Wednesday News: Empty chair speaks volumes

CHEMOURS OFFICIAL A NO-SHOW AT SENATE COMMITTEE HEARING ON GENX: Chemours officials declined to participate in a public hearing Tuesday about compounds the company released into the Cape Fear River for years, asking instead to meet in private with Sen. Trudy Wade R-Guilford, the chair of a Senate committee studying the issue. Company officials did meet behind closed doors Tuesday with environmental regulators in Gov. Roy Cooper's administration, something Wade announced during her committee's hearing and which the administration later confirmed. The two sides discussed their ongoing legal dispute and the court order state officials won last month to block Chemours from discharging chemicals into the river. A Chemours spokesman did not respond to a WRAL News email seeking comment. Not only is the company facing inquiries from the state's environmental and health regulators, but subpoenas indicate that a U.S. Department of Justice investigation is also underway.

QUEEN ALDONA AND HUBBY DEJOY TO HOST LAVISH FUNDRAISING DINNER FOR TRUMP: It costs $15,000 per couple for preferential seating at the dinner and a VIP reception before or after the president speaks. There are also donation levels at $100,000, $50,000 and $35,000 per couple, according to the invitation. In the invitation, DeJoy writes, “The President and his team have had some missteps. However, it is hard to deny the extreme and unreasonable challenges he faces from the political establishment, the left wing groups, the media and many of the federal employees of the agencies of the Executive branch.” DeJoy also notes that the RNC is “organized to support the President,” despite what he said is a common perception that it is closely aligned to congressional leaders. DeJoy’s wife, Dr. Aldona Wos, was named by Trump as vice-chairwoman of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Under former Gov. Pat McCrory, Wos led the state Department of Health and Human Services.

JUSTICE KENNEDY KEY VOTE IN GERRYMANDERING CASE: If Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote almost certainly controls the outcome, is prepared to join his liberal colleagues, the court could rule for the first time that districting plans that entrench one party’s control of a legislature or congressional delegation can violate the constitutional rights of the other party’s voters. That could lead to changes in political maps across the country. While both parties seek maximum partisan advantage when they can, Republicans controlled more state governments after the 2010 census and aggressively used redistricting to lock in electoral advantages to last for the next 10 years. Kennedy suggested, as he did in another redistricting case 13 years ago, that courts perhaps could be involved in placing limits on extremely partisan electoral maps. But he did not tip his hand about whether the Wisconsin map that favors Republicans crossed a constitutional line.

US HOUSE PASSES LATE-TERM ABORTION BAN: Most late-term abortions would be outlawed under legislation Republicans pushed through the House on Tuesday, a major priority of the GOP and conservative groups that won't reach an eager President Donald Trump because it faces certain Senate defeat. The House approved the measure by a near party-line 237-189 vote. Though the bill's fate is sealed, the push for abortion restrictions remains a touchstone issue for most Republicans, even as the party splinters between traditionalist conservatives and anti-establishment voters looking to roil Washington. Trump was ready to sign the measure, and White House officials sent lawmakers a letter saying the measure "would help to facilitate the culture of life to which our nation aspires." That praise was in contrast to the certain veto similar bills faced under President Barack Obama.

AS BREXIT TALKS CREEP ALONG, EU PUSHES MEMBER STATES TO COLLECT TAXES FROM AMAZON AND APPLE: The European Union is telling member state Luxembourg to get $295 million in back taxes from Amazon in Brussels' latest regulatory move targeting U.S. tech companies accused of tax avoidance. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager also took Ireland to court for failing to collect a massive 13 billion euros ($15.3 billion) in taxes from Apple Inc., arguing that, like in Amazon's case, the company had profited from a system allowing it to escape most of its taxes the EU felt were due. Vestager said Wednesday that U.S. giant online retailer Amazon unfairly profited from special low tax conditions since 2003 in the tiny Grand Duchy, where its European headquarters are based.