The Voice of West Virginia
West Virginia’s chief elections officer, now a candidate for governor, has again said the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
“The election was stolen, and it was stolen by the CIA,” Secretary of State Mac Warner, a Republican, said Thursday night during a MetroNews debate for gubernatorial candidates.
Of the candidates at the debate, Warner was the only one who went so far.
Businessman Chris Miller, son of Congresswoman Carol Miller, when asked if the election was stolen responded “possibly.” House Judiciary Chairman Moore Capito, son of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, would only say that West Virginia elections were secure and would go no farther.
A fourth gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who did not attend the debate, signed West Virginia on to a 2020 federal lawsuit that sought to invalidate election results in Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed it for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution.
Warner, a longtime Army officer who comes from an active political family, was explicit at the debate: “The election was stolen.”
‘Stop the Steal’
For Warner, who has served as West Virginia’s Secretary of State since 2017, the claim was a variation on a consistent public position of casting doubt on the presidential election.
Warner is now vying to become West Virginia’s chief executive, touting his long record in the U.S. Army and his two terms as the state’s chief elections officer. Polls have shown him running behind some of the other candidates, but he has picked up a key endorsement from the former president’s orbit and hopes for more.
Following the 2020 election, Warner participated in a March for Trump rally and appeared in the backdrop of Right Side Broadcasting coverage holding up a “Stop the Steal” sign. At that point, he questioned voting methods in some states.
He continued into early 2022, questioning elections processes in swing states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. On August 22, 2022, Warner argued in a spirited discussion on MetroNews’ “Talkline” that “votes came in outside the law.”
That was after former President Donald Trump and his allies lost 62 lawsuits contesting election processes, vote counting and the vote certification process in states that included Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Most were dismissed because of lack of evidence.
Michael Flynn endorsement
More recently, Warner has promoted an endorsement by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was among Trump’s most prominent allies in supporting election fraud claims.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was Trump’s national security adviser for just 24 days. He was fired over his lies about discussions over U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak prior to the Trump administration’s taking office.
Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. In late 2020, as Flynn was fighting to keep Trump in office, he received a pardon.
Flynn was among the high-level Trump supporters, including attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who gathered in the Oval Office on Dec. 18, 2020, for a now-notorious late-night brainstorming session about overturning the election. Flynn had been advocating for the imposition of martial law, saying Trump should “seize” voting machines to hold a new election.
In testimony before the select congressional committee investigating the events surrounding Jan. 6, Flynn asserted his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination in response to a series of questions, including whether he believes in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America.
In announcing an endorsement from Flynn last month, Warner said Flynn “recognizes the link between free, fair, and secure elections and the legitimacy and effectiveness of government.”
Flynn endorsed Warner by saying, “Ultimately, our national security is directly related to how legitimate the government is viewed by our citizens. If elections are in question, then respect for government is diminished and our consequent ability to protect the country is degraded. Secretary Warner’s work on election integrity and security has set the example for what is needed right now across this entire country.”
Warner’s claims: Hunter’s laptop
Warner’s basis for questioning the 2020 presidential election, discussed briefly during last week’s gubernatorial debate, has taken a twist.
By pointing toward the Central Intelligence Agency, he is making an argument that information about Hunter Biden’s laptop recovered from a repair shop in October 2020 was suppressed from full consideration by voters.
Warner said all was revealed “when Mike Morell testified under oath to Jim Jordan that, yes, he colluded with Antony Blinken to sell a lie to the American people two weeks before the election for the very purpose of throwing the presidential election. How does it not get stolen if the FBI covers it up and Mark Zuckerberg pays $400 million to put his thumb on the scale? That’s not fair.”
That’s a big tangle to parse.
Mike Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, has been a Trump critic. In October, 2020, Morell signed an open letter contending the Biden laptop story “has the classic earmarks of a Russian disinformation operation.” Then-candidate Joe Biden cited the letter to deflect criticism.
