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McCain Assails Pentagon For Going Too Hard On University Of Phoenix
This story was produced by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at revealnews.org and subscribe to the Reveal podcast, produced with PRX, at revealnews.org/podcast.
Sen. John McCain unloaded on Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Defense Department in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, accusing the Pentagon of a “gross abuse of power” when it placed the for-profit University of Phoenix on probation last year.
“This hearing is about accountability,” McCain, R-Arizona, said in his opening remarks, “because if the University of Phoenix could be singled out in this flawed and suspect way, this indicates a deeper failing of the Department of Defense that requires oversight of this committee.”
For two hours, McCain and his colleagues grilled officials in an otherwise empty chamber. The hearing focused on the Pentagon’s treatment of the for-profit college, which was the focus of an investigation into predatory recruitment practices by Reveal and PBS NewsHour.
The Department of Defense subsequently launched its own investigation, confirmed our story’s findings and barred the University of Phoenix from military bases around the world for three months until outstanding issues could be resolved.
At the time, the Pentagon’s action drew praise from consumer advocates and veterans groups, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America, who joined in a letter to then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, thanking him for taking action to “protect service members from deceptive recruiting, including surreptitious recruiting on military installations.”
But throughout today’s hearing, McCain, who is the committee’s chairman, cast the Pentagon’s action as the sort of bureaucratic overreach that he hopes will end after Donald Trump takes office in January.
“This kind of abuse of power is something that I hope in a new administration will be totally unacceptable,” McCain said.
McCain also said he hoped Trump – who earlier this month settled multiple lawsuits claiming fraud at the now-defunct for-profit Trump University for $25 million – would consider rolling back an executive order by President Barack Obama that the University of Phoenix was found to have violated. The order was designed to prevent members of the military from being unfairly targeted by for-profit colleges.
In an extreme example that Obama said “should never happen in America,” recruiters from one college were caught enrolling Marines from a medical unit at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, with head injuries so severe that they did not know what courses they were taking.
Other Republican senators suggested this could be the first of many hearings targeting not the for-profit sector, but the enforcement actions against it.
“The tuition assistance program is far too important to lack accountability and oversight,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – oversight that he said should be targeted at “protecting freedom of choice of our servicemen and women.”
“At what point are we overregulating?” asked Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska. “Are we to the point with this program where we are harming the people we are supposed to benefit?”
As an industry, for-profit colleges are known for low graduation rates and high rates of student loan defaults. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the University of Phoenix’s graduation rate currently is 17.5 percent.
Throughout the hearing, McCain argued that the Pentagon had perpetrated a “gross and grave injustice” against the for-profit college, condemning Reveal and the Defense Department for causing the stock price of the University of Phoenix’s parent company to plummet from $16 a share when our investigation was published last June to $6 a share after the Pentagon put the school on probation in October 2015. (It now is trading at $9.50.)
The Arizona senator grilled a panel of three Defense Department officials who testified, rebuking them for not reaching out to the University of Phoenix before punishing the school for breaking the law.
Pentagon officials stood by their decision to place the school on probation but said they regretted not tipping off the for-profit college.
“The process was crappy,” said Peter Levine, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
Levine’s top deputy, Stephanie Barna, told senators that the department already was crafting new regulations that would require such notice be granted in the future.
But McCain, who counts the University of Phoenix’s parent company among his top contributors, was not satisfied. (Officials from Apollo Education Group gave him $10,000 in the most recent election cycle.)
“I truly hope we will never see anything like this again from the Department of Defense,” he said. “But as long as I am chairman of this committee, there will be accountability.”
Aaron Glantz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Aaron_Glantz.
GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would back the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies that Washington fears may be under threat by Iran.
Worries about a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane at the entrance to the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents.
Tehran denies responsibility but the attacks, and similar ones in May, have further soured relations that have plummeted since Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Trump has restored and extended U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. That has forced countries around the world to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.
But in an interview with Time magazine, Trump, striking a different tone from some Republican lawmakers who have urged a military approach to Iran, said last week's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman had only a "very minor" impact so far.
Asked if he would consider military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or to ensure the free flow of oil through the Gulf, Trump said: "I would certainly go over nuclear weapons and I would keep the other a question mark."
Minnesota Democratic Party staffer under fire for calling USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul a 'murder boat'
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday he is appalled by a state DFL Party staff member's tweet referring to the recently-launched USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul as a "murder boat."
"Certainly, the disrespect shown is beyond the pale," said Walz, who served in the Army National Guard.
William Davis, who has been the DFL Party's research director and deputy communications director, made the controversial comment in response to a tweet about the launch of a new Navy combat ship in Wisconsin: "But actually, I think it's gross they're using the name of our fine cities for a murder boat," Davis wrote on Twitter over the weekend.
'We are there to deter aggression' — Pompeo addressed CENTCOM on Iran mere moments before Shanahan announced his departure
TAMPA — Minutes before the Acting Secretary of Defense withdrew Tuesday from his confirmation process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at MacDill Air Force Base about the need to coordinate "diplomatic and defense efforts'' to address rising tensions with Iran.
Pompeo, who arrived in Tampa on Monday, met with Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command respectively, to align the Government's efforts in the Middle East, according to Central Command.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher officially kicked off on Tuesday with the completion of jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony indicating that drinking alcohol on the front lines of Mosul, Iraq in 2017 seemed to be a common occurrence for members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon.
Government prosecutors characterized Gallagher as a knife-wielding murderer who not only killed a wounded ISIS fighter but shot indiscriminately at innocent civilians, while the defense argued that those allegations were falsehoods spread by Gallagher's angry subordinates, with attorney Tim Parlatore telling the jury that "this trial is not about murder. It's about mutiny."
President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will "not to go forward with his confirmation process."
Trump said that Army Secretary Mark Esper will now serve as acting defense secretary.