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Michael Flynn Sues Jan. 6 committee to Avoid Bannon’s Fate

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Former national security adviser to Donald J. Trump’s White House, Michael Flynn, has sued the Jan. 6 committee to prevent them from “enforcing a subpoena for his testimony and documents, claiming it could violate multiple privileges, including his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, by forcing him to disclose evidence related to multiple ongoing criminal matters,” Politico reported. The lawsuit was filed in Fla., outside the Washington, D.C. jurisdiction.

In the 42-page lawsuit filed Tuesday, Flynn’s attorney Matthew Sarelson said his client had been in “extensive talks” regarding his testimony to the Jan. 6 committee to negotiate the terms of his testimony – going so far as to hire a vendor “to collect and process General Flynn’s documents, which it did, so that they could be preserved, reviewed and produced to the Select Committee.”

“Although the Committee agreed to postpone General Flynn’s deposition to December 20, 2021, it would not agree to clarify or prioritize the Subpoena’s requests,” Sarelson summarized, arguing that by suing the panel, the body would be prevented from enforcing its subpoena and pressing criminal contempt charges.

“[T]here appeared to be no prospect these issues would be resolved absent the intervention of a court, and that General Flynn would seek the Court’s protection,” Sarelson wrote. “Committee counsel responded that the Committee’s preference would be for General Flynn to invoke his 5th Amendment privilege before the Committee, even if it was effectively the only thing he could do, and that the Committee could refer General Flynn for prosecution for contempt of Congress for not doing so.”

Flynn is currently at the center of the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation – in large part to his involvement in the Oval Office with then-President Trump on Dec. 18, 2020. During the meeting, Flynn reportedly discussed deploying the military to seize voting machines in service of Trump’s effort to stave off defeat. That conversation came amid increasing indications that Trump was considering invoking the Insurrection Act amid his effort to remain in power if the 2020 presidential election didn’t end in his second term in the White House.

“[T]he Select Committee as it currently stands—and stood at the time it issued the subpoenas in question—has no authority to conduct business because it is not a duly constituted Select Committee,” Sarelson stated, later adding that “the Select Committee is rushing to refer any non-cooperative witnesses for criminal prosecution by the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress,” Sarelson wrote. “Thus, General Flynn is caught between alternatives that both risk criminal prosecution by the Department of Justice, either in an ongoing criminal probe, or in a new prosecution for contempt of Congress.”

Flynn isn’t the only person of interest who’s recently filed a lawsuit to prevent the Jan. 6 committee from subpoenaing their testimony or telephone records. Attorney John Eastman, Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, broadcaster Alex Jones, attorney Cleta Mitchell, and Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander have also taken similar action.

On the flip-side, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon did not sue the Jan. 6 committee when subpoenaed and is now considered a criminal defendant under the law.

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$1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

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From electric vehicles to cosmetics, and even the word “mummy,” there is a lot of rebranding going on.

Bowing to anger from right-wingers and conservative commentators, M&M’s decided to rebrand the decades-old multi-colored candies after outrage over its latest addition, purple, and its new “spokescandy,” also named “Purple.”

“Roughly a year ago, Mars Wrigley updated the look of its M&M’s characters, announcing an initiative to make the mascots fit a ‘more dynamic, progressive world.’ As part of these changes, the company introduced new designs of some of M&M’s characters and wrote weirdly elaborate backstories for others. Most notably, the company made the green M&M less ‘sexy’ by shortening her legs and replacing her high-heeled boots with sneakers,” Vox Media’s Polygon reported last week.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson infamously has waged war on the “woke” spokescandies, declaring at one point, “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous.”

Fast forward to now: Actress and comedian Maya Rudolph is their new spokesperson, although the “spokescandies,” perhaps after some additional rebranding, will be returning in a new ad on Super Bowl Sunday.

Which brings us to the rebranding of another icon: Jesus Christ.

He too will be part of the Super Bowl Sunday ads.

READ MORE: Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

Over the next three years a $1 billion mostly-dark-money campaign – which reportedly will include funds from billionaire right wing anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ funder David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby – will promote Jesus in ads, including during the Super Bowl on February 12. Those two Super Bowl ads to “to redeem Jesus’ brand” will cost $20 million, Religion News Service reports.

The campaign to promote Jesus includes $100 million in ads declaring “He Gets Us,” from “the Servant Foundation, an Overland Park, Kansas, nonprofit that does business as The Signatry,” RNS adds.

The “donors backing the campaign have until recently remained anonymous — in early 2022, organizers only told Religion News Service that funding came from ‘like-minded families who desire to see the Jesus of the Bible represented in today’s culture with the same relevance and impact He had 2000 years ago.'”

But the full list of donors remains unknown.

