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Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward rejects calls for audit of party elections

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Kelli Ward on Friday rejected calls for an audit into her recent reelection as the chair of the Arizona Republican Party and other party races, arguing that the state GOP does not have the structure to review them.

“We don’t have the structure to be able to do an audit,” she said on KFYI’s radio show “The Conservative Circus with James T. Harris,” adding, “But we welcome their input to make elections bigger.”
She added that the structure for an audit “doesn’t exist in our process, our procedures, our bylaws, in statute.”
Ward, one of the most fervent proponents of former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, claimed not only that an audit was not possible, but that calls for it were being pushed as a way to attack her.
She argued that the only people demanding an audit are Sergio Arellano — a Tucson small business owner who challenged Ward for the top state party job — and people who were part of his campaign.
Arellano did not respond to CNN’s request for a response to Ward on Friday.
Last week, Ward secured a second stint as chair of the state party, beating Arellano by 3 percentage points. Arellano on Thursday requested an audit of the votes cast in the race for Arizona GOP chair and other party elections.
“I anticipate the State GOP will do a solid job here and provide election officials around the state with an example of how to conduct a timely audit and how important ballot security and paper backups are,” Arellano said in a statement posted to Facebook.
He claimed that a “reversal of the stated results” in another party race prompted a “number of state committeemen” to raise concerns and reach out to him to ask that he request an audit. Sandra Dowling was announced the winner of a bid for Arizona’s 8th congressional district’s member-at-large committee, only to have the win pulled back because of an error.
During the radio interview, Ward went on to attack the media, saying stories about the possible audit were trying to “gin up something that just doesn’t exist” and that “everything was above board” with the election.
Ward’s tenure as chair of the party has been defined by her unwavering support for Trump, having repeatedly backed his maneuvers to overturn the presidential election results, including in Arizona, which Joe Biden won by more than 10,000 votes.
The former vice president became the second Democrat since Harry Truman in 1948 to win Arizona in 2020. In the wake of Biden’s win, Ward lashed out at some Republicans who backed the new President, including Cindy McCain, the late Sen. John McCain’s widow, and former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

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Michigan school shooting: Suspect’s parents deny involuntary manslaughter

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bbc– The parents of a teenager suspected of a deadly school shooting have denied charges of involuntary manslaughter following their arrest on Saturday.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were found hiding in a Detroit basement having failed to show up in court on Friday.

The judge set bail at $500,000 each after agreeing with prosecutors that the Crumbleys posed a flight risk.

They are accused of ignoring warning signs before their son’s alleged rampage.

Prosecutors say Ethan Crumbley, 15, used his father’s gun to shoot classmates in the nearby Michigan town of Oxford, killing four and wounding seven.

The Crumbleys’ lawyers said that the pair had intended to turn themselves in to the authorities on Saturday morning, according to US media.

However reports in the US say the couple had withdrawn $4,000 (£3,000) from an ATM and had turned off their mobile phones.

Oakland County lead prosecutor Karen McDonald said the terrorism charge was neither “usual” nor “typical” but reflected the wider impact the shooting would have.

“What about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home right now who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school?” she said.

“Those are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community. The charge of terrorism reflects that.”

Why have the parents been charged?

On Friday, Ms McDonald acknowledged that charging parents in a child’s alleged crime was also unusual.

According to her office’s investigation, the boy was with his father last Friday when Mr Crumbley bought the firearm believed to have been used in the shooting.

A post on the boy’s social media later that day showed off his dad’s new weapon as “my new beauty”, adding a heart emoji.

Just one day before the shooting, a teacher said she saw the boy searching online for ammunition, which prompted a meeting with school officials, Ms McDonald said. After being informed of the incident, Mrs Crumbley texted her son: “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

And on Tuesday morning – hours before the rampage – Mr and Mrs Crumbley were called into the school for an urgent meeting after teachers found a note by their son, including several drawings of guns and bloodied people alongside captions like “the thoughts won’t stop. Help me”, and “blood everywhere”. The boy had also written “My life is useless” and “The world is dead”, according to the prosecutor.

School officials told the pair they would have to seek counselling for their son.

But the boy’s parents did not want him to be removed from school that day, Ms McDonald said, and did not ask him whether he had the gun with him, or search his backpack.

At 13:22 later that day, Mrs Crumbley texted her son to say: “Ethan, don’t do it.” Minutes later her husband called police to report his gun was missing, said the prosecutor.

But authorities say the boy had already emerged from the school bathroom and opened fire on fellow students.

Ms McDonald said the charges were meant to hold the Crumbleys accountable and to send a message about responsible gun ownership.

