ATLANTA — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is stepping up the pace of her investigation into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, questioning a wide array of witnesses and preparing a rash of subpoenas to top Georgia state officials, state lawmakers and a prominent local journalist for testimony that will start next week.Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who won a surprise victory against a Trump-backed opponent in Tuesday’s Republican primary, is slated to be one of Willis’s lead witnesses when he appears before the grand jury next Wednesday, sources confirmed to Yahoo News.“Based on her pugnacity, it looks like it’s full steam ahead,” said one lawyer representing a client who has been contacted by Willis’s team of investigators and prosecutors. “She’s much more aggressive and determined than I expected.”Willis’s investigation appears to now represent the biggest single legal threat to Trump, given that there have been no clear signs that prosecutors at the U.S. Department of Justice or the New York district attorney’s office are actively preparing to bring criminal charges against the former president. She has assembled a team of about 10 prosecutors and agents for the Trump probe. Earlier this month a group of them flew to Washington to meet with investigators from the Jan. 6 committee, who shared details from confidential witness testimony and other material relevant to Trump’s efforts to flip Georgia’s 16 electoral votes, said a source familiar with the probe.Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in Glennville, Ga., on April 14. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)Initially Willis was expected to focus on Trump’s Jan. 3, 2021, hourlong phone call to Raffensperger in which the then president repeatedly implored him to “find” just enough votes to change the election results and suggested he could face criminal penalties if he did not.But sources familiar with the investigation say Willis’s agents and prosecutors are casting a much wider net in an apparent effort to establish that Trump’s phone call was only one piece in a broader conspiracy — potentially prosecutable under an expansive state racketeering law — to pressure or intimidate state officials and lawmakers to change the results of the 2020 election by promoting bogus claims of voter fraud.“The process of hearing from witnesses is starting June 1,” said Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Willis. He declined further comment.In recent weeks Willis’s team, including an outside special counsel and at least four prosecutors and investigators, has interviewed witnesses about efforts by Georgia Republican lawmakers to appoint an alternate slate of electors who would certify Trump as the winner of the state’s electoral votes. The team has also questioned legislators who sat for a controversial series of hearings in which Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani made demonstrably false statements about a video he claimed showed evidence of voter fraud. That assertion had already been debunked by state officials and the FBI.Former President Donald Trump at a rally on April 23 in Delaware, Ohio. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)Elena Parent, a Democratic state senator who attended the hearings, told Yahoo News that she was questioned by Willis’s team a couple of weeks ago and then received a subpoena to testify before the grand jury on June 22. (Parent shared a copy of the subpoena with Yahoo News.)Parent said the Willis team — led by Nathan Wade, a private lawyer and friend of Willis’s who has been hired as a special counsel by her office — questioned her about the circumstances of how Giuliani came to appear before two legislative committees on Dec. 3, 2020, the remarks he made before the lawmakers and his questioning of witnesses he brought with him that day. They wanted to know about “everything that happened with the hearings,” Parent said. But she said they also “zeroed in” on vile death threats she received after her comments at the hearing and a mocking tweet about Giuliani’s appearance she posted later that day.Parent had noted in a Dec. 3, 2020, tweet that Raffensperger’s office had already explained how Joe Biden had legitimately won the state’s electoral votes. “Now we are being forced to listen to bonkers conspiracy theories out of Rudy Giuliani’s team,” she wrote. “What a disservice to the public.”Willis had publicly promised to hold off on subpoenaing witnesses before Georgia’s primary so as not to be accused of seeking to interfere in the election. But the state’s primary voting ended on Tuesday and Raffensperger himself defeated a Trump-backed opponent, Rep. Jody Hice, garnering 52 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff. As a result, Raffensperger will now be among the lead witnesses next week while multiple Georgia state officials — including Gov. Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and others in Raffensperger’s office — are bracing for what they have been told will be a wave of subpoenas.A grand jury subpoena relating to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' investigation into former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. (Yahoo News)“There’s likely to be a flurry of people being brought in [before the grand jury] in the next few weeks,” said one witness who has been contacted by Willis’s team and told to expect a subpoena.But there are already signs that Willis will face considerable legal challenges. Republican lawmakers have refused requests to sit for voluntary interviews and have hired an outside counsel who is expected to raise challenges to any subpoenas on the grounds that the lawmakers had legislative immunity barring them from being questioned about their official actions.In another move that could produce a legal skirmish, Willis’s office has also contacted Greg Bluestein, the lead political reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and told him to expect a subpoena. Bluestein was a witness to events surrounding the Dec. 14, 2020, effort led by Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer to appoint an alternate slate of electors pledged to Trump despite Biden’s victory in the state. Bluestein has written that after being tipped off to a gathering of the rogue Trump electors in the state Capitol, he tried to attend but was blocked from doing so after being told it was an “education” meeting, a scenario that could be used by Willis’s prosecutors to show that the Trump electors were being secretive about what they were doing. (Bluestein declined comment, but legal experts expect lawyers for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to challenge the subpoena.)Georgia Sen. Elena Parent at the Capitol in Atlanta in 2017. (David Goldman/AP)But Raffensperger remains the star witness, with his phone call from Trump most likely the core of the case. Although he sought during his reelection campaign to court conservative Trump voters by pledging to fight for a constitutional amendment that would bar noncitizens from voting, he has never wavered from his position that there was no evidence of fraud that would change the results of the 2020 election. And he reaffirmed that with strong and pointed words about the improper pressure he came under from Trump in remarks he made in a brief victory speech to a group of supporters.“We investigated everything and it wouldn’t have overturned the results of the race,” he said. “My thinking was the vast majority of Georgians are looking for honest people for elected office. Standing for the truth, and not buckling under pressure, is what people want.”
'We all learned from it': Louisville teachers, parents reflect on another school year of adjustments
The 2021-22 school year is in the books for JCPS. After battling COVID surges that strained staff, schools finished with months of traditional instruction. LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As Jefferson County Public School students finished up for the 2021-22 school year Thursday, faculty and parents reflected on the challenges they all overcame. "If nothing else, we've all had to give each other grace no matter the situation," said Susan Smuskiewicz, a teacher at Atherton High School. The timeline shows a stark difference between where things stood on day one of the school year compared to the last. And there's a sense of gratitude, after pushing through a semester that, for a moment, looked like it could go backward. “There were days throughout the year that just having school, holding school, was an extreme challenge. And it was a day-to-day proposition," said JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio, after final classes wrapped up at Crosby Middle School. "Definitely been the most interesting and challenging year of my career. I think most educators would say that, but I'm really proud of the way JCPS worked our way through this year." It was a third-straight year of adjustments. But after battling through COVID-19 surges that strained staff and families, schools finished with months of traditional instruction. RELATED: Nation’s first federally backed test-to-treat COVID-19 site set to open "It was just the fact of having them back in the classroom [that] was the most important thing," Carter Traditional Elementary School teacher Nicole Brown said. The Delta and Omicron surges were just a few of the hurdles. Bunches of students and faculty at a time missed several school days to quarantine. The school district started dipping into its bank of 10 NTI days, using nine of them. And there was a point in 2022 when just staffing each JCPS classroom became a struggle. "It was like chaos versus normalcy," said parent Nicole Coggins, whose twin boys go to Valley High School. "They were just nervous all the time, and then it just became like, 'Okay, we can deal with this. We know what we need to do." But the outlook got better, with 'Test-to-Stay' and 'Test-to-Play' initiatives allowing more flexibility. Case counts eventually dipped, the mask mandate was lifted and students had continuity again -- as they knew it before. RELATED: Police: Texas gunman walked through apparently unlocked door, was inside school for 1 hour "I feel like in this school year, there's been a clear beginning, middle and end," Smuskiewicz said. And to close the school year, there's also been support for Louisville families and students on edge after seeing the immense loss suffered in Uvalde, Texas. The tragedy and its impact are on the minds of educators everywhere. "My heart goes out to all the educators. It's sad that we have to think about something like this now, but it's reality," Brown said. At JCPS, it has renewed discussions over new safety measures to come this fall. And with COVID-19 protocols on the back burner, the school district has plenty on its plate, including decisions on school assignments on the horizon. But regardless of the challenges, there's optimism. "I think in retrospect, even though this year was chopped up, we all learned from it and became resilient because of it," said Smuskiewicz. Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the WHAS11 News app now. For Apple or Android users. Have a news tip? Email email@example.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed. [embedded content]
