LATE-ENTRY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OPENS TWO MORE NC OFFICES: Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg plans to make Raleigh and Fayetteville two of his first New Year’s destinations. The former New York mayor is opening field offices in both cities on Friday while visiting North Carolina, according to an email the campaign sent to the NC Insider. Bloomberg’s Raleigh office will be located on Davie Street. The Democrat plans to meet with voters, staff and supporters in both cities; as well as military families and veterans in downtown Fayetteville. The downtown Raleigh event will be open to the public with Bloomberg scheduled to speak at noon at the new office. The campaign had not released a more specific location on Davie Street as of late Tuesday. Bloomberg’s strategy to win the 2020 election is to focus on states like North Carolina that vote on March 3 or later, the Charlotte Observer previously reported. He is currently fifth in the polls for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a polling average from RealClearPolitics.
CONSPIRACY THEORIST ALEX JONES TO PAY $100,000 TO SANDY HOOK FAMILY: A Texas judge ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $100,000 in legal fees and refused to dismiss a lawsuit that targets the Infowars host for using his show to promote falsehoods that the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. Jones is being sued for defamation in Austin, Texas, by the parents of a 6-year-old who was among the 26 people killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, attack at an elementary school. Similar lawsuits against Jones have been filed by other Sandy Hook families in Connecticut courts. In what is now the most recent court setback for Jones, State District Judge Scott Jenkins of Texas — where Jones operates Infowars — ruled Dec. 20 that Jones' defense team “intentionally disregarded” an earlier order to produce witnesses. He ordered Jones to pay legal fees to attorneys representing a Sandy Hook father who brought the lawsuit, Neil Heslin, and denied a request to dismiss the case.
HOMELAND SECURITY GOING AFTER STATE LAWS THAT ALLOW IMMIGRANTS TO GET DRIVERS LICENSES: The acting secretary of Homeland Security is taking aim at new laws in New York and New Jersey that allow immigrants to get driver’s licenses without proof they are in the U.S. legally, and restrict data sharing with federal authorities. New York’s law went into effect earlier this month and migrants lined up to get documents. It is the 13th state to authorize licenses for drivers without legal immigration status. New Jersey lawmakers passed a similar bill in December. New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio are frequent thorns in the side of the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict immigration. New York City is home to an estimated 500,000 immigrants in the country illegally. The laws prohibit state Department of Motor Vehicles officials from providing data to agencies that enforce immigration law unless a judge orders it. New York cut off database access to at least three federal agencies last week when the law went into effect.
BAGHDAD EMBASSY SIEGE LEAVES TRUMP SPUTTERING: The president struck a bellicose tone Tuesday, but it’s unclear what moves he will make next as he feels the tug between taking a tough line with Iran and trying to avoid getting more involved in the region. “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” Trump tweeted late Tuesday afternoon from Florida, where he is spending the holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort. “Happy new year!” In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the president held what he called a good meeting with advisers and approved sending a small contingent of Marines and two Apache helicopters to reinforce security at the embassy while tweeting that “The U.S. Embassy in Iraq is, & has been for hours, SAFE!” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper also announced Tuesday night that the administration was sending 750 troops to the region as “an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today.”
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS MAY HAVE JUST PUT TRUMP ON NOTICE: As Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. prepares to preside over the impeachment trial of President Trump, he issued pointed remarks on Tuesday in his year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary that seemed to be addressed, at least in part, to the president himself. “We should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity and dispatch,” he wrote in the report. “As the new year begins, and we turn to the tasks before us, we should each resolve to do our best to maintain the public’s trust that we are faithfully discharging our solemn obligation to equal justice under law.” The chief justice singled out, but did not name, a colleague, praising his exemplary educational work. “As just one example,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “the current chief judge of the District of Columbia Circuit has, over the past two decades, quietly volunteered as a tutor at a local elementary school, inspiring his court colleagues to join in the effort.” That judge is Merrick B. Garland, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in 2016 but denied a hearing by Senate Republicans. Mr. Trump appointed Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to fill the vacancy.