Ben Sasse Is DeSantis Hatchet Man as UF Fires All DEI Staff

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Ben Sasse Is DeSantis Hatchet Man as UF Fires All DEI Staff

The University of Florida nixed its entire diversity, equity, and inclusion staff on Friday, thanks to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s wingman in the GOP’s war on education, Ben Sasse.

Sasse, the former Republican senator from Nebraska turned university president, terminated 13 full-time positions and 15 administrative appointments for faculty members, a university spokesperson told Axios.

According to an administrative memo obtained by the the campus’s student paper, The Alligator, DEI staff would be fired effective immediately, with severances tantamount to 12 weeks of pay. Additionally, $5 million would be redirected from DEI programs and placed in a “faculty recruitment fund” to be administered by the university’s Office of the Provost however it deems fit.

“These colleagues are allowed and encouraged to apply, between now and Friday, April 19, for expedited consideration for different positions currently posted within the university,” the memo read.

“Florida is where DEI goes to die …” DeSantis coldly wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, shortly after the decision became public.

The employees are the latest victims of DeSantis’s all-out war on what he describes as “woke culture” on college campuses—which Sasse has been gleefully helping him lead. Last May, the conservative politician signed a bill that effectively defunded diversity programs, prohibiting state schools from spending state or federal funds on DEI initiatives.

“If you look at the way this has actually been implemented across the country, DEI is better viewed as standing for discrimination, exclusion, and indoctrination,” DeSantis said during a press conference at the time. “And that has no place in our public institutions. This bill says the whole experiment with DEI is coming to an end in the state of Florida.”

Amid an ongoing spar over when Donald Trump’s classified documents case will begin, the Justice Department has clarified once and for all that he cannot continue to delay his legal trials by claiming that he has to focus on the election.

On Friday, Judge Eileen Cannon asked about the DOJ’s “60-day rule” against taking actions that might affect an upcoming election.

But the DOJ said that the “60-day rule” does not apply to Trump’s actual trials, on the basis that he was indicted before he started campaigning, and that his trials are already being litigated.

“We are in full compliance with the justice manual,” announced Jay Bratt, a senior counterintelligence supervisor at the Justice Department, during the hearing—which Trump attended in person.

To that end, Trump could be smack dab in the middle of a criminal trial during the election itself.

Over the course of Friday’s hearing, Trump’s legal team argued for an August 12 start date for the trial, even while claiming that going to trial before the presidential election would be “unfair” and tenuous because of the other cases stacked against him. They claimed that federal prosecutors’ proposed start date of July 8—which would see the trial deliberated over the course of the summer—would be “completely unworkable” and an “impossibility for the defendant,” reported NBC News.

Truly, Trump’s legal team does seem stretched a little thin. They are currently dancing between four criminal trials and contending with 91 criminal charges against the former president. Meanwhile, Trump seems to have already run out of money. On Wednesday, the self-proclaimed billionaire was forced to admit that he didn’t have the cash to pay off the $454 million disgorgement stemming from his New York civil fraud trial. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—Trump owes an additional $88.3 million to E. Jean Carroll for sexually assaulting her and then defaming her twice in his rabid denials. He owes $400,000 to The New York Times and has racked up thousands more over gag orders he’s violated amid all these trials. And, in the realm of non-court-ordered debts, Trump’s former right-hand man, America’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani, claimed he still hasn’t been paid for the legal services he provided to the former president, reportedly waiting on a sum of about $2 million.

So far, Trump has stooped to crafting a sneaker campaign and a fan-funded GoFundMe to cover his bills. We’ll see how far that gets.

The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s classified documents trial appeared poised Friday to hand the former president another big victory in his strategy of delaying his legal battles as long as possible.

Trump’s trial for mishandling classified documents was initially set to begin on May 20, but Judge Aileen Cannon was expected to move the date back during a Friday hearing. Special counsel Jack Smith had urged Cannon to only postpone the trial until July, while Trump’s lawyers suggested an August start date.

