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Pelosi orders Trump impeachment inquiry: 'No one is above the law'

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put into motion a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, yielding to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats and plunging a deeply divided nation into an election year clash between Congress and the commander in chief.

The inquiry focuses partly on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine Democratic foe Joe Biden and help his own reelection. Pelosi said such actions would mark a “betrayal of his oath of office” and declared: “No one is above the law.”

The impeachment inquiry, after months of investigations by House Democrats of the Trump administration, sets up the party’s most direct and consequential confrontation with the president, injects deep uncertainty into the 2020 election campaign and tests anew the nation’s constitutional system of checks and balances.

Trump, who thrives on combat, has all but dared Democrats to take this step, confident that the specter of impeachment led by the opposition party will bolster rather than diminish his political support.

Meeting with world leaders at the United Nations, he previewed his defense in an all-caps tweet: “PRESIDENTIAL HARRASSMENT!”

Pelosi’s brief statement, delivered without dramatic flourish but in the framework of a constitutional crisis, capped a frenetic weeklong stretch on Capitol Hill as details of a classified whistleblower complaint about Trump burst into the open and momentum shifted toward an impeachment investigation.

For months, the Democratic leader has tried calming the push for impeachment, saying the House must investigate the facts and let the public decide. The new drive was led by a group of moderate Democratic lawmakers from political swing districts, many of them with national security backgrounds and serving in Congress for the first time.

The freshmen, who largely represent districts previously held by Republicans where Trump is popular, risk their own reelections but say they could no longer stand idle. Amplifying their call were longtime leaders, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights icon often considered the conscience of House Democrats.

“Now is the time to act,” Lewis said in a speech to the House. “To delay or to do otherwise would betray the foundation of our democracy.”

At issue are Trump’s actions with Ukraine. In a summer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, he is said to have asked for help investigating former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter. In the days before the call, Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400 million in military aid for Ukraine — prompting speculation that he was holding out the money as leverage for information on the Bidens. Trump has denied that charge, but acknowledged he blocked the money, later released.

Biden said Tuesday, before Pelosi’s announcement, that if Trump doesn’t cooperate with lawmakers’ demands for documents and testimony in its investigations the president “will leave Congress ... with no choice but to initiate impeachment.” He said that would be a tragedy of Trump’s “own making.”

The Trump-Ukraine phone call is part of the whistleblower’s complaint, though the administration has blocked Congress from getting other details of the report, citing presidential privilege. Trump has authorized the release of a transcript of the call, which is to be made public today, Wednesday .

“You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call,” Trump said.

Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

While the possibility of impeachment has hung over Trump for many months, the likelihood of an investigation had faded after special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation ended without a clear directive for lawmakers.

Since then, the House committees have revisited aspects of the Mueller investigation while also starting new inquiries into Trump’s businesses and various administration scandals that all seemed likely to drag on for months.

But details of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine prompted Democrats to quickly shift course. By the time Pelosi spoke to the nation Tuesday, about two-thirds of House Democrats had announced moving toward impeachment investigations.

The burden will likely now shift to Democrats to make the case to a scandal-weary public. In a highly polarized Congress, an impeachment inquiry could simply showcase how clearly two sides can disagree when shown the same evidence rather than approach consensus.

Building toward this moment, the president has repeatedly been stonewalling requests for documents and witness interviews in the variety of ongoing investigations.

After Pelosi’s announcement Tuesday, the president and his campaign team quickly released a series of tweets attacking Democrats, including a video of presidential critics like the speaker and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar discussing impeachment. It concluded: “While Democrats ‘Sole Focus’ is fighting Trump, President Trump is fighting for you.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Pelosi’s well-known “efforts to restrain her far-left conference have finally crumbled.”

Pelosi has for months resisted calls for impeachment from her restive caucus, warning that it would backfire against the party unless there was a groundswell of public support. That groundswell hasn’t occurred, but some of the more centrist lawmakers are facing new pressure back home for not having acted on impeachment.

While Pelosi’s announcement adds weight to the work being done on the oversight committees, the next steps are likely to resemble the past several months of hearings and legal battles — except with the possibility of actual impeachment votes.

Today, Wednesday, the House is expected to consider a symbolic but still notable resolution insisting the Trump administration turn over to Congress the whistleblower’s complaint. The Senate, in a rare bipartisan moment, approved a similar resolution Tuesday.

The attorney for the whistleblower, who is still anonymous, released a statement saying he had asked Trump’s director of national intelligence to turn over the complaint to House committees and asking guidance to permit the whistleblower to meet with lawmakers.

Pelosi suggested that this new episode — examining whether a president abused his power for personal political gain — would be easier to explain to Americans than some of the issues that arose during the Mueller investigation and other congressional investigations.

The speaker put the matter in stark terms: “The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of his national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

Greensboro Aquatic Center opens fourth pool

The Greensboro Aquatic Center celebrated its new pool Tuesday in part with a swim lesson featuring Olympic swimmer Hali Flickinger, who worked with Archer Elementary students. The extra pool adds 19 short-course lanes and eight long-course lanes, which officials said will provide more pool time for center members, clubs and high school teams. It will also enhance the center’s ability to host championship competitive swimming and diving meets, officials said. The $8.3 million addition was paid for with hotel occupancy revenues.

Report: 11% of North Carolina's children live in high-poverty neighborhoods

RALEIGH — Eleven percent of the state’s children live in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Black and Latino children are more likely to live in neighborhoods where 30% or more of the residents live in poverty, according to a press release from NC Child. Black children are six times more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to the press release, and Latino children are five times more likely to live in these neighborhoods. NC Child receives grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

North Carolina was one of 25 states with more than 10% of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to the foundation’s data.

At the same time, the unemployment rate for parents has dropped from 8% in 2012 to 3% in 2018, according to foundation data. The percentage of low-income working families with children has dropped from 26% in 2016 to 24% in 2018. And the report says that children living in concentrated poverty declined 8% from 2008-2012 to 2013-2017.

Any progress is good, said Whitney Tucker, NC Child’s research director. But the decline in unemployment doesn’t a account for parents who are underemployed or who are working two or three jobs, she said.

“Lower unemployment doesn’t mean families aren’t still struggling,” she said. “Just having a job doesn’t necessarily mean you have enough.”

Neighborhoods where children grow up have been shown to influence their success in adulthood, The New York Times has reported.

Middle-class black families are more likely to live in low-income neighborhoods than low-income white families, according to a New York Times report. The disparity was attributed to historical housing discrimination and the racial wealth gap.

NC Child supports policies such as expanding Medicaid, which would allow more parents to have health insurance; expanding location-specific employment training, and ending discriminatory practices in employment, housing, and finance.

NC Child supports the Medicaid expansion bill under consideration in the House, House bill 655, which would allow more adults who meet income requirements to enroll in the government heath insurance program if they are working and pay a 2 percent premium.

North Carolina should consider an employment training program similar to EARN Maryland, a state grant program Tucker described as “industry-specific and regionally focused.”

NC Child also supports broad policy changes such as “Ban the Box” legislation, which would prohibit employers from asking about criminal convictions on job applications, and paid sick leave, so low-wage parents don’t have to worry about missing work to take care of a sick child, Tucker said.

A Ban the Box bill was filed in the state legislature in 2017. The bill died in committee without getting a hearing.

House Bill 46, filed this year, includes provisions that would “Ban the Box” and require employers offer paid sick leave, but has not had a committee hearing.

The increased likelihood of minority families living in low-income neighborhoods “is not because those parents are working any less hard than other parents,” Tucker said.

An interesting article in today's paper

Gut check: KFC’s new fried chicken and doughnut sandwich is turning heads — and stomachs. Page B1

One case of mumps is confirmed at Elon University

ELON A student at Elon University has contracted the mumps amid reports of the disease at other colleges in North and South Carolina.

Elon said Tuesday that only one case of this contagious disease has been confirmed on campus and said it’s unaware of any other confirmed or suspected cases of mumps. It also said the Alamance County Health Department believes the student, which Elon identified only as an undergraduate, is no longer contagious.

Elon said it will work with local and state health officials to contact roommates, classmates and others who might have had contact with the affected student. They’ll make available to these people a third dose of the measles, mumps and rubella, or MMR, vaccine later this week.

Most people get two doses of the MMR vaccine as children. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said two doses are 88% effective against mumps. The center said a third dose might be needed in case of a mumps outbreak.

Elon said it complies with state law that requires the vast majority of college students to have several vaccinations before starting classes. In North Carolina, at least two doses of the mumps vaccine or proof of immunity against mumps is required. Elon said “nearly all” of its students have had at least two rounds of shots against mumps.

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It’s spread through direct contact with saliva or by respiratory droplets by someone who coughs, sneezes or talks. Sharing water bottles, kissing, playing sports or other close-contact activities and touching objects with unwashed hands also can spread mumps.

People with mumps have puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite. Symptoms don’t usually appear until at least two weeks after a person is affected. Most people recover in about two weeks.

Many people with mumps show few symptoms and might not be aware they have the disease, according to the CDC. In rare cases, mumps can lead to severe complications such as pancreatitis, encephalitis, meningitis or deafness.

Elon is the second school in North Carolina where mumps has turned up recently.

Five suspected cases of mumps were reported last week at High Point University, according to media reports. HPU said Tuesday that four of those cases tested positive for mumps.

In a message to campus, High Point said the affected students have “received appropriate care and have been provided with alternative housing.” The university also said custodians are cleaning campus common areas more frequently to reduce the chance that mumps will spread.

News outlets reported Tuesday that three students at the College of Charleston in South Carolina have tested positive for mumps since last week.