It’s Friday, I’m in love. Let’s get going.
1. Trump, in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters, says “major, major conflict” with North Korea is a possibility.
The quote to haunt your dreams: “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.”
But, Trump says, we are seeking a diplomatic solution, adding that his administration was preparing a new round of economic sanctions to pressure to North Korean regime to back off its nuclear ambitions. (Yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened the door to direct talks with Pyongyang, which until, well, yesterday was anathema to Republicans.)
Then, Trump said, South Korea needed to pay for the United States’ support.
He also said he wants South Korea to pay the cost of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense system, which he estimated at $1 billion, and intends to renegotiate or terminate a U.S. free trade pact with South Korea because of a deep trade deficit with Seoul.
Asked when he would announce his intention to renegotiate the pact, Trump said: “Very soon. I’m announcing it now.”
He blamed the deal on Hillary Clinton, who promoted that deal as secretary of state in 2011. “It is unacceptable, it is a horrible deal made by Hillary. It’s a horrible deal, and we are going to renegotiate that deal or terminate it.”
Trump’s comments stunned South Korean financial markets, sending Seoul stocks and the won currency into reverse even as the country’s economic outlook has started to brighten.
Also from that Reuters interview:
President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.
“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.” […]
More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump’s mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.
“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”
Perfectly normal. Everything’s fine.
One more anecdote from Trump’s hundred-day interviews, from tomorrow’s Financial Times (which is paywalled, but the clip comes courtesy of Axios).
2. The Michael Flynn investigation is heating up.
Sitting across from Donald Trump in the Oval Office, my eyes are drawn to a little red button on a box that sits on his desk. “This isn’t the nuclear button, is it?” I joke, pointing. “No, no, everyone thinks it is,” Trump says … before leaning over and pressing it to order some Cokes. “Everyone does get a little nervous when I press that button.”
The Pentagon is joining the inquiry. And the White House is blaming President Obama.
Investigations intensified into President Donald Trump’s ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn, on Thursday as the Pentagon watchdog joined lawmakers in probing payments he accepted from foreign sources including a Russian state-sponsored TV network.
At the same time, documents released by the top Democrat on a House oversight committee showed Flynn was warned by authorities after he retired from the military in 2014 not to take foreign government-sourced money without “advance approval” from the Pentagon.
Flynn, a former Army lieutenant general and Defense Intelligence Agency chief, later accepted tens of thousands of dollars for his work on behalf of foreign interests, including RT, the state-supported Russian television network, and a Turkish-owned company linked to Turkey’s government.
The Pentagon’s acting inspector general’s office confirmed Thursday he has launched an inquiry into whether those payments qualify as coming from foreign governments and whether Flynn properly informed military authorities about them. […]
On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer rebuffed criticism from Cummings that the White House was covering up. Asked about Trump administration vetting, Spicer appeared to shift blame onto the Obama administration, which had fired Flynn as head of the DIA.
“Why would you re-run a background check on someone who is the head of the Department of Defense Intelligence Agency that had and did maintain a high-level security clearance?” Spicer asked. He noted that Flynn’s security clearance was renewed during the Obama administration “with all of the information that’s being discussed that occurred in 2015.”
The White House recently told the committee that documents the lawmakers sought would not be turned over because they contained classified information or were not relevant to the committee’s investigation.
3. With midnight marking the end of crossover, there’s lots of legislative action to catch up on. Let’s do it quick and dirty.
Dubbed “Restore/preserve campus free speech,” House Bill 527 is a mandate for North Carolina’s public universities to ensure “the fullest degree” of intellectual freedom and free expression and to guarantee campuses be open to all speakers. The bill would require public universities to have a range of sanctions for protesters who disrupt events or interfere with others’ free speech rights. Universities would have to teach students about free speech policies during freshman orientation.
Rep. Verla Insko, an Orange County Democrat, called it “a solution looking for a problem.” She acknowledged that free speech issues crop up from time to time on campuses, but said those are best handled by the courts.
“I don’t like this kind of regulation of a constitutional right,” she said of the bill. “Young people come to college to learn about free speech, and they do it best through experience, not a set of rules.”
Others see barriers on campuses. They cited past lawsuits where universities settled complaints about limits to free expression.
Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican representing Ashe and Watauga counties, said that one campus had free speech zones, small areas carved out for free speech. He did not identify the campus.
City and county managers, but not their councils or commissions, would be able to view police body-camera and dashboard-camera videos under a bill approved in the House on Thursday.
Lawmakers are considering updates to a law enacted last year that established limits on who can see such videos. House Bill 797 passed overwhelmingly Thursday after a lengthy and sometimes emotional debate over how to reassure the public about the integrity of investigations into officer-involved incidents without compromising the legal process. […]
The new proposal, HB 797, originally would have permitted city councils, county commissions and police review boards to watch police body and dashboard cameras in closed session. Those officials would have to sign confidentiality agreements. But several legislators said they were concerned that closed-door discussions would leak to the public, and that there were no sanctions in the bill for disclosing that information.
