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E.g., 8/16/2018
E.g., 8/16/2018
Image: File Photo: Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing

Protecting for-profit colleges, DeVos finds new ways to weaken safeguards

08/13/18 10:00AM

When some major for-profit colleges collapsed a few years ago, the Obama administration concluded that their students were misled by unscrupulous educators, who peddled false claims and made misleading promises. As regular readers know, the Democratic administration put together several new safeguards.

The Trump administration is going out of its way to turn back the clock in ways that help for-profit colleges and hurt exploited students. The New York Times  reported over the weekend:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos formally moved Friday to scrap a regulation that would have forced for-profit colleges to prove that the students they enroll are able to attain decent-paying jobs, the most drastic in a series of policy shifts that will free the scandal-scarred, for-profit sector from safeguards put in effect during the Obama era.

In a written announcement posted on its website, the Education Department laid out its plans to eliminate the so-called gainful employment rule, which sought to hold for-profit and career college programs accountable for graduating students with poor job prospects and overwhelming debt. The Obama-era rule would have revoked federal funding and access to financial aid for poor-performing schools.

It's surprisingly difficult to think of a defense for such a policy.

Some for-profit colleges -- recipients of federal subsidies -- ran into trouble for taking students' money and teaching them little in the way of marketable skills. Students would pay for degrees, only to discover that employers had no interest in their substandard education.

The Obama administration created a fairly obvious fix: the "gainful employment rule" would require for-profit colleges to demonstrate that a reasonable number of their graduates actually benefited from getting their degree, using their education to get a decent job.

The Trump administration is creating an alternative: the Department of Education will publish some statistics online about the schools and their graduates' employment.

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Image: FILE: Omarosa Manigault Newman Resigns from White House Role

Like it or not, parts of Omarosa's White House story actually matter

08/13/18 09:30AM

I'll confess to having mixed feelings about Omarosa Manigault Newman, her upcoming book, and the inherent news value of her purported experiences in Donald Trump's White House.

On the one hand, a former high-ranking official on the president's team is offering first-hand accounts of developments in the West Wing, while presenting rather aggressive criticisms of her former boss. Practically by definition, this seems newsworthy. On the other hand, at its core, this story is about the perspectives of two dubious reality-show personalities, neither of whom I find credible.

Trump and his allies have been quick to scoff at Newman's latest claims, questioning her motives and trustworthiness. And while that may seem like a reasonable position, it leads to a fairly obvious follow-up question: if she's such an unreliable joke, why did the president give her a lucrative and powerful position in the White House?

Perhaps it's best to focus on the elements of the story that are both substantive and verifiable. It's of legitimate interest, for example, if Trump World routinely uses hush money. The Washington Post  reported over the weekend:

The Post's Josh Dawsey has a document verifying Manigault Newman's claim that she was offered what amounted to $15,000 per month in hush money to keep quiet about the White House. It was technically for a job with the Trump campaign, but it was premised on her signing a nondisclosure agreement that dealt with her time in the West Wing. That, notably, isn't generally how NDAs work; they usually involve the job you are getting, not the one you previously had.

The article quoted Larry Noble, a campaign-finance lawyer and former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, saying, "As a policy and ethics matter, this is very disturbing. If the White House is using NDAs to prohibit government employees from talking about their experiences, it potentially deprives the public from access to otherwise non-secret, non-privileged, information about the operation of the government. Such a practice would also raise serious questions about whether it was intended to prevent the disclosure of potentially illegal activity."

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Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP-AF1

Instead of condemning white supremacists, Trump denounces 'all types of racism'

08/13/18 09:00AM

On Aug. 12, 2017, Donald Trump responded to violence in Charlottesville by condemning bigotry "on many sides," rather than denouncing the white supremacists responsible. Two days later, in one of the ugliest presidential press conferences in American history, Trump added that there were "very fine people" among the white nationalists rallying in Charlottesville.

A year later, as much of the country recognized the anniversary of those events, and extremists prepared for another "United the Right" gathering, the president took a moment to publish a tweet. In the process, Trump made clear anew how little he's learned over the last year.

"Riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division," he wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. "We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!"

Mr. Trump's general call for unity, as Washington braced for the possibility of violence between the white nationalists and counterdemonstrators, echoed his reluctance a year ago after the deadly Charlottesville rally to single out the supremacists for condemnation.

On the surface, Trump's tweet seemed inoffensive. He condemned racism and violence, and called for peace. This may have seemed roughly in line with what Trump was expected to say.

But as was the case last year, context is everything: when it's white supremacists who are gathering to promote hate, the president's rejection of "all types of racism" badly misses the point.

What the circumstances called for was specificity; what Trump offered was generalities.

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Former Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani speaks at the Cisco Connect 2013 conference in Warsaw, Poland, November 26, 2013.

Giuliani finds new ways to raise doubts about his credibility

08/13/18 08:30AM

It's important that everyone facing criminal investigations have competent legal counsel. Whether Donald Trump currently enjoys this benefit is open to some debate.

Among the many areas of potential legal jeopardy for the president is the issue of obstruction of justice. According to contemporaneous notes from former FBI Director James Comey, Trump applied some not-so-subtle pressure on the bureau chief during the federal investigation into former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Rudy Giuliani, a member of the president's legal defense team, has commented on Trump's behind-closed-doors discussions with Comey on multiple occasions. Just two weeks ago, for example, the former New York City mayor appeared on Fox News and said, in reference to the president, "He didn't tell [Comey], 'Don't investigate [Flynn], don't prosecute him.' He asked [Comey] to exercise his prosecutorial discretion."

Yesterday, however, Giuliani appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," and, in a head-spinning reversal, insisted that Trump never spoke to Comey about Flynn. Host Jake Tapper's incredulity was rooted in fact.

TAPPER: But, Mr. Mayor, you said, you told ABC News last month that the president told Comey, "Can you give him a break?" Now you're saying that they never had a...

GIULIANI: No, I never told ABC that. That's crazy. I have never said that. What I said was, that is what Comey is saying Trump said.

It's actually not "crazy" at all. Last month, Giuliani really did appear on ABC News and said, in reference to the president's conversations with Comey about Flynn, "What he said to him was, 'Can you give him a break?'"

George Stephanopoulos reminded the presidential attorney that the former FBI director took Trump's comments at the time as direction. Giuliani added , "Well that's OK.... The reality is, as a prosecutor, I was told that many times. 'Can you give the man a break,' either by his lawyers, by his relatives, by friends. You take that into consideration but, you know, that doesn't determine not going forward with it."

In other words, Giuliani yesterday described his own words from a month ago as "crazy," and pretended he hadn't said what a national television audience heard him say.

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Image: Rep. Chris Collins

Scandal plagued GOP congressman 'suspends' his re-election campaign

08/13/18 08:00AM

On Wednesday morning, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was arrested. On Wednesday afternoon, the GOP congressman issued a press statement insisting that he expected to be re-elected, despite having surrendered into FBI custody hours earlier. On Wednesday night, Collins hosted a press conference in which he said, categorically, that his plans to run for another term in New York's 27th district would not change.

And on Saturday morning, the New York Republican reversed course. "After extensive discussions with my family and my friends over the last few days, I have decided that it is in the best interest of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party and President Trump's agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress," Collins said in a written statement.

But given the calendar, the "suspension" of his campaign isn't as straightforward as simply retiring or resigning. NBC News reported:

What remains unclear is whether Collins intends to remove his name from the ballot and have it replaced by another New York Republican, and it seems unlikely that Collins would be able to be do so this late in the race. In New York state, there are only three ways for a candidate's name to be removed: death, disqualification or declination.

The first does not apply, and disqualification only includes things like residency and age requirements -- but it would not include criminal convictions. At this point, Collins would only face disqualification if he chose to move out of New York state.

Declination is the path that would most easily apply in this situation, but most of the deadlines allowing for that option have passed.

So what happens now?

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Friday's Mini-Report, 8.10.18

08/10/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Save the date: "The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to begin confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 4, Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced Friday."

* So much for Trump liking Tayyip Erdogan: "President Donald Trump abruptly announced Friday that he would double the rate of import tariffs on Turkish metals -- forcing Turkey to ask citizens to buy its own crashing currency. The Turkish economy was already mired in crisis amid worsening relations with Washington and worries over soaring inflation and unemployment."

* Grand jury: "Attorneys for Andrew Miller, a former aide of ex-Trump adviser Roger Stone, said that Miller has been held in contempt of court for refusing to appear in front of the grand jury hearing testimony in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, his lawyers said Friday."

* The MAVNI (Military Accessions Vital to National Interests) Program: "The Army has halted forcible discharges of soldiers who were recruited through a program that offers citizenship to skilled immigrants in exchange for military service. But it is not clear whether the step puts an end to the expulsion policy or is just a pause in the Army's effort to curtail a program that its leaders say poses a security risk."

* There are new top-secret cables from a secret prison in Thailand, when it was run by Gina Haspel, who's now CIA director. The documents provide "at times graphic detail on the techniques the agency used to brutally interrogate Qaeda captives" held at the facility.

* Jim Jordan's OSU controversy: "A conservative group that has been defending embattled Rep. Jim Jordan released a quote from a former Ohio State University wrestler on Thursday in which he appears to recant his claim that the congressman -- when he was an assistant coach -- knew that the team doctor was sexually abusing the athletes."

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Image: AG Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks On Immigration And Law Enforcement In PA

Why a federal judge threatened to hold AG Jeff Sessions in contempt

08/10/18 04:21PM

It's not every day that a federal judge raises the prospect of holding the attorney general in contempt, which, as you hopefully saw Rachel discuss on the show last night, made for some dramatic developments in a federal courtroom in D.C. yesterday.

In a federal courtroom in Washington on Thursday, a judge heard about something the Trump administration had just done that clearly angered him. The government, he learned, had deported an immigrant mother and daughter who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit the judge was hearing over asylum restrictions.

So the judge did something highly unusual: He demanded the administration turn around the plane carrying the plaintiffs to Central America and bring them back to the United States. And he ordered the government to stop removing plaintiffs in the case from the country who are seeking protection from gang and domestic violence.

At issue was a young mother from El Salvador and her daughter, represented by the ACLU and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, who were fleeing domestic and gang violence, and who challenged the Trump administration's restrictions on asylum-seekers. The judge in this case, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, had been assured that the plaintiffs would not be deported ahead of the emergency court proceedings.

And when the young mother and her daughter were deported anyway, the judge was not at all pleased.

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