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Why Pa. 'fake electors' are unlikely to be charged

Plus, Shapiro's $400M workforce training program.

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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Tuesday, August 1, 2023
Legal padding, workforce investment, jury deliberations, noncitizen teachers, syringe services, THC laws, and Chef Reactions does Pittsburgh.

Pro-Trump "fake electors" are facing criminal charges in Michigan as probes into efforts to overturn the 2020 election continue.

But similar charges appear unlikely for pro-Trump fake electors in Pennsylvania due to a legal hedge the group employed.

Read Votebeat and Spotlight PA's full report: Why Trump’s ‘fake electors’ in Pennsylvania are likely to avoid prosecution.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania’s alternate Trump electors featured 20 prominent Republicans, among them: former U.S. representative and gubernatorial candidate Lou Barletta; Allegheny County Council Member Sam DeMarco; state GOP Vice Chair Bernadette Comfort; and Kevin Harley, a former spokesperson for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

Pennsylvania’s fake electors added an important caveat to the certificate they signed that likely shielded them from the consequences now facing their counterparts in Michigan. The certificate said their votes should only be counted if a court found that they were the “duly elected and qualified Electors," or, put another way, that Trump had actually won.

In 2022, Shapiro, then attorney general, said Pennsylvania's fake electors had not crossed the line into criminality, and a spokesperson for current Attorney General Michelle Henry says that position has not changed.

But Votebeat and Spotlight PA report that the details of how Pennsylvania’s fake electors came together — in a plan reportedly orchestrated by the Trump campaign — may still be of interest to federal investigators weighing criminal charges against the former president as he seeks another term.


"I won’t let this County kill me and then celebrate me, like it has done with so many other Black women."
Allegheny County Councilor Olivia 'Liv' Bennett announcing an end to her independent reelection campaign in a blog post titled 'I Choose Me'
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania: The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now to Spotlight PA.
» Schools eyeing reserves, loans as budget impasse drags on, via the AP

» Mastriano seems to be campaigning for something, via Inky (paywall)

» GOP, Dem nominees set in race for Pa. House control, via PoliticsPA

» PennLive jail-phone coverage spurs two bills, via PennLive (paywall)

» Fetterman adjusts to life in the Senate, via New York Times (paywall)

» How Local Gov't Works: Join us Thursday, Aug. 3 from 6-7:15 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on oversight issues in local governments, how to hold officials accountable, and where you can turn to address issues with municipal services. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org


Early bird, via James P. Have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A developing baby bird is seen in a nest near a grouping of blue eggs.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ROAD MONEY: Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order on Monday establishing a first-of-its-kind infrastructure-focused workforce development program backed by federal dollars. AP reports: "Organizations doing infrastructure work — such as repairing roads and bridges, replacing lead pipes and expanding high speed internet — could receive up to $40,000 for each new worker they train."
  • RELATED: How P3s (aka public-private partnerships) are used to improve transportation infrastructure in Pa., via City & State
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.TREE OF LIFE: A Pittsburgh jury is set to weigh the fate of synagogue gunman Robert Bowers after a monthslong federal hate crimes trial that saw him convicted for the 2018 killings in Squirrel Hill and which is now set to deliver his sentence: life in prison or death. WPXI-TV recaps Monday's closing arguments, which focused on Bowers' mental state, traumatic childhood, and the many lives he destroyed
  • RELATED: Final synagogue shooting witness says shooter's grandfather served Holocaust survivors, via WESA
  • Squirrel Hill holds complicated feelings about death penalty for synagogue shooter, via TribLIVE
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.NEW TEACHERS: A new bill would allow noncitizens to teach in Pennsylvania schools if they have a valid immigrant visa, work visa, or employment authorization document, Reading Eagle (paywall) reports. The bill, which already passed the state House, is being touted as a tool to help the commonwealth address an ongoing teacher shortage that's disproportionately impacting students of color.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.PA LIFESAVERS: State Rep. Jim Struzzi (R., Indiana) lost his brother to a drug overdose at 31 and is now pushing for the statewide legalization of syringe services programs (SSPs) with lifesaving potential. WVIA reports Pennsylvania is one of a few states where the programs remain prohibited — beyond two cities — and that similar harm reduction changes have been slow-moving here even as the epidemic rages
  • RELATED: Pa. legalized over-the-counter syringe sales more than a decade ago but pharmacists can refuse and syringe possession for drug use remains illegal, via PublicSource archives
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CANNABIS CONFUSION: Following raids that netted $300,000 worth of unregulated THC products from Lancaster stores, LNP examines the confusing legal landscape around hemp products and the intoxicating cannabinoids not specifically listed in state and federal drug laws. Adding to the confusion: State Police say the compounds have been banned here, only under different names.
Investigative journalism that gets results: Spotlight PA's vital work depends on you. Donate now.

ON APPEAL: PennLive (paywall) reports members of the conservative Patriots organization plan to appeal a Lycoming County judge's rejection of their 2020 election audit push to Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court.

RARE FINDS: TribLive reports on two unexpected finds in southwestern Pennsylvania: a purported alligator spotted in the Kiski River, and a Civil War artifact found in a Leechburg attic by a dad chasing a rogue bat.

CHEF REACTIONS: Popular TikToker Chef Reactions, known for deadpan and brutally honest food reviews, recently shared his (often profane) thoughts on the good, bad, and ugly of Pittsburgh's food scene.

BOLOGNA BABADOOK: Lots of people are talking about the record-setting bologna sandwich unveiled in Lebanon County last week, but not enough people are talking about how scary-looking this bologna mascot is.

SEPTA SPEAKEASY: @jordanawinkler says the hottest new club in Philly is the mobile speakeasy roaming the city's subway system.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Blistering

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan N.-Z., Kimberly D., Becky C., Don H., Wendy A., Jane R., Barbara F., Eric F., Daniel S., Jon W., Starr B., Joel S., Marty M., Stacy S., Beth T., Dennis M., Craig W., Dan A., Elaine C., Vicki U., Vanessa J., Anna Maria E., Ben P., William Z., Bob C., Stanley J., David W., Daniel M., and Craig E.
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