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Mattis and Other Military Leaders Slam Trump Over Threat to Deploy Troops in U.S.

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Photo by Leah Millis for Reuters

  • Former Defense Secretary James Mattis spoke out against President Trump in a cutting op-ed where he criticized the president for his recent actions and accused him of being intentionally divisive.
  • Trump responding in a series of tweets where he attacked Mattis’ character and falsely claimed he fired the former Secretary, who resigned on his own accord in December 2018.
  • Numerous military officials and current Defense Secretary Mark Esper have spoken out against Trump’s threats to send the military to states to address protests over the killing of George Floyd.
  • Others have defended Trump’s remarks, including Sen. Tom Cotton who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Send in the Troops.” Numerous Times employees slammed the newspaper for publishing the piece.

Mattis Slams Trump

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis criticized President Donald Trump for his recent actions and remarks in a scathing statement published in the Atlantic Wednesday.

Mattis resigned from his post in December 2018 in protest of Trump’s policy on Syria, and until Wednesday, he had remained largely quiet about his opinions of the president.

“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis opened. 

He went on to say that the demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd were fighting for Equal Justice Under Law, which he called “a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers.”

“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside,” he added.

The former Defense Secretary also slammed President Trump’s recent threat to deploy the military to states that did not respond to protests in a manner he felt was effective. 

“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate,’” he said. “At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors.”

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us,” Mattis stated. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”

“We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square,”  he continued. “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

Trump Responds With Falsehoods

Trump was quick to respond to Mattis’ rebuke, attacking the esteemed general in a series of tweets where he made a least two false claims.

“Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General,” Trump wrote. “I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was ‘Chaos’, which I didn’t like, & changed to ‘Mad Dog’”

Despite his bold claim, Trump did not fire Mattis. As noted earlier, the former secretary resigned on his own accord in protest after Trump announced that he was withdrawing troops from Syria.

Numerous officials have backed up that account, which Mattis’ letter of resignation also appears to support.

“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” he wrote at the time.

Trump’s assertion that he changed Mattis’ nickname from “Chaos” to “Mad Dog” is also false. Chaos was Mattis’ military call name, not his nickname, and it has been reported by multiple outlets that the nickname “Mad Dog” was given to Mattis years before Trump took office.

Other Military Officials & Esper Respond

However, Mattis is not the only prominent military official who has criticized Trump’s threat to deploy the military to states.

Earlier this week, two former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen, Gen. Martin Dempsey and Adm. Mike Mullens spoke out against the president’s warning.

“America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy,” Dempsey wrote in a tweet on Monday.

Mullens, however, was more direct in his condemnation of the president.

“I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump’s leadership, but we are at an inflection point,” he wrote in an op-ed in the Atlantic published on Tuesday.

Mullens went on to say that police brutality and injustices against African Americans must be addressed, and that the right to peaceful assembly must be defended.

“And neither of these pursuits will be made easier or safer by an overly aggressive use of our military, active duty or National Guard,” he wrote. “The issue for us today is not whether this authority exists, but whether it will be wisely administered.”

“Furthermore, I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes,” he added.

Gen. John Allen, the former commander of American forces in Afghanistan made a similar argument in an op-ed in Foreign Policy published Wednesday.

“Right now, the last thing the country needs—and, frankly, the U.S. military needs—is the appearance of U.S. soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on American citizens.”

However, the most significant remarks on the matter came from current Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who made the striking decision to disagree with the president on a question of military deployments.

The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” Esper said during a press conference Wednesday. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.” 

Tom Cotton Op-Ed

Despite very notable military officials openly disagreeing with the president, there are plenty of others who support the move to deploy the military.

On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) expressed his desire to send the military to quell the unrest in states in an op-ed for the New York Times titled “Send In the Troops.”

“The rioting has nothing to do with George Floyd, whose bereaved relatives have condemned violence,” he wrote. “On the contrary, nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.”

“One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” he continued. “But local law enforcement in some cities desperately needs backup.”

“In normal times, local law enforcement can uphold public order,” Cotton added. “But in rare moments, like ours today, more is needed, even if many politicians prefer to wring their hands while the country burns.”

Both Cotton’s op-ed and the decision to publish it prompted significant backlash from numerous Times employees. Dozens of writers, reporters, editors, and magazine staffers expressed their dissatisfaction with their employer by sharing the same tweet: “Running this puts Black @nytimes staffers in danger”

Others also broadly condemned the op-ed, and one reporter pointed out that Cotton’s claim that “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa [are] infiltrating protest marches” had been debunked as misinformation by the Times itself.

James Bennet, the Editorial Page Editor defended the decision to run.

