One last thing: After I published the newsletter version of Primer, news broke that Amazon had purchased Whole Foods for $13.7 billion.
All right, on with it. —Jeffrey C. Billman
1. TRUMP REVERSES OBAMA’S CUBA POLICY.
THE GIST: Today, President Trump will go to Miami, where he will give a speech declaring that President Obama’s two-year-old rapprochement with Cuba has failed and his administration will instead crack down on travel and commercial ties.
- Nut graph, from The New York Times: “The changes are likely to affect both countries, making it more difficult and costly for Americans to travel to and do business with Cuba. The island’s population potentially may pay the steeper price, particularly Cubans who derive their livelihoods from tourism and increased business opportunities stemming from the opening. The expected changes will also place a distinct chill on the relationship between the United States and Cuba that was just beginning to thaw after a half-century of isolation and estrangement and thrust the two countries back into an adversarial posture that is among the last vestiges of the Cold War.”
WHAT’S NEXT: Before Obama changed course, a half-century of American trade embargoes and travel restrictions didn’t oust the Castros or make them any less repressive. Neither did couple of years of a more liberal approach. But Fidel is dead. Raul is eighty-six and will step down in February. The next generation of Cuban leadership will be here soon. The key question here is how Trump’s move will affect the next leader’s decisions.
- Money quote: “The Cuban government was able to use the old policy as an excuse for all the problems on the island and as a pretext for repression. It’s true the repressive system in Cuba has not changed, but the fact that two years of a different policy didn’t change things isn’t a reason to go back to one that was a clear failure for decades.” —Daniel Wilkinson, Human Rights Watch
2. JARED KUSHNER UNDER INVESTIGATION
THE GIST: Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the financial and business dealings of President Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, along with other Trump associates, according to The Washington Post. The investigators seem interested in a meeting Kushner had in December with the head of a state-owned Russian development bank, which has been subject to U.S. sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
- Key sentence: “The meeting occurred as Kushner’s company was seeking financing for its troubled $1.8 billion purchase of an office building on Fifth Avenue in New York, and it could raise questions about whether Kushner’s personal financial interests were colliding with his impending role as a public official.”
Related: In a tweetstorm yesterday morning, Trump angrily attacked … Hillary Clinton.
Related: Did Jeff Sessions lie under oath about contacts with a Russian lobbyist?
Related: Vice President Mike Pence hires a criminal defense attorney.
3. TRUMP ELIMINATES DAPA.
THE GIST: Yesterday, the Trump administration scrapped President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, which would have allowed parents of legal residents and citizens to stay in the country with a three-year work permit if they’d been in the country since January 2010.
WHAT IT MEANS: Not much, as the program never actually went into effect. A Texas district court slapped an injunction on it, which was then upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked 4–4, which meant the lower court’s ruling stood.
WHAT’S NEXT: The bigger question here is what the Trump administration plans to do with DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects from deportation children brought to the U.S. illegally. During the campaign, Trump called the program “amnesty” and said he would end it; in office, he said it was “a very, very difficult subject for me.” The White House says it is studying DACA.
4. COURT SIDES WITH NCGA OVER COOPER.
THE GIST: In December, as part of a series of special-session votes designed to show the incoming Democratic governor who was really in charge, the Republican-led General Assembly changed the makeup of the state’s elections board. No longer would the governor’s party be granted a majority, as it was when Pat McCrory was governor; now it would be equally split between Democrats and Republicans. Moreover, it would be merged with the state’s ethics commission. Cooper sued, arguing that the legislature’s move violated the state constitution’s separation of powers. A few weeks back, a three-judge Superior Court panel dismissed his lawsuit; Cooper appealed. Yesterday, the judges refused Cooper’s request to block the changes while his appeal is ongoing.
WHAT IT MEANS: The legislature’s maneuvers last December were incredibly audacious, the motives transparent and venal, but that doesn’t necessarily make them illegal. (For the record, I don’t have an informed opinion about whether the move is in fact unconstitutional.)
Related: The U.S. Supreme Court apparently rejected an appeal in the Covington redistricting case asking it to order a special election this year, having just recently ordered the U.S. District Court to reconsider its previous order for just such an election. (In a tweet, Senate leader Phil Berger called this part of the “left’s scheme” to “nullify 2016 votes.”)
It might be too soon for him to celebrate: the U.S. District Court could still order a special election.
5. WHAT TO DO WITH THE AMERICAN TOBACCO CAMPUS?
THE GIST: Capitol Broadcasting held a series of meetings Wednesday to discuss the expansion of the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, specifically what to do with the eleven-acre University Ford site, which it acquired last year for about $30 million. The concept for the eventual development is in very early stages—given the nature of urban development, some sort of office/condo/entertainment mixed-use complex seems likely—but much of the talk seems centered on connectivity: Southside to ATC, ATC to downtown, overcoming the respective barriers of the Durham Freeway and the train tracks.
Related: If you haven’t already, you really should read Sarah Willet’s excellent piece on the two stories of Durham under Mayor Bill Bell, in which the Bull City underwent a renaissance while its poverty rate climbed. (Yes, I’m biased. But it’s really good!)
6. FIVE LOCAL HEADLINES.
- The Durham County Sheriff’s Office says it doesn’t participate in ICE’s Secure Communities Program. The facts say otherwise. [INDY]
- Pat McCrory hits Raleigh for not firing foul-mouthed Twitter critic James Sauls. [N&O]
- Though the deadline to leave was yesterday, some families at Forest Hills Apartments in Garner who have nowhere else to go are staying put. [N&O]
- Oh God, GoTriangle made a rap video. [N&O]
- Weeks after neighborhood opposition killed plans for a Publix-anchored development in Durham, neighbors seek to squash a Publix-anchored shopping center in Chatham County. [WRAL]
7. ODDS & ENDS.
- N.C. Central alumni and Capitol police officer David Bailey, who was injured in the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning, threw out first pitch at congressional baseball game Thursday night. The Dems won the game, then gave the trophy to the Republicans to place in the office of House majority leader Steve Scalise, who was shot Wednesday and is in the hospital.
- Facebook will use artificial intelligence to hunt for extremist posts.
- KISS’s Gene Simmons files a patent for the devil horns hand gesture.
- Intermittent clouds and sun today, with a good chance of a thunderstorm or two later. High of 88.