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Tennessee Republican Argues Federal Funds to Feed Schoolchildren Should Be Performance-Tested



A Tennessee Republican state lawmaker is arguing federal funds to feed school children from low-income families should not be accepted unless it can be proven that the program will increase test scores.

GOP Rep. John Ragan, who has a history of  targeting school students from low-income households, told the legislature’s Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding he was concerned about “tying ourselves to the federal government,” and inquired about the amount of “waste” in the federal program, according to a video clip posted by The Tennessee Holler. The Working Group’s purpose is to determine how the State of Tennessee can reject $1.8 billion in federal education funds.

“The question that is, in the top of my mind, is how – we get this money that’s supposedly aimed at the most needy students and the lowest performing students. What’s the measure of improvement? For this money coming in? How much has it improved the performance of these students?

Rep. Ragan also claimed, “if we are tying ourselves to the federal government by accepting their money to do this thing, then it would seem to me that we as a state should be looking for the improvements that this money is purportedly going to make. Otherwise we’re just throwing money at something and being potentially wasteful.”

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“Yesterday,” Ragan continued, referring to a prior meeting, “a question was addressed concerning the nutrition program related to the waste that’s involved in that. To my knowledge, there is no measurement of that waste.”

Tennessee is exploring becoming the first state in the nation to reject $1.8 billion in federal education funding.

The Joint Working Group on Federal Education Funding was appointed by embattled House Republican Speaker Cameron Sexton and Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, and is comprised of six Republicans and two Democrats from both the House and Senate.

Its purpose is to “review what funding state and local governments in Tennessee receive from the federal government, how the funding is used, whether the state could provide the same services, and whether it would be feasible to reject the funds,” according to The Tennessean. “Tennessee receives $1.8 billion in Title I, IDEA, and other federal program funding each year, which support low-income students, students with disabilities, and school lunch programs.”

But The Tennessean also reports the Working Group’s members have been tasked not with whether to reject the funds, but “with recommending a strategy for how to reject the federal funds.”

Democratic Tennessee state Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is running to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), was the target of Speaker Sexton who tried but failed to expel her earlier this year from the legislature. (Sexton successfully had expelled two Black Democrats, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who later were returned to the legislature by voters.)

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Responding to the video clip of Rep. Ragan, Johnson, a retired special education teacher, wrote on social media: “Sure, because how do we know kids with food in their bellies perform better? (there is research for that.) How do we know kids with speech problems improve w/speech therapy? (Research for that too.) Guess 7 yr olds need to prove to him they’re working for those meals.”

In 2020 Rep. Ragan targeted school students whose families were behind on paying their lunch bills. Ragan’s amendment, which passed the House according to The Tennessean, “Allows schools to deny students who don’t qualify for free or reduced lunch the opportunity to participate in school events and activities, to graduate, or to receive a diploma if they don’t use their own work money to pay off the lunch debt.”

It also “Requires schools to tell parents and guardians they may be reported to the Department of Children’s Services for investigation of child abuse or neglect related to the accumulation of meal debt,” and “Removes the word ‘stigmatize’ from the line saying schools shall not ‘publicly identify or stigmatize a student who cannot pay for a meal.'”


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Republicans Are Secretly Meeting With Allies of ‘Putin’s Buddy’ Orbán to End Ukraine Aid: Report



Congressional Republicans are meeting in secret this week behind closed doors with allies of the far-right Christian nationalist authoritarian Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán. Those allies, including from a Hungarian government agency that reportedly organized a far-right U.S. group’s conference in Budapest, are working to support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal war against Ukraine. GOP lawmakers, especially in the House but increasingly in the Senate, have been voicing strong opposition to the U.S. sending any additional funding to Ukraine.

“Members of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs and staff from the Hungarian embassy in Washington will on Monday begin a two-day event hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation thinktank,” The Guardian reports. The Heritage Foundation, once considered the premier conservative think tank, by 2016 was a pro-Trump group. Now, Heritage is behind the massive Project 2025, which aims to install tens of thousands of pro-Trump loyalists into the federal government if the ex-president re-takes the White House.

“The first day,” The Guardian explains, “includes panel speeches about the Ukraine war as well as topics such as Transatlantic Culture Wars. It is expected to feature guests including Magor Ernyei, the international director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights, the institute that organized CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) Hungary.”

Orbán, called “Putin’s Buddy” just last week by Politico, is “a strongman who cultivates close ties with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and who is widely seen as having undermined democracy and rule of law at home.”

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In other words,” wrote U.S. Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL), “Far-right Republicans are conspiring with Hungary’s extremist Russian-sympathic PM Viktor Orbán to help former KGB dictator Putin defeat democratic Ukraine. Ronald Reagan and John McCain must be looking on in utter disbelief.”