Three years later, no concrete evidence has emerged to confirm the assertion that the laptop contained Russian disinformation.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, led by Congressman Jim Jordan, a Republican of Ohio, has focused its efforts on Hunter Biden’s business dealings. The committee’s Republican majority has contended that Antony Blinken, then a Biden campaign adviser and now Secretary of State, first reached out to Morell about the laptop story.
The allegation has been that the Biden campaign was creating a pretext, through the letter by national security officials, to suppress the laptop story in the weeks before the election.
House Democrats responded to the contention by releasing an excerpt from Morell’s interview. Asked whether Blinken had directed, suggested or insinuated that he should write such a statement, Morell said, “My memory is that he did not.”
Warner’s summary also includes references to the FBI and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. That’s an allegation that agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation reached out to social media companies with warnings that the contents of the laptop could have been subject to tampering by Russian operatives.
Facebook and Twitter restricted sharing of an article focusing on emails from the laptop by the New York Post. Zuckerberg told a popular podcaster that FBI agents had reached out to with warnings that “you should be on high alert.” The warning wasn’t specifically about the laptop article specifically, Zuckerberg said, but Facebook judged that it “fit that pattern.”
Finally, Warner’s mention of Zuckerberg and $400 million is a reference to grants to nonprofit organizations supporting election activities and infrastructure just after the covid-19 pandemic. Critics on the right have contended that funding disproportionately supported Democratic voting efforts and increased Joe Biden’s margin in swing states.
Warner cites a ‘psychological operation’
Warner has sewn these claims together before, in particular while as a speaker for a “ReAwaken America” rally last August headlined by Flynn.
While on stage and in the spotlight, Warner said the CIA had used a “psychological operation” to affect the election. He also spoke of some of his fellow Americans as “enemies.”
“Fifty-one so-called intelligence experts sign a letter saying this has all the indicia of Russian disinformation. Note the quibbling here. Doesn’t say it is; they say it has the indicia of,” Warner said, his hand wavering to make the point.
“So they put the information out, and then Joe Biden uses it. Catch that: Joe Biden used that against Trump in that election just two weeks prior and said ‘Oh, that has been debunked by 51 intelligence experts.’ And there wasn’t time to overcome that. And now they start laughing about it. They brag about it. What they got away with.”
Warner cited his own military service — and Flynn’s — to say “We’re familiar with psychological operations. This is where I really get pissed. They lied to the American people.”
He continued by describing his oath as a West Point cadet to protect and defend the United States Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Warner said he then spent two decades defending against foreign enemies.
“It wasn’t until March of this year, more than two years after the 2020 election, that I had to start worrying about those domestic enemies. And that domestic enemy — we have met the enemy and they are us — it’s the CIA and the FBI,” Warner said to cheers.
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I’m off this week, so no commentaries and Dave Wilson will be filling in on Talkline.
But, if you like, have some fun with this question: “What should Hoppy find under the tree on Christmas morning?”
I look forward to reading your comments!
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — A Jefferson County man is charged with DUI causing death after a UTV crash.
State police said the crash happened Saturday on property near Knotts Road in the Shepherdstown area.
Troopers said Francis Johnson, 22, of Harpers Ferry, wrecked an UTV and his passenger, Taylor Thomas, 22, also of Harpers Ferry, was ejected. He died a short time later at Jefferson Medical Center.
Johnson was later charged with DUI causing death.
The investigation is ongoing.
Three hundred million dollars will be on the line for Gov. Jim Justice and his family’s network of companies during a Monday morning hearing in a small town courtroom.
For many years, Justice was described as West Virginia’s only billionaire, but Forbes downgraded him after 2021 debt disputes. Justice’s political persona has been as a businessman who can buzz the numbers. He is currently running as a Republican for U.S. Senate.
This case presents major financial risk.
Attorneys for the Justice companies and their longtime lender, Carter Bank & Trust, will finally square off at 10 a.m. Monday in a courtroom in Martinsville, Va. The hearing, originally set for last month, had been delayed until now.
The lawyers will make their cases over whether it’s fair to require the Justices to pony up the millions of dollars they had guaranteed on loans that have gone into default.
Carter Bank in April filed to collect on confessed judgments adding up to $302 million, plus interest and attorneys fees, in Martinsville Circuit Court in Virginia. The claims cited personal guarantees by Governor Justice, his wife Cathy and their son Jay, who is the named executive of the family’s coal operations.
The confessions of judgment are written and signed agreements accepting liability in instances of default. In such circumstances, the note may be presented to the court without even notifying the debtor or having a hearing. By signing, borrowers may sacrifice their right to be heard in court.
The confessed judgments filed by Carter Bank apply to loans on James C. Justice Companies, Justice Family Group, Greenbrier Hotel Corp., Greenbrier Golf and Tennis Club, Greenbrier Sporting Club, Players Club LLC, Oakhurst Club, Greenbrier Medical Institute, Justice Low Seam Mining, Twin Fir Estates and Wilcox Industries.
Those loans had come due April 15.
Lawyers for Justice’s companies responded by filing motions to set aside the confessed judgments in the 11 cases.
The filings contend that enforcing the judged confessions is a radical step and that the Justice companies deserve a chance to offer a more detailed defense.
“Confessed judgements are one of the ‘harshest legal tactics’ available to creditors, as such provisions waive a party’s right to notice and opportunity to be heard as dictated by the Fourteenth Amendment,” wrote attorneys for the Justice businesses, referring to due process guarantees.
“Defendants therefore must, as a matter of state law and due process, be afforded an opportunity to establish those defenses in the ordinary course, by having this matter placed on the trial docket.”
Separately, the Justice companies filed a $1 billion suit against Carter Bank and bank officials as individuals last month, alleging bad faith practices that have severely restrained the flexibility of the Justice companies to conduct their business.
“Because of Carter’s significant control over their businesses, Plaintiffs have had little choice but to endure Carter’s oppression until they can escape it by paying off their loans,” wrote lawyers for the Justice companies in the federal filing.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on behalf of Governor Justice, first lady Cathy Justice, son Jay Justice and 15 of the Justice family companies.
Lawyers for Carter Bank are trying to get the lawsuit dismissed or have it transferred to the Western District of Virginia, contending that’s the proper venue because most Justice business operations, the bank’s headquarters and the bankers who have been named in the lawsuit are all there.
Two filings filed last week that lay out that argument also contend the Justices should have been well aware of the loan documents they were signing, as well as the repercussions of not keeping up with payments.
“In what has become a pattern, whenever Plaintiffs default on their loans from Carter Bank and face the inevitable consequences of their default, they frivolously sue Defendants,” wrote the lawyers for Carter, “claiming that they were victims of ‘economic duress,’ a laughable notion when it comes to James C. Justice II, the Governor of West Virginia and one-time reputed billionaire.”
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Academy, a West Virginia public charter school, is days away from learning if they are the winner of the national $1 million Yass Prize or one of eight finalist awards, each worth $500,000.
The winner will be announced in New York City this coming Wednesday.
The first charter school in the state is now one of 33 other institutions nationwide named semifinalists for the award referred to as the “Pulitzer of Education Innovation.”
“Our school has been viewed and vetted by this outside group; a national and very well-respected group has looked at our school and said this is a good thing for the students and the state of West Virginia, and they’ve given us a huge stamp of approval,” West Virginia Academy Chairman Jon Treu said.
The announcement was made following the four-week Accelerator program. During the program, schools are evaluated as they collaborate with experts from business, education, and policy. The accelerator is another step in the process to qualify for the event next week in New York.
“They were pretty extensive in making a site visit, coming out to our school, and seeing what’s happening,” Treu said. “The committee was definitely attuned to what we were doing during the accelerator, so a lot of the process has already happened.”
More than 1,000 schools nationwide entered the competition back in March and now the estimated 300 students and 30 workers at the academy will learn this week if they are the winners.
“We want to enjoy the journey as we’re doing it,” Treu said. “We really are making miracles happen, and we really are taking a very different approach to education, and it’s working already.”
West Virginia Academy operates the Suncrest Campus on Chestnut Ridge Road, with plans to expand to two other locations in the future. The Falling Water Campus would serve middle and high school students, as would the proposed Preston Campus, at the current site of the Preston County Youth Center, where WVA currently conducts its indoor sports.
“The objective of using the funds is really toward expanding our school and helping to continue what we’re already doing, but perhaps more effectively,” Treu said.
Treu said the process has immersed them in not only their charter school operation, but it has also provided the opportunity to meet other running schools and industry experts.
“It was just good for us to hear from others to help us stay focused on that mission that we’re doing this to help children, and we’re doing this for West Virginia, and we’re already seeing that happen,” Treu said.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State education leaders say a national certification West Virginia received last week will help boost efforts to get the Communities in Schools (CIS) initiative in all 55 counties by next year.
Cynthia Sorsaia, coordinator at the West Virginia Department of Education’s (WVDE) Office of Support and Well-being, said they still have two more counties to reach.
“We are in the process of working with Nicholas and Pleasants (counties), so I am so excited that the talks are in the works,” Sorsaia told MetroNews.
WVDE recently became the first state department of education to receive the national certification for CIS. The expansion of CIS across 53 counties and 260 schools has impacted over 100,000 students.
CIS is meant to help children nationwide achieve goals in school, in the workforce and in life.
“It’s a wonderful model that doesn’t come and tell anybody how to do things. It just provides that framework and I think that’s why it’s working,” Sorsaia said.
Communities are asked to identify their needs and then the state works to provide connection to state and federal resources.
“A lot of times that’s the bridge that empowers kids to really stay in school and achieve in life because sometimes the schools are not there. It’s those community resources that we’re able to connect students and families to that help bridge that gap,” Sorsaia said.
This just in!
The West Virginia Department of Education is the first state education department to receive national certification as a licensed @CISNational (CIS®) partner! This program now serves 53 counties and 264 schools, impacting more than 100,000 students statewide!… pic.twitter.com/rG1lrc74r1
— West Virginia Department of Education (@WVEducation) December 4, 2023
Students may need services for a variety of reasons, Sorsaia said.
“Maybe it’s an academic need that they need support. It might be a behavioral need, or an attendance need. They really work with the student to do a needs assessment. What’s going on that’s causing you trouble in school?” she said.
Sorsaia said the program has grown, in large part, to the commitment of First Lady Cathy Justice who started their CIS statewide initiative in Greenbrier and two other counties in 2018.
The CIS Friends with Paws program, which provides therapy dogs to schools within CIS counties, has helped students affected by poverty, substance misuse or other at-risk situations.
State Schools Superintendent Michele Blatt said in a statement last week the program is working.
“We know that teachers and schools cannot support children alone,” Blatt stated. “CIS is that critical ingredient that connects students and families to life-changing resources. With many of the pillars of stability removed from our communities, CIS site coordinators step in and fill a void with compassion, expertise and the ability to draw upon a network of support. As a result, children remain in school and thrive because there is a connected community that cares for them.”
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(Photo gallery by Teran Malone)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Six Mountaineers scored in double figures as West Virginia upped their record to 9-0 with a 107-43 win over Delaware State Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum.
JJ Quinerly filled up the stat sheet with 25 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds and 7 steals. Kylee Blacksteen (16), Jordan Harrison (13), Jayla Hemingway (10), Tavy Diggs (10) and Tirzah Moore (10) also reached double digits in scoring.
West Virginia will return from a week-long break on December 18 when they host Wright State.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — This is final exams week for students at West Virginia University and the Carruth Center is ready to provide help and counseling for students feeling the stress of the fall semester culmination.
Sara DiSimone is the interim assistant director of outreach and campus engagement, and she said many students are feeling the pressure while preparing for an evaluation of the final measure of what they’ve learned.
“The deadlines are catching up with us, and maybe we’re feeling a little nervous about going home after being on campus,” DiSimone said. “So, the anxiety is up, the stress is up, and it makes it tough for us to function.”
First, she said students should be thinking about their physical health in addition to their mental well-being and course load. Time has to be set aside to do all the things that put the brain and body in the optimum position to perform.
“Making sure you’re taking care of yourself is important,” DiSimone said. “Making sure you’re getting the rest you need, making sure you’re fueling the body like it needs. making sure you’re getting enough water and body movement—sometimes those get lost during this busy time.”
DiSimone suggests making a schedule that compartmentalizes study, recovery, and taking care of yourself. The schedule provides a guide and check to ensure students are completing the tasks, whether school-related or personal, to make the most of their performance.
“Making sure we are scheduling time for downtime is important, and I think that sounds contradictory to what we’re trying to achieve,” DiSimone said. “But if we don’t have time away from studying, we can get really burned out.”
Keeping in mind that the performance may not meet expectations is also important. DiSimone advises students to allow themselves some grace as they navigate the week because there will be some rough patches. One of the most important things for students to do is recognize and accept help.
“I like to think of it as carrying a bag of bricks on my back,” DiSimone said. “I don’t have to carry that bag of bricks on my back by myself; I can let someone take some of those and have an easier load to carry.”
The Carruth Center is located at 390 Birch Street on the second floor of the Student Health Building. Satellite offices are also located at the College of Law, the Athletics Clinic and Support Psychology, and the Health Sciences Campus. If students need to speak with someone to start the application process, call 304-293-4431.
“We are here through the break, and even until next semester, we don’t leave,” DiSimone said. “So, students can schedule an initial appointment here at Carruth at their convenience, and they can do that online or by calling here.”
BECKLEY, W.Va. — Beckley Police are looking into a Sunday shooting as a homicide after the victim was killed.
Officers responded to the shooting on Clyde Street in Beckley early Sunday morning at approximately 1:20 a.m. They arrived to find one male victim suffering from a single gunshot wound.
EMS attempted life-saving measures but were unsuccessful and the victim, identified as Traysouan Robertson, 20, of Beckley, was pronounced dead on the scene.
The Beckley Police Department Detective Bureau is currently investigating the case as a homicide. More information will be released as it becomes available.
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — State health officials say they want to learn more about the issues of drugs, mental illness and homelessness in Wood County heading into the new year.
A meeting was held with Wood County stakeholders last month where the state Department of Health and Human Resources heard about the challenges county leaders face and what can be done to boost recovery efforts.
DHHR Deputy Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Christina Mullins told MetroNews Wood County is situated on the border of Ohio which is contributing to the flow of drugs into West Virginia and people from out-of-state who need services.
“The fact that they are near an interstate, and they do border Ohio, but they also have some differences in composition around the number of residential treatment beds for substance use disorder,” she said. “Their treatment centers tend to be larger so when people are discharged, they place a greater need on the community resources there in Wood County.”
Mullins said some of those challenges are unique to Wood County.
“What we’re seeing in that community is that child protective services referrals, homelessness and mental hygiene commitments are higher than we would expect based on just their demographic data,” she said.
Wood County has to reevaluate how to use its resources, Mullins said.
“While Wood County has a lot of resources, it lacks some of the community resources that are more widely available in other areas of the state,” she said.
During last month’s meeting, there was a discussion of the St. Joseph Recovery Center and initiatives there to address substance use disorder and mental health challenges. SJRC offers specialized programs for adults and veterans including medication-assisted treatment, medical and psychiatric evaluation, medication management, professional therapy, supportive counseling, and peer recovery support services.
Mullins said the DHHR plans to hold more meetings in the future.
“We do expect to do some follow up meetings in Wood County. We’re still working on defining the problem for Wood County and we anticipate continuing that work into 2024.”