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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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Florida officials demand answers on DHS plan to send asylum-seekers to Democratic counties

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By Dareh Gregorian

Florida officials are demanding answers about a Department of Homeland Security plan to send 1,000 “unlawful immigrants and asylum-seekers” a month to two heavily Democratic counties.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and a close ally of President Donald Trump, called the plan “not acceptable,” and said it might not be enacted.

“I’m going to be addressing this,” he told reporters on Friday.

“Nothing’s concrete,” DeSantis said. “This is not something that came down from the White House. This was something that came out of the agencies.”

An official with Customs and Border Protection, the DHS agency that local law-enforcement says told them the asylum seekers would be brought to the state within weeks, told reporters Friday there may have been some miscommunication, and no such move was imminent.

The agency acknowledged Friday it is looking at releasing immigrants in communities along the northern border and on the coast, where there is already a border patrol presence.

On Thursday, CBP had declined comment on the plan, referring questions to Homeland Security, which did not respond to questions from reporters — or area lawmakers.

In a letter to acting DHS boss Kevin McAleenan on Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he was told about the plan “to transport approximately 500 migrants per month from El Paso, Texas, to both Broward and Palm Beach Counties for release pending an asylum hearing” from local law-enforcement.

“Does the Department intend to transport migrants currently in custody at the southern border to states that do not share a border with Mexico?” Rubio asked, referring to the entrants as “unlawful immigrants and asylum-seekers.” “If so, why?”

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Brexit LIVE: 'Stop Boris!' Remainers draw up plot to block no deal Brexit

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SEVEN Tory Ministers including former Home Secretary Amber Rudd are ready to block Boris Johnson’s bid to take the UK out of the EU without a Brexit divorce deal if he becomes Conservative Party leader, in a move which could ignite civil war in the Conservative Party.

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Hundreds of migrants detained in Texas to be flown to San Diego

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By Phil Helsel

Hundreds of detainees from immigration agency facilities in Texas and elsewhere will be flown to San Diego for processing, it was reported Friday, as authorities struggle to handle an influx of migrants entering the country.

Three flights a week carrying about 130 people a flight would arrive in the San Diego area from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, Customs and Border Protection Interim Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison said Friday, according to NBC San Diego

Those people would come from facilities overwhelmed by a high number of immigrants, including those who are claiming asylum, but officials in Southern California are not expecting any unaccompanied minors, the station reported.

The federal border protection agency is calling the surge in migrants fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — a region sometimes called the Northern Triangle — a humanitarian and border security crisis.

“We’re in the middle of a humanitarian crisis and the numbers in Texas are staggering so the BP is helping out in those sectors to more efficiently process these folks,” an unidentified CBP official said, referring to the Border Patrol, according to Reuters.

The announcement comes as two Department of Homeland Security officials said the DHS is laying the groundwork for a plan to transport recent border crossers by plane to cities around the country and release them after processing.

Florida officials expressed anger on Thursday after learning the Trump administration was planning to release hundreds of migrants each month in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Beyond South Florida, DHS is considering other areas around the country where immigrants can be released, the two officials told NBC News.

It was not immediately clear if the flights from Texas to San Diego were part of that DHS plan.

Also on Friday, Customs and Border Protection warned people against trying to cross the Rio Grande River into the United States, calling crossings with small children an “alarming trend” that has resulted in deaths.

The agency said in a statement that since Oct. 1, 2018, there have been 10 water-related deaths in the Del Rio Sector, which covers parts of the Texas border.

On May 1, three people drowned, including a 10-month-old boy and a 7-year-old boy, when a raft carrying nine people capsized, sending everyone aboard into the water, CBP said.

Border Patrol agents rescued a man who was trying to cross the river with a 3-month-old boy strapped to his chest Thursday, the CBP said. The baby suffered water in his lungs and nearly drowned, the agency said.

“It’s disturbing what is taking place on our borders and witnessed by our Border Patrol agents every day,” Del Rio Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Randy Davis said in the CBP statement.

“This trend is not without tragic consequences,” he said. “Border Patrol agents are rescuing people, but have also had the grim task of recovering deceased bodies including children as young as 10-months-old from the Rio Grande River.”

Reuters contributed.

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