Cannon, a Trump appointee, did not set a new date during the hearing, but she did express skepticism over Smith’s proposed date. “A lot of work needs to be done in the pretrial phase of this case,” she said. “To try to do 13 motions in a day or even two days seems unrealistic.”

If Cannon agrees to Trump’s proposed trial dates, she will have given the former president a massive win. Trump’s team had originally asked for the trial to start after the election, and then suggested the August 12 start date. The reason, most likely, is so that he could use an August classified documents trial to avoid facing justice in the biggest case against him: the federal election interference trial.

Trump’s whole strategy in his myriad legal struggles has been to delay them as long as possible. If he is reelected in November, then he could instruct the Department of Justice to drop the two federal cases against him, or even try to pardon himself and avoid ever facing accountability for his actions.

The Supreme Court already handed Trump another massive favor on Wednesday by agreeing to hear arguments about whether he has “presidential” immunity from prosecution. This could delay Trump’s trial over interfering in the 2020 election for months.

This is far from the first time Cannon has tipped proceedings toward Trump. She received nationwide scrutiny at the start of the investigation after she appeared favorably inclined to the former president. Trump filed a motion requesting a “special master” to review all of the material the FBI found at Mar-a-Lago before the investigation could proceed, and Cannon agreed—a victory for Team Trump.

The Justice Department appealed the decision, and the Eleventh Circuit Court ultimately ruled that neither Cannon nor Trump had had any legal right for their actions. The appeals court threw Cannon’s decision out entirely.

More on Trump’s legal woes:

Donald Trump says he is “absolutely” considering plucking Texas Governor Greg Abbott out of the Lone Star state to plop him into the West Wing.

“Certainly, he would be somebody that I would very much consider,” Trump said in a joint appearance with Abbott on Fox News’s Hannity Thursday, describing the Texan as a “spectacular man.”

So far, Abbott has played a key (if informal) role in Trump’s campaign, bolstering the GOP front-runner’s fearmongering on border security by prolonging a standoff between Texas law enforcement and the federal government over a length of concertina wire along the Rio Grande section of the U.S.-Mexico border. That showdown radically escalated in January when 25 Republican governors threw their hat behind Abbott, warning they would send their state’s National Guard troops down to defend Texas’s cause if President Joe Biden attempted to enforce a Supreme Court ruling declaring that the state had stepped outside of its jurisdiction by preventing federal agents from doing their jobs.

On the other side of things, Trump has been urging Republican lawmakers to kill any deals on border security in an effort to artificially inflame the issue with U.S. voters and hurt Biden’s chances at reelection. And it’s worked: Immigration is now the central topic of the 2024 presidential election, with 28 percent of Americans claiming it is their top concern—8 percent more than reported in January, according to a February Gallup poll.

Abbott’s name joins a fairly long short list that Trump confirmed last week during a Fox News town hall. Those options include onetime Democratic presidential primary candidate Tulsi Gabbard, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, Florida Representative Byron Donalds, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—the last of whom has already, adamantly, announced that he is “not doing that.”

CVS and Walgreens, the two largest pharmacy chains in the United States, announced Friday that they will start dispensing the abortion pill this month, increasing access to the procedure.

Spokespeople for the two companies told The New York Times that the pharmacies will begin dispensing mifepristone, one of the two drugs used to induce an abortion, in a few states in March. The chains will monitor the situation in other states, where laws are less clear or where abortion bans have been temporarily blocked by courts, to see if they can expand where they dispense mifepristone.

Walgreens will not dispense mifepristone in “states where the laws are unclear” in order to protect its staff from potential lawsuits, the company spokesman said.

CVS will “continually monitor and evaluate changes in state laws and will dispense mifepristone in any state where it is or becomes legally permissible to do so,” the spokeswoman said.

Medication abortions make up more than half of all abortions in the U.S. and are considered a crucial tool in maintaining access to the procedure since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. Republicans have sought to make it harder to access mifepristone, including by suing to ban it from the market entirely. Misoprostol, the other medication used to induce an abortion, is already available in pharmacies because it has multiple other uses.

CVS and Walgreens announced in January 2023 that they would seek certification from the Food and Drug Administration to dispense mifepristone. But Walgreens changed course a month later, following intense pressure from almost two dozen Republican attorneys general.

Walgreens agreed not to dispense mifepristone in the jurisdictions of those 21 attorneys general, even though abortion is legal in nearly half of those states. The move sparked talks of boycotts, including from California Governor Gavin Newsom. Friday’s statement did not address whether Walgreens still intended to abide by that promise.

CVS’s and Walgreens’ decision to dispense mifepristone will make it easier for people to get hold of the medication faster. Mifepristone is already available in clinics or via telemedecine, when it is sent through the mail. But now all people don’t need to wait for a mail delivery. All they need is a prescription.

The pharmacy chains may be forced to stop selling the drug, though, depending on the outcome of an upcoming Supreme Court case. A coalition of anti-abortion groups, represented by the extremist legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, sued to block access to mifepristone in November 2022. The pill, which has repeatedly been proven safe, has gone through a legal roller-coaster on its way to the Supreme Court as ultraconservative judges used bogus studies to determine that the FDA improperly approved mifepristone decades ago.

Mifepristone’s status currently remains unchanged, because the Supreme Court in April halted the lower court rulings that would have yanked the pill from the market. Mifepristone will remain nationally available until the Supreme Court hears the lawsuit later this month and issues a ruling.

Republicans have gotten really good at talking about how much they want to protect access to in vitro fertilization, without actually doing anything to protect the procedure.

Representative Nancy Mace introduced a nonbinding resolution on Friday expressing support for IVF and calling on elected officials to protect access to the treatment. The measure does not actually do anything concrete to protect IVF.

The resolution “expresses strong support” for continued access to fertility treatments and “commends” the work of fertility care specialists. The measure condemns “any judicial ruling” restricting access to fertility care, and urges elected officials at all levels to “proactively pass” legislation that would protect access to assisted reproductive technology.

Again, the resolution is nonbinding. This means that Mace and her six co-sponsors, all elected officials, are doing exactly nothing to actually protect IVF.

What’s more, five of the resolution’s co-sponsors—Don Bacon, Anthony D’Esposito, Jen Kiggans, Nick LaLota, and David Schweikert—are vulnerable to being voted out. Those lawmakers represent districts that voted for President Joe Biden in 2020, so they are likely using this resolution as a way to pretend that they are listening to their more left-leaning constituents.

In the nearly two weeks since the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos created through IVF can be considered children, torpedoing the state’s fertility industry, Republicans have scrambled to express support for the procedure. Even some of the most conservative members of Congress, such as House Speaker Mike Johnson, are falsely insisting they have always supported IVF.

A Mace spokesperson pointed out earlier this week that the congresswoman co-sponsored another resolution last year expressing support for fertility treatments. That resolution was also nonbinding, meaning Mace has done precisely squat to actually support IVF—much like the rest of her party.

In fact, Mace has actively worked against preserving IVF access. She was a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, a measure that was introduced first in 2021 with 166 co-sponsors and then again in 2023 with 124. The bill, which has not advanced since, would have established that life begins at fertilization.

Like the Alabama ruling, the Life at Conception Act would have severely restricted—if not effectively banned—IVF treatments as well, because it grants “equal protection” to “preborn” humans, including embryos. Since it’s common for fertilized eggs not to survive the IVF process, the act would put doctors at risk of being charged for wrongful death of embryos. That risk would be enough to scupper the IVF industry, as it has already begun to do in Alabama.

