A judge in North Carolina recently unsealed search warrants which reveal the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been interested in GOP political operative McCrae Dowless since at least May 2018.
Recall: Dowless is allegedly the single most motivating force behind a widespread–and illegal–ballot harvesting operation during the 2018 midterm election for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Election night returns gave the GOP candidate–who employed Dowless–a razor-thin advantage, but the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NBSCE) recently tossed those results and took the exceedingly rare step of ordering a brand new election.
According to local NBC affiliate WRAL, the search warrants shows that investigators were keen to obtain text messages and call logs for Dowless’ cellular phone number dating from January 1, 2016 through January 15, 2019–along with Dowless’ cellular location data and voicemail records “as far back as this data is kept.”
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she originally sealed the search warrants in order to avoid influencing last month’s blockbuster hearing before the NCSBE. Responding to a media coalition request filed earlier this month arguing her motivations were now moot, a judge unsealed the search warrants without opposition from either Dowless, his attorney or Freeman.
Additional transaction records were seized from two Wells Fargo ATMs in Bladenboro and Elizabethtown, North Carolina a few days before the 2018 Republican Party primary in which presently-tarnished and now-former GOP candidate Mark Harris proved victorious over incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger.
Originally issued in December and January due to a request by the Wake County District Attorney’s Office, the search warrants also show that investigators worked on the case against Dowless with the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Public Integrity Section and FBI Special Agent James Kaylor–who conducted surveillance on the GOP operative while he allegedly met people outside of a gas station where one of the ATMs was located.
In October 2018, Kaylor and an agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) conducted an interview with Dowless associate Tonia Gordon. Last month, Gordon was charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and possession of an absentee ballot.
Several other associates of Dowless–and Dowless himself–were charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and unlawful ballot possession and certification charges in a wide-ranging indictment issued by Tarheel State and Wake County prosecutors on February 26.
Kaylor is also the point of contact for a series of federal subpoenas issued earlier this week by DOJ investigators demanding records from the NCSBE, the Harris campaign and from Dowless. The subpoena requests are set to inform a concurrent federal grand jury proceeding.
Those March 6 subpoenas, uncovered by local CBS affiliate WBTV, request “all documents related to election irregularities” in the counties which comprise North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
“We hope that prosecutions in these cases will help restore voters’ confidence in our elections and serve as a strong deterrent to future elections fraud,” SBI Executive Director Kim Strach told WRAL.
As the outlet notes, there are now three criminal investigations currently looking into Dowless and his alleged vote-harvesting operations. One being run by the county; one by the state; and one by the feds.
[image via screengrab/ABC]
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