Federal investigators seeking a decade’s worth of information, documents in NC-9 probe

Subpoena to Dowless seeks information on work for Harris, Johnson, McVicker campaigns
McCrae Dowless and his attorney leave the Wake County Jail.
McCrae Dowless and his attorney leave the Wake County Jail.
Updated: Mar. 13, 2019 at 2:57 PM EDT
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ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WBTV) – Federal investigators are seeking documents dating back as far as the 2008 election, according to a copy of the grand jury subpoena sent to McCrae Dowless.

Dowless—a longtime political operative in Bladen County—worked for Republican Mark Harris, who ran for the 9th Congressional District in the 2018 election, among others.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously last month to hold a new election in the 9th Congressional District in February.

WBTV obtained a copy of the subpoena sent to Dowless on Wednesday. News of the federal grand jury investigation was first confirmed Monday night.

Prosecutors with the US Department of Justice’s Public Integrity section and agents with the FBI’s Charlotte field office are leading the investigation.

Related: Federal investigators issue subpoenas in NC-9 investigation

In addition to Dowless, investigators sent subpoenas to the North Carolina State Board of Elections and the Mark Harris campaign, WBTV had previously confirmed.

The subpoena sent to Dowless made clear he is a subject of the investigation.

“The grand jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws, involving but not necessarily limited to, fraudulent voting in violation of Title 52, United States Code, Section 2051, and conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Your conduct is being investigated for possible violations of these laws,” a page of the subpoena sent to Dowless said.

The subpoena seeks the following list of documents:

1. All documents regarding communications with Todd Johnson, Mark Harris, and/or James McVicker, and/or any campaign associated with the aforementioned individuals (including individuals and/or entities working for, or associated with, those campaigns).

2. All documents, including communications, regarding the Todd Johnson for Congress and/or Mark Harris for Congress campaigns.

3. All documents, including communications, regarding the campaign to elect James McVicker as Bladen County Sheriff.

4. All documents regarding get out the vote efforts, and/or efforts to increase voter turnout and/or absentee voting.

5. All documents concerning payments and/or disbursements to individuals and/or entities in connection with get out the vote efforts, and/or efforts to increase voter turnout and/or absentee voting.

6. All documents related to the alteration of, destruction of, submission of, and/or failure to submit absentee ballots.

7. All communications between November 1, 2016 and the present related to the North Carolina Board of Election, except for communications with attorneys representing Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr.

8. A list of, or documents evidencing the identities of, all candidates for elected office for whom Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr. worked, and/or received payment, from January 1, 2008 through the present.

Harris has previously denied any wrongdoing on his part and testified at the NCSBE hearing in February that he had no direct knowledge of specific activities Dowless’ did on his behalf during the 2018 campaign.

Johnson, who hired Dowless in his race against Harris and then-incumbent Robert Pittenger for the 9th District in the 2016 Republican Primary and is now a North Carolina State Senator, has refused multiple requests for comment from WBTV regarding his relationship with Dowless.

Full Coverage: Read all of WBTV’s NC-9 investigation coverage here

Dowless briefly addressed the criminal allegations against him in an exclusive interview with WBTV after being released from jail in late February.

“The truth will prevail on it all,” Dowless said.

Singletary, Dowless’ attorney, has previously issued a statement on her client’s behalf denying any wrongdoing.

The federal grand jury subpoena said the documents were being requested for a meeting of the grand jury April 16-18, 2019.

As the federal investigation gets underway, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman—who is handling the state criminal investigation in place of the Bladen County District Attorney, who recused himself—has said her investigation into potential criminal violations during the 2018 general election continues.

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