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IRS Employees Gone Wild: Workers Spent COVID Funds on Gucci, Trip To Vegas, DOJ Says

The Department of Justice released an explosive report about five IRS employees who allegedly stole COVID relief funds and went on a spending spree.

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According to the DOJ, they spent the money on a Mercedes-Benz, Gucci clothing, jewelry, and a trip to Las Vegas.

“The IRS employees charged in these cases allegedly abused the trust placed in them by the public,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Criminal Division is committed to safeguarding that public trust and protecting pandemic relief programs for the American people.”

This report is just one of several instances of COVID relief funds being wasted to the tune of billions and billions of dollars.

“These individuals – acting out of pure greed – abused their positions by taking government funds meant for citizens and businesses who desperately needed it,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin G. Ritz for the Western District of Tennessee. “I thank our law enforcement partners for rooting out this fraud. Our office will not hesitate to pursue and charge individuals who steal from our nation’s taxpayers.”

The current and former employees were charged with “schemes to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program, federal stimulus programs authorized as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

“Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and each count of money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison,” the IRS said. “A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.”

Senator Files Bill To Restrain IRS Ahead Of Plan To Hire 87,000 Employees

(The Center Square) – U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall has introduced two bills to restrain the Internal Revenue Service ahead of the agency’s planned expansion.

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Marshall, R-Kansas, filed the Preventing Frivolous Actions by IRS Agents Act, which would allow taxpayers making less than $400,000 annually who were wrongly subjected to failed IRS audits or legal actions to collect compensation for costs associated with the audit or legal action.

“Defending a frivolous audit is expensive and the IRS should pay the bill, not innocent Americans who were wrongly targeted by an overzealous federal accountant,” Marshall, a physician, said in a statement.

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The senator introduced another bill to force the IRS to sell off about $700,000 worth of ammunition.

“This ammo must be sold before federal law enforcement can potentially use it to threaten and oppress citizens,” Marshall said.

The Inflation Reduction Act would add $78 billion to the IRS. A treasury report from May 2021 projects that type of investment in the IRS would mean 86,852 more FTEs but doesn’t specify how those jobs would be allocated.

IRS Criminal Investigation is the sixth largest law enforcement agency in the U.S.

“Special agents investigate criminal tax violations and other related financial crimes – namely in the money laundering, Bank Secrecy, National Security and National Defense matters,” Anny Pachner, spokesperson IRS Criminal Investigation, previously told The Center Square. “In order to carry out their daily duties, which include search warrants and arrests, CI special agents carry firearms.”

IRS Criminal Investigation has 3,000 employees, and 2,100 are special agents, according to the IRS. Only special agents carry firearms, Pachner said.

Investigations include “currency violations, tax-related identity theft fraud, and terrorist financing that adversely affects tax administration,” according to the agency.

The IRS completed 2,766 criminal investigations in 2021, according to agency records.

Americans See ‘Most Severe’ Pay Cut In 25 Years Due To Inflation

(The Center Square) – Americans are experiencing the biggest pay cut in decades in large part due to inflation, new data shows.

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The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, one of several regional Fed banks around the country, released new wage and price data, and it isn’t good news for Americans.

“We find that a majority of employed workers’ real (inflation-adjusted) wages have failed to keep up with inflation in the past year,” the bank said. “For these workers, the median decline in real wages is a little more than 8.5 percent. Taken together, these outcomes appear to be the most severe faced by employed workers over the past 25 years.”

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The Fed bank reported that more than half of Americans saw a decrease in wages in the last 12 months.

“How severe are the losses for workers experiencing negative real wage growth?” the group said. “For the 53.4 percent of such workers in second quarter 2022, the median decline (that is, half of the declines were larger and half smaller) in real wage growth was 8.6 percent. How does the severity of the real wage decline in second quarter 2022 compare with the declines over the last 25 years? The average median decline over the last 25 years is 6.5 percent, with real wage declines typically falling in the range of 5.7 to 6.8 percent…”

The bank pointed to the Consumer Price Index, which since President Joe Biden took office has elevated to the highest rate in four decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s latest Consumer Price Index surpassed 8% in the previous 12 months.

Some expenses like groceries saw even larger increases.

“The food at home index rose 13.5 percent over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending March 1979,” BLS said. “The index for other food at home rose 16.7 percent and the index for cereals and bakery products increased 16.4 percent over the year. The remaining major grocery store food groups posted increases ranging from 9.4 percent (fruits and vegetables) to 16.2 percent (dairy and related products).”

Those price increases have outpaced wage gains, meaning some workers who even got a raise this year still didn’t see a large enough increase to offset inflationary price hikes.

