October 18, 2011

Mark Grapin of Fairfax County, Va., says his local building department laughed him off the phone when he asked if he needed a permit to build a tree house for his sons. It was only after Grapin spent $1,400 and six weekends building the arboreal hideaway that a county inspector — tipped off by complaining neighbors — decided the tree house violated local zoning laws. Grapin spent $1,800 seeking a zoning variance, only to be denied. Now, he might have to tear the tree house down. "I don't have the heart for it," Grapin says. "I'm gonna go pay some day laborers and hide... while they take a saw to it." The Week Staff

2:24 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a lower court's order that North Carolina's Republican-controlled General Assembly redraw the state's congressional map by Jan. 24, well before the 2018 election, on the grounds that it is excessively partisan. The state can continue using the current map through the appeals process, meaning North Carolina will likely use its gerrymandered map in 2018.

When Republicans approved the district map's criteria in February 2016, they were pretty open about the goal being to keep 10 of North Carolina's 13 U.S. House seats in GOP hands, despite the close partisan split in the state. The three-judge federal panel ruled earlier this month that such "invidious partisan discrimination" violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause, with two judges also saying it violated the First Amendment. All nine Supreme Court justices weighed in on the appeal from North Carolina Republicans, and the court order notes that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the stay.

The eventual outcome of the North Carolina case will be swayed by whatever the high court decides in a raft of gerrymandering cases this term from Wisconsin, Maryland, and Texas. Peter Weber

1:56 a.m. ET
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Depending on who you ask, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie either did or did not get shunned at a super special entrance to Newark Liberty International Airport on Thursday.

Christie tried to pass through a gate he used as governor that would have let him bypass security, a person with knowledge of the incident told ABC News. He was turned away, with an agent showing him the way to the security line for regular people. Christie was accompanied by a state trooper, and as an outgoing governor, he could have a security detail for up to six months. Throughout the incident, ABC News says, Christie was polite to everyone and didn't make a scene about being stopped at the entrance.

On Twitter, though, Christie called the report "pure fiction," tweeting that he was actually led to the entrance and informed "that this was the wrong way to enter." Christie said he was directed to the right spot, and not only was "neither option the way I entered [the] airport as governor," but agents also "never denied me entry at either place."

Look, it's hard out there for former governors who leave office with rock-bottom approval ratings. When you're used to being able to do things like order the closing of every beach in the state ahead of the 4th of July, then open one up just for you and your family to enjoy, only to get annoyed when people have the nerve to be upset by photos showing you and your beach chair just chilling in the sand, it can be hard to adjust to regular life. Let's cut Christie some slack. Catherine Garcia

1:32 a.m. ET

Hungary's national police issued an arrest warrant for Sebastian Gorka, a Fox News analyst and former adviser to President Trump, in September 2016, and it is still active, The Associated Press and other media organizations report. That means Gorka was wanted in Hungary for unspecified "firearm or ammunition abuse" for the entire time he worked in the Trump White House, until his departure in August 2017. The warrant, still posted on the website of Hungary's national police, was first reported by the Hungarian news site 444.

Gorka served as a national security aide to Trump, but his role was never clearly laid out and, AP says, he never got clearance to work on the National Security Council due at least in part to a January 2016 weapons charge at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. The unspecified weapons charge in Budapest could have been from an incident as far back as 2009, 444 noted, and Gorka points out that he moved to the U.S. from Hungary in 2008, without denying that the warrant exists.

"Don't waste your time," he told BuzzFeed News. "I don't talk to BuzzFeed, thank you." Gorka told the Washington Examiner he did "not really" have a comment because he moved to America in 2008, calling the report "more #FAKENEWS" but declining again to say if was in Hungary after he moved to the U.S. Gorka was born in London to Hungarian parents and lived in Hungary from 1992 to 2008. Peter Weber

1:01 a.m. ET
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One month before the 2016 presidential election, President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen set up a private company in Delaware to pay former adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence regarding alleged sexual encounters with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Journal spoke with people familiar with the matter and looked at state records showing that on Oct. 17, 2016, Cohen established Essential Consultants LLC, then used a bank account linked to the company to send $130,000 to the client-trust account of an attorney representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. In Delaware, it's easier to set up business entities and there's more privacy, with many companies choosing to hire lawyers or agents to appear on the formation documents. In this case, Cohen is listed as the "authorized person" for the company, the Journal reports.

