Friday News: And then there were three


COLUMBUS SHERIFF'S RACE UNDER SCRUTINY OVER POSSIBLE ABSENTEE BALLOT FRAUD: In Columbus County, campaign finance records show that Republican sheriff candidate S. Jody Greene paid political strategy firm Red Dome $2,500 for “consulting for campaign” in August. Dowless worked for Red Dome, the company has said. Greene beat the incumbent, Lewis Hatcher, a Democrat, by fewer than 40 votes. More than 300 votes in the race were cast using mail-in absentee ballots. Hatcher won 243 of those absentee votes to Greene’s 93, according to results posted on the state elections board’s website. The county elections board dismissed four complaints challenging the results in the sheriff’s race. At least two have since been appealed to the the state board. Neither Greene nor Hatcher responded to interview requests from The News & Observer. But Greene’s wife, Angie, said in an interview last week at the elections office: “We did not specifically hire McCrae Dowless. We hired Red Dome.”

GOVERNOR PROVIDES DOCUMENTS RELATED TO PIPELINE MITIGATION FUND: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's administration says it's provided thousands of pages to Republican legislators about a $58 million side deal Cooper's office reached with utilities planning to build a natural gas pipeline. Cooper's office announced Thursday the electronic posting of the documents. GOP leaders sent multiple requests for information this year about last January's memorandum of understanding reached with Atlantic Coast Pipeline developers. The governor's office called legislators' demands a political fishing expedition, largely rebuffed until now. The money would have been disbursed for environmental mitigation and other projects, but lawmakers passed a law essentially intercepting it for public schools near the pipeline route. A statement announcing the documents said the memorandum had nothing to do with the "rigorous and fact-based" review of a water permit developers ultimately received.

NC AG JOSH STEIN JOINS LAWSUITS TO BLOCK SEISMIC TESTING OFF NC COAST: North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein, along with attorneys general from Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, Virginia and New York moved Thursday to intervene in a lawsuit to stop the proposed use of airguns to survey the Atlantic Ocean floor for oil and gas. “North Carolina’s beautiful coastline supports tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity,” said Stein in a statement. “That is why I am fighting this move to take our state one step closer to offshore drilling. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect our state’s coast.” The pending lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, and federal officials was filed last week in South Carolina by a coalition of local and national non-governmental organizations. “In moving to intervene on the side of the organizations, the attorneys general are seeking to file their own complaint on behalf of their respective states, “according to the announcement. The seismic testing surveys is one step closer to allowing offshore drilling, “An action that would result in severe and potentially irreparable harm to our coastline and its critically important tourism and fishing economy,” the release continued.

MATTIS RESIGNS IN WAKE OF TRUMP DECISION TO PULL OUT OF SYRIA: The announcement came a day after Trump surprised U.S. allies and members of Congress by announcing the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria, and as he continues to consider cutting in half the American deployment in Afghanistan by this summer. The news coincided with domestic turmoil as well, Trump's fight with Congress over a border wall and a looming partial government shutdown. Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria has been sharply criticized for abandoning America's Kurdish allies, who may well face a Turkish assault once U.S. troops leave, and had been staunchly opposed by the Pentagon. Mattis, in his resignation letter, emphasized the importance of standing up for U.S. allies — an implicit criticism of the president's decision on this issue and others. "While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies," Mattis wrote.

TRUMP THROWS TANTRUM, GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN LIKELY: There were hours of headlines about an apparent presidential retreat on building a wall and angst from hard-line Republicans over their last opportunity to secure funding before a Democratic majority. Then the president informed House Republicans on Thursday that he would refuse to sign the Senate measure. The House merged the Senate’s stopgap spending bill with about $5.7 billion in funding for the wall and close to $8 billion in disaster relief funding. It passed in the House, 217 to 185, but it is considered dead on arrival in the Senate, multiple aides said, where Democrats will most likely block the wall money. What will happen after the Senate says no is unclear. Senators will reconvene Friday at noon. Chances of a shutdown grow with each minute. In a series of early morning Twitter posts on Friday, Mr. Trump blamed Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, for not fighting as hard as he could for the wall and branded a potential government shutdown, a “Democrat Shutdown!”