DAILY TAR HEEL SUES UNC-BOG OVER SILENT SHAM: The Daily Tar Heel, UNC-Chapel Hill’s student-run newspaper, is taking legal action against the University System, its Board of Governors and individual board members over the controversial Silent Sam statue agreements. The DTH Media Group filed a lawsuit Tuesday saying the $2.5 million settlement and additional $74,999 payment between the UNC System and the N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans were “conceived, negotiated, approved and executed in total secrecy” in violation of North Carolina Open Meetings Law. The group is asking the court to declare both settlements null and void. They argue that the group of board members assigned to work on the Silent Sam issue are members of a public body and therefore, they were required to meet in public, give notice of the meetings and keep full and accurate meeting minutes.
NC SENATE REPUBLICANS MAY TRY OVERRIDE VOTE SOON: That vote has been ripe since September, when the House overrode Cooper's veto, but Senate Republicans haven't called it because they haven't been able to pull the one Democratic senator they need to make a super-majority and pass the budget over Cooper's objections. Senate rules require 24 hours' notice before that vote, so word may come down Monday. Democrats said that they're confident they still have the votes to sustain Cooper's veto, but there is some hope among Republicans that last month's end to the state's campaign filing period will make it easier for a Democrat to jump ship. With that filing period over, it's too late for someone to mount a primary challenge against a senator in retaliation for voting against the governor. All 170 General Assembly seats are up for election this year. The session is slated to start at noon Tuesday, and it's a continuation of last year's long session, not the start to this year's short session. The plan, Horsch said, is to adjourn this session until the spring, when the short session will begin. That start date hasn't been set.
MARK JOHNSON GIVES ISTATION CLOSE TO A MILLION DESPITE STAY: The contract is worth $928,570 and runs to March 31. Johnson told State Board of Education members Wednesday evening that he had to act to give clarity to school districts who are conducting the Read To Achieve assessments right now. “This is strictly for an emergency situation where you have to go make an immediate purchase of services and if you don’t it will result in the cessation of an important program,” Johnson said. State board members distanced themselves Wednesday from the emergency contract. In a heated exchange with Johnson, board members questioned the amount of the contract and said they had been unable to get a copy from DPI staff. “That clarifies that the state board didn’t have a role in this emergency procurement,” said Eric Davis, chairman of the state board. Johnson said board members could have gotten a copy of the contract if they had contacted someone on DPI staff who reported to him. Johnson pointed to how DPI responded promptly to media requests for the contract.
BACK FROM THE BRINK: TEMPERS COOL BETWEEN TRUMP AND IRAN: President Trump backed away Wednesday from potential war with Iran, indicating he would not respond militarily to the launch of more than a dozen ballistic missiles at bases housing American troops, as the United States and Iran blamed each other for provoking the most direct conflict between the two adversaries since Iran seized American diplomats in 1979. The war footing that took hold last week after Trump approved the targeted killing of a senior Iranian military commander he accused of plotting to kill Americans appeared to ease by mutual agreement, following days of chest-thumping in both Washington and Tehran and what Iran called its rightful response. No one was killed in Iran’s attack on two military bases in Iraq, according to the administration, and Trump dismissed the damage to U.S. facilities as “minimal.” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the attack a “slap in the face” of the United States and insufficient to end the U.S. presence in the region, but he did not threaten any specific further military action.
CONGRESS WILL VOTE TODAY TO RESTRAIN TRUMP FROM FURTHER ACTION AGAINST IRAN: Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Wednesday that the House would vote on Thursday to force President Trump to quickly wind down military action against Iran unless he is given explicit authorization from Congress, opening what promised to be a searing debate over presidential war powers. Ms. Pelosi issued the statement as lawmakers breathed a sigh of relief on Capitol Hill after Mr. Trump said he would back away from any military escalation against Tehran. But congressional Democrats, skeptical of the administration’s case for the drone strike last week that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and dissatisfied with the rationale Mr. Trump’s team offered for conducting it, pledged to press ahead with their efforts to rein in the president’s war-making authority. They said the vote on Thursday would be on a measure that would require that Mr. Trump cease all military action against Iran unless Congress votes to approve it. Such a measure could face an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled Senate, but on Wednesday, two Republicans signaled they were inclined to support it, holding open the possibility of a razor-thin vote. Either way, it is certain to ignite a fierce debate over Mr. Trump’s strategy on Iran, and Congress’s role in curtailing a president’s ability to wage war.