FBI KNEW ABOUT MCCRAE DOWLESS AS EARLY AS MAY 2018: The search warrants also show state officials have worked actively with the U.S. Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section out of Washington, D.C., on the investigation since at least May 2018. That's when FBI Special Agent James Kaylor conducted surveillance on Dowless while he met with people outside a Bladenboro gas station where one of the CashPoints ATMs was located, according an affidavit filed with the search warrant. In October, Kaylor also accompanied an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation during an interview with Tonia Gordon, one of the Dowless associates charged last month. Kaylor is listed as the point of contact in DOJ subpoenas revealed earlier this week that demand records from the State Board of Elections, Dowless and Republican Mark Harris, who hired Dowless during his Congressional run in the 9th District.
STATE BOARD REFUSES TO AUTOMATICALLY LICENSE OUT-OF-STATE TEACHERS: The State Board of Education on Wednesday rejected a recommendation from an advisory committee to automatically grant North Carolina teaching licenses to fully licensed teachers from other states. Board members expressed concern that the proposal could result in teachers being hired from states with lower standards than North Carolina. The state board also directed the N.C. Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission to come up with recommendations on how out-of-state teachers can demonstrate within one year that they’re meeting standards to get a license. North Carolina superintendents and principals are worried about getting enough teachers in the face of an aging workforce and less interest in college students to enter the profession. One option is to recruit more teachers from other states.
TILLIS ENJOYS BEING THE CENTER OF ATTENTION ON BORDER VOTE: The White House is watching him. Republicans in Washington and battleground North Carolina are taking note. And Sen. Thom Tillis is again in the tense middle of a test of how closely he'll stand with President Donald Trump. "Just another day at the office," Tillis, R-N.C., told reporters on the way into yet another Republican meeting on whether to reverse the president's declaration of a national emergency to pay for his border wall. Just over an hour later, the GOP senators emerged with an answer: The vote is going to go against Trump, possibly with Tillis' help. Tillis' strong statements of opposition to Trump's use of executive power are not the first time the former IBM consultant and state House speaker has defied the president, who often views other Republicans in terms of their loyalty to him. Tillis partnered with Democrats earlier this year on legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's job investigating the president's campaign and Russia's interference in the 2016 election. (a bill that still hasn't been brought to the floor for a vote)
BETO O'ROURKE DECLARES DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL RUN FOR 2020: Former South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges said that may be more challenging to do now that O’Rourke faces a large group of opponents who also connect with the Democratic base. “Last year, it was Beto versus Ted Cruz, who was a very disliked figure not only among Democrats, but among a lot of Republicans,” Hodges said. “In a Democratic primary, you have a whole different set of dynamics. There’s a number of other charismatic candidates in the race.” Many of those candidates have embraced increasingly liberal policies, from endorsing the idea of exploring some form of reparations for African-Americans affected by slavery, to applauding potential campaign unionization efforts. O’Rourke, however, has shied away from identifying as a progressive, saying that he doesn’t like labels, and has at times been reluctant to offer detailed positions even on issues that are relevant to his home state, including elements of immigration policy. That approach may not be sustainable in a presidential contest where candidates who largely agree on core issues search for ways to stand out.
FACEBOOK UNDER GRAND JURY SCRUTINY OVER SELLING USER DATA: A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, according to two people who were familiar with the requests and who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential legal matters. Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users. The companies were among more than 150, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, that had cut sharing deals with the world’s dominant social media platform. The agreements, previously reported in The New York Times, let the companies see users’ friends, contact information and other data, sometimes without consent. Facebook has phased out most of the partnerships over the past two years. “We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so.”