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Thursday marked the final day for students at Jefferson County Public Schools, and the 2021-22 school year won’t be one Superintendent Marty Pollio will forget soon.The 2021-22 school year has “definitely been the most interesting and challenging” of Pollio’s career, he said during a news conference Thursday at Crosby Middle.“I think most educators would say that, but I’m really proud of the way that JCPS worked our way through this year,” Pollio said.The 2021-22 term marked the first time students were back in classrooms for the entire school year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, barring a few days of nontraditional instruction amid surges in coronavirus cases.The school year began with mandatory masking, though the Jefferson County Board of Education eventually gave Pollio authority to lift that requirement as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations dropped, and eventually included other coronavirus mitigation steps like “test to stay” and “test to play.”While prevention measures were in place, JCPS had to navigate tens of thousands mandatory quarantines for students and staff who either tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed. JCPS reported 13,229 positive cases of COVID-19 among students and 4,952 among staff and 36,076 quarantines for students and 973 for staff throughout the 2021-22 school year as of Thursday morning.“I’m proud of what we did here in JCPS to make sure that we mitigated COVID in our schools, thousands and thousands of tests every single week,” Pollio said.“Meanwhile, in probably the most significant staff shortage in education history all across the nation, our schools stepped up to meet that challenge, meet that need whether it was transportation, custodial staff, teaching staff, no matter what it was.”The 2021-22 school year posed new challenges for JCPS as students grappled with lost classroom time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a process Pollio has said could take Kentucky’s largest school district years to overcome.While Pollio expressed some misgivings about using nationally normed Measures of Academic Progress testing for student proficiency in subjects, the diagnostic tests showed JCPS students, like others throughout the country, struggled academically because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Winter MAP results show that 45% of JCPS students tested at grade level in reading and 36% hit that mark in math.“Our drop seemed to be less than some of our other peer cities,” Pollio said of the district’s MAP results, which showed progression from the fall to winter and winter to spring rounds. “… There's no way to replace what we do inside of a school building on a daily basis, the relationships, the supports the teaching.”JCPS must also grapple with chronic absenteeism, which affects nearly a third of JCPS students. About 30,000 students missed at least 10% of instruction time at JCPS, Pollio said. A WDRB News analysis of MAP and attendance data found a correlation between schools with high rates of chronic absenteeism and lower diagnostic testing scores.Pollio said he believed the district’s proposed revisions to it student assignment plan, which the school board is scheduled to consider during a special meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday, will help reverse that trend. District data show more than 22,000 JCPS students, or 22.8% of enrollment, were chronically absent in the 2018-19 school year, the last uninterrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.Missing school is especially problematic for students who live far from their schools, primarily in the satellite resides areas in and near west Louisville. Crosby Middle in Middletown has about 150 students who are bused in from satellite resides zones, Pollio said.“If they miss that bus, my question would be, how do they get out here?” he said. “How do they get out here without reliable transportation to make it to the other side of the city? I think they should have access to this wonderful school, without a doubt, and take advantage of that opportunity, but it should be the parent that has the opportunity to say, ‘I would rather my child be close to home.’”The superintendent also wants to challenge schools, families and the Louisville community to help form solutions to the problem of students regularly missing classes.About 6,500 seniors are poised to walk for graduation ceremonies in the days ahead, but some are still working to earn enough credits for their diplomas.The district’s graduation rate for 2021-22 won’t be known until later, though Pollio said he expected it would hold steady compared to the 2020-21 school year. Last year’s four-year graduation rate at JCPS was 84.4%, according to state data.Pollio said he expected college readiness for JCPS graduates will top 70% in 2022, “which is about a 20% growth for us over the past couple of years.”“Those years were interrupted by COVID, so it’s hard to directly measure those years, but it will be the highest we’ve ever seen,” Pollio said.Copyright 2022 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.
