Tennessee Rep.-elect Mark Green questions CDC data on vaccines, autism

Incoming Tennessee Republican Rep. Mark Green, a physician, suggested vaccines could cause autism during a town hall meeting with his constituents this week. Green, 54, also called into question the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data regarding vaccines at the Tuesday event, the Tennessean reported. “Let me just say this about autism,” Green said. … Continue reading “Tennessee Rep.-elect Mark Green questions CDC data on vaccines, autism”

Incoming Tennessee Republican Rep. Mark Green, a physician, suggested vaccines could cause autism during a town hall meeting with his constituents this week.

Green, 54, also called into question the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data regarding vaccines at the Tuesday event, the Tennessean reported.

“Let me just say this about autism,” Green said. “I have committed to people in my community, up in Montgomery County, to stand on the CDC’s desk and get the real data on vaccines. Because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines.”

“As a physician, I can make that argument, and I can look at it academically and make the argument against the CDC if they really want to engage me on it,” he continued.

He said some of the CDC’s data has been “maybe fraudulently managed.”

Green’s remarks came in response to a question from a mother of a young adult with autism who asked about cuts to Medicaid funding, according to the Tennessean.


A former state senator, Green was elected in November to represent Tennessee’s 7th congressional district, which Republican Sen.-elect Marsha Blackburn currently represents.

He later told the newspaper that he “would encourage families to get vaccinated at this time,” as he has done with his own children.


“There appears to be some evidence that as vaccine numbers increase, rates of autism increase,” Green said. “We need better research, and we need it fast. We also need complete transparency of any data. Vaccines are essential to good population health. But that does not mean we should not look closely at the correlation for any causation.”

According to the CDC, “there is no link between vaccines and autism.” The American Academy of Pediatrics, too, stresses “scientific evidence does not show any link between vaccines and autism” and provides guidelines for how to help hesitant parents.

Earlier this year, Green was President Trump's pick for Army secretary, but he ultimately withdrew his nomination after mounting criticism over remarks he's made about Muslim and gay Americans.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

North Carolina voter fraud probe could prompt new primary, general elections

With fraud allegations still plaguing an uncertified North Carolina congressional election, voters could head back to the polls for a brand new election – primary and all.

North Carolina’s state legislature voted Wednesday to require both new primary and general elections should the state elections board decide to call for a redo. Accusations of voter fraud and ballot irregularities have bedeviled the 9th Congressional District election.

Republican Mark Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes out of nearly 283,000 cast in the district, which the GOP has held since 1963. But issues with absentee ballots have prevented Harris from being certified the winner as the state elections board continues to investigate allegations of “irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities.”

The probe has chiefly focused on absentee ballots, particularly in Bladen County – the only county among the eight in the district where Harris won a majority of mail-in ballots over McCready. A Bladen County man, McCrae Dowless, has been identified by the board as a “person of interest” related to an alleged absentee ballot operation.


Dowless, who worked for the Harris campaign as a chief strategist, has been accused of holding onto more than 800 absentee ballots ahead of the May primary elections, according to an affidavit.

Kenneth Simmons, a Republican, said in the affidavit that he spoke with Dowless during a GOP meeting. During that time, Dowless admitted he had more than 800 ballots with him, Simmons said, according to The News & Observer.

Dowless allegedly said he wouldn’t turn in the ballots “until the last day because the opposition would know how many votes they had to make up.” But Simmons said he was concerned the ballots would never be submitted at all.


Republican state Rep. David Lewis was instrumental in pushing through the legislation requiring a new primary and general election should the state elections board decide to call for a redo. He said he pushed for the bill because it appeared there were issues with absentee ballots during the primary elections as well.

Harris, 52, beat incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger in the May primary.

The state elections board has said an evidentiary hearing will occur on or before Dec. 21, after which it could call for a new election.

Harris, a Baptist minister, has maintained he was “absolutely unaware of any wrongdoing” but is open to a new election if there is proof any ballot irregularities could have influenced the outcome of the race.