While Republicans have talked a good game in recent days, their actions tell a very different story. When Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth introduced a bill on Wednesday to protect IVF, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith killed the measure. And that same day in the House, Representative Anna Paulina Luna—the only Republican in either chamber co-sponsoring legislation to codify IVF protections—withdrew her support from the companion bill to Duckworth’s.

Donald Trump still can’t get over how he “aced” a cognitive test that required him to correctly recite the words “person, woman, man, camera, TV.”

On Thursday, Trump leveraged an interview on Fox News’s Hannity to deride President Joe Biden’s mental health while celebrating his own, claiming the test used to measure dementia and cognitive decline was “very tough.”

“He could not do this interview. He couldn’t do an interview where you ask even a few questions,” Trump began. “And I said this morning, I say it loud and clear, you should take a cognitive test.”

“I took two of them, and I aced both of them. I’m very proud to say. Meaning, I got it all right.”

“They’re not that easy, you know,” Trump continued. “They—they show you the first ones are pretty easy. And then you get up, you get into the middle category, then you get to the end questions. There are very few people could answer those questions. They’re actually very tough.”

Trump has taken to arguing that cognitive exams should be mandatory for higher office since special counsel Robert Hur issued a damning, 388-page analysis of Biden’s mental acuity in which he described the 81-year-old president as having “significant limitations.”

“It’s easy the answer, but I don’t like doing it. He’s got some difficulty,” Trump told Hannity. “But it’s not the age because I know a lot of people that are much older than him that are 100 percent sharp and I think most people agree with that.”

He had no problem throwing mud earlier that morning, however.

“Crooked Joe Biden must take a Cognitive Test. Maybe that way we would be able to find out why he makes such terrible decisions,” the 77-year-old posted on Truth Social. “I took two of them, and ACED them both (no mistakes!). All Presidents, or people wanting to become President, should mandatorily take this test!”

In 2018, Representative Ronny Jackson—then the president’s physician—said he provided a cognitive exam to Trump because he “asked me to do it.”

In the years since, Trump has invariably tweaked the questions he allegedly received on the test, at times boasting that he had correctly recited five words and performed basic multiplication while at other times insisting that he had passed thanks to correctly identifying a whale. That is, in spite of the fact that the test’s authors claim that none of the three versions in circulation actually have a whale on them.

Hunter Biden’s attorneys negotiated for months to get his closed-door hearing before the House Oversight Committee on the public record, and thank God they did.

By all means, the hearing did not look like a success for Republicans, who spent the better part of the day being roundly accused of ignoring evidence supporting the president’s innocence and failing to find any sort of smoking gun.

But a transcript of the meeting, released late Thursday, shows a snippy exchange between the president’s son and Representative Matt Gaetz when the Florida Republican attempted to push Biden on the topic of addiction.

“Were you on drugs when you were on the Burisma board?” prompted Gaetz, referencing the committee’s former lead impeachment theory that Joe Biden had profited millions from his son’s connections to the Ukrainian company—even though the only witness leading that theory has since admitted to making the whole thing up with the help of top Russian intelligence officials.

“Mr. Gaetz, look me in the eye. You really think that’s appropriate to ask me?” Biden replied.

“Absolutely,” Gaetz said.

“Of all the people sitting around this table, do you think that’s appropriate to ask me?” Biden spit back.

He has a point. Gaetz’s own drug habits have been the subject of regular scrutiny for the MAGA lawmaker. In 2021, he was reported to have attended drug-fueled parties, snorting cocaine with strippers and paying them for sex. He also allegedly boasted to other politicians about chasing erectile dysfunction meds with sports drinks so he could “go all night.”

Gaetz is also under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegations of sexual misconduct and illicit drug use. Gaetz has categorically denied the accusations.

“I will answer it this way: I have been absolutely transparent about my drug use,” Biden continued. “Again, I spoke to you all earlier this morning about that. I’m sorry; I’m an addict. I was an addict. I have been in recovery for over four and a half years now, Mr. Gaetz. I work really, really hard at it.”

