REPUBLICANS SAY COURT DECISION IS VICTORY FOR VOTERS (WHO ARE BEING MARGINALIZED): When it comes to drawing maps, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan said legislators are more easily held accountable than judges. “We want elected representatives who are accountable to the people making decisions on district lines, not unelected bureaucrats,” the Ohio Republican said. U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican, suggested the gerrymandering complaint was part of disingenuous “sue till blue” strategy by Democrats. The Supreme Court ruling, which overturned a lower court’s decision, “is a rebuke of the activist judges who attempt to make laws, win elections and suppress the voices of voters from the bench.” N.C. Rep. David Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County, called the ruling “a complete vindication of our state and of the fair and open process that we ran.”
LEGISLATURE SENDS $24 BILLION BUDGET TO GOVERNOR, VETO EXPECTED: The $24 billion state budget was sent Thursday afternoon to Gov. Roy Cooper's office after final approval in both the House and the Senate, but where the plan really sits remains to be seen. Cooper and Republican legislative leaders have been bickering over the budget in recent weeks, especially over his desire to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of low-income working adults statewide. He is widely expected to veto the budget bill in the coming days, which could set up a prolonged standoff. Republicans lost their veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate last fall, and although a handful of Democrats in both chambers voted for the bill, Republicans would have to pull at least four more House Democrats over to their side to override any veto. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson expressed confidence on Wednesday that his caucus will remain united and uphold a veto.
KAMALA HARRIS TOOK CHARGE OF 2ND DEM DEBATE, CHASTISED BIDEN OVER RACIAL ISSUES: The bracing attack by Harris proved to be the most dramatic moment of either of the two nights of debating among the 20 candidates who qualified under Democratic National Committee rules to be on the stage in the Adrienne Arsht Center. After words of introduction on the topic of race, she turned to Biden and the former prosecutor began to make her case. “I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” she said. “But I also believe, and it’s personal . . . it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.” She continued: “And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
TRUMP MAKES A (REALLY BAD) JOKE OUT OF RUSSIAN ELECTION INTERFERENCE: For more than two years, friends and foes alike have pushed President Trump to tell President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia not to interfere in American democracy. As the two leaders sat side by side on Friday for their first formal meeting in a year, Mr. Trump obliged — but in his own distinctive way. The topic did not come up in either man’s opening remarks, which in Mr. Trump’s case were filled with flowery talk about their relationship. Only when a reporter shouted out a question, asking Mr. Trump if he would tell Russia not to meddle in American elections, did the president respond, and then by making light of the matter. “Yes, of course I will,” Mr. Trump said. Turning to Mr. Putin, he said, with a slight grin on his face and an almost joking tone in his voice, “Don’t meddle in the election, President.” As Mr. Putin also smiled, Mr. Trump pointed at another Russian official in a playful way and repeated, “Don’t meddle in the election.”
APPARENTLY HAVING A JOURNALIST BRUTALLY MURDERED IS NO PROBLEM AT G20 SUMMIT: For many he's an international pariah, but you wouldn't know it by the lavish reception Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has received at the G-20 summit this week. He beamed as he stood front and center, sandwiched between U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for a group photo Friday. He exchanged an impish grin as he sat down next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He posed with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and a group of flag-waving kids ahead of an earlier signing ceremony for $8 billion in deals. Even as rebukes pile up elsewhere — a U.N. expert has called for an investigation of his alleged role in the killing of a prominent journalist, and a growing number of Americans are questioning their nation's support for his kingdom and its role in the war in Yemen — some leaders in Osaka have gone out of their way to make sure the prince feels comfortable.