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By Andy Sullivan(Reuters) – An election official in Wisconsin has resigned, saying he lost the backing of fellow Republicans because of his refusal to support former President Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.The announcement by Wisconsin Elections Commission member Dean Knudson, a Republican, creates more uncertainty as the embattled panel plans to elect a chairman ahead of competitive congressional and gubernatorial elections in November.“It’s become clear to me that I cannot be effective in my role of representing Republicans on the commission,” Knudson said at a Wednesday meeting of the bipartisan commission, which oversees elections in the Midwestern industrial state.Trump won Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes in 2020, but many Republican officials and candidates in the state have refused to acknowledge Trump’s defeat despite multiple recounts and a state audit affirming the result. Several Republican candidates have called for abolishing the commission.Knudson’s replacement will be selected by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican who ordered an investigation of the 2020 election despite scant evidence of fraud. However, Vos also has acknowledged Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the state.Vos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Trump has pressed fellow Republicans to continue challenging his 2020 election defeat, even though lawsuits, recounts and audits have not uncovered any evidence of fraud.He has not always been successful: Republican primary voters in Georgia on Tuesday rejected several high-profile candidates who put those claims front and center.(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Leslie Adler)
Rep. Bill Pascrell virtually addresses the New Beginnings Displaced Homemakers Network of New Jersey annual awards on May 12. Photo courtesy of Pascrell. Things are shaping up to largely be a repeat of 2020 in [...]
Chicago Public Schools saw a significant increase in overall voter turnout during this year’s Local School Council election after a dramatic drop in 2020 when school officials navigated the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.More than 110,700 parents, staff, students, and community members voted for council candidates at nearly 500 schools this spring. More than three times as many people cast votes in this year’s election than in 2020, when about 35,066 people voted, according to figures obtained by Chalkbeat through a records request.Local School Councils, an example of hyperlocal school governance, are elected every two years. A facet of Chicago school governance since the mid-1990s, the councils vote on the annual school budget, approve the school academic plan, and select and evaluate principals. The councils are traditionally made up of the school’s principal, six parents, two community members, two teachers, one non-teaching staff, and one to three students. For the first time in the district’s history, elementary students in the sixth grade and higher were eligible to serve one-year terms on their school’s LSC. “This is the highest turnout we’ve seen since 2010,” Chief Education Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova said during the April board meeting. “This level of engagement is a huge part of what our district needs to emerge from this challenging time and once again take our place as a national leader in urban education.”More than 6,000 parents, staff, students, and community members ran for open seats during the April election, officials said.The largest turnout was among students, who cast 71,142 votes – a dramatic increase from the 2020 election when only 4,869 students cast a ballot, data shows.Chicago Public School staff voter turnout also more than doubled. About 15,257 ballots were cast in April, compared with 6,286 in 2020.But parent and community voters only saw marginal increases of 2 to 3%, figures show. About 17,065 parents cast a vote in the spring election, compared with 16,802 votes in 2020. Parent voters turned out at higher levels prior to the pandemic when 28,888 cast in 2018. In April, community voters cast 7,328 votes, compared with 7,109 in 2020. This group cast 9,741 votes in the 2018 election, figures show.The district has struggled with tepid participation in the last decade. After the last election, about 900 seats remained unfilled — a situation that prompted a wave of appointments.A few days shy of the district’s deadline in March, only 722 candidate applications had been submitted for 6,239 total positions on councils across 509 schools. About 307 schools had no candidates for open positions. The district ultimately received enough candidates to reach a quorum at 485 schools. About 24 schools did not garner enough applicants to meet quorum, according to the district.Vacancies from the election will not be known until July 1.The District’s LSC Relations Department will work with school communities to fill vacancies.Mauricio Peña is a reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering K-12 schools. Contact Mauricio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Signs and flags supporting U.S. President Donald Trump are seen inside the Republican Party of Eau Claire County office during a “MAGA meetup” presidential debate watch party in Altoona, Wisconsin, U.S., October 22, 2020. REUTERS/Bing GuanRegister now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comRegisterMay 26 (Reuters) - An election official in Wisconsin has resigned, saying he lost the backing of fellow Republicans because of his refusal to support former President Donald Trump's false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.The announcement by Wisconsin Elections Commission member Dean Knudson, a Republican, creates more uncertainty as the embattled panel plans to elect a chairman ahead of competitive congressional and gubernatorial elections in November."It's become clear to me that I cannot be effective in my role of representing Republicans on the commission," Knudson said at a Wednesday meeting of the bipartisan commission, which oversees elections in the Midwestern industrial state.Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comRegisterTrump won Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes in 2020, but many Republican officials and candidates in the state have refused to acknowledge Trump's defeat despite multiple recounts and a state audit affirming the result. Several Republican candidates have called for abolishing the commission.Knudson's replacement will be selected by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican who ordered an investigation of the 2020 election despite scant evidence of fraud. However, Vos also has acknowledged Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the state.Vos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Trump has pressed fellow Republicans to continue challenging his 2020 election defeat, even though lawsuits, recounts and audits have not uncovered any evidence of fraud.He has not always been successful: Republican primary voters in Georgia on Tuesday rejected several high-profile candidates who put those claims front and center. read more Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comRegisterReporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Leslie AdlerOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
