JUDGE SAYS CHATHAM COUNTY CAN REMOVE CONFEDERATE STATUE: A Superior Court judge cleared the way for Chatham County to remove its Confederate statue from the courthouse square after a roughly three-hour hearing Wednesday morning. County commissioners have given County Manager Dan LaMontagne the authority to take whatever steps he deems necessary for removing the statue, Chatham County Commissioner Jim Crawford said. A court injunction had blocked that from happening, but Superior Court Judge Susan Bray lifted the injunction Wednesday. Attorneys for the Winnie Davis Chapter of the N.C. United Daughters of the Confederacy failed to prove there would be “irreparable harm” if the monument were removed pending a decision about whether the county is allowed to do that under state law, Bray said.
HUNDREDS OF NC STATE STUDENTS PROTEST CONSERVATIVE SPEAKERS ON CAMPUS: Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday to protest the appearance of conservative speakers Charlie Kirk and Lara Trump on the campus of North Carolina State University, with demonstrators expressing support and opposition to the speech. The event was called Culture War and it was hosted by Turning Point USA, which was founded by Kirk, a conservative activist. Some students believe that NC State is giving a voice to a group that promotes and engages in hateful speech against minorities, views they say do not represent the majority opinion of students and faculty at the university. About 800 protestors turned out to express opposition to the event, while 600 audience members attended the speech while another 600 were turned away. Holding signs and chanting, it was clear that the appearances by Kirk and Trump, President Donald Trump's daughter-in-law and an NC State graduate, stoked passions on both sides.
DAN BISHOP BREAKS THE LAW BY NAMING WHISTLEBLOWER: U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop apparently became the first member of Congress to divulge the purported name of the whistleblower whose memo sparked the House impeachment inquiry. The Charlotte Republican published the name in a Monday tweet. “100%. I refuse to cower before the authoritarian intimidation campaign. He’s not Voldemort,” Bishop replied, alluding to the Harry Potter villain who’s rarely named. “And he’s not a bona fide whistleblower. Even if he were, he wouldn’t be entitled to secrecy.” He went on to tweet the name of a person he called “a deep state conspirator.” The federal Whistleblower Protection Act makes it illegal to divulge the name of a whistleblower. N.C. Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley also named the person Wednesday in a news release. And Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky mentioned the name in a radio interview Wednesday. The person also has been named by several conservative commentators and websites.
REPUBLICANS INTERJECT CONSPIRACY THEORIES INTO IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS: The question seemed to surprise William B. Taylor Jr., a Vietnam veteran with decades of diplomatic experience. Couldn’t he “appreciate that President Trump was very concerned,” asked the Republican counsel, that the Ukrainians were “out to get him?” The lawyer was referring to a conspiracy theory, popular in parts of the political right, that while Democrats have focused on Russia’s efforts to help Trump win the 2016 election, it was actually Ukraine that interfered during that campaign to help Trump’s Democratic opponent. Taylor paused, casting his eyes down as his lips curled into a grin. He declined to give credence to the claim. “I don’t know the exact nature of President Trump’s concerns,” the witness answered. Questions on Wednesday by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee ranged widely, with some seeking to defend the president by emphasizing that military aid to Ukraine, while stalled, was ultimately released. Others sought to discredit the witnesses by noting that they lacked firsthand knowledge of some of the events they described. The White House has moved to block witnesses with more direct knowledge of the president’s dealings from testifying.
RUSSIA HAS THE UPPER HAND ON UKRAINE NOW, THANKS TO TRUMP: As the impeachment spectacle unfolds in Washington, attention is focused on President Trump and the ramifications for domestic politics. But the scandal is having a major impact on Ukraine, weakening President Volodomyr Zelensky’s position as he hopes to start face-to-face talks in coming weeks with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia over ending the war with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Putin has sent signals that he’s prepared to dial down tensions with Ukraine, especially since this could help him escape from economic sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States. But he wants to end the war on his terms, and thanks to the disarray in American policy in Ukraine, politicians and officials in Kiev say, the chances of that are improving. Sitting on the East-West divide, Ukraine has sometimes been called the new Berlin Wall. The ouster of its Russia-friendly president in 2014 seemed to mark a turning point, aligning Kiev with the West. Now, the Kremlin seems poised, if not to reverse the tide, at least to shift it more in its favor. In one sign of Moscow’s increasing leverage, Mr. Zelensky recently reached out for a direct meeting with Mr. Putin, without Western leaders present as intermediaries. In another, the business tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky — one of the country’s most influential figures — said he favored rebuilding ties with Russia.