GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION FINALLY ENDS, WITH LITTLE ACCOMPLISHED: The second-longest legislative session in North Carolina history has finally ended, but it likely will be remembered for what was left undone rather than what was accomplished. Lawmakers adjourned Friday after adopting a new congressional district map and filling a vacancy on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. The map, which still must be approved by a state court, passed along party lines after much Democratic complaining that it was still too partisan. The 2019 session lasted 156 days, trailing only the 179-day session in 2001. It cost state taxpayers at least $6.5 million, and for all of that money, no state budget was passed, teachers didn't get raises, Medicaid wasn't expanded and even plans to shift Medicaid to a managed care system could be in jeopardy.
NC SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO BLOCK 2020 LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS, NEW MAP STANDS: North Carolina’s legislative districts are set for the 2020 elections after the state Supreme Court refused on Friday to fast-track a redistricting appeal. That decision led the plaintiffs who successfully sued based on partisan bias claims to end their legal challenges. The state’s highest court denied the request by Common Cause and state Democrats to step in and hear their appeal on eight state House districts now, rather than require it go through the intermediate Court of Appeals first. The justices gave no reason in their one-sentence order. Without the bypass to the state Supreme Court, any appeal would have resulted in a lengthy process that probably wouldn’t have been resolved until the 2020 elections were over, making a ruling on the districts’ final shapes largely moot. So the plaintiffs have decided to quit, focusing instead on what their 2018 litigation accomplished.
TRUMP PARDONS MILITARY MEMBERS WHO COMMITTED MURDER: President Donald Trump has pardoned a former U.S. Army commando set to stand trial next year in the killing of a suspected Afghan bomb-maker and a former Army lieutenant convicted of murder for ordering his men to fire upon three Afghans, killing two, the White House announced late Friday. The commander in chief also ordered a promotion for a decorated Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead Islamic State captive in Iraq. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a written statement that the president is responsible for ensuring the law is enforced and that “mercy is granted,” when appropriate. The second pardon went to 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to fire upon three unarmed Afghan men in July 2012, killing two. Lorance has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
TRUMP'S PAL ROGER STONE FOUND GUILTY OF WITNESS TAMPERING AND LYING TO CONGRESS: The panel of nine women and three men deliberated for less than two days before finding Stone, 67, guilty on all seven counts resulting from his September 2017 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, which was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Kremlin’s efforts to damage Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson set Stone’s sentencing for Feb. 6 and allowed him to remain free until then. Stone faces a legal maximum penalty of 50 years in prison — 20 years for the witness tampering charge and five years for each of the other counts, although a first offender would face far less time under federal sentencing guidelines. Stone’s indictment was the last brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, revealing important details about the Trump campaign’s keen interest in computer files hacked by Russia and made public by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. He was accused of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness, an associate whom prosecutors said Stone threatened in an attempt to prevent the man from cooperating with lawmakers.
TRUMP TWEETS INSULTS AT YOVANOVITCH AS SHE TESTIFIES AGAINST HIM: The former United States ambassador to Ukraine told the House impeachment inquiry on Friday that she felt threatened by President Trump and “shocked, appalled, devastated” that he vilified her in a call with another foreign leader, as Mr. Trump attacked her in real time on Twitter, drawing a stern warning about witness intimidation from Democrats. The extraordinary back-and-forth unfolded on the second day of public impeachment hearings as Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was ousted as the envoy to Ukraine on Mr. Trump’s orders, detailed an unsettling campaign by the president’s allies to undermine her as she pushed to promote democracy and the rule of law. In deeply personal terms, Ms. Yovanovitch described to the House Intelligence Committee how Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, worked hand in hand with a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor to circumvent official channels, smear her and push her out of her job. Shortly after Ms. Yovanovitch finished speaking, another witness revealed a potentially crucial episode in the impeachment inquiry. An official from the United States Embassy in Kiev told investigators in a private interview that he overheard a call in July between Mr. Trump and Gordon D. Sondland, a Trump ally and the ambassador to the European Union, in which the president loudly asked about “investigations” he sought from Ukraine, according to three people familiar with the closed-door session.