According to a report from Politico, Liberty University is becoming ground zero in the fight among a segment of evangelical Christians who want to distance themselves from former president Donald Trump and those who want to mix his style of pugnacious conservatism with Christianity.
While Trump-supporting Jerry Falwell Jr. has been ousted by the university following a sex scandal involving a former pool attendant and Falwell’s wife, some trustees at the school are still in the Trump camp and that has some school administrators and students up in arms.
Writing, “Now, 14 years after Jerry Falwell Sr. died and nine months after Jerry Jr. was ousted in a scandal, Liberty is enmeshed in a debate that could have profound implications for the nation’s religious right,” Politico’s Maggie Severns added, “Liberty’s ultimate path will influence the greater evangelical world, which is having its own reckoning with the post-Trump Republican Party. With more than 100,000 students, Liberty has long been one of a small handful of top cultural institutions for evangelicals, its board studded with famed pastors and movement leaders. Observers believe that even a small change in direction at Liberty could signal shifting winds among one of Republicans’ most important voting blocs.”
While the university trustees are considering handing over the reins to another Falwell, Jonathan, who doesn’t have the close ties to the one-term president, some trustees are still Trump’s corner.
According to interviews with students and trustees at the school, “The members of the executive committee are all older conservatives who tend to be enthusiastic Trump supporters themselves. In Jerry Jr.’s absence, the board has made several key decisions that have served to keep Liberty aligned with the GOP, while at the same time elevating leaders who have the strong religious focus that Jerry Jr. lacked.”
“In April, the trustees replaced their acting chairman, Allen McFarland, the first Black person to serve as Liberty board chairman, who had an interest in increasing tolerance and diversity at Liberty. He was replaced with Tim Lee, a pugnacious pro-Trump pastor,” Severns explained. “But as Lee and others have taken increasing control of the school, a growing chorus of campus critics has been calling on the trustees to enact greater reforms, and they appear to be listening. A week before they took their strongest step yet to distance themselves from Jerry Jr., suing him for failing to reveal the alleged blackmail scheme, they designated Jonathan Falwell as campus pastor.”
According to one student willing to buck the trustees, secular politics need to take a backseat to religious teachings.
Matt Morris explained the school needs to be a place where, “the focus isn’t necessarily the conservative values, but more the biblical values that are part of the school.”
Morris added, “Shoving politics down people’s throats is not the way Falwell Sr. went about it.”
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‘Same Answer’: Trump Sat Across From the NY Attorney General and Pleaded the Fifth to Each Question For About 5 Hours
Donald Trump arrived at the New York Attorney General’s Office early Wednesday morning, around 9 AM. At 10:04 AM posted to his Truth Social account was a lengthy statement that says, “under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen.”
Trump was finally forced to appear after a subpoena ordering him to give a deposition on January 7 in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into his real estate pricing practices. Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen told Congress in 2019 his former boss would increase what he claimed his properties are worth when attempting to arrange credit and decrease their value for tax purposes.
The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reported Trump “departed 28 Liberty at 3:20pm slumped in a black Secret Service SUV and peered out of the rear window as his motorcade crawled out of an underground garage past onlookers.”
At 3:42 PM Trump posted: “Just leaving the Attorney General’s Office – A very professional meeting.”
The New York Times reports “Trump and James sat across from each other for hours as he said ‘same answer’ again and again.”
Trump “read a statement into the record in which he called the inquiry a continuation of ‘the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country’ and accused Ms. James of having ‘openly campaigned on a policy of destroying me.'”
That statement is similar to the one posted to his Truth Social account.
Trump’s attorney, Ronald P. Fischetti, “said that over the course of about four hours, with several breaks, Mr. Trump answered only one question, about his name, toward the beginning of the interview.”
That statement Trump posted Wednesday morning attempted to merge the FBI’s Monday raid on his Mar-a-Lago home with his appearance for sworn testimony in a very different case.
Legal Experts: ‘Case Against Trump Became Immeasurably Stronger’ After He Says He Pleaded the Fifth
Legal experts are responding to Donald Trump’s claim that he pleaded the fifth when giving a sworn deposition to lawyers from the Office of the New York Attorney General, saying Letitia James’ case against the former president is now “immeasurably stronger.”
Trump infamously derided others over the years, saying people only invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination if they’re guilty.
In a lengthy statement after his testimony Wednesday Trump said, “under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.”
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question,” he added. “When your family, your company and all the people in your orbit have become targets of unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice.”
Legal experts disagree.
Popular attorney George Conway declared Attorney General Letitia James’ “case against Trump became immeasurably stronger today.”
He also said, “in any civil case that AG James may bring against Trump, the finder of fact is free to draw adverse inferences from his invocation of the Fifth Amendment’s protections.”