McCready had initially conceded the election but retracted it earlier this month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows: Build the wall — do what we said we’d do

We make the job of serving in Congress way too complicated. It’s pretty basic. What did we tell the voters we were going to do when they elected us to represent them? That’s what we should do.

Voters elected President Trump to shake up Washington. In his first two years, the president has kept his promises. Now it is Congress’s turn. We have three weeks to help him deliver on his biggest promise: securing the border and building the wall.

The situation at the southern border is critical. The recent caravan was only the first of many. They’re coming because they have a reason.

A series of loopholes in our immigration laws have led to a policy called “catch and release.” When illegal aliens are caught at the border, these loopholes often allow them to enter our nation to wait for an immigration hearing. Sometimes these hearings are years in the future. All too frequently, they don’t even show up.

One example: the law is supposed to allow families with children to be detained together if they’re caught crossing the border illegally. But because of a 1990’s court ruling, the Department of Homeland Security has to release them. From 2016 to early 2018, more than 250,000 illegal aliens detained at the border were released into the United States.

This encourages more people to cross the border illegally. These loopholes and other discussions of amnesty have led to surging apprehensions at the border, with over 50,000 apprehensions in March 2018.

Another example: migrants who show up at the border and claim “credible fear of persecution” are also released. The number of people claiming credible fear has increased from 5,000 in 2009 to 94,000 in 2016. The system is overwhelmed, and it’s getting worse.

Democrats do not want to bring attention to their extremist positions on immigration. They are for open borders and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The border security wall will help fix the issue.  Apprehensions dropped 95 percent in the San Diego sector after the double barrier was put into place. Israel’s border wall cut illegal immigration by 99 percent.

The last legislative opportunity to address these issues is the year-end spending bill.  The fact that it’s a bill that must pass creates the burning platform needed to force Congress to actually act and the leverage we need to get these reforms through the Senate.  The funding bill is the only option.

The House Freedom Caucus will offer two amendments to this bill. First, we need to end the catch and release problem. Second, we need $5 billion in unrestricted funding for the border wall.

Our members will not vote in support of a bill that doesn’t include these provisions.  The president should also use his veto pen to ensure that Congress listens.

This battle won’t be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. But if we have the political will, we can win. We have the American people on our side.

Democrats do not want to bring attention to their extremist positions on immigration. They are for open borders and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Early in 2018, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shut down the government because Republicans would not meet his demand for amnesty. The GOP came together and prevailed in the court of public opinion. Schumer caved, and the government was reopened.

Securing the border isn’t going to happen in a Pelosi-run Congress. We still have three weeks.  That’s more than enough time to do what we said.

Republican Mark Meadows is in his third term representing North Carolina’s 11th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves as Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and on the House Oversight Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  

Republican Jim Jordan represents Ohio’s Fourth District in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Mark Penn: House Democrats shouldn’t impeach Trump – It will anger voters and the Senate won’t remove him

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then perhaps the Democrats on a crusade to impeach President Trump should think twice about the road they are heading down.

It’s one thing to hold more investigations and try to get President Trump’s tax returns. It is quite another thing to turn the entire machinery of Congress over to the impeachment process while blocking compromises on health care, immigration, infrastructure and other important legislation.

The warning signs of partisanship taken too far come from what happened in 1998 with the impeachment of President Clinton by the House, and from the recent Senate confirmation battle that raged over the nomination of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In the Clinton case, voters reacted negatively to Republicans who tried to turn unsavory personal behavior into crimes to support the impeachment of the president in the House of Representatives. Clinton was acquitted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice at his Senate trial, so the effort to remove him from office failed.

In the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, voters reacted negatively to Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who went overboard with Spartacus moments and for the way they handled allegations of sexual misconduct.

Voters made clear in both the Clinton and Kavanaugh cases that they want their elected representatives in Congress to get the business of lawmaking done and not focus on partisanship.

Back in 1998, House Republicans considered Bill Clinton an illegitimate president who they believed the American public would support removing from office if Independent Counsel Ken Starr reported that Clinton lied under oath. The Starr report was a blockbuster, complete with graphic descriptions of Oval Office sexual activity between Clinton and then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky and stained-dress evidence.

But the plan backfired. In the 1998 midterm elections, Republicans actually lost seats in Congress as we Democrats used the theme “Progress, not Partisanship,” and the whole imbroglio toppled House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.

News coverage of Clinton’s involvement with Lewinsky took a year from start to finish. In the end, even though it was just a partisan vote, the headlines blared “Clinton Acquitted.” After it was over, Americans never wanted to talk about it again, nor did the Republicans. Clinton’s poll ratings soared.

It takes the votes of 67 senators to convict a president impeached by the House and remove him from office. The midterm Senate elections last month will result in a Senate made up of 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats beginning in January.

But the pressure from the Democratic base to impeach Trump will be enormous. So House Democrats are more likely to go down the impeachment road that – without significant Republican support – will come off as partisan overreach.

As a result, if the new Democratic majority that will rule the House votes to impeach President Trump, even if every Senate Democrat votes to convict him they would need to pick up the support of 20 Republican senators to remove Trump from office.

Does anyone seriously think that there are more than a handful of Republican senators at most who would favor Trump’s conviction and ouster, even in the face of a damning report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller? The chances of that happening are virtually nonexistent.

So does an impeachment fight that is almost guaranteed to end with President Trump still in the Oval Office benefit Trump or the Democrats?

Does the headline “Trump Acquitted” after a Senate trial help anyone but Trump, albeit after a painful and distracting rollercoaster process?

Maybe Democrats just want the catharsis of impeaching their nemesis, but such satisfaction is likely to be fleeting.

Sure, the Mueller report is going to be a collection of greatest hits against President Trump – a prosecutor’s tale carefully woven over two years to turn every utterance by Trump into obstruction and every contact with a Russian into collusion.

But, absent the caveat of some truly new and devastating information, the public is smart enough to distinguish the case against President Trump from the kind of actual obstruction of justice by President Nixon, who authorized hush money to organizers of the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters.

The whole process of Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign – or Trump himself – and Russia to win the election has been flawed from its inception. Now it seems to be focused on payments for alleged consensual affairs and trying to criminalize them.

There have been a number of questionable actions by people in the FBI and the Justice Department before and throughout the Mueller probe. Eventually, the next attorney general will likely appoint a special counsel to investigate all of the retired, resigned and fired officials and whether their actions were politically motivated.

So come January, the Democrats in the House will have a choice. They can accept the Mueller report and move on. Or, they can hold endless hearings all over again run by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who is expected to chair the House Judiciary Committee, and then vote to impeach the president or censure him for the actions described in the Mueller report.

The smartest move Democrats could make would likely be to approve some kind of censure motion against President Trump after a few hearings and then say the American people will decide in the 2020 election who should be president for another four years.

But the pressure from the Democratic base to impeach Trump will be enormous. So House Democrats are more likely to go down the impeachment road that – without significant Republican support – will come off as partisan overreach.

The fight to impeach President Trump will inflame passions on both sides and will dominate news coverage for months. Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to run for president in 2020 will be lost in the shuffle of the bright media spotlight on the effort to remove Trump from office. Morning, noon and night, impeachment will be what we are all talking about.

President Trump, like it or not, maintains significant and passionate public support that has even withstood unbelievably damaging tapes and countless critical stories and revelations in the media.

Trump’s approval ratings in polls right now are above where Presidents Clinton and Obama were at this same stage of their presidencies. According to the most recent RealClear Politics average of polls, Trump has an approval rating of about 43 percent and a disapproval rating of 52 percent.

The U.S. president is not viewed as negatively as French President Emmanuel Macron, whose approval ratings are below 20 percent.

In fact, members of Congress have Macron-like approval ratings, precisely because of their failure to get things done for the American people.

The question confronting Democrats at the start of the new year will be whether they want to repeat what the Republicans did in 1998, and whether it will have the same outcome. The most likely answers right now are yes and yes.

