JUDGE WHO BLOCKED RELEASE OF VIDEO IS TRUMPER WHO HATES MEDIA: Foster, an East Carolina University alum who graduated from Campbell University law school, was elected in 2016, running unopposed for his seat. He was first appointed to the seat earlier that year by then-Gov. Pat McCrory. In April 2020, Foster posted a meme with a photo of media members asking probing questions about Pearl Harbor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The meme is captioned: “If FDR had to deal with a press corp like President Trump’s.” Foster wrote: “I’m just gonna leave this here.” In 2010, he wrote: “I’m constantly amazed at how moronic the press is,” referring to a headline about Mexico’s president complaining about an Arizona law to President Barack Obama. The feed also includes some anti-mask rhetoric, including a meme with re-imagined Queen lyrics about not wearing a mask. “The anti-maskers getting creative. I love this,” Foster wrote. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Foster wrote in an exchange with someone on his page that “every year the flu kills more people than have died from Covid 19.”
ELIZABETH CITY POLICE THREATENED TO ARREST REPORTERS DURING PROTESTS: A North Carolina city where a Black man was shot and killed by deputies said Friday that it will push its curfew back by several hours each night after a week of generally peaceful protests. Elizabeth City officials said that starting Friday night, the curfew will run from midnight until 6 a.m. On previous nights, the curfew had taken effect at 8 p.m. Protesters have been demanding justice and transparency, including the release of deputy body camera footage, after Andrew Brown Jr. was shot and killed last week by deputies serving drug-related warrants. Protests have been generally peaceful, but some protesters have been arrested after they remained on the streets after the curfew went into effect. WITN-TV reported that Thursday night's protest had largely dwindled by 10:45 p.m., but at least two people were arrested. The television station was also among multiple media outlets that said staff members covering the protest were threatened with arrest despite city and county leaders saying journalists doing their jobs were exempt from the curfew.
NC VOTER ID TRIAL CONCLUDES, NO RULING YET FROM 3-JUDGE PANEL: The three state judges hearing the lawsuit didn’t immediately rule following three weeks of testimony and arguments on the law, which implemented a photo ID mandate added to the North Carolina Constitution by voters in November 2018. “Historical evidence is important because it reveals a pattern of elected officials using laws to target African American voters when it is politically expedient to do so,” Brachman told the judges during the online trial. “Taken together, the facts ... are compelling evidence that (the bill) was intended to entrench the Republican majority by targeting reliably Democratic African American voters.” David Thompson, an attorney representing House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger and other GOP legislators, sought to separate the voter ID laws from what he acknowledged was the state's otherwise shameful history on voting rights. And he said the bill received more than just token Democratic support. Key moments in the trial surrounded the role of Democratic Sen. Joel Ford of Charlotte, who is Black and one of the bill's cosponsors. Superior Court Judges Nathaniel Poovey, Michael O’Foghludha and Vince Rozier didn’t say when they’d rule, but planned to receive more legal filings in mid-May.
REPUBLICANS ARE RECRUITING WHITE POLL WATCHERS FOR BLACK NEIGHBORHOODS: The red dot of a laser pointer circled downtown Houston on a map during a virtual training of poll watchers by the Harris County Republican Party. It highlighted densely populated, largely Black, Latino and Asian neighborhoods. “This is where the fraud is occurring,” a county Republican official said falsely in a leaked video of the training, which was held in March. A precinct chair in the northeastern, largely white suburbs of Houston, he said he was trying to recruit people from his area “to have the confidence and courage” to act as poll watchers in the circled areas in upcoming elections. As Republican lawmakers in major battleground states seek to make voting harder and more confusing through a web of new election laws, they are simultaneously making a concerted legislative push to grant more autonomy and access to partisan poll watchers — citizens trained by a campaign or a party and authorized by local election officials to observe the electoral process. Both partisan and nonpartisan poll watching have been a key component of American elections for years, and Republicans and Democrats alike have routinely sent trained observers to the polls to monitor the process and report back on any worries. But now Republican state lawmakers in 20 states (so far none in North Carolina) have introduced at least 40 bills that would expand the powers of poll watchers, and 12 of those bills in six states are currently progressing through legislatures, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Republicans have been increasingly open in recent years about their intent to line up legions of supporters to monitor the polls. Following the lead of Mr. Trump, they have often framed the observational role in militaristic tones, amplifying their arguments of its necessity with false claims of widespread fraud. Just three years ago, the courts lifted a consent decree that for more than three decades had barred the Republican National Committee from taking an active role in poll watching; in 2020, the committee jumped back into the practice.
BIDEN WILL PURSUE NORTH KOREA DE-NUCLEARIZATION IN PHASES, UNLIKE TRUMP'S "ALL OR NOTHING" APPROACH: The decision to pursue a phased agreement that leads to full denuclearization follows a months-long review that was briefed to President Biden last week by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The plan represents a rejection of the strategy devised by Trump national security adviser John Bolton, who insisted that the United States hold out for a “go big or go home” agreement — a deal that would remove all sanctions in exchange for the full dismantlement of North Korea’s weapons program. U.S. officials said they planned to convey the new strategy to North Korean officials but acknowledged that it was not likely to change the regime’s near-term calculus regarding nuclear provocations. “We do not think what we are contemplating is likely to forestall provocation from the North,” said the senior official, who like other officials interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the subject’s sensitivity. “We fully intend to maintain sanctions pressure while this plays out.” The removal of economic sanctions is a key priority for Kim, who conceded last year that his country’s economy was underperforming, a problem the regime attributes to the spread of the coronavirus, severe flooding and crippling U.S. and U.N. sanctions banning many of its exports, including textiles, coal and iron ore. The virus also forced the regime last year to close the border with China, which accounts for an estimated 90 percent or more of the country’s external trade. One key question is what role China will play in the diplomacy, given its economic and political leverage over North Korea. U.S. relations with Beijing remain tense amid a growing list of disagreements related to trade, human rights and security.