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti explains, saying, “Trump was right to take the Fifth, but that decision has consequences. While his silence can’t be used against him in a criminal case, it can be used against him in the AG’s civil case.”
“If he is sued,” Mariotti adds, “jurors may be instructed they should presume his answers would have hurt him.”
Attorney Tristan Snell, who successfully prosecuted the Trump University case for the New York Attorney’s Office, offers more insight: “Trump pleads Fifth, refuses to answer NY AG questions about Trump Organization’s alleged tax and financial fraud. This is a civil case — so the court can draw an inference of liability. This is exactly what the AG was hoping to achieve. The case is now even stronger.”
Snell notes also that “Don Jr. and Ivanka did not plead the Fifth, likely because their involvement with the fraud was minimal. Donald Trump pled the Fifth, because he was almost certainly running the fraud.”
Ken White, a popular attorney noted for his “Popehat” Twitter account, offers a different perspective:
“If I’m not mistaken, despite years of speculation and expectation, this is the first time Trump is actually invoking the Fifth to avoid answering questions. It is absolutely the right call in his circumstances.”
Historian Garrett Graff, former editor of Politico magazine adds, “I recognize it’s the important right of any American to take the Fifth, but it’s worth noting how Hillary Clinton say through 11 hours of public Benghazi testimony and sat with the FBI for 3.5 hours amid her emails—and when Trump faces questions, he takes the Fifth.”
‘He Was Going to Sacrifice You’: Pence Mocked for Rushing to Support Trump After FBI Mar-a-Lago Raid
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who was by Donald Trump‘s side constantly promoting and defending him when he was President, and who was subjected to Trump’s support of rioters and insurrectionists calling to “hang Mike Pence,” is being highly criticized and mocked for again rushing to defend Trump in the wake of the FBI’s raid at Mar-a-Lago.
Experts have made clear they believe FBI’s execution of a lawful federal search warrant is most likely in connection with a national security and counterintelligence operation, not a casual stroll into the private estate of a former U.S. president.
But not according to Pence, who is strongly believed to be organizing a 2024 presidential run.
“I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump. No former President of the United States has ever been subject to a raid of their personal residence in American history,” he writes.
“After years where FBI agents were found to be acting on political motivation during our administration, the appearance of continued partisanship by the Justice Department must be addressed,” he claims, which is at best a twisting of facts. No FBI agent was found to have taken official action based on personal political beliefs.
“Yesterday’s action undermines public confidence in our system of justice and Attorney General Garland must give a full accounting to the American people as to why this action was taken and he must do so immediately,” Pence demanded.
Pence could have made the exact same demand of Donald Trump, who has a copy of the lawfully executed search warrant and inventory of the likely hundreds or thousands of documents that are the rightful property of the U.S. government, and recovered by the FBI from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
Meanwhile, Pence was singing a very different tune int he weeks before he was elected Vice President.
“We call on the FBI to immediately release all emails pertinent to their investigation,” he tweeted about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on October 28, 2016. “Americans have the right to know before Election Day.”
Trump “and I commend the FBI for reopening an investigation into Clinton’s personal email server because no one is above the law,” Pence added just hours later.
Responses to Pence’s remarks on Tuesday were strong.
“Mike he was going to sacrifice you,” tweeted Daily Kos staff writer Gabe Ortíz.
“No President has ever attempted to have an armed mob assassinate his Vice President either,” wrote journalist Marcy Wheeler.
Trump sent a “violent mob to murder you so he could end [the] republic,” tweeted economist David Rothschild. “Trump took boxes of classified documents from White House & is known to destroy documents.”
“Trump won in 2016 because FBI intervened on his behalf over ‘concern’ about Clinton’s document retention & security,” he continued. “Not investigating & prosecuting former president who flaunts breaking law, including leading coup against US, undermines rule-of-law for all of US.”
“You don’t know what the FBI’s warrant said or what evidence was presented to the judge who authorized it,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “Your suggestion that Trump should be beyond accountability to the law, like your silence when Trump called for imprisonment of his opponents as president, harms our country.”
Talking Points memo editor and founder Josh Marshall writes, “this is a good reminder of who Mike Pence is. None of this happened. The FBI never plotted against Trump. To the extent it has org bias it’s toward the right. Everyone knows this. Pence is just repeating anti-‘deep state’ propaganda invented to give Trump cover for his crimes.”
“The pervasive rightwing lie and conspiracy theory that the FBI is controlled by Biden for political purposes is based on the assumption that everyone in the Biden admin, the FBI, the department of justice, the media and secret service is corrupt and abusing power—and trump is not,” wrote Condé Nast legal affairs editor Luke Zaleski.
Vox’s legal expert, Ian Millhiser asks, “Is there anyone on earth more pathetic than Mike Pence? Donald Trump egged on a lynch mob that wanted Pence hanged, and Pence is still Trump’s toady.”
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