Wednesday News: Star chamber


SENATE REPUBLICANS HELD COVID MEETINGS IN PRIVATE: Edwards said there weren’t formal meetings of Republicans. Rep. Jim Burgin, R-Harnett, said there were numerous conference calls and then, when the Senate returned to Raleigh, in-person private meetings. The public wasn’t privy to the discussions. And that is what Van Duyn said frustrated her. She said the lack of public input left her constituents without a seat at the table, because she didn’t know who she needed to include in her discussions and they did not know to call her for help. “That is enormously frustrating, not to mention it would be illegal for my county or my city to do business in that way,” Van Duyn said. Sen. Erica Smith, D-Northampton, agreed the public should be involved. “I definitely prefer public input. I prefer transparency and people need to know we’re working hard on their behalf,” she said.

NCDP WILL HOLD STATE CONVENTION ONLINE JUNE 6: The North Carolina Democratic Party will hold its state convention online next month rather than in person, in keeping with social distancing rules from the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual convention is set for June 6 and will feature appearances by statewide candidates and other special guests. Convention business includes picking at-large and elected officials who will serve as Democratic National Convention delegates and on the party's slate of presidential electors. The state Republican Party had planned to hold its convention in Greenville this weekend, but it's been pushed back to July. Both state parties have been holding local activities online in recent weeks. The state Democratic Party's district conventions were slated to be held virtually on Wednesday. State Democratic Party Executive Director Meredith Cuomo says the digital platform for the state convention gives party leaders the chance to create innovative ways to energize party members heading into the fall.

REOPENNC CONTINUES TUESDAY PROTESTS WITH SHRINKING NUMBERS: The ReOpenNC group had drawn more than a thousand in earlier protests but saw its numbers dwindle last week to about 200 people. Tuesday’s protest started with about 100 people but swelled to about 400 during a march around downtown. “God bless every one of you,” said organizer Adam Smith, “Every one of you is worth 50 men.” After he spoke, another protester suggested a campaign to personally thank every person not wearing a face mask. Near him, a counterprotester stood dressed as the grim reaper holding a scythe. Counterprotesters took their message to the sky Tuesday, with a small plane circling downtown with a banner that read, “Fewer graves if we reopen in waves.” Todd Stiefel, a Raleigh philanthropist who is immuno-compromised, paid for the banner as a counter-protest. At noon, protesters began circling downtown blocks chanting “Reopen NC!” They passed dozens of police officers blocking roads, one of whom, at Jones Street, did not wear a mask. “An officer without a mask,” said Johnston County organizer Steve Wagner. “That’s what I like to see.”

NOT SO FAST, MIKE: JUDGE BLOCKS ATTEMPT TO DROP CHARGES ON FLYNN: A U.S. judge put on hold the Justice Department’s move to drop charges against Michael Flynn, saying he expects independent groups and legal experts to argue against the bid to exonerate President Trump’s former national security adviser of lying to the FBI. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said in an order Tuesday that he expects individuals and organizations will seek to intervene in the politically charged case. Having others weigh in could preface more aggressive steps that the federal judge in Washington could take, including — as many outside observers have called for — holding a hearing to consider what to do. Sullivan’s order came after the government took the highly irregular step Thursday of reversing its stance on upholding Flynn’s guilty plea. The action by Sullivan, a veteran 72-year-old jurist with a national reputation for advocating defendants’ rights to full government disclosure of evidence, appears to rule out immediate action on the Justice Department’s decision to reverse course and throw out Flynn’s December 2017 guilty plea.

FAUCI ISSUES DIRE WARNINGS TO U.S. SENATE ABOUT REOPENING TOO SOON: “If we do not respond in an adequate way when the fall comes, given that it is without a doubt that there will be infections that will be in the community, then we run the risk of having a resurgence,” said Dr. Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is at the forefront of efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine. If states reopen their economies too soon, he warned, “there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” which could result not only in “some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.” Across the Capitol, House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a $3 trillion economic stimulus measure to respond to the pandemic, including $1 trillion in aid to state, local and tribal governments, another round of $1,200 direct payments to American families, and more money for jobless aid and food assistance. Ms. Murray used her time to make a pitch for the package, saying Republicans — who have already joined with Democrats in approving nearly $3 trillion in government aid — had not done enough.