Before Mark Harris even took the stand Thursday in a hearing to determine the way forward in the disputed North Carolina 9th District House election, the Republican candidate’s campaign lawyers were accused of trying to bury damaging documents about his interest in a controversial political operative.
Mark Harris’ son, John Harris, testified Wednesday and essentially provided a paper trail showing that he warned his father about the unsavory and potentially illegal tactics of political operative McCrae Dowless, and that his father hired him anyway.
Things got even worse for the Republican candidate Thursday morning, as it came to light that attorneys representing his campaign committee presented damning documents to the courtroom a mere 15 minutes before John Harris took the stand Wednesday, creating at least the impression that they intended to bury the information until testimony forced them to produce it.
Josh Lawson, the attorney for the Board of Elections, told the courtroom about the documents Thursday morning, wanting to draw attention to and distribute copies of the records while there was time to take a recess so all the attorneys could review the information and it could be entered into evidence. On Wednesday, time was limited due to the impending (and ultimately critical) testimony of John Harris.
The documents included an email from Mark Harris to a local judge in which Harris inquires about connecting with “key people” who could help him win the 9th District race, including “the guy whose absentee ballot project for Johnson could have put me in the US House this term.”
One of the documents is a message from Mark Harris to Judge Marion Warren, who is known to be one of the people to vouch for McCrae Dowless.
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) February 21, 2019
For context: Dowless seems to have tampered with absentee ballots during the 2016 Republican primary, rigging it for candidate Todd Johnson in one county.
John Branch, the attorney for the Mark Harris campaign, called the omission his own oversight. “I’m up here to own that,” he said.
Mark Elias, the attorney for Democratic candidate Dan McCready, was hopping mad and requested an adverse inference over the “explosive” documents. He also said he’d want to re-call witnesses and expand the witness list to take the new information into account.
Elias also found out that Harris’ campaign manager’s records, along with those of other campaign operatives, were not mined and wants those people subpoenaed.