“While the past 25 years have witnessed episodes that show either a greater incidence or larger magnitude of real wage declines, the current time period is unparalleled in terms of the challenge employed workers face,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said.

CDC Allocated $85 Million For Grants Requiring Schools To Start Student-Led Clubs For LGBT Youth

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent $85 million on a grant program requiring public schools to start Gay-Straight Alliances, public documents show.

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According to a notice of funding report for a grant offered by the CDC, the federal agency has a total of $85 million to spend over a five year period from 2018-2023 with a twelve month budget period.

To access that funding, a school must apply for the federal grant. Once a school is deemed eligible, the school can be awarded anywhere from $12,000 to $350,000 for the program.

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For schools to be eligible for the grant, they must fulfill all of the required activities listed in the program guidance document and cannot opt-out of those requirements.

According to the document, one of the required activities that schools cannot opt out of requires the implementation of student-led clubs supporting LGBT youth, usually known as Gay-Straight Alliances.

“A GSA is a student-led club, typically run in a middle or high school, which creates a safe space for students to socialize, support each other, discuss issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia in their school and/or broader community,” the CDC said. “To implement this activity, [local education agencies] will first need to determine which schools have GSAs. LEA can then create and implement a plan for establishing GSAs in schools that do not already have them and strengthening GSAs in schools that do (see key consideration below on enhancing existing GSAs).”

The CDC lists the organization known as GLSEN as a potential resource to help with this activity, which encourages the use of gender neutral language.

“When addressing a group of people, make sure to use gender-neutral language,” GLSEN said. “For example, instead of saying ‘Welcome, ladies and gentlemen,’ say ‘Welcome, everyone.’ You should also use gender-neutral pronouns when referring to a group or when addressing someone whose pronouns you do not know.”

A second activity required of schools is that schools educate all their staff on how to support LGBT students.

“Professional development (PD) delivered to teachers and school staff annually should address fundamental knowledge about: the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity, including appropriate language, health risks faced by LGBT youth, effects of the school environment on the health of LGBT youth, supportive school policies and practices (e.g., GSAs, safe spaces, inclusive curricula), the unique needs of transgender and gender diverse students,” the CDC said.

The CDC also says that schools must oppose beliefs that are against the LGBTQIA+ ideology.

“PD should thus involve critical reflection that helps school staff recognize and challenge both individually held and broader normative beliefs about sexuality and gender identity that can contribute to a negative school environment for LGBT youth,” the CDC said.

To help schools conduct this activity, the CDC lists various resources that can be referenced for learning materials and further information on the subject. One of the listed resources is titled “Gender Spectrum. Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools,” and says that transgender students should be called by the pronouns they identify with, even if they fall outside the gender binary.

“It is important to note that a growing number of gender-expansive youth are identifying themselves outside the gender binary, and many use gender-neutral pronouns,” the document said. “While it may be more difficult to adapt to gender-neutral pronouns, it is still important to do so in support of the student.”

Tyson Langhofer at Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal organization, said that it would go against one’s Constitutional rights if schools were to attempt to force their staff to use an individual’s preferred pronouns.

“Any policy that mandates teachers to use chosen pronouns by students that would violate both their free speech rights and their free exercise rights under the First Amendment, and also sometimes under their state constitution, or state religious freedom restoration act laws,” Langhofer said. “When you say somebody can choose their own pronoun that means you are by definition expressing the message that gender is fluid and can be chosen by an individual rather than it being immutable based upon your biological characteristics.”

The resource also encourages schools to allow transgender students to enter bathrooms and locker rooms with the gender they identify with.

“Providing transgender students with access to the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity is yet another way that schools adjust to meet students’ individual needs,” the document said. “Generally, there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of a student who asserts a transgender identity, and schools should accept the student’s identity without imposing additional requirements.”

In addition to the two required activities, the program includes two additional activities that schools may engage in but are not required to do so.

One of the listed additional activities says schools can make an effort to change existing instructional programs to include LGBT youth, which includes selecting educational material that uses non-gendered language so as not to make transgender students feel out of place.

“LEA may systematically review and select HIV, other STD, and unintended pregnancy prevention teaching materials (e.g., textbooks, worksheets, and student learning activities) that integrate gender-neutral language, examples, and terminology, and representation from LGBT youth populations,” the CDC said. “LEA can develop sexual health instructional programs that incorporate LGBT individuals, history, and events into teaching materials. Such strategies have been shown to increase LGBT youth connectedness and feelings of inclusion with their peers and school community.”

A second additional activity in the program asks schools to disseminate resources specifically relevant to parents of LGBT students.

“LEA can incorporate specific considerations for LGBT youth in dissemination materials about parental monitoring or parent-adolescent communication,” the CDC said. “They can also develop materials specifically about parental support of LGBT youth. Schools should disseminate such resources in a way that avoids targeting LGBT students and families and potentially disclosing students’ sexual orientation or gender identity.”

For this activity, the CDC links a document titled ​​”Our Children: Questions and Answers for Families of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender-Expansive and Queer Youth and Adults” by the organization known as PFLAG as a resource, which encourages parents to use their child’s preferred pronouns and help with their gender transition without questioning it.

“For those who use pronouns – and not all people do – they are not preferred, they are essential,” PFLAG said. “Pressuring a child to conform to more stereotypical gender expression or behavior can cause harm.”

The 1807 program is a grant offered to public schools for HIV/STD prevention as well as unintended pregnancies.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has funded Program 1807 to improve the health and well-being of our nation’s youth by working with education and health agencies and other organizations to reduce HIV, STDs, unintended teen pregnancy, and related risk behaviors among middle school and high school students,” the CDC said.

The program is said to be based on both scientific literature and expert input regarding methods most effective for reducing the risk of HIV and other STDs among high school and middle school students.

The program includes three overall components: Component 1, school based surveillance; component 2 school based HIV/STD prevention; and component 3 technical assistance and capacity building. Component 2 is the main focus of this article.

Each strategy has detailed requirements that schools have to follow in order to receive the grant, as well as additional optional opportunities that are optional.

“Each Component 2 strategy includes required activities intended to achieve short-term and intermediate outcomes over the five-year project period,” the CDC said. “As appropriate, additional activities that may support progress toward outcomes are also described.”

One of the three strategies outlined by the program’s guidance focuses on safe and supportive environments (SSE), and includes many requirements regarding the incorporation of LGBTQIA+ material and activities.

This section is said to help establish protective factors both inside and outside the classroom to help with facilitating discussions on how to prevent HIV/STD prevention.

“In addition to directly contributing to HIV and other STD prevention, creating SSEs establishes a context necessary for the other approaches (SHE and SHS) to be effective,” the CDC said. “Students who do not feel safe and connected to school may be more likely to be absent and thus less likely to receive SHE and school-based support accessing SHS. Even for students in school, SHE delivered in the context of a poorly managed classroom will likely be ineffective.”

This chapter includes activities, discussed above, centered around LGBTQ students as they are purportedly harassed more than non-LGBTQ students.

“LGBT students are more likely to be bullied at school than their heterosexual and cisgender peers,” the CDC said.

Currently this grant is being offered to 28 school districts across the country, spanning across eleven blue states and six red states.

It is estimated that the program reaches over a million students nationwide.

‘Nearly Doubled’ Foreign Investment In U.S. Farmland Comes Under Scrutiny

(The Center Square) — A coalition of 130 lawmakers sent a letter to a top federal watchdog raising the alarm about a spike in foreign ownership of U.S. farmland.

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The letter calls for the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full review of that foreign ownership, its potential impact on trade, national security, food security and what the federal government is doing about it, if anything.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that foreign investment in agricultural land in the U.S. nearly doubled from 2010 to 2020.

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“While investors from Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom are regularly among the top foreign investors, investors from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia have increased their investment in U.S. agricultural land,” the letter said. “One of the largest groups of foreign investors is renewable energy companies, causing some to raise concerns that farmland is being removed from agricultural production.”

According to the USDA, foreign entities and individuals held an interest in 37.6 million acres of U.S. agricultural land as of the end of 2020, “representing 2.9 percent of all privately held agricultural land and 1.7 percent of all land in the United States.”

“This growing trend has elevated concerns regarding national security in a time of uncertainty that is already compounded by challenges to our supply chain infrastructure, high input costs for farmers, and geopolitical pressures,” said the senior Republican on the House Committee on Agriculture, U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Penn. “It is critical for Congress to have a thorough understanding of foreign investment in our nation’s agricultural land.”

China in particular is a major investor in U.S. agriculture, further raising national security concerns.

“China’s ownership of U.S. farmland is a threat to our food security and national security. An affordable, reliable food supply is critical to our nation’s well-being and prosperity and we must ensure America maintains control of our nation’s resources,” said U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. “We are calling on the Government Accountability Office to report on the scope of this threat to our food supply to inform Congress how we can best protect the security of the American people. Americans need transparency about the federal government’s efforts to address this growing problem.”

The scrutiny from lawmakers comes as food prices have soared in the U.S. well above the already high inflation rate.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the food at home index increased 13.5% in the last year, “the largest 12-month increase since the period ending March 1979.