As he watched on television as his supporters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” while storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, then-President Donald Trump remarked that his vice president should perhaps be hanged over his refusal to block the certification of Joe Biden's win in the 2020 election, the New York Times reported Wednesday.The comment was relayed to colleagues by former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, and appeared in testimony given to the Jan. 6 select committee investigating the events of that day, the Times reported.Matching the story in the Times, Politico reported that “three people familiar with the matter” confirmed that Trump had “expressed support for hanging his vice president.”Shortly before the violence erupted at the Capitol, Trump had whipped up a crowd of several thousand supporters at a rally where he specifically targeted Pence.“Mike Pence, I hope you’re going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country, and if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you, I’ll tell you right now,” Trump said.By then, Pence had already decided he would not attempt to block the certification of the Electoral College vote showing Trump had lost to Biden. As the formality of tallying the votes got underway, the crowd who had watched Trump outside the White House marched to the Capitol with the purpose of disrupting the count.Former Vice President Mike Pence. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)Overwhelming Capitol Police, smashing windows and forcing their way inside the building, many of Trump's supporters chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” with some erecting a makeshift gallows fitted with a noose. As he watched the mayhem unfolding, Trump reportedly made his remark, though as the Times noted, the exact wording and the tone he used remain unclear.Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Trump, released a statement to the Times and Politico, that, while not directly denying that the former president made the comment about Pence, went after the Jan. 6 committee.“This partisan committee’s vague ‘leaks,’ anonymous testimony, and willingness to alter evidence proves it’s just an extension of the Democrat smear campaign that has been exposed time and time again for being fabricated and dishonest,” Budowich said in the statement. “Americans are tired of the Democrat lies and the charades, but, sadly, it’s the only thing they have to offer.”A spokesperson for Pence declined a request from Yahoo News for comment.Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Meadows aide, confirmed to the Jan. 6 committee that her boss had recounted Trump’s remark about hanging Pence, the Times reported. A lawyer for Meadows told the Times that he had “every reason to believe” the story about what Meadows said “is untrue.”In an interview with ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl last year, Trump was asked about the “Hang Mike Pence” chant and whether he had worried about his vice president’s safety during the riot.“Were you worried about him during that siege? Were you worried about his safety?” Karl asked.“No, I thought he was well protected, and I had heard that he was in good shape,” Trump responded. “No, I had heard he was in very good shape. But, but — no, I think —”“Because you heard those chants, that was terrible, I mean, you know, those —”“He could have — well, the people were very angry,” Trump continued.“They were saying, ‘Hang Mike Pence,’” Karl added.“Because it’s — it’s common sense, Jon, it’s common sense that you’re supposed to protect. How can you — if you know a vote is fraudulent, right — how can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?” Trump said.In a February speech to the Federalist Society, Pence refuted Trump’s contention that he simply could have blocked the Electoral College certification.“President Trump is wrong: I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” Pence said.In April, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who serves on the Jan. 6 committee, described the effort by the Secret Service to remove Pence from the Capitol building as the certification of the Electoral College vote was halted by the rioters.“The Secret Service agents, who presumably were reporting to Trump’s Secret Service agents, were trying to spirit him off of the campus and he said, ‘I’m not getting in that car until we count the Electoral College votes.’ He knew exactly what this inside coup they had planned for was going to do,” Raskin said in an interview at Georgetown University, adding, “This was not a coup directed at the president. It was a coup directed by the president against the vice president and against the Congress.”
TALLAHASSEE — A congressional panel probing changes to elections laws across the country held a hearing Wednesday in Tallahassee, illustrating a partisan divide over voting-related measures pushed in Republican-led states such as Florida.The U.S. Committee on House Administration’s Subcommittee on Elections heard testimony from elections experts critical of voting restrictions passed by the Florida Legislature over the past two years.The subcommittee also heard from Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Christopher Anderson, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019.U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat who is chairperson of the subcommittee, expressed concern over a law — championed by DeSantis — that created an Office of Elections Crimes and Security in the Florida Department of State this year.Related: