Wednesday News: Window dressing


JOHNSON THINKS PUBLIC RELATIONS AND MARKETING WILL HELP NC TEACHERS: Johnson had teased the news, saying beforehand that the event would include “major announcements for North Carolina’s education system.” Critics questioned making the announcement at a private, invitation-only event, especially after some people who registered were later disinvited after being told there weren’t enough seats. “We are very pleased with the tremendous response to this important event,” said Drew Elliot, a spokesman for Johnson. “We certainly wish we could accommodate every educator and citizen who would like to attend, but at some point, the room fills up.” Critics went on Twitter Tuesday night to criticize the event. “What NC Public Education doesn’t need is a slick PR campaign,” tweeted Tamika Kelly, an elementary school music teacher. “We need sustained and authentic investment in our public schools and that will sell itself. #NotInvited #InThisTogether #ncpol

RED DOME'S ANDY YATES TRIES TO DISTANCE HIMSELF FROM DOWLESS: The man who paid Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless more than $100,000 on behalf of Republican Mark Harris' congressional campaign testified Tuesday that he doesn't know what to think anymore about the absentee ballot campaign Dowless ran in southeast North Carolina last year. Consultant Andy Yates, of Charlotte-based Red Dome Group, angrily proclaimed his ignorance of any ballot harvesting scheme, and he defended the lopsided absentee results Dowless produced, saying that, until other testimony emerged Monday, he thought they came from a well-run, legal campaign. "I don't know what to believe after yesterday," Yates told the State Board of Elections under questioning. "I don't know what to believe about McCrae Dowless. You could tell me anything. ... I don't know whether to believe anything Mr. Dowless ever told me."

FOLWELL'S STATE HEALTH PLAN REVAMP WILL LIKELY CLOSE MORE RURAL HOSPITALS: The North Carolina Healthcare Association, which lobbies for state hospitals and other providers, opposes Folwell’s plan — which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, unless lawmakers act to stop it. NCHA officials said Tuesday the hundreds of millions of dollars at stake would equate to roughly a 15 percent average cut to the budgets of hospitals around the state. They said rural hospitals will face even greater financial challenges than they already do, if the changes go through. “We had a hospital in rural North Carolina last week that closed its doors,” said Dr. Michael Waldrum, the CEO of Vidant Health, which operates hospitals and other health care businesses in a dozen Eastern North Carolina towns. Six rural hospitals in North Carolina have closed since 2013, including three in the last two years, according to the Sheps Center for Health Services Research at UNC-Chapel Hill.

REVEREND CURTIS GATEWOOD ARRESTED DURING ALAMANCE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MEETING: “Is it truly because of our sheriff’s love of upholding the law? We are not impressed. The first part of upholding the law in honesty,” Gatewood said. “Honesty would mean, first of all, listening to facts. … We are not going to accept the Donald Trump-ism of ignorance.” Gatewood was arrested about an hour into the roughly 90-minute meeting when he refused to stop speaking during the regular public comments period, going on for about a minute past the three-minute time limit, and continuing even after Chair Amy Galey called a recess. He was arrested and led from the room about a minute into the recess. After the recess, the commissioners talked about the need to respect meeting rules and courteous debate. Commissioner Tim Sutton, at the end of a 10-minute story, concluded that respected civil rights leaders like Greensboro lawyer Kenneth Lee and Martin Luther King Jr. would not have acted the way Gatewood did. “What his actions say to me is he came here tonight to provoke some kind of confrontation,” Galey said.

REPORT DETAILS EXTENSIVE EFFORTS BY TRUMP TO OBSTRUCT INVESTIGATIONS: Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a “witch hunt” and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel “rats.” His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative news media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president. An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.