Mark Penn is managing director of the Stagwell Group. He was chief strategist on Bill Clinton’s 1996 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, and Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Congress approves stopgap spending bill averting government shutdown, for now

Congress on Thursday approved a short-term spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown, punting the thorny debate over border wall funding and other issues until later in the month.

The stopgap spending bill, which was swiftly approved by the Senate after passage early Thursday afternoon in the House, would fund the government through Dec. 21.

Congress had faced a Friday deadline to reach a budget agreement, but lawmakers decided to effectively delay that fight amid this week’s services for the late President George H.W. Bush. President Trump is expected to sign the measure.

But the disagreements are far from resolved.

Seven of the government spending bills remain unfinished. The most controversial is the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which would include border wall funding.

Apart from the complications of needing bipartisan support in the Senate to overcome a filibuster, House Republicans right now do not have the votes to pass a bill with or without the $5 billion in wall funding sought by Trump.

On one hand, conservatives want full wall funding. On the other, Democrats remain opposed – and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who aims to reclaim the speakership next month, faces the risk of a backlash from her caucus if she accepts a deal containing what her rank-and-file consider too much wall money.

Amid the disagreement, Trump is set to meet with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer at the White House next week.

House Democrats could revoke rule allowing lawmakers to have guns on Capitol grounds

Democrats could do away with a rule that allows lawmakers to bring firearms onto Capitol grounds – including in their offices – as they prepare to take control of the House next year.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., has long wanted the rule changed, but now he said he has the support of potential House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he told The Washington Post.

“I don’t think we can just keep looking the other way or sweep this issue under the rug,” Huffman told the publication. “Our political climate is too volatile and there are too many warning signs that we need to address things like this.”

According to The Washington Post, it’s up to the Capitol Police Board to determine regulation surrounding firearms on Capitol grounds. It previously established “nothing . . . shall prohibit any Member of Congress from maintaining firearms within the confines of his office or any Member of Congress or any employee or agent of any Member of Congress from transporting within the Capitol Grounds firearms unloaded and securely wrapped.”

Rep. Jared Huffman said he’s concerned about what would happen if someone nefarious got their hands on a gun that was legally in the U.S. Capitol. (Official photo)

Citing the politically-motivated 2017 shooting attack on Republican lawmakers and their staff – which left Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., seriously wounded – Huffman told the newspaper he has concerns someone would be able to gain access to a firearm legally kept in the Capitol and use it for a nefarious act.


“I hesitate to even put in print some of the scenarios that I worry the most about, because the truth is, the House chamber is a place where we occasionally have all of the most powerful government officials in the country gathered in one place,” he said.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, who chairs Second Amendment Caucus, chalked the proposed changes up to “theatrics.”

“It’s proposing to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” he told The Washington Post. “[Pelosi’s] worried that members aren’t responsible enough to handle a firearm?”

In 2015, two Republican congressmen were criticized for posting a photo of the pair holding an AR-15 rifle while in the House.

Rep. Trey Gowdy said fellow Rep. Ken Buck had permission to have the “inoperable gun” in Buck’s office.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

Republican Rep. David Valadao concedes to Dem TJ Cox in California House race

Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., conceded to Democrat T.J. Cox Thursday, ending his bid for a fourth term in Congress a month after Election Day and eight days after Cox claimed victory in the race to represent California's 21st congressional district.

"Representing the Central Valley in Congress has been the honor of a lifetime," Valadao said in a statement. "… There is no doubt we are disappointed in the results, but we can take pride in knowing that we brought about real, tangible change … Despite the outcome in this election, we must remain deliberate in our efforts to improve our community. There is always work to be completed and I can't wait to see what else our community can accomplish."

Cox, who trailed Valadao in the vote count until Nov. 26, led the incumbent by 862 votes out of more than 113,000 cast as of Thursday. His victory means Democrats have picked up seven House seats from the GOP in California and will begin the new session with a 46-7 advantage in the state's congressional delegation.