“We understand that many readers find Senator Cotton’s argument painful, even dangerous,” he wrote on Twitter. “We believe that is one reason it requires public scrutiny and debate.” 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (CNN) (The Washington Post)

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Top Military General Pushes for a “Hard Look” at Confederate-Named Bases, Disavows Their Namesakes as Treasonous

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  • Top military Gen. Mark A. Milley said before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the military must take a “hard look” at Army bases named after Confederate officers.
  • “The Confederacy… was an act of rebellion,” he said. “It was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution, and those officers turned their back on their oath.”
  • Milley’s comments are an escalation in a recent tone shift by the military to disavow Confederate tributes that are rampant within the Armed Forces. 
  • It’s also being reported that the Defense Department is drafting a new policy that would ban the display of the Confederate flag from any of its buildings.

Milley Disavows Confederate Namesakes

A month after the U.S. Army said it was open to holding a “bipartisan conversation” on reviewing nearly a dozen major bases named after Confederate leaders, the military’s top officer has now said that the Armed Forces must take a “hard look” at that process. 

“The Confederacy… was an act of rebellion,” General Mark A. Milley, who is also Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday. “It was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution, and those officers turned their back on their oath.”

“The way we should do it matters as much as that we should do it. So we need to have, I’ve recommended, a commission of folks to take a hard look at the bases, the statues, the names, all of this stuff, to see if we can have a rational, mature discussion.”

During that meeting, Milley also said that about one in every five members of the Army is Black.

“For those young soldiers that go onto a base—a Fort Hood, a Fort Bragg or a fort wherever named after a Confederate general—they can be reminded that that general fought for the institution of slavery that may have enslaved one of their ancestors,” Milley said.

While the phrase “this should not be a political issue” has become increasingly common vernacular in U.S. politics in recent years, Milley asserted that his decision was political and that the renaming of those bases will need to be political, as well. 

Any move to change those bases’ names will likely be met with a substantial amount of resistance, including from President Donald Trump. Just two days after Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced they were willing to hold talks on renaming 10 Army bases, Trump denounced the idea on Twitter.

“It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc,” Trump said on June 10. “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.”

The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

“Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!”

Trump has vowed to veto any defense bill that includes proposals to initiate renaming proceedings. Still, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have backed the idea of renaming bases. A House version of an annual defense bill would explicitly ban displaying the Confederate flag on Defense Department property. Another pair of bills in the House even seek to tie funding to a renaming process.

In 2017, the Army refused to change the names of the bases in question, calling any attempt to rename them “controversial and divisive.” In February, McCarthy again said there were no plans to rename the bases.

However, McCarthy has now indicated that he has the power to change those bases’ names but will need input from the White House, Congress, and local officials. 

Banning the Confederate Flag

On Monday, it was also reported that leaders at the Pentagon are currently considering a ban on the Confederate flag at all bases. Notably, any such ban would extend to the whole of the Department of Defense.

CNN, which first reported the news, said it obtained the information from an official within the Pentagon. That official spoke on the condition of anonymity, as the move to ban Confederate flags would currently be classified as internal deliberations.

Thursday, Esper told the House that he’s initiated a process to begin examining “substantive and symbolic” issues. 

“We want to take a look at all those things,” Esper said. “There is a process underway by which we affirm… what types of flags are authorized on U.S. military bases.”

The announcement came roughly a month after two branches of the military—the Marines followed by the Navy—banned Confederate flags on their bases. Those bans include the flag itself, as well as iconography displayed on shirts and bumper stickers. They did not ban historical uses of the flag, such as in scenes depicting Civil War battles.

Still, calls to remove Confederate tributes from the U.S. military have not stopped with only installation names and Confederate flags. Many also want the military to disavow the names of ships and buildings with Confederate namesakes.

Why Were U.S. Military Bases Named After Confederates?

The concept behind naming U.S. military installations after leaders of an army that committed treason against the United States is (to say the least) a bit of an oxymoron, even if it has only recently come into mainstream purview thanks largely to wide-scale protests over racial injustice.

Notably, each of those 10 installations are all in former Confederate States—Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, and Alabama. Most of them were founded in the early 1940’s following the U.S. joining World War II because of an immediate need for large areas of land on which to build Army bases. They then gained their namesakes from influential local residents.

Not only were these bases named during the Jim Crow era, two were also named after self-avowed white supremacists. Fort Benning—located near Columbus, Georgia—is named after Brigadier General Henry Benning, who directly cited the preservation slavery as a reason for secession during the Virginian secession convention of 1861.