“What does that have to do with whether or not you’re going to go forward with an impeachment of my father other than to simply try to embarrass me?”

In what should be a shock to no one, the man who bragged about overturning Roe v. Wade is now talking about banning abortion after 15 weeks.

Donald Trump floated the new number during his bizarre trip Thursday to the U.S.-Mexico border. While there, he sat down for an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, who asked about abortion.

Republicans are “coming in with a certain number of weeks, and the number 15 is mentioned,” Trump said. “I haven’t agreed to any number. I’m gonna see. We wanna take an issue that was very polarizing and get it settled and solved so everybody can be happy.”

Trump suggests he might be open to a 15 week national abortion ban pic.twitter.com/iUh8gltOb0

— Acyn (@Acyn) March 1, 2024

Many Republican lawmakers have suggested banning abortion after 15 weeks as some sort of compromise. The argument is generally that fetuses can feel pain after that point. But just two years ago, Republicans were arguing that a 22-week cutoff was reasonable because that was when fetuses started to feel pain.

In reality, most medical experts agree that fetuses don’t develop the necessary physical sensors to experience pain until at least 24 weeks, possibly not even until 28 weeks. So it’s more likely that, now that the protection of Roe is gone, Republicans are just trying to shift the goal posts and ban abortion sooner.

The surprising thing about Trump’s interview is not that he expressed openness toward limiting abortion. Just two weeks ago, Trump suggested a 16-week federal abortion ban.So it’s possible—likely, even—Trump will keep reducing what he considers a reasonable number of weeks to allow abortions until he’s reached zero.

Trump has bragged about his role in overturning Roe and even demanded credit for individual state abortion bans. He is reportedly planning to gut reproductive rights if he is reelected, likely by relying heavily on the Comstock Act, a century-old law that conservatives are using to ban access to abortion and abortion medication.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans—61 percent, according to the Pew Research Center—think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. This is why, even in otherwise deep red states, people keep voting to increase abortion access.

Unfortunately More on Trump:

Donald Trump seems to have a weird idea of who’s entering through our borders, claiming on Thursday that a good chunk of them are people “who don’t speak languages.”

“Everybody I speak to says how horrible it is,” Trump said, adding that there were “millions of people” arriving from “places unknown,” from “countries unknown” with no language.

That is, at best, a woefully missed opportunity for a one-of-a-kind anthropological study, or at worst, an unfortunate admission from the reputed monolinguist. Trump apparently was having a tough time recalling any of the 350 different languages spoken by U.S. communities—maybe chief among them Spanish, which ranks as the second-most-popular language in the nation, and which the vast majority of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border speak.

“We have languages coming into our country, nobody that speaks those languages,” Trump droned. “They’re truly foreign languages. Nobody speaks them.”

Trump: People who don’t speak languages. We have languages coming in to our country, nobody that speaks those languages. They’re truly foreign languages. Nobody speaks them pic.twitter.com/IzRKM5TOue

— Acyn (@Acyn) February 29, 2024

In the last few months, Trump has made a number of increasingly worrying verbal gaffes, including claiming that he would stop banks from “debanking” Americans, mixing up former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his only remaining rival in the GOP race, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and describing his plan for America’s missile defense system by going, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.… Boom. OK. Missile launch. Woosh. Boom.”

He has also appeared with mysterious, unexplained red sores on his hands that political commentators couldn’t help but notice looked an awful lot like syphilis.

But have no fear: The 77-year-old wants you to know he is totally, undoubtedly, mentally all there. He recently “aced” a cognitive test that required him to correctly identify a giraffe, a tiger, and a whale. According to Trump, that meant his “mind is stronger now than it was 25 years ago.” In reality, that test is meant to measure dementia or cognitive decline, and it has never included the combination of animals Trump mentioned.

More on Trump’s mental state:

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