In all, Democrats now have 235 House seats, a net gain of 40 from the previous Congress. Republicans have 199 seats, pending the outcome of a disputed race in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District.


In 2016, Valadao was elected to a third term by 13 percentage points, even though Democrats have a 16-point edge in voter registration. The dairy farmer and former state legislator had maintained his popularity by focusing on water issues critical to agriculture and had backed proposals to settle the legal status of people brought to the country illegally as children, a tip to the district's heavy Hispanic population.

Cox, an engineer who founded two nut-processing businesses, lashed Valadao in ads as a foot soldier for the Trump agenda who enjoyed government health benefits while voting to upend ObamaCare.


Golden State Republicans lost the last four Republican seats in Orange County, once a GOP stronghold. Democrats also picked up the last Republican-held House seat anchored in Los Angeles County, when Democrat Katie Hill ousted Republican Rep. Steve Knight, and the Central Valley seat held by Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, who was defeated by Democrat Josh Harder.

Democrats also were elected to every statewide office and the party holds a supermajority in both chambers of the state Legislature, and a 3.7-million advantage in voter registration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

North Carolina Dem McCready retracts concession as GOP signals possible support for new House election

North Carolina Republican Party officials are signaling that they might support a new election in the House race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, amid reports of possible illegal ballot harvesting and fraud by a GOP-linked operative.

McCready uploaded a video to Twitter on Thursday afternoon retracting his concession last month and condemning what he called "shameful criminal activity bankrolled by my opponent."

Unofficial totals have Harris leading McCready by 905 votes, with some counties reporting unusually high numbers of unreturned absentee ballots and a surprisingly strong showing by Harris in mail-in balloting that far exceeded his support during in-person voting.

"I didn’t serve overseas in the Marines to come home to NC and watch a criminal, bankrolled by my opponent, take away people’s very right to vote," McCready tweeted. "Today I withdraw my concession and call on Mark Harris to end his silence and tell us exactly what he knew, and when."

In the video, McCready said Harris has remained "completely silent."

Meanwhile, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the House "retains the right to decide who is seated" and could take the "extraordinary step" of calling for a new election if the winner in the state's 9th Congressional District isn't clear.

And incoming Democratic Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday that a "very substantial question" about fraud hangs over the race for a seat Republicans have held since 1963. He also suggested Democrats could refuse to seat Harris.

The state elections board refused to certify the results in the race last week because of allegations of "irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities" involving mail-in ballots in the district.

The board is meeting later this month to hear evidence, but it's unclear whether the race will be settled then.

Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C. (Associated Press)

The Republican Party of North Carolina (NCGOP) said the board's public findings will be critical.

"To sum it up, we think the Board of Elections should hold a public hearing and fully lay out the facts," NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said in a statement to Fox News. "If they can show with certainty that the outcome could NOT have been changed, they need to certify Dr. Harris and continue to support all state and federal criminal investigations. If they can show a substantial likelihood it could have changed the race, then we fully would support a new election."


Woodhouse continued: "If they hold a public hearing and simply can’t determine one way or the other then, we would not oppose a short delay on the question of certification until they have more answers."

Entertaining the idea of a new election represents a significant change from last Thursday, when state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes issued a statement saying: "Democrats are throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the wall to try and steal an election."

"Today I withdraw my concession and call on Mark Harris to end his silence and tell us exactly what he knew."

— Democrat Dan McCready

On Sunday, Hayes said there weren't enough questioned ballots to change the race's outcome, and the next day he accused a Democratic member of the state board of "score-settling."

On Wednesday, the editorial board of The Charlotte Observer wrote that the election had been "tainted" and that a new election is almost certainly required. "Individuals have interfered with the voting process by gaining access to others’ absentee ballots," the paper wrote.

The brouhaha highlights the wildly varying state laws governing ballot harvesting, which refers to the practice of someone other than a voter dropping off that voter's ballot at a polling station.

Paul Ryan questions ‘bizarre’ vote-counting process in CA

House Speaker Paul Ryan questioned the legitimacy of California’s ballot-counting process, adding to claims from many Republicans that the state’s election procedures are flawed.