“If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished,” Benning said in his explicitly racist speech. “By the time the North shall have attained the power, the Black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have Black governors, Black legislatures, Black juries, Black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that?”

“We will be completely exterminated, and the land will be left in the possession of the blacks, and then it will go back to a wilderness and become another Africa,” Benning later added in that speech.

The other base, Fort Bragg, carries the namesake of General Braxton Bragg. Ironically, Bragg is considered one of the worst generals in the Civil War, and most of his battles led to defeat. In fact, his losses were so devastating that he is commonly cited as one of the main reasons the Confederacy lost the war. 

Though it’s not the case for all the bases Milley is looking to rename, both Benning and Bragg have ties to the states where their bases sit. 

Besides the 10 bases in question, several other bases with Confederate namesakes still exist and currently have no plans of being renamed. That includes Camp Pendleton in Virginia, as well as Camp Maxey in Texas. Both are national guard posts. 

While not named after an officer, Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Virginia, is named after a slave plantation. Funnily enough, it didn’t gain that name until 1935 when it was changed from Camp A. A. Humphreys. What’s more, A. A. Humphreys was a Union General during the Civil War. Because of that, some have renewed criticism over the fort’s current name, arguing that it propagates a nostalgic vision of the Antebellum South. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Politico) (CNN)

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Trump Cannot Keep Tax Records From Prosecutors, Supreme Court Rules

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  • The Supreme Court of the United States ruled Thursday that President Donald Trump cannot block criminal prosecutors from attempting to subpoena him.
  • The 7-2 ruling, where Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sided with the majority, decided that a sitting president does not have “absolute immunityfrom criminal investigations.
  • The case in question involves a probe into Trump’s alleged hush money payments to two women who claimed to have had sex with him.
  • Still, the decision at hand only broadly refers to Trump’s inability to block subpoenas. As the Court noted, he can still issue legal challenges to specific subpoenas, which he will likely do.

SCOTUS Rules on Trump Tax Records

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a substantial blow to President Donald Trump Thursday in a 7-2 decision that now prevents him from blocking subpoenas targeted at him.

The ruling concerns two cases, both with different outcomes and both seeking to obtain Trump’s financial and business records. The first involves a subpoena for a grand jury into a criminal investigation by Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr. The second involves an array of subpoenas filed by three different committees in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Thursday’s majority decision, which Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined, states that while Trump cannot avoid being subpoenaed as part of a criminal investigation solely because of his status as president, he can still challenge the specifics of the current subpoenas against him.

The ruling handed down from SCOTUS is also one of the most anticipated and detailed rulings on presidential privilege in decades.

“Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

“We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need,” Roberts added.

While the Court sided with Vance and his investigation, it did not make a ruling on the case involving those House subpoenas. Instead, justices said neither side presented a compelling case as to how to balance congressional subpoenas with the separation of powers. Thus, they sent the case back to lower courts for review.

“The House’s approach would leave essentially no limits on the congressional power to subpoena the President’s personal records,” Roberts wrote. “A limitless subpoena power could transform the established practice of the political branches and allow Congress to aggrandize itself at the President’s expense.”

Essentially, SCOTUS did not prohibit Congress from having the power to subpoena a sitting president, but it did say that the specific way in which the House issued its subpoenas in this case could lead to a power vacuum.

SCOTUS began hearing oral arguments for both cases in May. With each, justices expressed concern about the potential for presidents to face harassment from subpoenas; however, they were also skeptical of Trump’s defense that, while president, he has “absolute immunity” from being subpoenaed or from being the subject of any criminal investigation.

Takeaway: A Mixed Bag

While Thursday’s decision can definitely be seen as a loss for Trump, it is not a definitive win for either side. For example, those hoping to personally see Trump’s tax returns will likely also find themselves out of luck. 

To be clear, within the context of SCOTUS’ ruling, that information would only be for a single grand jury’s eyes. Since grand juries operate confidentially, documents like that rarely ever leak. 

It’s unknown when exactly those documents would have to be handed over to that grand jury, especially because as SCOTUS noted, Trump can still fight their release by raising defences other than “absolute immunity.” Such a move—which is all but certain to happen—will likely tie up those documents in legal limbo until well after the general elections.

Like the case with the House, that then means Vance’s case is also set to return to courts. This time, however, Trump’s lawyers will be unable to argue “absolute immunity” and will have to resort to arguments used for any client.

Because those specific cases can be reargued, even if Trump is still likely to lose against them, he’s been given valuable time to keep their contents a secret until after voters head to the polls. 