The version approved in the House allows city and county managers to view police videos for administrative reasons, such as to evaluate how police behaved. The footage can also be released to other law enforcement agencies in multi-jurisdiction investigations and to find suspects, and to be used in training videos.
The current law and this bill allow others who want to see the videos to obtain permission from a superior court judge.
Crime victims and their families would be guaranteed certain rights in the state Constitution, if voters approve, under a bill that cleared the House on Thursday.
House Bill 551 passed on a vote of 94-21 and next goes to the Senate. It is a North Carolina version of “Marsy’s Law,” and would be put to a popular vote if at least 60 percent of the Senate agrees.
The bill would give crime victims the right to be notified about all court proceedings related to their case and to be present at them. It would provide them the right to prevent disclosure of records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family and allow victims to opt out of providing information to prosecutors or defense attorneys.
Under the proposal, victims also would have the right to receive “full and timely” restitution from defendants.
A few urban counties could lose millions of dollars in tax revenue, while about 80 counties – many rural – would gain under a bill advancing in the legislature.
The Senate voted 34-15 Wednesday night to tweak formulas used to distribute a small portion of local-option sales-tax revenue – the 2 percent to 2.25 percent charged on every sale that goes to municipal and county governments.
Most of that revenue goes to the community where the sale occurred, but a small portion is distributed using a formula called “adjustment factors” that were set in 1988. […]
Rep. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat, pointed out that Durham city leaders are projecting a loss of $2.2 million if the bill passes. A staffer for the legislature’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division said Durham’s losses could be even higher: $5.4 million. […]
Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Cary Republican, said she’s heard that Wake County is projecting a $4 million loss, but Brown said his estimates show only a $90,000 loss for Wake.
Winston-Salem recently toyed with the idea of labeling itself a “welcoming city” to immigrants and refugees but then backed down after pressure from lawmakers.
Local governments with immigration “sanctuary city” policies could lose millions of dollars in state funding under a proposal the N.C. Senate approved Wednesday.
The Senate voted 34-15 along party lines to strip sanctuary cities of a variety of revenue sources distributed by the state: city street funding as well as revenue from beer and wine taxes, telecommunication taxes, sales taxes on video programming, taxes on natural gases and scrap tire disposal taxes.
Those revenues total $337 million for the entire state. Wake County, for example, would lose $3.9 million if it violated the state’s 2015 ban on sanctuary cities. Raleigh would lose $23 million if it violated the ban. Public universities that violate immigration laws would also face penalties.
“If they’re harboring these criminals, maybe they should lose their funding,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican who supports the measure. “I’m not concerned about lawbreaking cities.”
The N.C. League of Municipalities has said it’s not aware of any cities and towns that still have sanctuary city policies. But a news release from Senate leader Phil Berger’s office said “officials in the cities of Winston-Salem and Charlotte have made public statements casting doubt on their willingness to abide by the law.”
The INDY told you about this insane bill before. It cleared its final reading last night and is now on to the Senate. From the N&O:
Drivers who hit a protester who’s blocking the road couldn’t be sued for injuries if they “exercise due care,” under a bill that passed the N.C. House on Thursday.
House Bill 330, approved in a 67-48 vote, comes in response to protests last fall in Charlotte. Protesters upset about the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott blocked interstate highways and other roads in the city.
“These people are nuts to run in front of cars like they do … and say, ‘me and my buddy here are going to stop this two-and-a-half-ton vehicle,’” said Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican and a supporter of the bill. “If somebody does bump somebody, why should they be held liable?”
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Justin Burr of Albemarle, said drivers wouldn’t be allowed to deliberately run over protesters.
4. An inmate allegedly attacked and killed a prison sergeant Wednesday evening.
North Carolina may join a national conservative movement seeking to change the U.S. Constitution.
The state Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution calling for a convention of the states to propose constitutional amendments.
There hasn’t been a constitutional convention since the first one in 1787. If two-thirds of the states call for a convention, Congress has to call the meeting. Proposed amendments would have to be ratified by 38 states before they become part of the Constitution.
Attempts to get 34 states to apply for a convention have been active for years. Supporters say they want more limits on the federal government.
The resolution passed 29-20 and goes to the House for consideration.
Ames Alexander of The Charlotte Observer reports:
That’s all for now. Have a great weekend.
Prison Sgt. Meggan Callahan, who authorities say was killed in an attack by an inmate Wednesday evening, was responding to a fire that had been set inside Bertie Correctional Institution when she was assaulted.
Inmate Craig Wissink, who has been serving a life sentence for murder since 2004, is suspected of attacking Callahan at the eastern North Carolina prison, according to the state Department of Public Safety. […]
Hired to work for the prisons in 2012, Callahan, 29, was promoted to sergeant in February 2016.
She worked in a job that carries the constant risk of death and serious injury. Once every eight hours, on average, a North Carolina prison officer was assaulted last year.
Statewide, there were 1,160 assaults on state prison staff in 2016 – up from 1,136 the previous year, state figures show.