North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen looking for information on election security in North Carolina. This comes on the heels of last week's indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller of 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian businesses for interfering in the 2016 election. Stein joined BPR's Jeremy Loeb to discuss that and other matters.
Asked if North Carolina was ready for the 2018 election, Stein, a Democrat, said he hoped so, "And what I want to ensure is that we are ready and that we have secure elections infrastructure so that there are no hostile acts by foreign powers or anyone who wants to interfere with our elections."
"We now know that in the 2016 election, it was the unanimous view of our intelligence agencies that the Russians attacked our election infrastructure and tried to create division through social media."
Stein told BPR he was dismayed to learn about attacks specifically in North Carolina. The special counsel indictment documented a case of Russians using fake Twitter accounts posing as the Tennessee GOP to falsely claim there were investigations of voter fraud in North Carolina. After the election, Russians formed an anti-Trump rally, "Charlotte Against Trump." The Russians would often cooridnate opposing rallies to sow confusion, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
In other topics, Stein described for BPR his meeting with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, in which Stein argued North Carolina should be exempted from the Trump administration's plan to open most U.S. waters to offshore drilling. Stein said he would absolutely sue if North Carolina is not exempted.
"I will do everything in my power to protect our shore and all the jobs and all the livelihoods that depend on it."
BPR also questioned Stein about a bill sponsored by Western North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry. The Asheville Citizen-Times writes about the controversy surrounding the bill in this article "Critics Say McHenry Bill Would Revive Payday Lending in North Carolina; He Disagrees." The article quotes McHenry as stating "Not only is the bill not intended to override payday lending laws, there is nothing in the bill that would allow that to occur."
Stein isn't so sure. "What I am gravely concerned about... is it will preempt our laws by allowing payday lenders to join with banks and essentially rent that bank charter so that they are then exempt from our state consumer protection laws. That would be absolutely wrong, a huge step backwards for what we've accomplished for North Carolina consumers."