Federal judge threatens to toss Betsy DeVos in jail for contempt


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ignored a court order to stop collecting student loan payments from students defrauded by for-profit colleges.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could soon join other Trump associates in jail now that a federal judge learned DeVos blatantly ignored a court order, Bloomberg reported Monday.

"I'm not sending anyone to jail yet but it's good to know I have that ability," U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim said during a court hearing on Monday.

The issue stems from a lawsuit against the Education Department brought by former students who attended the now-bankrupt Corinthian College. In that suit, Kim ruled that the department must stop collecting student loan payments from students because of an Obama-era rule for a program that would "allow federal student loan borrowers to request loan forgiveness on the basis that their school engaged in unfair, deceptive, or illegal practices," according to Forbes.

When DeVos took over the Education Department, she effectively gutted the Obama-era program, ignored the court order, and continued to collect student loan debts from hundreds of people. The department even garnished wages and seized tax refunds from at least 1,808 former students. In the years since the order, the department refunded only 10 students money they are owed.

"I'm not sure if this is contempt or sanctions," Kim told department lawyers at the hearing. "At best it is gross negligence, at worst it's an intentional flouting of my order."

Bloomberg also reports Kim told lawyers she was "astounded" that the department would ignore her orders.

DeVos, a billionaire heiress who donated millions of dollars to Republicans before being nominated for Education Secretary, has faced controversy from the very start.

At her confirmation hearing, DeVos defended guns in schools because a school in Wyoming might need them to protect against grizzly bear attacks. After looking into the matter, Politifact said DeVos was wrong — schools in Wyoming were all gun-free at the time — and that a $40 can of bear repellent from Amazon would likely be more effective.

After she was confirmed, DeVos backed the Trump administration's efforts to take federal funding away from the Special Olympics, and she has a track record of refusing to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination.

In 2018, protesters untied and set adrift a $40 million yacht belonging to DeVos. In the aftermath, the public learned that DeVos refuses to fly the American flag on her yacht, opting to fly a Cayman Islands flag in order to avoid paying the state of Michigan about $2 million in taxes.

None of those controversies landed DeVos in legal jeopardy, but refusing to follow court orders could bring real consequences.

"We think contempt is clear on the record presently before the court, and expect that the court will issue that finding, regardless of what sanctions are imposed," Eileen Connor, a lawyer representing the students, said during Monday's court hearing.

If DeVos does land in jail, she will join Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn as Trump associates who are either in jail or awaiting a sentence for federal crimes.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.