On Wednesday afternoon, the Republican-dominated North Carolina legislature called a surprise fourth special session, just after finishing a third special session to approve $200 million in disaster relief. By Wednesday night, Republicans had filed a raft of bills that would significantly curb the power of incoming Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who narrowly defeated Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in November; McCrory finally conceded the race last week, and Cooper doesn't take office until Jan. 1, 2017. Democrats did not know about the new special session, approved Monday, until noon on Wednesday.
The GOP bills would end the governor's control over state and county election boards, require State Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet appointees, strip him of authority to name trustees to the University of North Carolina, and cut to 300 from 1,500 the number of state employees who serve at the governor's pleasure, giving protection to hundreds of upper-level state employees appointed by McCrory, reversing an expansion McCrory approved right after he took over from his Democratic predecessor. Many of the election boards that would now have a bipartisan spilt had cut voting hours, polling locations, and Sunday voting when controlled by Republicans, measures all criticized as aiming to suppress black turnout.
Democrats had expressed concern that the GOP legislature would try to add two Republican justices to the Supreme Court, which flipped to a Democratic majority in the election, but instead Republicans filed a bill that would shift power from the Supreme Court to the GOP-majority Court of Appeals. "This is an unprecedented, shameful, and cowardly power grab from the Republicans," Jamal Little, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said of the GOP bills. Cooper was more restrained, urging lawmakers to, among other things, repeal HB 2, the transgender "bathroom" bill.
#NCGA should focus on higher teacher pay, better wages for working North Carolinians and repealing HB 2.
— Roy Cooper (@RoyCooperNC) December 15, 2016
Republicans did not exactly deny the power-grabbing accusation. "I think, to be candid with you, that you will see the General Assembly look to reassert its constitutional authority in areas that may have been previously delegated to the executive branch," Rep. David Lewis (R) told reporters, adding that "some of the stuff we're doing, obviously if the election results were different, we might not be moving quite as fast on." Republican legislators, he added, will "work to establish that we are going to continue to be a relevant party in governing the state." Peter Weber
President Trump announced last weekend he would "be holding a BIG rally in Pennsylvania" to mark his first 100 days in office, an event scheduled for Saturday that also gives the president alternative plans to the White House Correspondents' Dinner he has declined to attend.
The host of this year's dinner is The Daily Show's Hasan Minhaj, whom Reuters' Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, asked to focus on "the importance of a free press" instead of simply taking the opportunity to "roast the president in absentia." Mason added, "That doesn't mean there can't be some jokes about the president, but just that there should be some jokes on the press."
The dinner in Washington, D.C., and the rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, both begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be streamed live online. Watch the dinner via C-SPAN and the rally via CBS News. Bonnie Kristian
Leaders of the 27 nations remaining in the European Union after the United Kingdom's forthcoming Brexit on Saturday agreed unanimously to the terms of the exit process. "We are ready," said Michel Barnier, the EU27's chief negotiator. "We are together."
Formal negotiations will begin this summer, and the guidelines approved Saturday set March 29, 2019 as an end date. Among other requirements, the terms specify negotiations must address the U.K.'s financial obligations — Brussels seeks tens of billions of euros from London on its way out — as well as creation of an EU-U.K. border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Pope Francis on Saturday celebrated Mass with a crowd of about 15,000 in Cairo, Egypt, a visit made at the invitation of Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar and a leading moderate cleric and academic of Sunni Islam. The trip follows the Palm Sunday bombings of two Coptic Orthodox churches in Egypt that claimed at least 45 lives.
"God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!" Francis said in his homily. "Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him."
Francis will visit the Egyptian Catholic community later Saturday. His has used his visit to Egypt to urge peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims. Bonnie Kristian
The Turkish government has blocked access to Wikipedia, watchdog organizations said Saturday.
"After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651 [governing the internet], an administrative measure has been taken for this website," said a statement from the Turkish Information and Communication Technologies Authority, which did not provide an official reason for the block. The law the statement cited permits the government to ban websites deemed obscene or threatening to national security.
Turkish media reported authorities took issue with Wikipedia content "supporting terror" (or perhaps suggesting ties between Turkey and terrorist groups). When Wikipedia refused to remove the content in question, local stories said, the ban was Ankara's retaliation.
President Trump hit the 100-day mark of his presidency Saturday, a milestone he enthusiastically hailed in his weekly address the afternoon before.
"I truly believe that the first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country's history," Trump said in the brief video. "Our country is going up, and it's going up fast. Our companies are doing better. They just announced fantastic profits all because of what's happened in this rather short period of time, and that's just the beginning."
While other assessments of Trump's first 100 days have been rather more mixed, Trump is indisputably leading by one metric: He has signed more executive orders so far than any president since Harry Truman. Trump will spend his 100th day signing yet another order, this one ordering a study of the effects of current U.S. trade agreements, including the World Trade Organization. Bonnie Kristian
"I'm disappointed that it doesn't go quicker," Trump said of working with Congress earlier Friday. "It is a very tough system." The stopgap measure had been put in jeopardy by a White House push to pass health-care reform before the administration's 100th day Saturday, but House leadership chose to delay a health-care vote until at least next week, paving the way for the bipartisan spending bill.
Thousands are expected to gather Saturday in Washington, D.C., on President Trump's 100th day in office for the 2017 People's Climate March. Activists are hailing the event as an opportunity to fight for climate protections the Trump administration has threatened to roll back and to push the promise of clean energy. "The climate movement will convene in D.C. to show that the election didn't cancel physics," said climate activist and author Bill McKibben, who helped organize the first iteration of the People's Climate March, which took place in New York in 2014.
The march — which happens to fall on what could be a record-breakingly hot day in D.C. — will begin in front of the Capitol at 12:30 p.m. ET. Protesters are expected to make their way to the White House by 2 p.m. ET.
This will be the second science-related march in two weeks in D.C., following last weekend's March for Science, which coincided with Earth Day. Becca Stanek