STEINBURG GOES OFF THE DEEP END ON TRUMP ELECTION CONSPIRACY THEORY: Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, paraphrased on his Facebook page comments that retired Gen. Thomas McInerney made earlier this month on a conservative talk show. Among other things, McInerney suggested President Donald Trump declare a national emergency, invoke the Insurrection Act and suspend habeas corpus. Steinburg also made it clear he believes the recent presidential election was stolen and that Trump is the victim of a conspiracy to which multiple countries, the media, U.S. government agencies, officials and judges are either a part or turning a blind eye. “There’s something going on here bigger than what anybody is willing to talk about," he said. "I’m not nuts. … I’m not a conspiracy theory person. I don’t like them. I don’t like conspiracy theories at all. But something is going on here that’s bigger than meets the eye.”
RALEIGH CITY COUNCIL IGNORES PLANNING COMMISSION AND APPROVES DOWNTOWN SOUTH REZONING: The 7-1 decision came after more than two hours of public comments Tuesday night and competing press conferences the day before. Council member David Cox was the lone vote against the rezoning. “This is about humanity and who we are as a city,” said Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin. “And southeast Raleigh, there have been a lot of promises made but not a lot of promises kept. ... This is an opportunity for jobs, an opportunity for investment in the community. I have heard from southeast Raleigh and southwest Raleigh for 10 years that they want to see investment in their community.” Tuesday’s decision came one week after the city’s Planning Commission voted unanimously not to recommend the rezoning. The rezoning allows up to 40 stories to be built on the property, though some areas are limited to five, 12 and 20 stories. There would be a maximum of 16,700 residential units, 12 million square feet of office space and nearly 1 million square feet of retail on the site.
GOVERNOR COOPER ASKS FOR MORE NOTICE ON WEEKLY VACCINE SHIPMENTS: “They're supposed to tell us on that Friday morning how many doses that we're supposed to get,” Cooper said during the news conference. “The key is we're supposed to have, by 8 p.m. that evening, exactly where we want them to ship those doses. Logistically, knowing that number earlier can help the team plan better. They said they would work on that.” Cooper said the state started vaccinating workers at three hospitals on Monday, eight hospitals on Tuesday and has distribution set for 42 hospitals on Thursday. More rural hospital workers can expect to be vaccinated in the coming week or two. Mandy Cohen, the state's top public health official, estimated it will be “well into the spring” before vaccines are widely available to the general public. North Carolina on Tuesday reported its highest number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations to date, with more than 2,700 people hospitalized. That represents a nearly two-fold increase in the last 30 days. As of Monday, 643 adults were in an intensive care unit, up from 347 one month ago. Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC, was vaccinated Tuesday afternoon. He fears more hardship could be on the horizon if people travel over the holiday and further let down their guards. “It’s the huge tip of a huge iceberg,” Wohl said.
RUSSIAN HACK OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT COMPUTERS WAS CLEVER AND EFFECTIVE: The Russians, whose operation was discovered this month by a cybersecurity firm that they hacked, were good. After initiating the hacks by corrupting patches of widely used network monitoring software, the hackers hid well, wiped away their tracks and communicated through IP addresses in the United States rather than ones in, say, Moscow to minimize suspicions. The hackers also shrewdly used novel bits of malicious code that apparently evaded the U.S. government’s multibillion-dollar detection system, Einstein, which focuses on finding new uses of known malware and also detecting connections to parts of the Internet used in previous hacks. But Einstein, operated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), was not equipped to find novel malware or Internet connections, despite a 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office suggesting that building such capability might be a wise investment. Some private cybersecurity firms do this type of “hunting” for suspicious communications — maybe an IP address to which a server has never before connected — but Einstein doesn’t. “It’s fair to say that Einstein wasn’t designed properly,” said Thomas Bossert, a top cybersecurity official in both the George W. Bush and Trump administrations. “But that’s a management failure.” The full scope of the hack remains unknown, though it’s already clear that a growing number of agencies have been penetrated, including the departments of State, Treasury, Homeland Security and Commerce, and the National Institutes of Health.
MCCONNELL (FINALLY) STANDS UP TO TRUMP, DECLARES BIDEN PRESIDENT-ELECT: “Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. “The Electoral College has spoken. So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.” A short time later, on a private call with Senate Republicans, Mr. McConnell and his top deputies pleaded with their colleagues not to join members of the House in objecting to the election results on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to ratify the Electoral College’s decision, according to three people familiar with the conversation, who described it on the condition of anonymity. A small group of House members, led by Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, plans to use a constitutional process to object to the inclusion of five key battleground states that day. There is almost no chance they will succeed. But if they could persuade at least one senator to join them, they could force a vote on the matter, transforming a typically perfunctory session into a bitter last stand for Mr. Trump. So far, no senator has committed to joining them. In seeking to prevent anyone from doing so, Mr. McConnell argued that a challenge would force senators to go on the record either defying Mr. Trump or rejecting the will of the voters, potentially harming those running for election in 2022. He dispatched his top deputy, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, to lobby lawmakers one by one. The blowback was immediate from the party’s outspoken right flank anyway and foreshadowed the return to an old dynamic briefly abated during the Trump years in which Mr. McConnell was a favorite punching bag for conservatives. Mark Levin, the talk radio host and strident supporter of Mr. Trump, declared that Mr. McConnell had been “AWOL” from “challenging the lawless acts of the Biden campaign and Democrats.”