“The index for other food at home rose 16.7 percent and the index for cereals and bakery products increased 16.4 percent over the year,” BLS said. “The remaining major grocery store food groups posted increases ranging from 9.4 percent (fruits and vegetables) to 16.2 percent (dairy and related products).”

 

Biden’s Treasury Equity Committee Vice Chair: ‘Racial Capitalism’ Is The Problem

A new equity committee at the U.S. Department of Treasury is under fire for the controversial views of its Vice Chair Felicia Wong.

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Wong, though, has a history of radical stances, particularly on policing. Wong worked for the Roosevelt Institute, which published a series of radical positions on race and policing.

One Roosevelt report that she co-authored seems to mock people who still believe in a “skills-based” economy.

“Power relationships within a market-based society have changed somewhat over the last century,” the report said. “But they remain entrenched in racialized capitalism and a politics that have yet to fully reckon with those deep roots. Many thus continue to believe in a skills-based, opportunity-focused liberalism that denies the history and present effects of race-based economic stratification. Therefore, our mainstream politics has yet to recognize, prioritize, and make central the reckoning, race equity, and self-determination that a multiracial democracy would require.”

According to the Department of the Treasury, the committee will “address acute disparities for communities of color.”

From the Treasury:

The first-of-its-kind committee will provide advice and recommendations to Secretary Yellen and Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo on efforts to advance racial equity in the economy and address acute disparities for communities of color.

Toward that end, the Committee will identify, monitor, and review aspects of the domestic economy that have directly and indirectly resulted in unfavorable conditions for communities of color. The Committee plans to address topics including but not limited to: financial inclusion, access to capital, housing stability, federal supplier diversity, and economic development…

The 25 inaugural members of the Committee come from a wide range of backgrounds including academia, advocacy, financial services, and local government. Members share a common experience with and working knowledge of the implications of economic policy decisions on communities of color, as well as a deep commitment to advancing racial equity.

The issue made waves on Twitter.


U.N. Warns Of Global Recession Worse Than 2008

The United Nations released a disturbing warning about the future of the global economy.

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The U.N. said that a global recession is likely.

“The world is headed towards a global recession and prolonged stagnation unless fiscal and monetary policies holding sway in some advanced economies are quickly changed, according to a new report released on Monday by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD),” the U.N. said.

The group warned of “cascading” consequences.

“UNCTAD is warning that the policy-induced global recession could be worse than the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2009,” the U.N. said. “Excessive monetary tightening and inadequate financial support could expose developing world economies further to cascading crises, the agency said. And while all regions will be affected, alarm bells are ringing most for developing countries, many of which are edging closer to debt default.”

The group released an economic report delving into the future economy, saying “growth will slow to 2.5 per cent in 2022 and drop to 2.2 per cent in 2023.”

“A global slowdown that would leave GDP below its pre-COVID pandemic trend and cost the world more than $17 trillion in lost productivity,” the U.N. said. “Despite this, leading central banks are sharply raising interest rates, threatening to cut off growth and making life much harder for the heavily indebted. The global slowdown will further expose developing countries to a cascade of debt, health, and climate crises. Middle-income countries in Latin America and low-income countries in Africa could suffer some of the sharpest slowdowns this year, according to the report.”

Americans Say Grocery Prices Will Affect Their Vote In November

(The Center Square) – High grocery prices are top-of-mind for voters with a little over a month until the midterm elections, according to a new poll.

Convention of States Action, along with Trafalgar Group, released the poll, which found that 68.3% of surveyed voters say that the “increase in the price of groceries is impacting their motivation to vote in the 2022 election.”

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The poll found 89.4% of Republicans agree, compared to 43.4% of Democrats.

Notably, 64.1% of Independent voters say higher grocery prices are impacting their motivation to vote in November.

Recently released federal inflation data shows that grocery prices have soared in the past year, far outpacing the already-high overall inflation rate.

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“The food at home index rose 13.5 percent over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending March 1979,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its latest release of consumer pricing data. “The index for other food at home rose 16.7 percent and the index for cereals and bakery products increased 16.4 percent over the year. The remaining major grocery store food groups posted increases ranging from 9.4 percent (fruits and vegetables) to 16.2 percent (dairy and related products).”

In fact, food prices have risen at the fastest rate in decades.

“The food at home index rose 13.5 percent over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending March 1979,” BLS said.

Rising costs of food are on the minds of many voters heading to the ballot box in November.

“This data reveals that skyrocketing grocery prices are really starting to hit Americans hard, even beyond the initial pinch they have been feeling due to surging inflation,” said Mark Meckler, president of the Convention of States. “Election observers are constantly looking for that one, top of mind issue that is affecting the mood – ultimately the decisions – of the electorate, and when almost 70% of voters indicate they are mad enough about food prices that it makes them more likely to vote, that’s a real-time indicator that it’s an issue which has risen to that status.”

The poll queried more than 1,000 likely voters from Sept. 17th through Sept. 20th.

Rick Scott: Republicans Will Take Back U.S. Senate In November

(The Center Square) – U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., says he believes the Republican Party will take back the Senate in November.

Scott told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, “My effort right now is on the hurricane relief for this hurricane, but absolutely I think we’re at 52 seats-plus. If you look at Biden’s numbers, they’re really bad. People have rejected the Biden agenda. We have great candidates. The Democrats have to defend what Biden has done.”]

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“I think it will be a good November for Republicans, but we have to keep working hard every day,” he added.

Scott, the former governor of Florida and junior senator, chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans.

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His remarks came after he told Politico last week that Republicans were likely to pick up seats in Nevada and Georgia based on polling data.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Democrats, also said the two states were key to whomever wins the Senate. He told Politico, “I’ve been saying that Georgia, Nevada are gonna be real close races.”

In Nevada, GOP nominee Adam Laxalt is hoping to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. As of Oct .2, a Nevada Independent poll has Laxalt leading Cortez Masto by two points.

In Georgia, GOP challenger Herschel Walker is hoping to unseat Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. As of Sept. 28, a Fox News poll has Warnock up by four points.

In other key races, Scott’s fellow Florida senator, Republican incumbent Marco Rubio, is leading his Democratic opponent by seven points.

In Wisconsin, incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is leading his Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes by five points, according to Fox News and Fabrizio/Anzalone polls, and by two points, according to a Data for Progress poll.

In Missouri, Republican Eric Schmitt is leading his Democratic opponent by 11 points, according to The Hill, Emerson poll.

In Pennsylvania, Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz is two points behind Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, according to an Emerson College/The Hill survey.

In close races in Arizona and New Hampshire, Democrats are leading Republicans. Arizona Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly is leading GOP challenger Blake Masters by 6.8%, according to a recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll. New Hampshire Democratic incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan holds an 8.4% lead over Republican challenger Don Bolduc, according to a recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll.

In August, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a group in Kentucky that “flipping the Senate – what are the chances? It’s a 50/50 proposition. We’ve got a 50/50 Senate right now, we’ve got a 50/50 nation and I think the outcome is likely to be very, very close either way.”

A week earlier, he said, “I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” CNN reported.

On Nov. 8, 20 Republican seats are up for grabs compared to 14 Democratic seats.

‘FAKE NEWS’: Trump Sues CNN

Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against CNN, the left-leaning network that was often the president’s biggest antagonist and most often recipient of Trump’s “fake news” label.

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“The Plaintiff, President Donald J. Trump, has been a long-time critic of the Defendant, Cable News Network, Inc. (“CNN”)—not because CNN does a bad job of reporting the news, but because CNN seeks to create the news (‘fake news,’ as the Plaintiff has characterized it in public statements),” the suit reads. “Beyond simply highlighting any negative information about the Plaintiff and ignoring all positive information about him, CNN has sought to use its massive influence— purportedly as a ‘trusted’ news source—to defame the Plaintiff in the minds of its viewers and readers for the purpose of defeating him politically, culminating in CNN claiming credit for ‘[getting] Trump out’ in the 2020 presidential election.

The suit accuses CNN of slander and libel, pointing to a range of derogatory terms the network used against him.

“CNN’s campaign of dissuasion in the form of libel and slander against the Plaintiff has only escalated in recent months as CNN fears the Plaintiff will run for president in 2024,” the suit reads. As a part of its concerted effort to tilt the political balance to the Left, CNN has tried to taint the Plaintiff with a series of ever-more scandalous, false, and defamatory labels of ‘racist,’ ‘Russian lackey,’ ‘insurrectionist,’ and ultimately ‘Hitler.’ These labels are neither hyperbolic nor opinion: these are repeatedly reported as true fact, with purported factual support, by allegedly ‘reputable’ newscasters, acting not merely with reckless disregard for the truth of their statements (sufficient to meet the definition of the legal standard for ‘actual
malice’) but acting with real animosity for the Plaintiff and seeking to cause him true harm (the way ‘actual malice’ commonly is understood).

“CNN has been given the dreaded ‘Pants on Fire!’ designation by PolitiFact for its stories comparing Trump to Hitler. Still, it persists, requiring the
time and expense of filing the instant lawsuit,” the suit adds.

Whether the lawsuit is successful remains to be seen.

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