Thursday News: Strike?

LETTERS TO PARENTS DETAIL REFUSAL TO GRADE PAPERS OVER SILENT SAM PLAN: More than 200 UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members have signed an open letter to students’ parents and guardians, asking them to support striking graduate student instructors and the permanent removal of the Silent Sam Confederate statue from campus. “Please contact university leaders, including Chancellor Carol Folt, Provost Bob Blouin, and Chairman of the Board Haywood Cochrane Jr. to make your views known and request that Silent Sam and other Confederate statues not be allowed on our campus,” said the letter, issued just days before the UNC system Board of Governors could decide the statue’s fate. As far as the proposed strike, the university so far has not “received any specific reports of grades not being submitted or observed any irregular activity,” UNC spokeswoman Joanne Peters Denny said Wednesday.

SWORN AFFIDAVIT SAYS DOWLESS HAD 800 ABSENTEE BALLOTS IN HIS POSSESSION BEFORE PRIMARY: Dowless is a person of interest in the state board’s investigation into voting irregularities in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Republican Mark Harris, whose consulting firm paid Dowless for absentee ballot work in the county, won the Republican primary against incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger by 828 votes. Harris received 437 mail-in absentee votes in Bladen County to 17 for Pittenger. Kenneth Simmons, a registered Republican in Bladen County, said he was at a campaign event with his wife for a challenger in the sheriff’s race. “While we were in Dublin attending a meeting of Republicans, we spoke with McCrae Dowless,” said Simmons in the affidavit, notarized in Robeson County. “During the conversation, we noticed that Mr. Dowless had in his possession a large number of absentee ballots. ... .He stated he had over 800 ballots in his possession.” When he asked Dowless why he hadn’t turned in the ballots, Simmons said Dowless told him: “You don’t do that until the last day because the opposition would know how many votes they had to make up.”

TRUMP LAWYER COHEN SENTENCED TO 3 YEARS IN PRISON: Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's one-time fixer, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to conceal his boss' alleged sexual affairs, telling a judge that he agreed time and again to cover up Trump's "dirty deeds" out of "blind loyalty." Separately, the legal and political peril surrounding Trump appeared to deepen when prosecutors announced that another major piece of the investigation had fallen into place: The parent company of the National Enquirer acknowledged dispensing some of the hush money in concert with the Trump campaign to fend off a scandal that could have damaged his bid for the White House. "Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass," said a choked-up Cohen, a lawyer who once boasted he would "take a bullet" for Trump.

TABLOID ADMITS PAYING OFF PLAYBOY MODEL TO AID TRUMP'S PRESIDENTIAL BID: With the revelation by prosecutors on Wednesday that a tabloid publisher admitted to paying off a Playboy model, key participants in two hush-money schemes say the transactions were intended to protect Donald J. Trump’s campaign for president. That leaves Mr. Trump in an increasingly isolated and legally precarious position, according to election law experts. A.M.I. further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election,” prosecutors said in a statement announcing they had struck a deal not to charge the company in exchange for its cooperation. As part of the deal, dated in September but previously kept private, the company also agreed to train employees in election law standards and appoint a qualified lawyer to vet future deals that may involve paying for stories about political candidates.

CONGRESS REWRITES ITS SEXUAL HARASSMENT POLICIES, NO MORE COVERING UP: After months of stalled negotiations, lawmakers in the House and Senate reached a compromise on legislation that would overhaul the arcane and often burdensome procedures for handling sexual harassment and discrimination claims in Congress. The compromise, reached more than a year after the #MeToo movement rattled Capitol Hill, would require members to personally reimburse misconduct settlements related to harassment or retaliation claims based on sex, ethnicity or race, rather than rely on a taxpayer-financed settlement fund. Under the new standards, all settlements or awards involving a member of Congress would be publicly disclosed, even if the lawmaker has left office, and all settlements would be referred to the House or Senate ethics committees for review. “I just don’t think you should leave the mess for the next group to clean up. I think it is on us,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., referring to the next Congress. “It really is an antiquated system,” she added. “It feels like a process that was better designed to protect politicians rather than victims.”