After state officials voted unanimously to hold another election in the 9th Congressional District, Republican candidate Mark Harris announced this week that he will not run again. Harris, who won the original race by 905 votes, had demanded his victory be certified, but made a shocking about-face in testimony before the election board, which had produced evidence of ballot fraud within the Harris campaign. “The public’s confidence” in the election outcome, he testified, “has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.” His statement came after he tearfully watched his son, John, testify that he’d “raised red flags” about the campaign employee who allegedly organized a scheme to tamper with more than 1,000 absentee ballots. Mark Harris, a former Baptist pastor, said health issues would prevent him from running again. The state has not announced dates for the new election.
United Methodist Church leaders voted this week to strengthen the church’s bans on gay clergy and same-sex marriage, threatening to split the country’s second-largest Protestant denomination. Officials voted 438 to 384 to adopt the “Traditional Plan,” imposing greater punishments for violating church policy—including a one-year, unpaid suspension for clergy who officiate at same-sex weddings. The church claims more than 12 million members worldwide. Some of its biggest growth is in Africa; Jerry Kulah, head of the UMC Africa Initiative, said the church would become a “laughingstock” if it opened its arms to gay members. A counterproposal that would have allowed local churches to set their own stances was rejected. “It is time for another movement,” said Rev. Mike Slaughter of Ohio. “We don’t know what that is yet, but it is something new.”
The White House plans to assemble a hand-picked group of researchers who would challenge the science of climate change, multiple outlets reported this week. The National Security Council initiative would feature scientists who’ve contested the severity of global warming and the damage done by fossil fuels. The ad hoc group would likely bypass the rules on disclosure and public comment that bind other federal committees. In response, Senate Democrats began drafting legislation to block the panel. Republicans have accused Democrats of using climate change to justify a broad liberal agenda. For their part, Democrats characterize climate denial as a disease that has infected the GOP. The panel was reportedly conceived in response to President Trump’s anger over last November’s interagency National Climate Assessment, which described climate change as a security threat to the U.S.
Not just men
An all-male military draft is unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled last week. He cited a 1981 Supreme Court decision, which found that male-only conscription was “fully justified” because women were prohibited from combat roles. After the Defense Department lifted all restrictions on women service members in 2015, Miller said, the precedent became dated. “If there ever was a time to discuss ‘the place of women in the Armed Services,’” he wrote, “that time has passed.” The case was brought by a men’s rights group, the National Coalition for Men. Although Americans haven’t been drafted in more than 40 years, men are required to register for the draft upon turning 18, and failure to do so can still lead to fines, prison, or the denial of government services. Miller did not demand that the government take any immediate steps to comply with his ruling.
The House voted this week to overturn President Trump’s declaration of an emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s a largely symbolic challenge to Trump’s authority, given his certain veto should the resolution pass the Senate in the coming weeks. Thirteen Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic caucus in the vote, after Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave an impassioned speech on the House floor while waving a pocket copy of the Constitution. “We are not going to give any president, Democrat or Republican, a blank check to shred the Constitution,” she said. Three GOP senators have said they will support the resolution, although both chambers appear far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who authored the House resolution, called it the most important vote to limit presidential overreach in a generation.
Police this week said that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft would be charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitutes. He is among 25 men facing charges following an investigation of Florida spas suspected of forcing immigrant employees into sex work. Kraft, 77, who also owns pro soccer’s New England Revolution, was twice videotaped in January paying for sex at the Orchids of Asia massage parlor, police said. One visit occurred hours before the Patriots earned a trip to the Super Bowl, where they won their sixth NFL championship since Kraft bought the team in 1994. A Patriots spokesperson denied that Kraft engaged in “any illegal activity.” Prosecutors say that, if convicted, he would likely not receive jail time. Kraft, a widower since 2011, owns a home in Palm Beach, Fla., and arrived at the massage parlor in his chauffeur-driven white Bentley.