Many are outraged that Republicans will be meeting with Orbán’s allies in D.C. while refusing to publicly acknowledge their attendance at the anti-Ukraine events. To date the guest list has not been published.

National security expert, former U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA), blasted the GOP’s secrecy: “A list of every representative in that meeting with Orban should be made available to the press. Public servants shouldn’t hide in the shadows— especially when discussing decisions with foreign leaders that could benefit Vladimir Putin.”

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Conservative commentator Bill Kristol explained, “Heritage Foundation and Viktor Orbán are not simply against aid for Ukraine. They are against Ukraine. They hate Ukraine, because a) they’re pro-Putin, and b) they hate liberal democracy, especially one fighting to defend itself against a brutal dictator.”

National security and international law expert Eugene Vindman, a retired U.S. Army colonel whose twin brother made national headlines when he blew the whistle on Donald Trump and was mercilessly targeted for his actions, blasted both the Hungarian prime minister and the GOP: “Viktor Orbán is actively interfering in domestic politics and colluding with extremist republicans to help Vladimir Putin. This is dangerous. Republicans must stop putting Putin ahead of U.S. national security interests.”

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‘Ballsy Move’: Experts Praise Special Counsel for Not Playing Trump’s ‘Stupid Reindeer Games’



Legal experts are applauding Special Counsel Jack Smith’s move to “leapfrog” a Trump effort to delay his D.C. case by claiming he has immunity from prosecution and appealing the decisions by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on that major question.

Trump is claiming he cannot be prosecuted for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election because he was president at the time, and is also claiming he cannot be prosecuted because he was impeached nay the House but not convicted by the Senate.

Legal experts and U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan have declared Trump is not immune from prosecution for criminal acts, with Judge Chutkan writing: “Defendant’s four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens.”

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On Monday the Special Counsel appeared to have short-ciircuited Trump’s delay tactic by asking the Supreme Court to rule on this question: “Whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin.”

“It is hard for Trump to logically object to Smith’s request today for expedited Supreme Ct review since it is Trump who is claiming he [should] not be subject to the indictment at all,” writes former FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann, a popular MSNBC legal analyst. “Expedited review only helps alleviate that harm, if he is correct (which he is not).”

Weissmann adds, “Note newest Smith team member: the storied appellate lawyer Michael Dreeben. Argued over 100 cases in Supreme Court, and was head appellate lawyer on SC Mueller team.”

“This is a really ballsy move,” declared former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Asst. Attorney General Harry Litman. “And who is Michael Dreeben? He plays a similar role in Mueller investigation but he was a very long time Deputy Solicitor General and probably the most respected Supreme Court advocate on criminal issues in the Dept.”

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Steve Vladeck, the national security attorney and professor of law, adds, “if I were taking a criminal procedure issue to the Court, there’s no one I’d want as my special counsel *more* than Michael Dreeben.”

He also explains, “The bottom line of Jack Smith’s #SCOTUS filing is that he wants to ensure, one way or the other, that the issue of Trump’s constitutional immunity from the January 6-related prosecution is conclusively resolved by the end of the Supreme Court’s *current* term (i.e., June 2024).”

This is exactly the right move,” announced noted constitutional law scholar and Harvard University Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe.  “And SCOTUS should agree to leapfrog the DC Circuit, just as it did in the Nixon tapes case. The issue is purely legal and delay hurts the country.”

Former 30-year federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, now an NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst sums up the Special Counsel’s move: “Unwilling to play Trump’s stupid reindeer games, Jack Smith takes the reins and seeks an expedited answer from the Supreme Court on Trump’s baseless claim that he is above the law and can’t be prosecuted for his crimes.”

Watch Weissmann’s explanation of Smith’s move below or at this link.

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Jack Smith Asks SCOTUS to Rule on Major Trump Claim in ‘Unexpected Move’



Special Counsel Jack Smith is asking the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court to rule on a major leg of Donald Trump’s defense, that he is immune from any prosecution for actions he took while President.

Smith’s question now before the justices: “Whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin.”

MSNBC on-air called it “an unexpected and fascinating legal move.”

The justices can agree to take up the question or refuse.

The Special Counsel has requested an expedited decision.

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U.S> District Judge Tanya Chutkan has already ruled Trump can be prosecuted for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Trump has appealed and is attempting to put the entire case on hold until a ruling has been made.

“Smith is attempting to bypass the appeals court,” the Associated Press reports. “The request filed Monday for the Supreme Court to take up the matter directly reflects Smith’s desire to keep the trial, currently for March 4, on track and to prevent any delays that could push back the case until after next year’s presidential election.”


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