‘Master race’ official resigns
A Kansas county commissioner bowed to intense pressure and resigned this week after referring to “the master race” at a meeting. Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp, who is white, listened to a presentation last week on road-development options from Triveece Penelton, who is black. Klemp rejected the proposal, explaining to Penelton, “I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you because we’re part of the master race.” The term is widely associated with white supremacy, though Klemp added that he and Penelton were members of the master race because they both have “gaps” in their teeth. Fellow commissioners called on Klemp to resign, as did outgoing Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer. Yet Leavenworth County Administrator Mark Loughry said Klemp has joked “on several occasions over the past year” that fellow gap-toothed people are “members of the master race,” arguing that the quip was simply “misconstrued.”
Five life sentences
Christopher Watts was sentenced this week to five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for murdering his wife, Shanann, 34, who was 15 weeks pregnant, along with their 4- and 3-year-old daughters, Bella and Celeste. “This is perhaps the most inhumane and vicious crime I have handled out of thousands of cases,” Judge Marcelo Kopcow said. In August, Watts, 33, begged on TV for the return of his missing family: “Shanna, Bella, Celeste, if you’re out there, just come back.” But Watts’ claim of innocence unraveled within days, as investigators determined that Watts, seeking a “fresh start” with another woman, smothered his daughters, strangled his wife, dumped the daughters in oil tanks where he worked, and buried his wife in a shallow grave. “You heartless monster,” Frank Rzucek said in court to Watts, his son-in-law. “I hope you see that every time you close your eyes at night.”
CNN gets a pass
The White House restored CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass this week, after a federal judge ruled that revoking Acosta’s access violated his right to due process. Although the Trump administration appeared to back down from its legal fight with CNN, Trump said if Acosta “misbehaves” again, “we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference.” The standoff began a day after the midterm elections, when Acosta persistently followed up with Trump about immigration policy. The White House released a doctored video that made it seem as though Acosta karate-chopped the arm of an intern reaching for the microphone. After a judge sided with CNN, the White House issued a list of rules for press conferences that limit reporters’ ability to ask follow-up questions, saying it would keep the option of revoking the passes of rule breakers.
Florida sued the two largest U.S. drugstore chains this week, arguing that the companies “played a role in creating the opioid crisis.” Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi said CVS and Walgreens failed to stop suspicious orders and “dispensed unreasonable quantities of opioids from their pharmacies.” The companies were added to a lawsuit filed last spring against opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin. A CVS spokesperson called the suit “without merit,” and said that CVS had taken action to improve safeguards; Walgreens did not comment. Because of lax regulation opioids dispensed from Florida pharmacies have wound up on the black market nationwide, resold at huge markups. The suit says Florida Walgreens pharmacies have dispensed billions of opioid dosages since 2006, including 2.2 million tablets from a single store in Hudson, Fla., a town of 12,000 near Tampa.
Golden: Newly elected
Democrat Jared Golden defeated New England’s lone House Republican, Bruce Poliquin, last week despite receiving fewer first-choice votes, thanks to Maine’s new ranked-choice voting system. Golden received 2,632 more first-choice votes than Poliquin but failed to receive a majority in the four-way Congressional race. After the second and third choices of voters who preferred the two trailing candidates were tallied, Golden led by 2,905, giving him 50.53 percent of the vote. Poliquin sued, arguing that the system was unconstitutional, but a federal judge declined to intervene. Poliquin refused to concede. “It is now officially clear I won the constitutional ‘one-person, one-vote,’ first-choice election,” he said, arguing that Maine used traditional voting “for more than 100 years.” The famously independent-minded state approved ranked-choice via ballot measure—using a conventional vote count.
Democrats contest Whitaker
The Acting AG
Three Senate Democrats sued this week to block the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, escalating a legal fight that could influence the fate of special counsel Robert Mueller. Whitaker served as chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was fired earlier this month. Before joining the government, Whitaker was a vocal critic of Mueller’s investigation into election interference, which is why President Trump reportedly chose him to lead Justice. The new lawsuit argues that Trump violated the Constitution by filling the Cabinet-level post with an official who wasn’t Senate-confirmed. Maryland filed a similar lawsuit last week. Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) threatened to block judicial appointments unless the Senate passed a bill protecting Mueller’s investigation, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for the Justice Department to investigate whether Whitaker has shared confidential details of the Mueller probe with the White House. ■