Trump Jeers, Democrats and Even White House Cheer

Just minutes after SCOTUS’ decision went public, social media erupted into a frenzy. Supreme Court, #TrumpTaxes, #TrumpTaxReturns, SCOTUS, and Kavanaugh were all top trending topics on Twitter Thursday morning. 

“PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” Trump tweeted shortly after the announcement.

“POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” he followed up in another tweet he has repeated many times over.

“Courts in the past have given “broad deference,” he added in another tweet. “BUT NOT ME!”

“…the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given for another President. This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT.” 

However, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has spun SCOTUS’ decision as a “win” for Trump, particularly because he’s able to re-challenge both cases. 

On the other side, Vance called the ruling “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one — not even a president — is above the law.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement, saying, “No matter how much he wishes it to be true, President Trump is not king.”

In a devastating blow to President Trump and his enablers in the Republican party, the Supreme Court today upheld a fundamental tenet of our democracy that no one is above the law,” Schumer said. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also responded to the House case being sent back to the lower courts, saying that Thursday’s ruling “is not good news for President Trump.” Pelosi added that Congress will continue to press its case in lower courts and provide further information to those courts.

Deutsche Bank, one of the banks holding some of Trump’s financial records, said it will abide by the U.S. legal process and the final decision of the courts.

Why Are Trump’s Tax Records Being Sought?

Vance is seeking 10 years of documents as part of an criminal investigation into potential state tax law violations by Trump prior to his presidency. 

Notably, that investigation includes looking into hush money paid to Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, during Trump’s campaign run. Vance is specifically investigating whether that hush money violated New York state law if it were filed as false business records.

The House’s case involves two different subpoenas. Those subpoenas include a sweeping array of Trump’s personal and business records also prior to his time in the White House, including: bank statements, engagement letters, personal checks, loan applications, and tax returns.

The committees have justified these subpoenas by arguing that the information in them is critical to drafting federal ethics and anti-corruption laws involving presidents. In fact, one major concern is whether Trump has business dealings with Russia, which could be a major conflict of interest. 

It’s important to note that Trump himself was never personally subpoenaed. Both Vance and the House committees actually sent those subpoenas to Trump’s personal accounting firm, as well as 3 financial institutions used by him and his business.

Nonetheless, Trump filed lawsuits against both sets of subpoenas in an attempt to block those institutions from having to comply. In both cases, Trump lost in every single level of federal court all the way up to the Supreme Court. 

Notably, he’s also the only president in modern history to not publicly release his tax returns or divest from major business interests while in office.

See what others are saying: (ABC News) (The LA Times) (Axios)

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Top Universities Move To Guard International Students From ICE’s Deportation Policy

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  • Following ICE’s announcement on Monday that it would revoke visas for international students at schools shifting to online-only formats, a number of colleges and universities have responded.
  • While schools like Columbia quickly announced that they would begin offering hybrid models, Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the policy.
  • At the same time, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she expects K-12 public schools to be “fully operational” in the fall, and President Donald Trump has threatened to pull funding if they don’t.

Schools Move to Protect International Students

Colleges and universities are scrambling to protect their international students following a controversial move from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement that threatens to deport those students taking only online classes in the fall.

For the Spring and Summer semesters, ICE temporarily eased existing rules that require international students to attend in-person classes and essentially limit them to only one online course each semester. On Monday, the agency announced that it would largely not be extending those flexibilities into fall, though it would still allow international students to take more online classes than normal. 

Many schools are afraid to offer in-person classes with the COVID-19 pandemic still sweeping across the country. Because of that, many international students fear they will be deported, and if they are, they could face added difficulty traveling home considering current international travel restrictions, some of which could bar them from their own countries.

In response, Harvard and MIT filed a joint lawsuit against the Trump administration Wednesday in an attempt to seek a temporary restraining order prohibiting the government from enforcing ICE’s policy.

“ICE’s action proceeded without any indication of having considered the health of students, faculty, university staff, or communities…or the absence of other options for universities to provide their curricula to many of their international students,” the suit reads.

In a personal statement alongside the lawsuit, Harvard President Larry Bacow said the university “will not stand by to see our international students’ dreams extinguished by a deeply misguided order.”

Other schools have worked to reassure their international students in different ways. New York University—which has the highest number of international students in the U.S—has stressed that its hybrid program would accommodate most of its international students.

 However, it added that the new guidance from ICE “will be disruptive to some who will now be forced to rethink their fall schedules to ensure they include live classes.”

“Additionally, requiring international students to maintain in person instruction or leave the country, irrespective of their own health issues or even a government mandated shutdown of New York City, is just plain wrong and needlessly rigid,” school administration said in its statement on Tuesday.