“Jason Vanderground, president of Haven, a branding firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan, that is working on the ‘He Gets Us’ campaign, confirmed that the Greens are one of the major funders, among a variety of donors and families who have gotten behind it.”

READ MORE: Pelosi Attack Video Release Leads to Criticism of Musk, Right Wingers Who ‘Trafficked in Homophobic Conspiracy Nonsense’

In a Washington Post interview last year, Vanderground “said Christians see their faith as the greatest love story, but those outside the faith see Christians as a hate group.”

But rather than try to convince self-identified followers of Christ to act as Jesus would want, right-wing interests are spending $1 billion to convince others of what Christianity is supposed to be about.

“Our research shows that many people’s only exposure to Jesus is through Christians who reflect him imperfectly, and too often in ways that create a distorted or incomplete picture of his radical compassion and love for others,” Vanderground told The Washington Post. “We believe it’s more important now than ever for the real, authentic Jesus to be represented in the public marketplace as he is in the Bible.”

Some are not impressed, and are more-or-less asking, “What would Jesus do?”

“They are latching on to this touchy-feely, conveniently vague, designer Jesus,” podcaster, author, and secular activist Seth Andrews told RNS. Andrews “poses the question of what Jesus would think of the amount of money spent on the ads. Would he prefer that the money be spent on ministering to people’s physical needs or making the world a better place?”

READ MORE: McCarthy Sat for an Interview With Trump Jr. – One Bragged About an ‘Illegal’ Act, One Wished His Dad Would ‘Show Some’ Love

“Or would he say, no, go ahead and spend $100 million to tell everybody how great I am?”

On-air, CNN said, “at first blush, it can all read like a stand against radical right-wing politics and related divisiveness,” but adds that “some are calling this a ‘right-wing stunt for politics.'”

“‘He Gets Us’ is funded by anonymous donors acting through a Kansas non-profit linked to staunchly conservative causes,” CNN’s report (video below) notes, saying it “raises alarms for some skeptics.”

Watch CNN’s report below or at this link.

Image: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

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Fort Worth ISD Drops Sex Ed Despite $2.6 Million Purchase of Materials in April

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Fort Worth ISD students will not take sex education this school year after the superintendent told parents she is scrapping plans to adopt a controversial curriculum that the district appears to have purchased last year for nearly $2.6 million.

Superintendent Angélica Ramsey made the announcement at the end of her weekly newsletter sent Jan. 27. She told parents the district is restarting its curriculum adoption process. For nearly a year, administrators planned to re-adopt instructional materials from California-based HealthSmart.

In April, the Fort Worth ISD school board approved a nearly $2.6 million purchase of new digital-only instructional materials from HealthSmart. Trustees did not discuss the purchase. The purchase was part of the consent agenda, a list of items considered routine that can be approved in one motion.

District spokesperson Claudia Garibay did not respond to a dozen questions from the Fort Worth Report by publication time.

Angélica Ramsey, the new Fort Worth ISD superintendent, talks to reporters after the school board hired her during a special meeting on Sept. 20, 2022. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)

“There is not an approved, adopted or recommended Human Sexuality Curriculum for the 2022-23 school year. The delay will suspend the instructional delivery of the sexual education unit for the 2022-23 school year,” Ramsey wrote to parents.

Students whose parents opt them into sex education were expected to take the course later in spring semester, according to the district. Consent forms had a due date of Feb. 28.

The School Health Advisory Council — the school board-appointed, 26-member committee reviewing sex education — is expected to examine different options for Fort Worth ISD’s next curriculum, Ramsey said.

Ramsey’s announcement comes after a Jan. 24 school board meeting that saw dozens of residents and parents speak out against the HealthSmart curriculum, which the district has used since 2014. The Report filed an open records request for the proposed curriculum.

Fort Worth ISD bought HealthSmart’s instructional materials for all grade levels. Sex education is included in lessons for middle school and high school, according to HealthSmart.

State law requires school board members to make decisions on sex education curriculum, the Texas Education Agency told the Report.

‘Superintendent inherited a situation’

State Board of Education member Pat Hardy wants to see Fort Worth ISD succeed. However, as she watched the district attempt to adopt HealthSmart, she did not see administrators being transparent nor working with parents enough to make an informed decision, she told the Report.

Pat Hardy is a member of the State Board of Education. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Hardy, a Republican who represents west Tarrant County, criticized Fort Worth ISD’s sex education curriculum adoption in a recent opinion article. All Fort Worth ISD needed to do was follow the process outlined in state law, Hardy said.

Hardy blamed Fort Worth ISD’s previous leadership for its sex education issues. Ramsey has been superintendent since late September; she replaced Kent Scribner.

“The superintendent inherited a situation that was going on before she got here,” Hardy said.

Hardy praised Ramsey for telling parents her plans to get Fort Worth ISD’s next sex education curriculum right and to follow state law.

“My hat’s off to her,” Hardy said.

What has happened, so far

New sex education curriculum standards were introduced in 2020. Without state-aligned materials, Fort Worth ISD cannot teach sex education.

What is the process for adopting a sex education curriculum?

Texas law and Fort Worth ISD school board policy detail the process for adopting new instructional materials for sex education. Here’s what the district’s policy, which aligns with state law, says:

The following process shall apply regarding the adoption of curriculum materials for the district’s human sexuality instruction:

  1. The school board shall adopt a resolution convening the district’s school health advisory council to recommend curriculum materials for the instruction.
  2. The advisory council shall hold at least two public meetings on the curriculum materials before adopting recommendations to present to the board.
  3. The advisory council recommendations must comply with the instructional content requirements in law, be suitable for the subject and grade level for which the materials are intended, and be reviewed by academic experts in the subject and grade level for which the materials are intended.
  4. The advisory council shall present its recommendations to the Board at a public meeting.
  5. After the school board ensures the recommendations from the advisory council meet the standards in law, the board shall take action on the recommendations by a record vote at a public meeting.

Texas school districts are not required to teach sex education. Districts that choose to do so are required to have parents opt their students into the course.

The State Board of Education recommended school districts use sex education curriculum for middle school students from publisher Goodheart-Wilcox. However, the state board did not make it mandatory.

In early January, the school board stopped the School Health Advisory Council’s review of sex education curriculum.

At that same meeting, trustees also rescinded a December resolution directing the council to officially convene and hold two public meetings before offering a curriculum recommendation. When trustees OK’d the resolution in December, its agenda item had the wrong title. It was “approve resolution concerning implementation and enforcement of school safety measures.” District officials blamed the mistake on a clerical error.

The School Health Advisory Council worked on recommending HealthSmart to the school board since September. Garibay described that work as “informational,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Two public meetings were held Sept. 6 and 7. Agendas for those meetings were not publicly available Jan. 26, and no minutes were posted. On Oct. 12, the School Health Advisory Council voted to recommend the proposed sex education curriculum to the school board, according to minutes of the meeting.

However, school board records show trustees did not consider a resolution convening the School Health Advisory Council to begin the sex education review process. The resolution is the first step toward adopting a new curriculum, according to board policy.

Another meeting was held Nov. 5 when 15 new council members, who were appointed in October, participated for the first time. The council again voted to recommend the curriculum; minutes of the meeting were not available on the district’s site.

No complaints about Fort Worth ISD’s sex education curriculum have been filed with TEA, according to agency officials.

For the past few months, Hardy has heard from her constituents about Fort Worth ISD. Most of the comments, she said, focus on one thing the district should be doing: Be transparent.

“They’re tired of things not coming to the forefront,” Hardy said. “They just want Fort Worth ISD to be honest.”

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

 

Top image via Shutterstock

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‘Low Energy Donald’: Trump Buried for ‘Monotonous’ Kick-Off Speeches in Critical Battleground States

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Donald Trump’s first two speeches touting his 2024 Republican Party presidential bid before smaller crowds in New Hampshire and South Carolina ended up being a rehash of old complaints and with a few lines that garnered applause but his demeanor was lacking the usual fire once seen at his raucous rallies.

On the morning after the speeches, MSNBC host Katie Phang shared clips of the president speaking and noted the lack of enthusiam from the former president when one considers how important the first foray into public in 2023 was to his third presidential bid with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and a bevy of GOP lawmakers nipping at his heels.

As the MSNBC host pointed out, the president’s uncharacteristically short speeches were nothing less than monotonous.

“Do you guys remember low-energy Jeb?” Phang began, referencing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, “That was the moniker Donald Trump branded on the former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush while they compete with others for the Republican nomination in 2016.”

“Well, now it seems like we have a low-energy Donald,” she continued. “Here was Donald Trump yesterday when he tried to kick his third white house run into high gear.”

RELATED: ‘All washed up’: Republican insider says Trump needs to ‘move on’ because ‘he’s bleeding support’

After showing a clip of the subdued former president telling the crowd, “So, we’re here. We start, we begin. I want to thank New Hampshire for the warm welcome outside. We are so far ahead in the polls, both in New Hampshire — one came out this morning, very nice poll — we are way ahead. We had a tremendous period of time. We had a tremendous thing happening just two and a half years ago,” Phang noted Trump’s demeanor.

“King of the monotone,” she pointed out, “Despite trump saying he is leading in the polls the reality is so far he is the only Republican who has even announced a run for president.”

“Trump’s first lethargic campaign stops of the 24 race come as sources are telling NBC News that [Rep.] Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is angling to be his vice president,” she added. “The MAGA conspiracy theorist slash insurrectionist, slash election denier, reportedly sees herself as someone who can bridge the divide between the party’s far-right hard-liners and its, quote, establishment wing.”

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