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Evidence of election fraud in North Carolina; Venezuelans flee a humanitarian crisis.
New House election called in North Carolina
- North Carolina Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris claimed on Thursday he did not know his campaign was involved in widespread ballot tampering, but he ultimately called for a new election in the Ninth District. The state elections board unanimously voted to do so shortly thereafter. Harris defeated his Democratic contender by 905 votes last year. [NPR / Miles Parks]
- Wednesday night, Harris’s campaign revealed a cache of materials demonstrating that Harris potentially knew a campaign operative tampered with absentee ballots, which a Democratic attorney called “explosively important.” [Vox / Dylan Scott]
- During the 2018 election, Harris hired Republican operative Leslie McCrae Dowless. In the counties where Dowless worked, the number of absentee ballots requested was alarmingly higher than the number of those returned. [Vox / Dylan Scott]
- The evidence of contacts between Harris and Dowless should have been turned over at the start of the investigation, but campaign officials claim they did not know these documents should’ve been provided to the court. The attorneys for Harris’s competitor, Democrat Dan McCready, have asked that more members of Harris’s campaign be subpoenaed. [Politico / Laura Barrón-López]
- Harris’s son testified that he warned his father about Dowless. Harris has denied knowledge of the illegal actions in public addresses, but in emails with his son, the two discussed the collection of absentee ballots. [NPR / Miles Parks]
- Dowless reportedly paid workers $125 for every 50 absentee ballots they collected and signed. His team took steps to make sure the ballots appeared okay to state electoral officials, even using the same ink the voter had used. One worker testified neither she nor Dowless ever threw away a ballot. [Washington Post / Amy Gardner]
Maduro keeps aid — and the US — out
- Aid deliveries from the US and its allies have been blockaded by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in an effort to resist foreign intervention and demands that he resign. A humanitarian crisis is mounting in Venezuela, once a prosperous country, and millions of people have begun fleeing across the border. [CNN / Stefano Pozzebon]
- Juan Guaidó — the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who has mounted a claim that he is the country’s legitimate leader (which the US backs) — promised to deliver the aid across his country’s border with Colombia by Saturday, February 23. However, aid groups are concerned about the costs of the US and its allies using humanitarian aid to achieve political goals. [Atlantic / Dylan Baddour]
- Hyperinflation, utility shortages, and food scarcity are driving more than 3 million Venezuelans to leave their country on foot, in some cases through the freezing Andes Mountains, to border cities in Colombia. Pop-up shelters have provided limited aid for migrants. [NYT / Nicholas Casey and Jenny Carolina González]
- Maduro, who still controls the military, has blocked US aid deliveries from crossing the border with Colombia. Determined to fulfill his promise of addressing humanitarian issues, Guaidó and volunteers will transport the aid into Venezuela this weekend, one month after the National Assembly leader declared himself the interim president. Some fear the effort could instigate violence. [CNBC / Sam Meredith]
- President Trump gave a speech in Miami on Monday, in which he bashed Venezuela as a socialist country and promised he would make it democracy. The address also served as a preview of Trump’s 2020 anti-socialist platform. [NPR / Vanessa Romo]
- Pope Francis started off a four-day meeting at the Vatican regarding clerical abuse of children with a speech on Thursday. He did not describe what solutions would come of the assembly of 190 church leaders from around the world and survivors of abuse. [Washington Post / Chico Harlan]
- Michael Cohen will testify before Congress next Wednesday. The House Oversight and Reform Committee will ask Cohen about his work as President Trump’s former attorney, but he will not be permitted to speak about issues related to Russia that are currently being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller. [NYT / Nicholas Fandos]
- China’s chief negotiator is expected to meet with Trump on Friday regarding multiple memorandums for a trade deal, and the discussions may be contentious. President Trump is likely to demand that an agreement addresses intellectual property, China’s deficit, and accusations of hacking. [Bloomberg / Jenny Leonard]
- Michael Jackson allegedly abused two young boys, and their story is the subject of a new documentary, Leaving Neverland. Jackson denied abuse charges back in the ‘90s — when his victims testified for his defense. [Vanity Fair / Nicole Sperling]
- The Chinese government has collected DNA from the Muslim Uighur minority as part of a larger crackdown on Uighurs to make them “more subservient” to the Communist Party. Technology from a Massachusetts-based company and scientific material from a researcher at Yale University were used by Chinese authorities — but the firm claimed it would stop sales on Wednesday and the researcher said he didn’t know the materials were used for this purpose. [NYT / Sui-Lee Wee]
“This announcement today recognizes that ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I’m left hanging my head and asking why.” [Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson after Smollett turned himself in Thursday morning]
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