People with knowledge of the situation said pseudonyms were used to conduct the business, with Clifford referred to as "Peggy Peterson." Records also show that on Sept. 30, 2016, Cohen started an entity in Delaware called Resolution Consultants LLC, but on Oct. 17, just two minutes after creating Essential Consultants, he dissolved Resolution Consultants, for unknown reasons. The Journal first reported last week that Cohen paid Daniels off; he denies doing so. Catherine Garcia

12:26 a.m. ET

The government starts shutting down Saturday morning if Congress can't pass yet another stopgap spending bill. "This really is amazing, we've reached a point somehow at which North and South Koreans have a better relationship than Republicans and Democrats do," Jimmy Kimmel shrugged on Thursday's Kimmel Live. Republicans have spent the week trying to blame Democrats for shutting down the government, but the GOP controls the House, the Senate, and the White House, he noted. "Democrats can't even shut down their computers without Paul Ryan's permission."

To persuade Democrats — who are insisting on a plan to protect DREAMers — to vote for the stopgap bill, Republicans have attached a six-month extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired 100 days ago. "Funding for CHIP should have never been allowed to run out in the first place," Kimmel said. "This is a program that's supported overwhelmingly by both parties, Republicans and Democrats, and all Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell had to do is put it up for a vote and it would have been a done deal. But they decided to use it as a bargaining tool instead, and so now we're on the brink of the whole government shutting down."

"And I know this is complicated," Kimmel said — some conservatives criticized his understanding of the legislative process during a Twitter fight on Wednesday night — "but I have a way to illustrate what's going on that I hope will make sense in a simple way. Now bring in the coffee cart." In this episode of "Barista Theater," the cappuccino (standing in for CHIP) was a two-for-one affair. Scene over, Kimmel reiterated that Republicans are baldly using CHIP as leverage, adding that "unfortunately for them, this ruse got a little more difficult this morning to pull off," thanks to one of President Trump's "weird, occasional flashes of common sense." Watch below. Peter Weber

January 18, 2018
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President Trump isn't going to let a looming government shutdown get in the way of his $100,000-per-couple inauguration anniversary extravaganza.

The celebration is set for Saturday at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, and the ticket covers dinner and a photograph with Trump. To have the chance to take part in a roundtable with Trump and talk about who knows what, the price bumps up to $250,000 a pair. The event is hosted by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and casino owner and RNC finance chairman Steve Wynn, and it will benefit Trump's re-election campaign and the RNC. (The invitation left off the Romney part of McDaniel's name, Bloomberg notes, the part she shares with uncle and Trump critic Mitt.)

While workers rush to get Mar-a-Lago ready for the jubilee, Washington is struggling to pass a short-term spending bill that keeps the government open past Friday. The House passed a stopgap measure, but the bill's fate in the Senate remains uncertain, and senators won't gather to vote until 11 a.m. Friday. A person close to Trump told Bloomberg his advisers think the Senate will pass a bill and Trump won't be needed in D.C. Catherine Garcia

January 18, 2018
L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Media/Pool Photo via AP

Their guests were strangers and the wedding feast was airplane food, but when Pope Francis offers to marry you while flying 36,000 feet above Chile, you work with what you've got.

Carlos Ciuffardi and Paula Podest are flight attendants with LATAM, Chile's flagship airline, and they were aboard the pontiff's Thursday flight from Santiago to Iquique. They were married in a civil ceremony in 2010 and had a church ceremony planned, but an earthquake toppled their church's bell tower and their wedding was canceled. Life and the birth of two children got in the way, and the couple never rescheduled. They asked Pope Francis for a blessing, and when he heard their story, he immediately asked if they would like him to marry them right there and then.

"He told me it's historic, that there has never before been a pope who married someone aboard a plane," Ciuffardi told reporters. A Vatican official scrambled to put together a marriage certificate for the stunned couple, while Francis gave the second-time-around newlyweds some tips on wedded bliss, including making sure "the wedding rings shouldn't be too tight, because they'll torture you," Podest said. Catherine Garcia

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