Also in New York, Columbia University announced that it now plans to organize hybrid classes with both in-person and remote learning opportunities. It will also offer pop-up learning centers for students who can’t return to Columbia.

On the West Coast, Stanford—which had previously announced that it would hold mostly online classes—now said it will support international students. As to what that might look like, it hasn’t yet said.

At the University of California, Berkeley, students are reportedly trying to create a course for international students solely to circumvent this ICE policy. That news came after a student said they had found a faculty member willing to sponsor a class that would be “only for students who are international and need a physical component to remain in the United States.”

Source: @trotskyplug, now deleted

However, nothing has been confirmed by the university. For now, such a class remains only speculation. A number of people have also questioned how such a class would be drafted and if it would conflict with immigration fraud laws.

Still, before, that post was ultimately deleted, it was shared over 24,000 times, highlighting the attempts international students are making to try to find some way to remain in the country. 

Many of those students are reportedly signing up for any in-person class they can find—even if it’s outside of their major or not a general education requirement. Others are reportedly trying to swap for in-person classes with American students as those classes fill up.

DHS Defends ICE Policy

Kenneth Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, defended ICE’s policy Tuesday on CNN, repeatedly stressing that the agency was allowing more flexibility than it ever had before. Anchor Brianna Keilar pushed back against those claims, saying that the COVID-19 pandemic in an exceptional situation that requires great flexibility.

“So you’re basically forcing universities to reopen even if they have personally determined that they shouldn’t be doing that for public health reasons?” Keilar asked. 

“Oh, we’re not forcing universities to reopen,” Cuccinelli responded, “however, if a university… if they don’t reopen this semester, there isn’t a reason for a person holding a student visa to be present in the country. They should go home, and then they should return when the school opens. That’s what student visas are for, and we want to accommodate that for schools, and we’re working hard to do that.” 

Keilar continued to hit back, saying that for some students, they will return home to countries with internet restrictions that might not allow them to appropriately conduct research or work for classes. 

In the interview, Cuccinelli also said that this policy was designed, in part, to “encourage schools to reopen.”

DeVos: Schools “Fully Operational” By Fall

In recent days, the Trump administration has become increasingly adamant that public K-12 schools should reopen for the upcoming academic year. 

“Corrupt Joe Biden and the Democrats don’t want to open schools in the Fall for political reasons, not for health reasons!” President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday. “They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!”

Trump continued to push for full reopenings in the fall on Tuesday, specifically criticizing Harvard for its plan to operate fully online.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” he said. “I think it’s an easy way out. I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves if you want to know the truth.”

“We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools,” he added. 

That idea was further pushed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos the same day, with DeVos saying, “Ultimately, it’s not a matter of if schools need to open, it’s a matter of how.” 

“They must reopen, they must be fully operational,” she added. “And how that happens is best left to education and community leaders.” 

DeVos appeared to push for that hardline reopening plan, disavowing hybrid models that suggest students only physically go to school a few times a week. 

“A choice of two days per week in the classroom is not a choice at all,” DeVos told governors in a conference call.

“Students across the country have already fallen behind,” she added. “We need to make sure that they catch up. It’s expected that it will look different depending on where you are, but what’s clear is that students and their families need more options.”

DeVos also compared the coronavirus risk to “learning to ride a bike” and being “shot off in a rocket into space,” saying schools “already deal with risk on a daily basis.”

Vice President Mike Pence claimed on that call that if all schools remained closed into the upcoming academic year, the U.S. economy would take a $50 billion hit. 

Trump continued to push for reopening schools Wednesday morning, saying he may cut off funding if they don’t open. In a tweet, he compared the situation in the U.S. with that of Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden; however, those countries have all managed to suppress the virus one way or the other.

In a follow-up tweet, Trump went on to say he disagrees with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to reopen, calling them “very tough & expensive.”

Currently, if a school wishes to reopen, the CDC recommends that desks should be six-feet apart, that groups of students stay together, and that students shouldn’t share objects. It also recommends a hybrid schedule, such as the one DeVos has criticized. 

However, it also notes that wearing face masks will likely be challenging for students—especially younger ones—to wear all day.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “More and more data has been coming out around the severity of the illness, and the likelihood of infection for children, both of which are substantially lower than they are for adults.”

It now “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

The AAP lists several reasons for bringing children back to school, including potential negative impacts such as interruption of support services, as well as difficulty for schools to identify learning deficits, sexual abuse, substance abuse, and depression. 

While there is some evidence to suggest children are less susceptible to the virus, it’s not clear how strong that evidence is. Some hypothesize that schools closing in the early stages of the pandemic could have helped to contribute to lower infection rates.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (Forbes) (The Hill)

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