NC SUPREME COURT WILL REMOVE PORTRAIT OF BRUTAL SLAVE OWNER: Thomas Ruffin, a slave owner in the 1800s, believed an owner's power over his slave was absolute. He once wrote in a court ruling that slaveholders should not be convicted for the assault or battery of an enslaved person. The court's decision to remove the portrait took note of Ruffin's slave ownership and his rulings defending slavery. Its announcement said Ruffin was regarded by his contemporaries as “particularly brutal in his ownership of slaves.” “It is important that our courtroom spaces convey the highest ideals of justice and that people who come before our Court feel comfortable knowing that they will be treated fairly,” Beasley wrote.
CAWTHORN AND BUDD PLAN TO CONTEST BIDEN VICTORY: “The right to vote in a free and fair election is the cornerstone of our Republic. Attempts to subvert the Constitutional authority of state legislatures to conduct elections strikes at the very heart of representative government. I choose to stand in the breach, to fight for us,” Cawthorn wrote on Twitter on Monday. Budd sent a letter to his Republican House colleagues from North Carolina, asking them to join with him in objecting. The News & Observer has reached out to their offices to see if they plan to object as well. “The people of North Carolina chose Donald Trump to be reelected. We should not allow the lack of election integrity in other states (to) deprive us of the president that we voted for,” he wrote in the letter dated Dec. 22. Republican Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville of Alabama has indicated he may object to the results, though Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his members not to object. Senate Majority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, told CNN that any objection “would go down like a shot dog” in the Senate.
WHITE SUPREMACIST GROUP DISCUSSED ATTACKING THE POWER GRID: The Ohio teen, who was 17 at the time, also shared plans with a smaller group about a plot to create a power outage by shooting rifle rounds into power stations in the southeastern U.S. The teen called the plot “Light's Out” and there were plans to carry it out in the summer of 2021, the affidavit states. One group member, a Texas native who was a Purdue University student at the time, allegedly sent the informant a text saying “leaving the power off would wake people up to the harsh reality of life by wreaking havoc across the nation.” Some group members also indicated that they were prepared to die for their beliefs. One man from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, allegedly told the Ohio teen: “I can say with absolute certainty that I will die for this effort. I swear it on my life.” The teen replied: “I can say the same,” the court documents state. According to the affidavit, the Wisconsin man also told an undercover FBI employee in February that the group was interested in taking “direct action” against the system and said, “If you truly want a fascist society I will put in the effort to work with you but recruitment is long and not going to be easy."
TRUMP PARDONS 20, INCLUDING 4 BLACKWATER MERCENARIES CONVICTED OF MURDER: The four private security contractors Trump pardoned — Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — all worked for the now infamous Blackwater Worldwide security company, founded by Trump supporter Erik Prince. Trump has long viewed Prince as an ally, and mused about giving him more government contracts during his presidency, according to White House officials and Trump advisers. The September 2007 shooting in which the Blackwater contractors were involved left 14 dead and 17 wounded and set off a diplomatic crisis on oversight of American security contractors during one of the deadliest periods in the Iraq War. Slatten had been sentenced to life in prison; Slough and Liberty to 15 years; and Heard to 12 years and seven months. The pre-Christmas pardons and commutations came as the president has been exploring how to reward friends and allies in his waning days in the White House, with more acts of clemency expected to come. Trump has told advisers he wants to be liberal with pardons and plans to sign more before leaving office on Jan. 20, according to people familiar with his views. Trump gave a full pardon to George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to his 2016 campaign who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its Russia investigation. Trump also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who had worked with Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in work related to Ukraine and pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to Mueller’s team.
NETANYAHU'S COALITION GOVERNMENT COLLAPSES, NEW ISRAELI ELECTIONS FORTHCOMING: The Israeli Parliament dissolved itself at midnight on Tuesday. The move forced a new election after weeks of infighting and paralysis in the so-called unity government, an uneasy coalition sworn in just seven months ago that paired Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party with his main rival-turned-partner, Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz blamed each other for the crisis. “I think at the current time, we should have united forces to find a way to avert these needless elections,” Mr. Netanyahu said in Parliament early Tuesday as he tried, and failed, to seek a delay in its dissolution. A new election must take place in three months and is scheduled for March 23. But an election date in the late spring or summer, once the coronavirus vaccination campaign is well underway, might have been more advantageous for Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu, whose party holds the finance portfolio, had refused to present a budget, in violation of his coalition agreement with Mr. Gantz — the ostensible reason for the government breakdown. But at the heart of the crisis lies a deep, mutual distrust between the two men and a country fundamentally split over the fate of Mr. Netanyahu, whose corruption trial is scheduled to move into an intensive, evidentiary stage in early 2021, requiring his regular presence in court. He has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing.