REPUBLICAN DANNY BRITT TESTS POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS: A Republican state senator has tested positive for coronavirus, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Friday. Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson, later identified himself as the one testing positive and apologized to his colleagues. Masks became a very partisan issue over the course of the session. "Why are you not wearing a mask? Why are you putting me and all of us at risk by not wearing a mask?" Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, demanded of a Republican colleague during a debate on the House floor in June. Meyer and other Democrats sent letters to Republican House and Senate leaders three weeks ago asking for more safeguards. "We’ve petitioned for mandatory masks at the legislature, asked to only have essential personnel there, asked for testing," Meyer said Friday. "But the leadership and the administration of the legislature building have refused all of those requests."
WAKE COMMISSIONER GREG FORD IS DROPPING OUT OF 2020 ELECTION: Wake County Commissioner Chair Greg Ford is withdrawing from the 2020 election to move across the country. He emailed his supporters just before 6 p.m. Friday. His husband leads a nonprofit professional association and education foundation in California and, while the work has been remote, they’ve learned the “family’s eventual relocation to California in the coming years would need to be accelerated.” The Wake County Democratic Party will select a new nominee for the District 6 seat, which covers the northern part of the county, according to his email. The replacement will ideally be named within two weeks to give the Wake County Board of Elections office enough time to print the ballots, said Wake County Elections Director Gary Sims. Ford plans to continue in his role as commissioner and chair of the board through his current term, which expires in December.
WHITE MAN PUNCHES BLACK GIRL AT CHAPEL HILL ANTI-RACISM VIGIL: What began as a peaceful demonstration in Chapel Hill quickly took a violent turn after a white man assaulted the only black woman participating in the vigil. On July 3, as the vigil hosted by Binkley Baptist Church began wrapping up, a man walked up and started shouting at the only black woman there. The victim said she wanted to address the man and started walking towards him. "Before I got the second to say anything, he said what are you going to do b**** and then punched me right on the face," said the teen, who did not want to be identified. "I held my face and he held my head down and threw two more punches.” The teen's mother was quick to react. “Any mother ... I was in shock," said Carol Miller, the mother of the teen who was assaulted. "Seeing her covering her head and it looked like he was pummeling her and my instinct was to get him away.” She wasn’t alone. Strangers helped get the victim to safety. Bart Moody, 53, was cited on scene, charged with assault on a female. The teen said the scary incident didn’t keep her from demonstrating.
TRUMP COMMUTES SENTENCE OF HIS CRONY ROGER STONE: President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime confidant Roger Stone on Friday, using the extensive powers of the presidency to protect a felon and political ally while also lashing out against a years-long probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The move, which the White House announced in a lengthy and pugnacious statement, is the latest attempt by Trump to discredit special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation after it consumed much of his presidency. While the commutation was celebrated by Trump’s most stalwart supporters, the muted response by Republican lawmakers and Stone’s own history as a self-described “dirty trickster” indicated that the president’s decision to interfere with the nation’s justice system could be fraught with political risk. While the 643-word statement recited a litany of Trump supporters’ complaints about Stone’s “unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial” — including several complaints about the media — the commutation leaves Stone’s conviction standing. Unlike a pardon, which would have absolved the GOP operative of wrongdoing, the White House action only lifted Stone’s punishment, a 40-month prison sentence that was to begin Tuesday.
BETSY DEVOS IS DENYING MONETARY CLAIMS BY STUDENTS DEFRAUDED BY SHAM COLLEGES: Years of delays and attempts to cut the relief borrowers can receive have prompted dozens of lawsuits against the department. Now, under pressure from federal courts to deal with hundreds of thousands of unresolved claims, the Education Department is processing them — and saying no. More than 45,000 rejection notices have been sent in recent months, according to agency data. And when the department is legally obligated to approve a claim, it is often granting only minuscule relief — or none at all. “Borrowers can’t win,” said Eileen Connor, the legal director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending, a group that has represented borrowers in multiple cases against the department, including one filed last month that challenges the agency’s partial-relief approach. “To tell even borrowers who can prove they were defrauded by their school that they still get no relief is absurd and cruel.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has long refused to take part in the program, which she once called a “free money” giveaway. Last year, she said the program was a “mess” when she took over, and added that a new methodology for calculating relief — including granting none on many approved claims — “treats students fairly and ensures that taxpayers who did not go to college or who faithfully paid off their student loans do not shoulder student loan costs for those who didn’t suffer harm.” Ms. DeVos has long opposed the relief program, called Borrower Defense to Repayment, which allows students to have their federal student loan debts eliminated if their schools acted fraudulently.