Two years ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB1921, which now permits anyone — including political operatives – to collect and return ballots in that state. Previously, only the voter or close family members could perform that service.

Republicans have since openly suggested that the practice led to major irregularities in voting in California, where the GOP lost seats in several strongholds as votes continued to be counted well after Election Day.

But in North Carolina, state law still prohibits anyone other than a voter or a close family member from mailing in or dropping off that voter's ballot.

FILE – In this Sept. 26, 2018, file photo, Democratic congressional candidate Dan McCready leans against wallboard as he pauses during a Habitat For Humanity building event in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

The elections board has subpoenaed documents from the Harris campaign, and is concentrating on activities linked to McCrae Dowless, a longtime political operative from Bladen County. Dowless worked as a contractor for Harris' chief strategist in the campaign, Harris campaign lawyer John Branch confirmed Tuesday.

A North Carolina voter, Ginger Eason, told Charlotte, N.C. station WSOC-TV on Monday that Dowless had paid her between $75 and $100 to collect absentee ballots in the 9th District.

“I was helping McCrae pick up ballots," Eason said.

In affidavits offered by the state Democratic Party, voters described a woman coming to their homes to collect their absentee ballots, whether or not they had been completed properly.

"If they can show a substantial likelihood it could have changed the race, then we fully would support a new election."

— NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse

Bladen County was the only county in the district where Harris won a majority of the mail-in ballots, according to unofficial election data. Bladen and Robeson County — where officials also have requested information — had the district's highest percentages of unreturned mail-in absentee ballots.

Blanden also recorded absentee ballot requests from a whopping 7.5 percent of registered voters, more than double the rate of virtually all other counties in the state. Just over 60 percent of returned absentee ballots in Blanden went for Harris, even though registered Republicans comprised less than 20 percent of all voters who sent in ballots in the county on Election Day.

Florida recount repeat: Have politics come into play?

Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris speaks out on the ballot showdown in the Sunshine State.

Local officials said Wednesday that more than 1,000 absentee ballots likely cast by Democratic voters in the 9th Congressional District may have been destroyed.

“You’re looking at several thousand, possibly 2,000 absentee ballot requests from this most recent election. About 40 percent of those, it appears, at this point may not have been returned,” Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told CNN.

Freeman confirmed Monday that her office has been investigating “potential voting irregularities” in Bladen County since early this year.

Allegations about similarly apparent mail-in absentee ballot irregularities also surfaced two years ago in Blanden County during a tight election for governor.

If the allegations are accurate, "this is the biggest absentee fraud in a generation or two in North Carolina," said Gerry Cohen, an election law expert and former longtime legislative staff attorney. "North Carolina has a long history of this kind of thing, particularly in rural areas."

Dowless, who served prison time in 1995 for felony fraud and was convicted of felony perjury in 1992, has worked on get-out-the-vote efforts for various local and legislative candidates through the years.

Dowless put his name on an elections protest, backed at the time by the campaign of then-GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, that alleged a "massive scheme" by a local political group to run an "absentee ballot mill" to improperly submit votes for a write-in candidate for a position Dowless was seeking.

But the board peppered Dowless with questions about his own absentee ballot activities. Dowless acknowledged he hired people in 2016 to urge voters to turn in absentee ballot request forms, which is legal. In sworn testimony, Dowless said he never handled or filled out the actual ballots. The board dismissed Dowless' protest but sent all of its evidence to local and federal prosecutors.

Republican leaders had previously said Harris, a Southern Baptist minister, should be certified the winner, saying no evidence has been made public that shows he didn't get the most lawful votes.

"The campaign was not aware of any illegal conduct in connection with the 9th District race," Branch said in a statement.

Fox News' David Lewkowict, Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

Over 1,000 ballots may have been destroyed in NC congressional race, DA says

More than 1,000 absentee ballots likely cast by Democratic voters in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District may have been destroyed amid voter harvesting allegations in favor of Republican Mark Harris in a closely contested race.

