2 MORE NC RESIDENTS CHARGED IN CAPITOL INSURRECTION: Two more North Carolina residents — including a Davidson County woman accused of being part of a right-wing militia group — have been arrested in connection with the violent Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol. They were identified in newly released court documents Friday as Laura Steele, 52, of Thomasville, and Lewis Easton Cantwell, 35, of Sylva. Steele was one of six new alleged members of the right-wing group from three states who were arrested and charged with breaching the Capitol. The other included her brother, Graydon Young of Englewood, Fla., and two married couples: Kelly and Connie Meggs of Dunnellon, Fla.; and Bennie and Sandra Parker of the Cincinnati area. Cantwell, who had a midday hearing Friday in Asheville’s federal courthouse, is charged with storming the Capitol, destroying property, refusing to leave and interfering with a police officer and attempting to disrupt a government activity, among other crimes.
WINSTON-SALEM FIRE CHIEF TARGET OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT: Specifically, the lawsuit points to one instance last June in which Mayo directed a discrimination complaint to a chaplain instead of launching an investigation. The lawsuit also points to other examples in which Mayo did nothing to address the concerns of Black firefighters. “Chief Mayo, when confronted with an instance when a noose was tied during a training class, directed that the person move to a different topic, specifically stating ‘Next topic’ rather than address the event,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit says Mayo has openly said that he is “tired of hearing about diversity.” Also, the lawsuit says, when Black firefighters complain about discrimination or harassment, “they also face retaliation and retribution in the form or rumors that the African-American firefighter is ‘untrainable’ or ‘lazy.’” The group's lawsuit targets others in the department but does not name them as defendants. Teaching a class on how firefighters should deal with demonstrators in light of the death of George Floyd, one captain said he could solve the problem as he drove home from work by hitting protesters with his vehicle.
ERIC HOLDER GIVES WARNING TO NC REPUBLICANS OVER GERRYMANDERING: Unless Republican lawmakers surprise him by embracing legal reforms, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says, he will likely be back in North Carolina courts soon, backing yet another anti-gerrymandering lawsuit. “North Carolina really is, in some ways, ground zero for partisan and racial gerrymandering,” Holder said Friday in a speech to the UNC School of Law. “And the only way, I think, to crack that which is happening in North Carolina is through the courts, and use those decisions to get a more fair Congressional delegation from North Carolina.” Holder, the first Black attorney general in U.S. history, led the U.S. Department of Justice under former president Barack Obama. He now chairs a group called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which helped bankroll two gerrymandering lawsuits here in 2019 — the first against our state legislative districts, and the second against our U.S. House districts. New Census results are slated to come out this year, which states must use to draw their political maps for the next decade. Holder said he’s keeping a close eye on several states with a history of unconstitutional gerrymandering, like North Carolina.
REPUBLICANS IN STATE GOVERNMENTS GEAR UP FOR VOTER SUPPRESSION LAWS: GOP state lawmakers across the country have proposed a flurry of voting restrictions that they say are needed to restore confidence in U.S. elections, an effort intended to placate supporters of former president Donald Trump who believe his false claims that the 2020 outcome was rigged. But the effort is dividing Republicans, some of whom are warning that it will tar the GOP as the party of voter suppression and give Democrats ammunition to mobilize their supporters ahead of the 2022 midterms. The proposals include measures that would curtail eligibility to vote by mail and prohibit the use of ballot drop boxes. One bill in Georgia would block early voting on Sundays, which critics quickly labeled a flagrant attempt to thwart Souls to the Polls, the Democratic turnout effort that targets Black churchgoers on the final Sunday before an election. “There’s still an appetite from a lot of Republicans to do stuff like this, but it’s not bright,” said a Republican strategist in Georgia who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss internal party debates. “It just gives Democrats a baseball bat with which to beat us.” That pummeling has already begun. After Fleming unveiled a sweeping proposal Thursday with provisions such as tough new identification requirements when requesting an absentee ballot and a prohibition on “line-warming” by nonpartisan groups — including such activities as distributing water in warm weather or blankets in the cold — Democrats and voting rights advocates pounced. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a civil rights think tank, lawmakers in 33 states have crafted more than 165 bills to restrict voting so far this year — more than four times the number in last year’s legislative sessions. The group attributed the surge to “a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud” and accused lawmakers of a “backlash to historic voter turnout” last year.
ERIK PRINCE IN TROUBLE WITH THE UN OVER ARMING LIBYAN MILITIA: Erik Prince, the former head of the security contractor Blackwater Worldwide and a prominent supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, violated a United Nations arms embargo on Libya by sending weapons to a militia commander who was attempting to overthrow the internationally backed government, according to U.N. investigators. A confidential U.N. report obtained by The New York Times and delivered by investigators to the Security Council on Thursday reveals how Mr. Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries, armed with attack aircraft, gunboats and cyberwarfare capabilities, to eastern Libya at the height of a major battle in 2019. As part of the operation, which the report said cost $80 million, the mercenaries also planned to form a hit squad that could track down and kill selected Libyan commanders. Mr. Prince refused to cooperate with the U.N. inquiry; his lawyer did not respond to questions about the report. Last year the lawyer, Matthew L. Schwartz, told The Times that Mr. Prince “had nothing whatsoever” to do with military operations in Libya. The accusation that Mr. Prince violated the U.N.’s arms embargo on Libya exposes him to possible U.N. sanctions, including a travel ban and a freeze on his bank accounts and other assets — though such an outcome is uncertain. The sheer breadth of evidence in the latest U.N. report — 121 pages of code names, cover stories, offshore bank accounts and secretive weapons transfers spanning eight countries, not to mention a brief mention of a Hollywood friend of Mr. Prince — provides a glimpse into the secretive world of international mercenaries.