"I'm not sending anyone to jail yet, but it's good to know I have that ability," U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim told DeVos’ legal team at a Monday hearing.
Lawbreaking, disregarding subpoenas, and ignoring court orders have been bedrock strategies of the Trump administration’s impeachment inquiry defense, but such lawless disregard for checks and balances can be seen elsewhere in Team Trump’s conduct. Consider the case of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who gutted a program wherein student loan borrowers could get their loans forgiven if they could prove the lending was predatory or involved fraudulent offers. Thousands of such borrowers brought a 2017 class action suit against the Education Department to get a bankrupt and defunct company called Corinthian Colleges to stop charging them for loan fees that had long been proven fraudulent, and a federal judge here in San Francisco ordered the department to stop collecting from those students.
Being a Trumper, DeVos ignored that order, and Newsweek reports that 1,800 of those borrowers fraudulently had their wages garnished by the Department of Education. The federal judge who issued the order was furious on discovery of that Monday, and according to The Hill, threatened DeVos with jail time.
"I'm not sending anyone to jail yet but it's good to know I have that ability," U.S. Judge Sallie Kim said Monday. "At best it is gross negligence, at worst it's an intentional flouting of my order."
For some background, the Chronicle published a very moving op-ed back in July from one of the class-action plaintiffs, who is a schoolteacher. “I’m suing Betsy DeVos because I held up my end of the bargain. I bent over backward to do everything the government asked of me. I paid my loans on time, every month, for 10 solid years, and yet I’ll still be in debt for another decade,” wrote plaintiff Mike Giambona. “Wall Street was bailed out when the market crashed in 2008. What about the teachers and nurses, today, who’ve been following the rules for their student loans?”
The million-dollar question here is whether a San Francisco judge would have Betsy DeVos’ ass tossed in jail, a scenario that is probably unlikely. But it’s a delicious theoretical, and in higher likelihood, a whole lot of borrowers are likely to get a good deal of money back.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr