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Republicans Have Pushed Nearly 400 “Educational Intimidation” Bills Since 2021

A new report documents the worrying surge in attacks on academic freedom.

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Demonstrators during a “Walkout 2 Learn” rally in Miami, on April 21

Nearly 400 “educational intimidation” bills have been introduced by state lawmakers over the last two and a half years, a troubling sign of where academic freedom in this country is headed. 

Between January 2021 and June 2023, Republicans in state legislatures introduced 392 educational intimidation bills, according to a new report published Wednesday from PEN America. While only 38 of those bills actually passed, this tidal wave of legislation represents an ongoing campaign to make teachers afraid to teach.

PEN America classifies educational intimidation bills as different from traditional “educational gag orders,” which explicitly prohibit materials and subject matter that can be taught in classrooms. Educational intimidation bills do not act as direct censorship, but rather encourage self-censorship from teachers, librarians, and administrators by creating environments where free speech is chilled. They often bill themselves as “parental rights” bills, hiding their radical nature behind more neutral language.

Missouri has introduced 30 such bills, the most of any state in the country, but all of the measures failed. Florida was able to pass the most, with 15 pieces of legislation signed into state law, thanks in large part to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has led a “war on woke” in education.    

According to PEN America, these bills have been able to become so popular because of clever rhetorical framing.

“By framing such bills in terms of ‘curriculum transparency’ and ‘parental rights,’ supporters hope to make them appear benign—as simple common sense,” the report by PEN America said. “They are not.”

The bills contain provisions allowing for enhanced inspection of curricula, teachers, and library facilities. Some allow opt-outs so that parents can remove their children from certain kinds of instruction, or institute opt-ins requiring parents to proactively approve certain material, thus making restriction the default of education. Many of the bills also expand student and classroom monitoring.

These educational intimidation bills are based on model legislation prepared by conservative think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute, the Goldwater Institute, No Left Turn in Education, and the Parental Rights Foundation.

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Chris Rufo is quoted in the report, explaining the rhetorical shift from gag orders to educational intimidation.

“The Left will expect that, after passing so-called ‘CRT bans’ last year, we will overplay our hand. By moving to curriculum transparency, we will deflate that argument and bait the Left into opposing ‘transparency,’” Rufo said in 2022.

Around 45 percent of the bills PEN America tracked also included an anti-LGBTQ provision, like the mandatory outing of students via reporting mechanisms for parents to be alerted of any “perceived changes to students’ gender identity and sexual orientation.”

Other anti-LGBTQ provisions include banning the use of preferred pronouns, discouraging discussions about gender and sexuality, and placing pressure on teachers and administration to limit their speech, as well as to monitor and police the expression of their students.

So far in 2023, 17 educational intimidation bills have passed. Perhaps with the introduction of the “educational intimidation” label, the left will have its own rhetorical device to fight those who seek to limit free speech, the rights of students, and the rights of other parents.

Giuliani Doubles Down on Election Lie Minutes After Georgia Arrest

Trump’s former lawyer somehow seems undeterred by all the charges against him.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday doubled down on the idea that the 2020 election may have been stolen—minutes after he was arrested for trying to overturn said election.

Trump’s former personal attorney repeated the big lie while decrying Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for charging him.

“She has violated people’s First Amendment right to advocate the government, to petition the government for grievances like an election they believe was poorly conducted or falsely conducted,” Giuliani told reporters after his arrest. “People have a right to believe that in America. Biden and the Biden state doesn’t have a right to tell you what the truth is.”

Giuliani was arrested after agreeing to a whopping $150,000 bond.

Giuliani was indicted alongside Donald Trump and 17 other co-defendants on charges of felony racketeering for their role in efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election in Georgia. The former New York mayor is now the fourth Trump lawyer to turn himself in, a day after John Eastman and just hours after Kenneth Chesebro and Ray Smith.

Giuliani insists that he and the rest of Team Trump have done nothing wrong but instead are sticking up for voters’ rights. But they allegedly actually tried to take voters’ rights away by ignoring legitimate election results.

This is just the latest of Giuliani’s legal troubles. His former associate Noelle Dunphy sued him in May, accusing him of promising to pay her a $1 million annual salary but instead raping and sexually abusing her over the course of two years. Her lawsuit alleges that Giuliani was constantly drunk, talked openly about trying to overturn the 2020 election, and even plotted to sell pardons with Donald Trump at the low, low price of $2 million each.

As the legal battles drag on, Giuliani is increasingly hurting for cash. He visited Mar-a-Lago in April to beg Trump to help pay all of his legal bills. Part of the problem is that Trump is simply refusing to pay Giuliani for all of his work as Trump’s personal attorney.

Rather than pay up, Trump will instead host a dinner event in September to fundraise for Giuliani’s legal fees. Tickets will cost $100,000 per person. With Giuliani facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, perhaps the hope is that just a few people will need to show up in order to make a dent.

Kevin McCarthy Threatens to Impeach Biden Over … His Bank Statements?!

Republicans’ impeachment quest is getting more absurd by the day.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says that Republicans will launch an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden in September unless the president hands over his personal financial records.

Republicans have insisted for months that Biden is guilty of corruption and influence peddling overseas, despite producing no actual evidence. McCarthy has previously suggested opening an impeachment inquiry into Biden so that Republicans can access more information and witnesses, which will supposedly lead them to the truth. But he made his most bald-faced threat yet on Tuesday.

McCarthy told Fox News that Republicans want the Biden family’s “bank statements, the credit card statements, and others.”

“Show us where the money went. Show us, were you taking money from outside sources?” he said. “If they withhold the documents and fight like they have now to not provide to the American public what they deserve to know, we will move forward with impeachment inquiry when we come back into session.”

The House Oversight Committee, which is leading the charge against the Bidens, has already obtained and released three large batches of the first family’s bank records, so it’s unclear how much more evidence Republicans need to acquire before they can prove wrongdoing. But the investigation isn’t really about proving anything at all.

Republicans have already (accidentally) admitted that they don’t have the evidence to back up their claims. What they’re really trying to do is distract from Donald Trump’s legal battles and make Biden look bad ahead of an election.

Representative Matt Gaetz said last week that Republicans should go straight to impeachment proceedings, not just an inquiry. “The purpose of that impeachment, from my standpoint, is not to force a vote that loses,” he said. “It’s to put on a trial in the Senate and, by the way, not for the sake of conviction.”

Gaetz argued that the Senate should try Biden, and then voters can render a verdict at the ballot box in November 2024.

If everyone is talking about a potential impeachment inquiry, then fewer people will be talking about Trump, who is set to turn himself in to Georgia authorities on Thursday for allegedly trying to overthrow the state’s 2020 election results.

Not all Republicans are on board with the impeachment plan. Colorado Representative Ken Buck slammed McCarthy in July for using talk of impeachment as a “shiny object” to distract from serious issues.

South Carolina’s All-Male Supreme Court Upholds Radical Abortion Ban

The ban effectively wipes out abortion access in the South.

Abortion rights advocates protest indoors. One person in the foreground holds a sign reading "Abortion is health care." Another in the background reads "Bans off our bodies."
Abortion rights advocates protest the six-week abortion ban before it passed the South Carolina state House on May 16.

The South Carolina all-male Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the state’s brutal six-week abortion ban, decimating access to the procedure in the Southeast.

Governor Henry McMaster signed the bill into law in May in a closed-door session, with no fanfare or warning to doctors who could be about to perform a newly illegal procedure. The measure passed only because McMaster called a special legislative session to weigh the abortion ban.

A lower court temporarily blocked the law in May, but the all-male state Supreme Court ruled 4–1 to overturn the decision, arguing that abortion is not covered by the state constitution’s language about the right to privacy.

Chief Justice Donald Beatty was the sole dissenting vote. He slammed the law for banning abortion after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected. Medical professionals warn that the term “fetal heartbeat” is misleading because six-week-old fetuses only have electrical pulses. There isn’t actually a heart yet, just clusters of cells.

“As such, it is the quintessential example of political gaslighting; attempting to manipulate public opinion and control the reproductive health decisions of women by distorting reality,” Beatty said in his dissenting opinion.

Beatty pointed out that even the Republican legislative majority has admitted that the language about fetal heartbeats is unclear, but they still “undertook no factual review” when arguing in favor of the law.

Today’s result will surely weigh heavily upon the public and our state’s medical professionals, in light of the threat of criminal penalties placed upon practitioners and the serious harm that could occur to women who could be denied reproductive health care,” Beatty said.

The law bans abortion after six weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant. It technically includes exceptions for rape and incest up to 12 weeks, but health care providers are required to tell patients that they will report the assault to law enforcement. This will likely discourage people from seeking abortions because they don’t want to report the attack.

The measure also prohibits mental health from being considered a medical emergency, so even if someone is diagnosed as suicidal, they still cannot get an abortion. Doctors who break the law face fines and up to two years in prison.

While the law does require child support payments be made from the moment of conception, writer Jessica Valenti pointed out that this is less to help the pregnant person and more to establish that personhood begins at conception.

South Carolina had previously enacted a six-week trigger ban after Roe v. Wade was overturned, but the state Supreme Court blocked that measure in January. The new law was an attempt to circumvent the ruling.

A similar ban had died in the legislature in late April after all the female senators, who span the political spectrum, banded together to filibuster the measure. But Republicans were able to force the current law through when McMaster called the special session.

With this ruling, abortion access is likely to crumble across the Southeast. After Roe was overturned, North Carolina became an abortion haven—until Republicans overrode the governor’s veto in May to pass a 12-week abortion ban. Florida currently has a 15-week abortion ban, which goes before the state Supreme Court in September. If the court upholds that law, then a six-week ban will go into effect. If all three states lose abortion access, it will devastate reproductive health in the region.

This article has been updated.

Trump Hosting $100K per Plate Fundraiser for Desperate Rudy Giuliani

Anything so Trump can avoid paying his former lawyer directly.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Donald Trump will headline a $100,000-per-person fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani, to help his financially struggling former lawyer pay his staggering legal fees.

The fundraiser will take place on September 7 at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and is sorely needed by the exceedingly broke former mayor.

Giuliani is expected to surrender to Georgia authorities on Wednesday on charges of trying to overturn the state’s 2020 election. Meanwhile, his other legal issues keep growing.

In April, Giuliani and his lawyer Robert Costello visited Trump in Mar-a-Lago and begged him to help pay for Giuliani’s steadily growing legal bills. During that visit Trump did not offer to pay out of his own pocket but promised to stop by two fundraisers for his former lawyer, sources told CNN.

Now Trump seems to be finally making good on that promise. Maybe Trump is worried that Giuliani, who faces 13 charges, including racketeering, will flip under pressure to cooperate with federal and state prosecutors. On Tuesday, a filing from special counsel Jack Smith revealed that a key witness flipped against Trump in the classified documents case.

Giuliani is currently being sued for defamation by Smartmatic and Dominion, two voting technology companies, as well as two Georgia election workers. He is also being sued for sexual abuse by his former associate, and he’s being sued by some Republican farmers he allegedly scammed for money to make a fake anti-Biden documentary.

At a hearing last week in Smartmatic’s defamation suit against Giuliani, the former New York City mayor’s attorney Adam Katz told the judge that Giuliani did not have the cash to pay additional legal costs to produce records for the case.

Let the Flipping Begin: Key Witness in Classified Docs Case Turns Against Trump

A Mar-a-Lago employee has flipped against Donald Trump, according to a new court filing.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

A Mar-a-Lago employee has changed his testimony in the indictment against Donald Trump for mishandling classified documents, a sign that the former president’s troubles are about to grow even further.

A late-Tuesday filing from special counsel Jack Smith revealed that a key witness, who has been identified as Mar-a-Lago information technology worker Yuscil Taveras, recanted his testimony denying that there had been any conversations about security footage that prosecutors subpoenaed in 2022 as part of the investigation.

Taveras was assigned a new public defender in July, replacing his Trump-appointed lawyer, and “immediately after receiving new counsel, Trump Employee 4 retracted his prior false testimony and provided information that implicated Nauta, De Oliveira, and Trump in efforts to delete security camera footage,” the filing said, referring to Trump and his two co-defendants.

Trump was charged in Florida with keeping national defense secrets, making false statements, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, among other things, for hoarding classified materials at Mar-a-Lago. His body man Walt Nauta and a Mar-a-Lago employee named Carlos De Oliveira have also been charged. All three men are accused of trying to destroy evidence, including attempting to delete security footage off a server.

Taveras provided his original testimony when he was represented by Stanley Woodward, who also represents Nauta. Prosecutors raised concerns in July that Woodward representing a defendant and a witness could create a conflict of interest. The chief judge presiding over Trump’s federal indictment case in Washington offered to assign a federal public defender to Taveras, and Taveras accepted.

Taveras’s flip is a major point for special counsel Smith’s team. Smith has sought to prove that Trump not only knew that he was wrong to keep classified documents but also tried to cover up his actions. Taveras’s new testimony directly implicates Trump in the cover-up.

It is possible that Taveras’s testimony won’t be allowed in court, though. Woodward argued that it is not allowed to have two grand juries weigh in on a single case, referring to the Florida and Washington grand juries. He asked Judge Aileen Cannon, who is presiding over the Mar-a-Lago case, to strike Taveras’s testimony.

Cannon, a Trump appointee, has yet to rule on the issue. But she has previously made decisions that tip significantly in Trump’s favor.

Here’s the Recording of Vivek Ramaswamy Implying 9/11 Was an Inside Job

If you’re going to lie about something you said, at least make sure there isn’t a recording first.

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Vivek Ramaswamy is desperately trying to walk back his comments that the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 attack. But The Atlantic has the receipts.

Ramaswamy is under fire over a profile published Monday in The Atlantic, in which he spouts conspiracy theories about January 6 and 9/11, including wondering how many federal agents “were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers.” He later doubled down on the comments during an interview with CNN.

The presidential hopeful has spent all of Monday and Tuesday denying he made the comments and accusing The Atlantic of taking his words out of context. So The Atlantic released the audio recording of Ramaswamy’s interview with reporter John Hendrickson. And the quotes that the magazine decided not to include are even worse.

At one point, Ramaswamy says government agents incited the January 6 insurrection, which is not true. “Why can the government not be transparent about something that we’re using? Terrorists, or the kind of tactics used to fight terrorists,” he said.

“There’s very little evidence of people being arrested for being armed that day. Most of the people who were armed, I assume the federal officers who were out there were armed,” he said shortly after. This is also false: At least 13 people arrested in connection with the riot were charged with illegal gun possession. Several people have admitted they were carrying a firearm on Capitol property.

Later, Hendrickson pointed out that the country is generally united in its opinion on 9/11. Ramaswamy replied, “I would take the truth about 9/11. I mean, I am not questioning what we—this is not something I’m staking anything out on. But I want the truth about 9/11.”

Even with the truth staring him in the face, Ramaswamy has continued to spread conspiracies about his own conspiracy theories. “As you probably have experienced with the left-wing media as well, The Atlantic’s purposefully really scripted out something that was taken in a very different context,” he told Fox News.

Ramaswamy is no stranger to spreading conspiracies. Last week, he blamed the tragic wildfire in Hawaii on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. His other major talking points include battling “wokeness,” taking away rights, and, apparently, caving to Russia and China.

Trump “Jokes” About Fleeing to Russia After $200,000 Bond in Georgia

Donald Trump is joking about being a flight risk after being charged with trying to overturn an election.

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Donald Trump is joking about fleeing to Russia after receiving a $200,000 bond for his release from Fulton County Jail, following charges of trying to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results.

Trump took to Truth Social on Monday night to argue the steep price set for his release was because law enforcement feared he would share a “gold domed suite” with Vladimir Putin.

“The failed District Attorney of Fulton County (Atlanta), Fani Willis, insisted on a $200,000 Bond from me. I assume, therefore, that she thought I was a “flight” risk,” Trump wrote. “I’d fly far away, maybe to Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, share a gold domed suite with Vladimir, never to be seen or heard from again.”

The former president’s love for the Russian authoritarian autocrat is no secret, so the post comes across more as longing than anything else.

Maybe what Trump’s really upset about is the stipulations attached to the bond agreement. His bond agreement warns Trump not to use social media to intimidate any co-defendants or witnesses in the case. That includes “direct or indirect threats.” This may be hard for Trump, who regularly posts tirades on Truth Social.

Trump has already agreed to turn himself in on Thursday. It is unclear as yet whether he will put up the cash or raise money through one of his political fundraising committees.

Also on Tuesday, Trump’s co-defendant former lawyer John Eastman officially surrendered to authorities in Georgia for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Dark Brandon Unveils Student Loan Repayment Plan That Includes Forgiveness

The Biden administration has launched a new student loan repayment program, after the Supreme Court rejected the last initiative.

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The Biden administration on Tuesday officially launched a new income-driven student loan repayment program, just months after the Supreme Court struck down its student loan forgiveness initiative. The White House is billing it as the “most affordable student loan plan ever.”

The Saving on a Valuable Education plan allows for millions of borrowers to have their monthly payments reduced based on income and family size, caps interest accrual, and forgives leftover balances after a number of years.

Many borrowers, such as a single person who earns less than $32,800 a year or a family of four earning $67,500 or less per year, could even qualify for $0 monthly payments.

“This will allow them to focus on food, rent, and other basic needs instead of loan payments,” the White House said in a statement.

“Borrowers will see their total payments per dollar borrowed fall by 40%. Borrowers with the lowest projected lifetime earnings will see payments per dollar borrowed fall by 83%, while those in the top would only see a 5% reduction,” the White House added.

A four-year public university graduate can save up to $2,000 per year, according to White House estimates.

The program does not deliver student loan forgiveness at once, as Biden initially sought in his initial plan. The hope for the new repayment program is that some student loan debt can be forgiven more slowly but without interest getting out of hand.

Borrowers can enroll now on More benefits of the program are to be launched in July 2024.

John Eastman’s Disbarment Was Delayed—So He Surrendered to Arrest Instead

Trump’s former lawyer has officially surrendered to authorities on charges of trying to overthrow Georgia’s 2020 election.

John Eastman
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Donald Trump’s former lawyer John Eastman was granted a delay to his disbarment trial in California—but only so he could surrender to authorities in Georgia for allegedly trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Eastman surrendered to Georgia state authorities Tuesday morning, as his legal issues continue to pile up.

The California bar association opened disbarment proceedings against Eastman in January, for helping Trump spread election fraud falsehoods, including at the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington, D.C., that turned into the insurrection at the Capitol. His trial was set to begin Tuesday. But State Bar Court Judge Yvette Roland announced she would reschedule Tuesday and Wednesday’s court sessions.

The court is willing to make certain changes in this week’s trial schedule in order to accommodate Dr. Eastman’s surrender in Fulton County, Georgia,” she wrote in a new ruling late Monday.

Eastman is one of 18 co-defendants charged alongside Trump in Georgia for trying to subvert the state’s election results. When he surrendered on Tuesday, he claimed in a statement that the indictment “should never have been brought” and was actually targeting “attorneys for their zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients.”

As if Eastman didn’t have enough legal troubles, he had previously asked the bar court to delay his trial because he believed he would be criminally charged by special counsel Jack Smith. Eastman ultimately was not charged, but he has been identified as one of the unnamed co-conspirators in Smith’s indictment against Trump for trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Eastman helped lead Trump’s legal efforts to undermine the election results and prevent certification of the votes, including by appealing directly to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He also helped try to implement the plan to create slates of fake pro-Trump electors in states that Joe Biden had won.