NORTH CAROLINA'S CORONAVIRUS CASE COUNT TOPS 3/4 OF A MILLION: At least 757,526 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 9,335 have died since March, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday reported 4,899 new COVID-19 cases, down from 6,168 reported the day before. At least 2,782 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Sunday, down from 2,833 reported on Saturday. As of Friday, the latest day for which data are available, 8.5% of coronavirus tests were positive. A mass vaccination event was held over the weekend at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. It was expected to vaccinate 19,000 people.
EFFORT TO CHANGE NATIVE AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL MASCOT IN GASTON COUNTY SPURS CONFLICT: Lanford, a Lumbee Indian, saw South Point fans in face paint carrying fake tomahawks. Most of the crowd was white. When the Red Raiders scored, many cupped their hands over their mouths and released stereotypical Native American war cries. “It enrages my family when they hear that,” she said of the chants that bear no resemblance to the actual sounds her relatives make at traditional ceremonies. “When everyone was doing that around me, I was like, I don’t think I should come back here. I think that’s when I understood.” Her mother, an Indigenous rights advocate, requested Gaston County Schools transfer Lanford to another school. Lanford joined Retire the Red Raider, a network of students, teachers, alumni, and Belmont residents that formed late last spring to push for a new mascot. A counter-petition supporting the Red Raider mascot, created by South Point alum Celeste Kitchen (Class of ‘79), has gained 3,500 signatures. “I am getting sick of all this stupid political correctness,” someone wrote on the petition website as their reason for signing. “Enough is enough.” Asked about the prospects of South Point getting a different nickname, Denton was blunt: “Dude, you are not going to change this.”
REPUBLICANS ARE MOVING TO SUPPRESS VOTING IN SEVERAL STATES: A bill to eliminate no-excuse mail voting has been introduced in Pennsylvania, though the proposal would need approval from the state’s Democratic governor. In Arizona, Republicans have introduced bills that would eliminate the state’s permanent early voting list, require mail ballots to be notarized, require mail-in ballots to be hand-delivered to a voting location and allow lawmakers to overturn presidential election results. In Georgia, where Biden's win was verified in three separate tallies, Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature are gearing up to impose new barriers on mail voting, which was used heavily by Democrats in the presidential and Senate run-off elections. A Republican senator has introduced a bill that would require voters to make copies of their photo ID and mail it to election officials twice in order to cast an absentee ballot. The state's Republican governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state have backed the idea of requiring a photo ID for mail voting, though it's unclear if they support that specific bill. In last year’s presidential election, nearly 70% of all ballots cast nationwide came before Election Day, with an estimated 108 million people voting through the mail, early in-person or by dropping off absentee ballots.
TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM QUITS AFTER HE DEMANDS THEY ARGUE THAT HE WON ELECTION: The implosion of former president Donald Trump’s legal team comes as Trump remains fixated on arguing at his second impeachment trial that the 2020 election was stolen from him, a defense that advisers warn is ill-conceived and Republican strategists fear will fuel the growing divide in the GOP. South Carolina lawyer Karl S. “Butch” Bowers Jr. and four other attorneys who recently signed on to represent the former president abruptly parted ways with him this weekend, days before his Feb. 9 Senate trial for his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol. On Sunday evening, Trump’s office announced two new lawyers were taking over his defense. Two people familiar with the discussions preceding the departure of the original legal team said that Trump wanted them to make the case during the trial that he actually won the election. To do so would require citing his false claims of election fraud — even as his allies and attorneys have said that he should instead focus on arguing that impeaching a president who has already left office is unconstitutional. Trump’s lawyers had initially planned to center their strategy on the question of whether the proceedings were constitutional and on the definition of incitement, according to one of the people, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal conversations. But the former president repeatedly said he wanted to litigate the voter fraud allegations and the 2020 race — and was seeking a more public defense of his actions. Bowers told Trump he couldn’t mount the defense that Trump wanted, the person said.
NO SURPRISE HERE: TRUMP & RNC RAKE IN MILLIONS FROM ELECTION CHALLENGE: The picture that emerges in the new Federal Election Commission reports is of Mr. Trump mounting a furious public relations effort to spread the lie and keep generating money from it, rather than making a sustained legal push to try to support his conspiracy theories. His campaign’s single biggest expense in December was a nearly $5 million media buy paid to the firm that bought his television advertisements. His second-largest payment, $4.4 million, was for online advertising. And the Republican National Committee pocketed millions of dollars in donations — collecting 25 cents for every dollar Mr. Trump raised online — in the final weeks of the year as it spent relatively little on legal costs. The Republican National Committee ended the year with more than $80 million in the bank after the fund-raising blitz, and Mr. Trump had $31 million in the new political action committee he formed in November for his post-presidential political ventures. That accounts for just some of their haul. The party and the former president had roughly $63 million more in two shared accounts waiting to be distributed between them, with Mr. Trump’s PAC entitled to 75 percent of the money raised in December, giving him an estimated $70 million PAC war chest. Though his race was over, Mr. Trump’s voracious online fund-raising from Nov. 24 through the end of the year even outpaced that of the two Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who were competing in the Georgia runoff elections that would determine control of the chamber. During those 39 days, Mr. Trump and his shared committees with the R.N.C. raised $80 million online; Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue combined for closer to $75 million. Both lost.