“You’re looking at several thousand, possibly 2,000 absentee ballot requests from this most recent election. About 40 percent of those, it appears, at this point may not have been returned,” Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told CNN.

Freeman confirmed Monday that her office has been investigating “potential voting irregularities” in Bladen County since early this year.


The investigation began in 2016 and has now incorporated the 2018 primary and midterm election allegations.

“There has been an open investigation throughout this period,” Freeman told the Raleigh-based News & Observer.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., called on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold an emergency hearing to look into allegations from some voters that their absentee ballots were collected illegally and not counted, the Hill reported.

Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C. (Associated Press)

The "real election fraud is playing out right before us in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District," Connolly said in a statement.

Harris holds an unofficial 900-vote lead over his Democratic opponent Dan McCready. Both candidates did not immediately respond to Fox News requests for comment early Thursday.


Some voters have said their ballots were taken illegally. It remained unclear of the ballots were counted and the state Board of Elections has declined to certify the results amid the fraud allegations.

One woman, Ginger Eason, told Charlotte, N.C., station WSOC-TV on Monday that McCrae Dowless, a longtime political operative from Bladen County, had paid her between $75 and $100 to collect absentee ballots in the 9th District.

Democratic congressional candidate Dan McCready leans against wallboard as he pauses during a Habitat For Humanity building event in Charlotte, N.C. (Associated Press)

“I was helping McCrae pick up ballots," Eason said.

On Tuesday, incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., threatened to not seat Harris when the new Congress takes power in January.

"The House … has the authority over the propriety of the election," Hoyer said. "This is a very substantial question. [It] ought to be resolved before we seat any member."

“If there is what appears to be a very substantial question on the integrity of the election, clearly we would oppose Mr. Harris’s being seated until that is resolved,” he added.

George HW Bush services delay government shutdown fight – for now

The death of former President George H.W. Bush appears to have delayed the fight on Capitol Hill over funding President Trump’s border wall and trying to prevent a government shutdown.

With Bush’s casket arriving at the Capitol later Monday, GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office announced there will be no votes in the House this week.

Congress has faced a Dec. 7 deadline to pass a spending package or risk a government shutdown. But the president suggested he is willing to agree with lawmakers to a short-term funding extension, and put off the fight over a longer-term deal until after the services. Sources tell Fox News lawmakers are likely to approve a two-week, stopgap spending plan that would push the deadline to Dec. 21, right before Christmas.

Speaking of members of Congress, Trump told reporters Sunday, “If they come — which they have — to talk about an extension because of President Bush’s passing, I would absolutely consider it and probably give it.”



The flashpoint for a possible government shutdown is Trump’s demand for $5 billion for a border wall, a price Democrats are rejecting.

A major battle over funding the government had been expected this week. But Capitol Hill will be filled with visitors paying their respects to Bush, who will be lying in state in the United States Capitol Rotunda until Wednesday.

On Monday morning, Trump publicly pressured Democrats to support the border wall funding, tweeting: "We would save Billions of Dollars if the Democrats would give us the votes to build the Wall. Either way, people will NOT be allowed into our Country illegally! We will close the entire Southern Border if necessary. Also, STOP THE DRUGS!"

But as Bush's casket was being flown from Houston to Andrews Air Force Base later in the day, Trump shifted focus to the ceremonies.

"Looking forward to being with the Bush Family to pay my respects to President George H.W. Bush," he tweeted.

Trump has said he would "totally be willing" to close the government if he doesn’t get $5 billion for his long-promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Last week, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York told reporters that Democrats are willing to agree to $1.6 billion for border security, but not Trump’s figure, saying, “If there is any shutdown, it’s on President Trump’s back.”


The vow from Trump comes amid recent clashes on the border between border agents and caravan migrants. The drama seemingly emboldened Trump in his push for more border security.

Republicans – who lose control of the House in January – view the December standoff over the wall as the last chance to secure its funding. Border wall advocates want a long-term investment in the wall. They fear the money will disappear next year unless they secure it now.

Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.