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Christmas Kid — Evelyn Turner

Name: Evelyn Turner

Age: 4

Parents: Daryl Lighthall and Destiny Diggs

What do you think it is like to be one of Santa’s elves?: I think they get presents ready for children.

For Christmas, I’m giving my Mom and/or Dad: I’m giving cups, plate, spoons and bowls.

What is your favorite family Christmas tradition?: Seeing Santa at Carmela’s Magical Santa Land.


Roberts seems to hold key to case over New York City gun law

WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John Roberts appeared Monday to be the key vote in whether the Supreme Court considers expanding gun rights or sidesteps its first case on the issue in nearly 10 years.

The court’s dismissal of the case would be a disappointment to gun-rights advocates and a huge relief to gun-control groups. Both sides thought a conservative Supreme Court majority fortified by two appointees of President Donald Trump, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, might use the case to expand on landmark decisions from a decade ago that established a right to keep a gun at home for self-defense.

The arguments dealt with a dispute over New York City restrictions on taking licensed, locked and unloaded guns outside the city limits. New York has dropped its transport ban, but only after the high court decided in January to hear the case.

The justices spent most of the hour trying to determine whether anything is left of the case brought by the National Rifle Association’s New York affiliate and three city residents, after the change in New York law.

Roberts sought assurances in a handful of questions to the city’s lawyer that New York police would not refuse to issue gun licenses to people who have may have violated the old law.

“Would the fact of a violation of the prior law be used against them?” Roberts asked Richard Dearing, the lawyer representing the city.

“It will not. It absolutely will not,” Dearing replied, as part of his argument urging the justices to get rid of the case.

The four liberal justices made clear they are likely to vote for dismissal. “So what’s left of this case? Petitioners have gotten all the relief they sought,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on the bench for the first time since a recent two-night hospital stay.

Paul Clement, representing the gun owners, said his clients are entitled to an order from a federal court, not just the representations of the city’s lawyer. In one example, Clement said it is unclear whether a gun owner headed to a shooting range could stop for coffee or a bathroom break without breaking the law.

His argument appeared to win favor with at least two conservative justices, Samuel Alito and Gorsuch. When Dearing said coffee and rest stops are permissible, they asked about whether a gun owner would be at risk by stopping at his mother’s house.

Dearing replied he was less sure about other kinds of stops, but that people could challenge such a restriction in a new case.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who has lamented the court’s reluctance to take on gun cases, asked no questions, as is his custom. Kavanaugh also was silent throughout the arguments, but his record in guns cases includes a dissent when his federal appeals court upheld the District of Columbia’s ban on semi-automatic rifles.

“Gun bans and gun regulations that are not longstanding or sufficiently rooted in text, history, and tradition are not consistent with the Second Amendment individual right,” Kavanaugh wrote in 2011.

For years, the NRA and its allies have tried to get the court to say more about gun rights, even as mass shootings may have caused the justices to shy away from taking on new disputes over gun limits.

The lawsuit in New York began as a challenge to the city’s prohibition on carrying a licensed, locked and unloaded handgun outside the city limits, either to a shooting range or a second home.

Lower courts upheld the regulation, but the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case caused officials at both the city and state level to scramble to find a way to remove the case from the justices’ grasp. Not only did the city change its regulation to allow licensed gun owners to transport their weapons to locations outside New York’s five boroughs, but the state enacted a law barring cities from imposing the challenged restrictions.

But those moves failed to get the court to dismiss the case.

The city does contend that what it calls its “former rule” did not violate the Constitution, although Dearing conceded that police determined the rule could be repealed without making New York’s streets more dangerous.

He added that police would have to “work harder” to verify that people legally have their guns with them.

That comment prompted a display of the justices’ intimate knowledge of the city and surrounding area. Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are New York natives, as is Ginsburg. Gorsuch spent his college years at Columbia University in Manhattan and Alito worked many years in nearby Newark, New Jersey.

Alito wanted to know why it’s harder for police to check on a Manhattan resident with a gun who says he’s headed to “a firing range in Jersey City, which is right across the river,” than one in the city’s Staten Island.

“How about somebody who lives in the north Bronx says, ‘I’m going across the border to Westchester County.’ That’s tougher for you to look into than, ‘Yes, I’m going all the way to Staten Island?” Alito asked.

A decision is expected by late June.


Impeachment shadows Trump on trip to NATO leaders meeting

LONDON — Crying foul over timing, President Donald Trump on Monday accused Democrats of scheduling this week’s impeachment hearing to undercut him during his trip abroad for a NATO leaders’ meeting playing out at a crucial moment for the 70-year-old military alliance.

Trump, who arrived in London late Monday for two days of meetings, called the trip “one of the most important journeys that we make as president” before departing Washington and noted Democrats had long known about the meeting.

The president lashed out at Democrats again soon after arriving in the U.K. He said on Twitter that he had read the Republican report designed to counter Democrats’ impeachment case on his flight. The report, which was obtained by The Associated Press, called Trump’s hesitation to provide military aid to Ukraine “entirely prudent.”

“Prior to landing I read the Republicans Report on the Impeachment Hoax. Great job! Radical Left has NO CASE. Read the Transcripts,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Shouldn’t even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?”

It was not immediately clear under what legal grounds Trump was calling for the high court’s involvement.

Trump’s trip comes amid ongoing quarrels over defense spending by NATO allies and widespread anxiety over the president’s commitment to the alliance.

The president said his trip would be focused on “fighting for the American people.” But in the more than two months that the impeachment inquiry has been underway, he has constantly drifted back to what he frames as the Democrats’ unfair effort to overturn the results of his 2016 election.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on the constitutional grounds for impeachment before Trump wraps up at the NATO meeting.

Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway all complained about the timing, with Pompeo saying the hearings would “distract America’s president from his important mission overseas.”

Trump insists he’s solely focused on scoring domestic and foreign policy wins, including revamping NATO so that allies spend more on defense. But he’s often appeared consumed by the day-to-day battle against impeachment.

In recent days he’s repeatedly lashed out about the “impeachment hoax” and the “scam” inquiry, even delving into impeachment at a ceremony to celebrate NCAA athletes and at last week’s annual Turkey pardon.

White House aides say the summit offers Trump an opportunity to counter the impeachment narrative in Washington and demonstrate to voters that he’s keeping a business-as-usual approach while Democrats concentrate on the probe.

But soon after Air Force One departed, Trump took to Twitter to slam “Do Nothing Democrats” for scheduling the hearing during the NATO meeting as “Not nice!””

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Madrid for a U.N. conference on climate change, declined to comment about the impeachment inquiry, saying, “When we travel abroad, we don’t talk about the president in a negative way. We save that for home.”

Trump is only the fourth U.S. president in history to face an impeachment inquiry. The gravity of impeachment is likely to play into the calculus of how other global leaders engage the president going forward, in the view of some analysts.

“In one sense impeachment is weakening his hand diplomatically,” said Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington. “For a normal president, it would be seen as a substantial problem. For Donald Trump, he’s going to try to blow right through it and act is if that’s not a relevant factor.”

The NATO leaders meeting is a complicated backdrop for Trump to make his first extended overseas visit —he made a quick Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan — since Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly criticized fellow NATO members and complained that too few nations are on track to meet the alliance goal of spending at least 2% of GDP on defense by 2024. French President Emmanuel Macron recently lamented that a lack of U.S. leadership was causing the “brain death” of the alliance.

Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton has said the president could move to leave the alliance if he wins reelection.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has warned that a second Trump term could mean NATO’s effective dissolution, jokingly said Monday that he’d “say a prayer” as the president heads to London.

“There’s time for redemption,” Biden told reporters as he campaigned in Emmetsburg, Iowa. “But so far he’s treated NATO like it’s a protection racket.”

In the leadup to the summit, White House aides sought to soften Trump’s past criticism of member nations as deadbeats.

White House officials noted that before Trump took office only four NATO members had reached the 2% benchmark that was set in 2014. Now there are nine countries that have reached the threshold, according to the White House. Eighteen of the 29 members of the alliance are projected to meet the 2% threshold by 2024.

Trump isn’t the first U.S. president to attend a NATO summit with impeachment looming.

In June 1974, Nixon faced criticism when he headed to Brussels as NATO commemorated its 25th anniversary. He met with fellow alliance leaders and tried to convey a message that he remained fully in power even as the Watergate investigation gained steam. By summer’s end, Nixon resigned.

In contrast, Trump heads to NATO confident that there aren’t the votes needed in the Republican-controlled Senate to convict him should the House vote to impeach him. Even so, he still might not be able to resist throwing attention back to the impeachment inquiry in Washington.

“While Nixon remained determined to rise above the swirl of impeachment and pretend he wasn’t distracted, Trump can’t help himself,” said Derek Chollet, executive vice president for security and defense policy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “Moreover, for Trump, being in charge hardly means projecting steady confidence – it means proving that he can keep everyone off-balance and nervous about what’s coming next.”


Local
Longview ISD Assistant Superintendent Jody Clements to retire Dec. 20

Jody Clements, Longview ISD’s assistant superintendent of human resources and community relations, will retire at the end of the fall semester. His last day will be Dec. 20.

District trustees approved Clements’ retirement and hiring of Center ISD Superintendent James Hockenberry as his replacement at a special meeting Monday.

Clements said his retirement eligibility begins Dec. 20, which is why he made the decision to leave now, after 32 years of working in education.

Board president Ginia Northcutt said the school board was shocked and saddened when it learned of Jody’s retirement plans, but happy for him.

“I wish him the best, and I’ve enjoyed working with him,” Northcutt said. “We’re going to miss Jody, and we’re looking forward to working with Dr. Hockenberry.”

Clements said he plans to enjoy retirement and time with his family. He will do some Christian ministry work, help his mother in their real estate business and spend time with his grandchildren.

“Of all my career, Longview ISD was my best experience I had,” Clements said. “Being in a big district, I learned a lot. The people of Longview are very lucky to have the board and administration they have. They are very innovative and outside-thinking. Kids in Longview are very lucky.”

Clements started working at Longview ISD in 2012. He was hired as assistant superintendent for administrative and pupil services. In 2016, he was moved to his current role, replacing longtime administrator Andrea Mayo.

Before moving to Longview, Clements worked at Kilgore ISD. In 1992, Clements took a job as a math teacher and coach at Kilgore High School, and in 2008, he became the Kilgore superintendent.

Clements graduated from Kilgore High School in 1983, and attended the University of Arkansas at Monticello, receiving a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He received his master of business administration in accounting from Louisiana Tech University. Clements received a doctorate in educational leadership from Lamar University in 2014.

Longview ISD Superintendent James Wilcox praised Clements’ work with the district.

“Jody has held numerous roles during his time with LISD and has consistently demonstrated excellent leadership for our students, staff and community,” Wilcox said in a written statement.

Hockenberry, who has been at Center ISD since 2008, is scheduled to start in his new position Jan. 5.


Local
Longview Arboretum offers Holly Days in the Garden

On Monday, the Longview Arboretum hosted Holly-Days in the Gardens, a first-ever event welcoming guests to tour the arboretum after normal hours.

This coincided with the grand opening of the gift shop. The Gifting Tree, a branch of Heartisans Marketplace in partnership with the arboretum, is located within the new facility at 706 W. Cotton St. in Longview.

For more holiday themed events around East Texas, see @play in the D section on Thursday in the News-Journal.