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By Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Republican candidate in North Carolina’s unresolved congressional race has acknowledged owing $34,310 to a political consultant subpoenaed in a ballot fraud probe, according to a federal campaign filing that refers to work at the heart of the investigation.

The Mark Harris campaign listed its debt to the Red Dome Group in a late Thursday filing with the Federal Election Commission. The form said the nature of the debt included “Reimbursement Payment for Bladen Absentee” and “Reimbursement Door to Door.”

Bladen County’s absentee ballots are at the center of a fraud probe that has prompted the North Carolina Elections Board to refuse to certify Harris as the winner over Democrat Dan McCready. The board cited allegations of “irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities” involving mail-in ballots, and subpoenaed both the Harris campaign and Red Dome for documents.

The board could order a new election after meeting later this month to consider the evidence. For now, the vote count remains unofficial, with Harris leading McCready by 905 votes.

Some Bladen County voters have said strangers came to their homes to collect their absentee ballots, whether or not they had been fully completed or sealed in an envelope to keep them from being altered, according to affidavits offered by the state Democratic Party. State law allows only a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter.

Red Dome hired Bladen County contractor McCrae Dowless, whose criminal record includes prison time in 1995 for felony fraud and a conviction for felony perjury in 1992.

According to documents released by the elections board, Dowless seems to have collected the most absentee ballot request forms in Bladen County this fall. A copy of the Bladen election board’s log book shows Dowless turned in well over 500 applications.

McCrae Dowless.WECT

The FEC report also lists two other debts totaling nearly $20,000 to Red Dome for digital advertising, robocalls and mailings for Harris. The filing says those mailings were in Robeson County, another area where the state board has sought information as part of its probe. The details were part of a wide-ranging post-election report on the campaign’s finances.

McCready, expressing outrage over what he called a shameful attack on democracy, withdrew his concession in a video released late Thursday. He’s demanding that Harris explain what he knows about the absentee ballot allegations.

“He hired a criminal who was under investigation for ballot fraud to do his absentee ballot work, and it looks like he got what he paid for,” McCready told CNN on Friday.

Harris didn’t respond to a message seeking comment late Thursday. He issued a statement last week saying he supports a voter fraud investigation, but that the race should be certified in the meantime because there didn’t appear to be enough questioned votes to erase his lead. His campaign lawyer said this week the organization wasn’t aware of any illegal conduct during the race.

Dowless declined comment when visited by an Associated Press reporter this week at his home, and didn’t immediately respond to a phone message Friday. The head of the Red Dome Group, Andy Yates, also didn’t immediately respond to an email Friday.

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Trump now says border wall could cost as little as $15 billion, pay for itself

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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that a wall between the U.S. and Mexico could cost as little as $15 billion and pay for itself in as little as a month, a departure from the $25 billion barrier he once promised would be underwritten by Mexico.

Earlier this year, his administration sought $18 billion for the initial phase of wall construction over the next decade, covering a portion of the southern border.

“We’re talking about a wall for $20 billion, $15 billion,” Trump said at a Project Safe Neighborhoods conference in Kansas City, Mo. “I could even do it cheaper if I have to, and it will be better than anyone’s ever seen a wall.”

Trump, noting that most heroin comes across the southern border and that his Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that the cost of the drug — including lost earnings from fatalities — was over $200 billion in 2016 alone, claimed that the installation of a barrier would be quickly offset by the savings that resulted from limiting the flow of narcotics.

“You’d make it up in a month — a month — by having a proper wall,” he said.

Most independent estimates of the cost of opioids do not include the expected earnings of those who die from overdoses, and the president did not offer a dollar figure for how much money the federal government would actually reap in a month from staunching the flow of drugs.

But on the same day that he signed a two-week extension of federal funding for most agencies — which were due to shut down without a stopgap measure — Trump appealed to lawmakers to put money into the wall.

“Congress must fully fund border security in the year-end funding bill,” he said.

Still, he said, law enforcement officers are able to deal with efforts by undocumented immigrants to cross into the U.S., even without a wall.

“Our great people are able to easily handle it,” he said. “Without the wall, it gets tougher. But you know what, they still handle it.”

Trump’s various efforts to combine wall funding with the rewriting of the laws governing legal immigration have failed so far in Congress, and the idea of building a physical structure across the southern border has been a non-starter with Democrats, who will control the House in January.

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Theresa May’s Brexit warning: BACK ME on Tuesday or you’ll get PRIME MINISTER CORBYN

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With just two days to go before the momentous vote on her Brexit deal which is expected to be shot down by over 100 Tory MPs, Theresa May has warned rebels plotting against her that the alternative could be Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.

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George H.W. Bush Secret Service detail bids farewell to ‘Timberwolf’

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By Diamond Naga Siu

Former President George H.W. Bush’s Secret Service protection detail bid him farewell on Friday after he was buried in a private ceremony Thursday evening at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

In their final dispatch, shared on Twitter by the Secret Service as well as by Bush’s spokesman, Jim McGrath, the detail used the former president’s code name Timberwolf, likely for the last time.

“You will be missed by all of us,” the detail wrote.

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