harris 2 to 1, costs for the two 2nd District candidates were roughly the same. For the General Assembly, spending by candidates and interest groups totaled $12.5 million, an amount scattered across dozens of races in both chambers throughout the state. Whether they targeted state or federal contests, though, health care was often the theme of this election – at least on television. Almost 40 percent of the ads that aired during both primary and general election contests this year mentioned health care in some aspect.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL GERRYMANDERING PROTECTED VULNERABLE NC CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS: Democrats rushed to a majority in the U.S. House by flipping seats in Republican states across the nation, including South Carolina, Utah, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma. But despite heavy investments in three districts in North Carolina, Democrats were unable to wrest control of a single Republican-held seat in the state. Republicans maintained control of 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats. To critics of the state’s Republican-drawn congressional districts, which have been declared unconstitutional by a panel of three federal judges, Tuesday’s results provided another example of a broken redistricting process, protecting Republicans from a strong showing by Democrats. “The blue tide did not breach the gerrymandered sea wall that exists because of the broken redistricting process we have in North Carolina,” said Bob Phillips, the executive director of Common Cause NC.

AG JEFF SESSIONS BOOTED OUT, REPLACED WITH TRUMP LACKEY: Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out after enduring more than a year of blistering and personal attacks from President Donald Trump, who inserted in his place a Republican Party loyalist with authority to oversee the remainder of the special counsel's Russia investigation. The move Wednesday has potentially ominous implications for special counsel Robert Mueller's probe given that the new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, until now Sessions' chief of staff, has questioned the inquiry's scope and spoke publicly before joining the Justice Department about ways an attorney general could theoretically stymie the investigation. Congressional Democrats, concerned about protecting Mueller, called on Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation in its final but potentially explosive stages.

AND HOW THAT MIGHT AFFECT MUELLER'S TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE: The acting attorney general establishes the special counsel’s jurisdiction and budget. He could tell Mr. Mueller to stop investigating a particular matter or could refuse any requests by Mr. Mueller to expand his investigation. He could also curtail resources to the Office of the Special Counsel, requiring Mr. Mueller to downsize his staff or resources. Moreover, Mr. Whitaker could block Mr. Mueller from pursuing investigative steps, like subpoenaing Mr. Trump or issuing new indictments. When Mr. Rosenstein appointed Mr. Mueller, he decreed that the Justice Department’s regulations for special counsels would apply to the Russia investigation. Among other things, that regulation says that while the special counsel operates with day-to-day independence, the attorney general for the inquiry can require him to explain “any investigative or prosecutorial step,” and may overrule any moves that he decides are “inappropriate or unwarranted under established department practices.”