Friday News: Gerry Mander lives on

GOP'S PROPOSED CONGRESSIONAL MAP GIVES DEMS 2 MORE SEATS: Wake County Rep. Darren Jackson, the top Democrat in the N.C. House, said the map looks like it has five safe Democratic seats, eight safe Republican seats and no swing seats. That means politicians don’t have to be as accountable for their actions, he said, adding that he hopes a court will strike down these maps as it has with other maps passed by the Republican-controlled legislature. And state Rep. Deb Butler of Wilmington said several districts are highly similar to the shapes they have in the current gerrymandered map. “I’m wondering why we didn’t take a better effort to get away from what was identified as problematic,” she said.

TOM FETZER UNDER SCRUTINY FOR ACTIONS TAKEN WITHOUT UNC BOG APPROVAL: Fetzer engaged attorney Peter Romary, who pressed for the release of a traffic and security camera video that appears to show Gerlach stumbling and eventually driving after a night of drinking in Greenville in September. After the video was made public, Gerlach resigned​​​​​​​. Other records reveal Fetzer's push to get legislative leverage behind the video. Fetzer acknowledged in an email to fellow UNC Board of Governors members his role in pushing for the video, adding he is not ashamed because he questions whether it would have ever seen the light of day. Romary has been involved before with intrigue at the UNC system and the Board of Governors. Last year, Fetzer said he contacted Romary to do an extra background check on a candidate for Western Carolina University's open chancellorship. That ended up derailing the search, and some members questioned Fetzer for running a check outside the system's regular protocol.​​​​​​​

REPUBLICAN DISASTER RELIEF BILL INCLUDES MONEY GRAB: House Bill 200, the 2019 Storm Recovery Act, passed 100-1 in the House and 45-0 in the Senate. The bill included about $121 million in state matching funds, largely for storm recoveries from the last three years; funded the state’s individual assistance program for people affected by September’s Hurricane Dorian; and included $59 million for various efforts meant to help North Carolina prepare for future storms. But it was a previously little-noticed provision — Section 5.7 of the bill — that Gov. Roy Cooper’s office blasted Thursday. Originally included in the state budget Cooper vetoed, the provision states that any donation or gift received by North Carolina’s government will be deposited into the state treasury. “Republicans should be ashamed for using storm survivors as political pawns in their latest power grab,” Thorpe wrote. “These families deserve help, and Governor Cooper realizes the critical importance of the disaster funding portion of this bill.”

FORMER AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE TO TESTIFY IN IMPEACHMENT HEARING: Yovanovitch’s public testimony Friday is expected to showcase how what appears to have begun as the personal crusade of private individuals became intertwined with efforts to use Ukraine to benefit Trump politically. The attacks on the ambassador — and the fact that the president capitulated to the smear effort against her — led to widespread alarm among national security officials, several told Congress in recent weeks. “She’d been subject to a pretty ruthless, nasty defamation to basically remove her from her place,” former National Security Council adviser Fiona Hill testified in her closed-door deposition last month. “The most obvious explanation,” Hill testified, “seemed to be business dealings of individuals who wanted to improve their investment positions inside of Ukraine” as well as an effort “to deflect away from” findings that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election. The little-known diplomat has described how she was taken aback when conservative media began to advocate her removal in March and to spread her name on social media, where the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. called her “a joker.”

"BRIBERY" IS NOW THE KEY WORD BEING USED AGAINST TRUMP: The speaker’s explicit allegation of bribery, a misdeed identified in the Constitution as an impeachable offense, was significant. Even as Ms. Pelosi said that no final decision had been made on whether to impeach Mr. Trump, it suggested that Democrats were moving toward a more specific set of charges that could be codified in articles of impeachment in the coming weeks. It also indicated that Democrats were working to put a simple name to the president’s alleged wrongdoing that would resonate with the public. “The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry, and that the president abused his power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into his political rival — a clear attempt by the president to give himself an advantage in the 2020 election,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference in the Capitol. The Intelligence Committee convened the House’s first public impeachment hearing in two decades on Wednesday with testimony from William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, and George P. Kent, a senior State Department official responsible for policy toward the country. They told the committee that Mr. Trump and his allies inside and outside the government placed the president’s political objectives at the center of American policy toward Ukraine, using as leverage both the security assistance that Congress had appropriated for Ukraine’s war with Russia as well as a White House meeting that was coveted by the country’s new leader.