AP retracts call in North Carolina congressional race amid fraud investigation

The Associated Press on Friday retracted its call for a Republican in a House race in North Carolina after the state board of elections delayed certifying the results due to concerns of voter fraud. 

Democrat Dan McCready conceded the election to Republican Mark HarrisMark HarrisGOP congressional candidate once questioned women pursuing careers Huckabee endorses underdog in NC Senate race MORE earlier this month and said he would not request a recount.

Unofficial results show Harris with a 905-vote lead out of nearly 283,000 votes counted.

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The North Carolina board of elections cited “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities related to absentee by-mail voting” when it said it would delay certifying the results. The body voted 7-2 on Friday to hold a hearing into the concerns.

The North Carolina Democratic Party released a statement praising the vote, applauding “the board’s bipartisan decision to delay certification and fully investigate the concerning allegations.”

Officials were particularly alarmed over uncommonly high numbers of absentee ballots submitted in Bladen County, according to The Washington Post.

“It’s been out there. We were fully aware of it. There are some particularly unsavory people, particularly out in Bladen County, and I didn’t have anything to do with them,” Harris said Thursday in an interview with Spectrum News.

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White House statement drags Argentina into U.S.-China brawl

President Donald Trump and Argentina's President Mauricio Macri

President Donald Trump and Argentine President Mauricio Macri met on Friday. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

G-20

After meeting with Trump, Argentina’s president had to downplay a White House readout that described China’s economic behavior as “predatory.”

A routine White House press statement describing a run-of-the-mill meeting Friday between President Donald Trump and Argentine President Mauricio Macri caused an unexpected diplomatic dust-up when it attacked China’s economic behavior as “predatory.”

The word choice, while common for the Trump administration, set off alarm bells for Argentine officials who are hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of the G-20 leaders summit, where the two countries will sign a trade pact. Argentina has also courted billions in investment from Beijing over the past decade, and is hoping to announce on Sunday the completion of an $8 billion deal to build a nuclear power plant.

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Argentine chancellor Jorge Faurie attempted to walk back the White House statement, telling reporters that the tone of the meeting was “extremely cordial.”

“I don’t think there was a reference [to China] in those terms,” said Faurie, according to Argentine daily La Nación. The White House was not immediately available for comment.

The White House wording could be seen as a mere jab in the ongoing U.S.-China trade spat that has led to escalating tariffs between the two nations. The rest of the statement was relatively standard, noting, for instance, “the two leaders reiterated their shared commitment to face regional challenges like Venezuela,” before mentioning China.

But the Trump administration is also increasingly worried about the growing influence of China in Latin America. China’s incursion in the region has caused some countries to align with Beijing — in May, the Dominican Republic severed ties with Taiwan, the self-governing island that remains unrecognized by China.

Macri has collaborated with Xi, as well. China has invested $18.2 billion in Argentina — mostly in infrastructure — over the past decade.

But Argentina has sought to court these investments without upsetting the U.S., the other half of one of the world’s biggest geopolitical rivalries. To that effect, Washington and Buenos Aires signed an energy cooperation agreement on Friday.

Still, Trump’s behavior during the trip — his first foray into Latin America — has caused other “annoyances” for Macri, according to local media. Trump was late to his morning meeting and dropped his translation headset on the floor, complaining, “I understood you better in your language than in the interpretation.”

The president also left Macri alone onstage during a photo-op where he was greeting leaders, reportedly because of a miscommunication.

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House lawyer: Comey subpoena is legitimate

James Comey

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The top lawyer for the House of Representatives said Friday that it would be unprecedented if the courts intervened to block a congressional subpoena forcing former FBI Director James Comey to testify next week.

“No federal district court in the history of the republic has granted the type of relief Mr. Comey seeks here,” argued Thomas Hungar, the general counsel of the House, in a hearing before Judge Trevor McFadden.

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Comey filed suit earlier this week to block a subpoena issued by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) from compelling his closed-door testimony in a probe of the FBI’s conduct in 2016 and 2017. Comey’s attorneys say it’s a thinly veiled political effort to harass the former FBI director and twist his words to discredit the bureau’s investigation of President Donald Trump’s connections to Russia.

Comey has volunteered to testify publicly, but Goodlatte has rejected that offer and instead guaranteed him that a transcript of his testimony would be released quickly.

Trump fired Comey last year amid his frustration with the FBI’s investigation into Russian collusion, a move that triggered a series of events that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, whose probe has become increasingly perilous for the president.

Comey’s lawyer David Kelley acknowledged that courts hadn’t intervened in similar disputes between Congress and witnesses but encouraged McFadden to do so because the facts of this matter warrant it. There are limits to congressional oversight authority, he said, even if Congress’ power is broad.

“This is your opportunity to make some law,” he said.