“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable, and it’s criminal,” she said.

The prosecutor had previously noted that, although the gun had been purchased legally, it “seems to have just been freely available” for the child’s use. According to her, the suspect took the gun from an unlocked drawer in his parents’ bedroom and brought it to school.

Neither federal nor state law requires gun owners to keep their weapons locked away from their children.

In a video message posted to YouTube on Thursday, the school’s superintendent Tim Throne said that – while the boy and his parents had been called to the office – “no discipline was warranted” at the time.

He added that the school looked like a “war zone” and would not be ready to operate again for weeks.

Ms McDonald alleged on Friday that, when James Crumbley heard about the shooting, he “drove straight to his home to look for his gun” before calling authorities to say he suspected his son was the perpetrator.

“I’m angry as a mother. I’m angry as a prosecutor. I’m angry as a person that lives in this county,” she said. “There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent.”

She said her office had “a mountain of digital evidence” to show the suspect had planned the attack “well before the incident”.

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Jussie Smollett’s Lawyer Says Actor Is ‘A Real Victim’ Of Attack

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huffpost— Jussie Smollett “is a real victim” of a “real crime,” his attorney said in opening statements at the ex-“Empire” actor’s trial Monday, rejecting prosecutors’ allegation that he staged a homophobic and racist attack in Chicago after the television studio where he worked didn’t take hate mail he had received seriously.

Defense attorney Nenye Uche said two brothers attacked Smollett in January 2019 because they didn’t like him, and that a $3,500 check the actor paid the men was for training so he could prepare for an upcoming music video, not as payment for staging a hate crime, as prosecutors allege. Uche also suggested a third attacker was involved and told jurors there is not a “shred “ of physical and forensic evidence linking Smollett to the crime prosecutors allege.

“Jussie Smollett is a real victim,” Uche said.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb said the actor recruited the brothers to help him carry out a fake attack, then reported it to Chicago police, who classified it as a hate crime and spent 3,000 staff hours on the investigation. Smollett said he was attacked by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, a report that ignited political and ideological divisions around the country.

“When he reported the fake hate crime that was a real crime,” said Webb, who was named as special prosecutor after Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dropped the original charges filed against Smollett. A new indictment was returned in 2020.

Smollett, who arrived at the courthouse in Chicago Monday with his mother and other family members, is charged with felony disorderly conduct. The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said it is likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

Webb told jurors Smollett was unhappy about how the studio handled the letter he received. That letter included a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree and “MAGA,” a reference to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan, Webb said.

He said Smollett then concocted the fake attack and had a “dress rehearsal” with the two brothers — who worked on the “Empire” set with Smollett — including telling them to shout racial and homophobic slurs and “MAGA.” Smollett also told the brothers to buy ski masks, red hats and a rope, Webb told jurors.

“He told them to use a rope to make it look like a hate crime,” Webb said.

But Uche said Smollett had turned down extra security when the studio offered it. He also portrayed the brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, as unreliable, saying their story has changed while Smollett’s has not, and that when police searched their home they found heroin and guns.

Twelve jurors plus three alternates were sworn in late Monday for a trial that Judge James Linn said he expects to take about one week. Cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom and the proceedings are not being livestreamed, unlike in other recent high-profile trials.

Whether Smollett, who is Black and gay, will testify remains an open question. But the siblings will take the witness stand.

Jurors also may see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, as well as a video showing the brothers purchasing supplies hours earlier.

Buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from an area resident who says she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”

Her comments could back up Smollett’s contention that his attackers draped a makeshift noose around his neck. Further, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s statements — widely ridiculed because the brothers, who come from Nigeria, are Black — that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.

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The White House is tapping oil reserves to try to bring down high gas prices

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npr– The United States plans to draw 50 million barrels of oil from its emergency oil reserves in coming months, a widely anticipated step aimed at trying to take the edge off high gas prices that have been hurting consumers at the pump — and hurting President Biden in the polls.

Inflation has emerged as a top political concern with voters, who have seen prices for gasoline and other staples surge in recent months. U.S. gas prices are at their highest level since 2014.

Biden has been talking with other leaders about the problem, and other major consumers — China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom — will take similar steps to release oil from their stockpiles, the White House said on Tuesday.

In a Tuesday news conference announcing the decision, Biden said, “We’re taking action.”

“The big part of the reason Americans are facing high gas prices is because oil-producing countries and large companies have not ramped up the supply of oil quickly enough to meet the demand. And the smaller supply means higher prices globally — globally — for oil,” he said.

Biden warned that actions by the U.S. and other nations wouldn’t fix problems at the pump “overnight,” but said Americans could soon expect relief.

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