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Trump impeached after Capitol riot; historic second charge (copy)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House for a historic second time Wednesday, charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly mob siege of the Capitol in a swift and stunning collapse of his final days in office.

With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump. The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol, egged on by the president’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the election results.

Ten Republicans fled Trump, joining Democrats who said he needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a “clear and present danger” if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20.

All eight House Republicans from North Carolina, including 3rd District Congressman Greg Murphy of Greenville, voted against impeaching President Trump. All five Democratic House members from the state voted for the article of impeachment.

Trump is the only U.S. president to be twice impeached.

The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered lawmakers, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, imploring lawmakers to uphold their oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign “and domestic.”

She said of Trump: “He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Holed up at the White House, watching the proceedings on TV, Trump took no responsibility for the bloody riot seen around the world, but issued a statement urging “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind” to disrupt Biden’s ascension to the White House.

In the face of the accusations against him and with the FBI warning of more violence, Trump said, “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”

Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 acquit. He is the first to be impeached twice. None has been convicted by the Senate, but Republicans said Wednesday that could change in the rapidly shifting political environment as officeholders, donors, big business and others peel away from the defeated president.

The soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Trump is already set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office said. The legislation is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running again.

McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on the GOP, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who demanded anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations.

In a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer vowed there will be an impeachment trial of Trump, even if it’s after he leaves office and Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated.

Schumer said the trial will begin after Jan. 19. Biden is set to be sworn in on Jan. 20.

Unlike his first time, Trump faces this impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own reelection as well as the Senate Republican majority.

Even Trump ally Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, shifted his position and said Wednesday the president bears responsibility for the horrifying day at the Capitol.

In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanors” demanded in the Constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution approved Wednesday relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a rally near the White House on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.

Ten Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, voted to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

Cheney, whose father is the former Republican vice president, said of Trump’s actions summoning the mob that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President” of his office.

Trump was said to be livid with perceived disloyalty from McConnell and Cheney.

With the team around Trump hollowed out and his Twitter account silenced by the social media company, the president was deeply frustrated that he could not hit back, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

From the White House, Trump leaned on Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators to resist, while chief of staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill.

The president’s sturdy popularity with the GOP lawmakers’ constituents still had some sway, and most House Republicans voted not to impeach.

Security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol, with tall fences around the complex. Metal-detector screenings were required for lawmakers entering the House chamber, where a week earlier lawmakers huddled inside as police, guns drawn, barricade the door from rioters.

“We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

During the debate, some Republicans repeated the falsehoods spread by Trump about the election and argued that the president has been treated unfairly by Democrats from the day he took office.

Other Republicans argued the impeachment was a rushed sham and complained about a double standard applied to his supporters but not to the liberal left. Some simply appealed for the nation to move on.

Rep. Tom McClintock of California said, “Every movement has a lunatic fringe.”

Yet Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. and others recounted the harrowing day as rioters pounded on the chamber door trying to break in. Some called it a “coup” attempt.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., contended that Trump was “capable of starting a civil war.”

Conviction and removal of Trump would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will be evenly divided. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, Biden is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.

The impeachment bill drew from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

The House had first tried to persuade Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke their authority under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Pence declined to do so, but the House passed the resolution anyway.

The impeachment bill also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes.

While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.

Stockbridge to get larger: Project's final 2 phases approved

One of Elizabeth City’s largest subdivisions is about to get even larger.

City Council signed off Monday on developers’ request to finish the last two phases of Stockbridge at Tanglewood.

Developer SAT-DEV of Chesapeake, Va. plans to build 178 single-family homes in Phases 3 and 4 of the project, completing the 425 single-family home development off Halstead Boulevard Extended.

A spokesman for the engineering firm designing Stockbridge said almost all 118 lots in Phase 1 have been built on and that the 129 lots in Phase 2 are expected to sell out in the near future. City Council previously approved those phases.

“Phase 1 is completed, and if the houses haven’t been totally completed all the lots have been sold,” said Scott Stamm of Land Planning Solutions of Suffolk, Va. “They have started on Phase 2A and are getting ready to start on Phase 2B. The houses are selling fairly fast out there.”

Heather Sawyer, owner of United Country Real Estate of Elizabeth City, has sold many homes in the development. She agreed with Stamm, saying the “market is moving pretty quickly.”

“The new builds are moving and the second they put one up it is pretty much gone,” Sawyer said.

The cost of new homes in the subdivision originally started around $240,000 but are now approaching $300,000.

There are currently 11 new builds in the subdivision and all are under contract with an average price of around $283,000. In 2020, 16 new homes were built and sold with an average sale price of around $255,000. In 2019, 16 new homes were built and sold with an average price of $253,000.

“The new builds are priced higher than the previous ones they had built,” Sawyer said. “I am happy about that because it does help the re-sale value when you go to sell your home. Re-sale values there have definitely increased.”

Sawyer said the real estate market across the region remains strong. Sawyer said she listed a home last week and had six offers within 48 hours.

“Home values have increased significantly in the last 12 months,” she said. “The day you are listing, it feels like you are getting an offer within 72 hours.”

Stockbridge Phase 3 will include 60 residential lots while Phase 4 will be split into two phases with 61 and 57 residential lots, respectively. The developer is installing water and sewer in the subdivision and the utilities have been installed in the first two phases.

The average lot size in the last two phases will be 7,800 square feet. Both are located at the southern end of Mt. Everest Drive South.

“These two phases encompass about approximately 58 acres,” said City Planner Kellen Long.

The entire Stockbridge subdivision was originally approved in 2008 and it encompasses 213 acres, which includes the residential lots and 21 commercial lots.

The two new phases approved by City Council Monday also include four lots of open space, an 11,000-square foot pocket park and a walking trail around one of two dentition ponds. There will be a 1.4-acre park built in Phase 2 and the development already has multi-purpose trail, clubhouse, pool and tot lot for residents.

ARHS: Vaccine registrations 'robust' so far

Albemarle Regional Health Services says registrations for its new COVID vaccine distribution system that began this week have been “robust” so far.

ARHS spokeswoman Amy Underhill didn’t say in an email how many residents in the regional health department’s eight counties have registered at ARHS’ website to receive the vaccine. However, the system, which was announced late Monday, has allowed ARHS to better target residents 75 and older for vaccinations, she said.

“This has given us great access to target those priority groups,” Underhill said.

Persons 75 and older, along with health care workers and medical first responders, are the groups ARHS is currently targeting to receive their first dose of the vaccine. Health officials have said two doses of the same vaccine authorized for emergency use — Pfizer and Moderna — are required for the vaccinations to be 95% effective against COVID-19.

The registration system replaces the first-come, first-serve distribution method ARHS used at eight regional clinics last week to vaccinate more than 8,000 residents. That method spurred long lines and allowed others outside of the current target groups to get first doses of the vaccine.

Underhill indicated requiring target groups to register for vaccinations will allow more efficient use of ARHS’ limited supply of vaccine.

“The registration system will allow us to utilize our internal and external resources to plan for administering the vaccine and to utilize our vaccine allotments to their fullest extent,” she said.

Under the new system, residents in the current target group are asked to visit ARHS website and fill out a registration form at https://www.arhs-nc.org/information/COVID-19/vaccines/. To register, they have to click on the survey link for their county and provide their name and contact information. A member of the health department staff will then call them to set up an appointment.

Those registered will be given a specific date and time to show up for their vaccination, Underhill said. ARHS plans to administer the vaccinations at drive-thru clinics like those it operated last week. However, only those who pre-registered can get a COVID vaccination; others showing up for the clinics will be turned away, Underhill said. The first clinics under the new system are scheduled for Jan. 19-22.

ARHS plans to verify those who register for a vaccination are 75 or older, Underhill said. The agency has also said anyone trying to register for a vaccine in more than one county will have their name removed from the registration list.

ARHS said it expects to receive 2,800 doses of the vaccine for next week’s clinics, and distribution will be divided among the agency’s eight health departments the following way: Pasquotank County will get 600 doses; Currituck County will get 500 doses; Hertford County 400 doses; Bertie, Chowan and Perquimans counties will get 300 doses each; and Gates and Camden counties will get 200 each.

ARHS said the survey links for each county on its website will be disabled once registrations have reached that county’s vaccine allotment.

Underhill said the amount of vaccine ARHS receives will vary from week to week. She said the estimated amount ARHS expects to get next week is “a little on the lower end.”

Asked if the Trump administration’s changes to vaccine distribution, announced Tuesday, will affect how ARHS is currently scheduling vaccinations, Underhill said it will not.

“It will not change how we give the vaccine,” she said. “Someone has to make sure there is allocation for second doses.”

ARHS has said clinics administering the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be scheduled the last week of January and the first week of February. The agency said it will announce specific dates and times soon.

Several counties in ARHS’ service territory have set up methods to help register their citizens 75 and older for the vaccine clinics. Currituck County residents in that age group, for example, can call 252-232-2115 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and provide their name and contact information. Health department staff will then call them to set up an appointment.

The Chowan County Senior Center is advising residents 75 and older who want a vaccine to come in and they’ll help them register for the upcoming clinics. Senior center staff will also print out the registration form and help seniors fill it out.

Pasquotank water chief urging $4.1M RO plant upgrade

A $4.1 million upgrade to Pasquotank’s reverse-osmosis water treatment plant is among 10 priority needs outlined by the county water department earlier this week.

David Smithson, the water department’s superintendent, presented commissioners a preview of those priorities on Monday. The 10 recommendations, which would cost a total of $14.8 million, were compiled from a 20-year master plan presented to the board in September.

The $4.1 million RO plant upgrade became necessary after the county agreed in October to pay the South Mills Water Association $1.4 million for the Camden-based utility’s share of about 1,000 water customers in Newland. Those new customers will be served by Pasquotank’s RO plant, which is located on Foreman Bundy Road.

To meet the anticipated increase in demand, the RO plant will need to expand its production from 2 million gallons per day to 3 million gallons per day, Smithson said.

Smithson recommended the board include the necessary funding for the upgrade in the county’s 2021-22 fiscal-year budget that takes effect in July. He also recommended the county spend $7.3 million to upgrade the filtration system at the Weeksville water plant. However, commissioners won’t have to decide on that project until July 2024.

If commissioners agree to the upgrade, the project will include installing a new filtration procedure known as nano membrane filtration technology. The new system would make water produced in Weeksville interchangeable with water produced at the RO plant, Smithson said.

Smithson also recommends spending $1.7 million on 5,000 new residential water meters that would allow the water department to read the meters remotely. He recommended the board include funding for the meters in next year’s fiscal-year budget.

Smithson’s presentation also recommends changing the water department’s name from Pasquotank County Water System to Pasquotank County Utilities Department.

Another recommendation is to increase the department’s number of full-time workers from 22 to 24. Smithson said his staff recommends moving the department’s one part-time worker to full time and hiring one additional full-time water technician. Their salaries would range from $28,904 to $40,363, based on experience, he said. Smithson recommended commissioners also act on that request in next year’s budget.

In September, the Wilson-based water and sewer consultant Green Engineering presented its master plan to the Pasquotank Water Committee. The firm’s 20-year assessment includes a total of $49 million in recommended upgrades and improvements to the county’s water and sewer infrastructure.

One recommendation by Green Engineering that did not make Smithson’s list of immediate needs is a proposed new $19 million wastewater treatment plant.

Cooper activates NC National Guard amid 'security concerns' (copy)

RALEIGH — Nearly 550 members of the of the North Carolina National Guard have been mobilized in light of concerns over security in the state and nation’s capital, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday.

Cooper, a Democrat, is sending 200 guardsmen to the nation’s capital to assist local and civil authorities before and during President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. North Carolina is one of dozens of states sending personnel to Washington, D.C.

Cooper said the other 350 other guardsmen will remain for duty in North Carolina.

Guardsmen will be deployed for about a week.

“Ongoing security concerns in Washington, D.C. and state capitals around the nation following last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol must be taken seriously, and I will deploy necessary resources to keep North Carolinians safe,” Cooper wrote.

Increased threats of violence at state capitols across the country have emerged since a mob of violent supporters of President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an unsuccessful insurrection attempt that resulted in the deaths of five people.

Erik Hooks, state secretary of the Department of Public Safety, warned on Tuesday of “potential eventualities” and wants to ensure the state “maintains a high level of vigilance.”