Kelley argued that in addition to the politicized nature of the House investigation, the subpoena violates House rules because it seeks to require Comey to appear privately — a setting in which Comey argues will ensure his words will be leaked and distorted by allies of the president.

McFadden, who was appointed by Trump, declined to rule on the matter Friday, instead giving Comey’s legal team the weekend to file a rebuttal to the government’s argument. He said he’ll rule Monday, a day before the Goodlatte has asked Comey to appear for his deposition.

House lawyers say lawmakers have wide latitude to conduct depositions and investigations and shouldn’t be stopped just because a potential witness objects to the purpose of the probe or conduct of those leading it. Hungar said the argument that a lawmaker might twist Comey’s words “makes no sense.” The antidote for speech Comey opposes, Hungar said, is his own right to correct the record publicly.

McFadden gave few clues how he was leaning during the arguments but did raise questions about Comey’s claim that he shouldn’t be forced to testify because he’d already provided testimony on similar matters to other congressional committees — most recently in June 2017, when he spoke publicly to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Even if McFadden rules that the House subpoena is valid, Comey may avoid testifying next week for technical reasons. The House’s subpoena demanded his appearance on Monday, but the committee has since asked him to show up on Tuesday. Committee rules, Kelley noted, require that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee provide notice of any subpoena to other members of the committee. Goodlatte noticed the Monday subpoena, but not the amended Tuesday date.

Kelley noted that the matter wasn’t yet ripe for McFadden to consider but could be depending on the outcome of his ruling on Monday.

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North Carolina House race too close to call amid fraud inquiry

Mark Harris

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Elections

The Associated Press has uncalled the race, as state authorities examine allegations against Republican Mark Harris’ campaign.

The Associated Press on Friday announced it was revoking its projection of a Republican victory in a battleground North Carolina congressional race, after the state elections board there refused to certify the results amid allegations of wrongdoing.

Results show Republican Mark Harris received 905 more votes than Democrat Dan McCready in the state’s 9th Congressional District — one of the most closely watched battleground districts in the country in this month’s midterm elections. But in two separate meetings this week, the state elections board voted not to certify the results, after receiving notarized affidavits from voters who claimed that a woman was going door to door offering help filling out and returning absentee ballots in Bladen County, in the eastern part of the district, which stretches west to parts of Charlotte.

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A subcontractor for Harris’ campaign is suspected, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Earlier Friday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted 7-2 to hold a hearing to weigh claims of “fraudulent activities” in the district, tentatively scheduling an “evidentiary hearing on or before December 21 … to assure the election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption,” board member Joshua Malcolm said in a motion.

Prior to this week’s controversy, Harris appeared to have won two very close elections this year that are now both under scrutiny — the first coming in a primary in May, when he unseated GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger by an 828-vote margin. In the primary, Harris won 96 percent of all absentee ballots in Bladen County, according to the Washington Post, far greater than the 69 percent he won in the county as a whole.

The North Carolina contest marks the second time this week the AP has rescinded one of its election-night race calls. On Monday night, the wire service — which supplies election results and projections to news organizations all over the country — said it no longer considered Republican Rep. David Valadao the winner of a congressional race in California’s Central Valley, after his Democratic opponent, TJ Cox, inched ahead of Valadao in the state’s protracted vote count.

As of early Friday, Cox’s lead in the California race stood at 591 votes, with the counties planning to certify their results next week.

Scott Bland contributed to this report.

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Pence posts photo with law enforcement officer wearing patch associated with QAnon

Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceUS-China deal won’t happen soon because Trump isn’t eager for one Notions of a significant US-China deal at G-20 are fanciful Google employees push to halt creation of censored search engine for China MORE posted a photo of himself posing with several law enforcement officers, including one wearing a QAnon patch, on Twitter Friday.

Pence was posting about his visit to Florida. In the third picture one of the officers is prominently wearing a patch which appears to be associated with QAnon, a conspiracy group that believe in a vague and far-reaching conspiracy theory about a “deep state” plot against President TrumpDonald John TrumpMigrants stage hunger strike at Mexican border Top White House China hawk at G-20 summit after reports he would not attend CNN’s Gloria Borger: Source close to Cohen says he has ‘the goods’ MORE and the existence of a vast pedophile ring among elites.

The White House did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the image.

The persona known as Q first posted on internet forum 4chan last year, claiming to be a high-ranking security official in the Trump administration. In the wake of that initial threat, subreddits have been created dedicated to the conspiracy as well as a Facebook group that boast thousands of members.

Q has pushed an unsubstantiated theory that Trump was persuaded to run for president by military leaders and that Trump and the officials are planning the arrests of “deep state” members involved in a pedophilia scheme in what Q and its followers call “The Storm.”

Reddit banned its QAnon page in September, citing “content that incites violence, disseminates personal information, or harasses will get users and communities banned from Reddit.”

Trump met with one of the leaders of QAnon, Lionel Lebron, in the Oval Office in August.

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