Ronnie Ellis

This past week fit a relatively recent term I encounter -- the week was "target rich" for a columnist. There were multiple subjects which caught my attention and about which I could write.

In the end, I couldn't choose only one, so this column will make brief observations on a couple.

• I watched state Rep. Derek Lewis, R-London, as he testified in support of House Bill 20 on which he is lead sponsor. It seems like a good bill but one which prompts a question.

The bill would forgive student loans for teachers who teach science, technology, energy, and mathematics, more often described as STEM classes. The loan forgiveness -- capped at $40,000 for a maximum of four years -- would be offered to teachers who teach such courses in federally designated economic zones.

Political leaders, many educators and business say there is a shortage of STEM educated graduates which can't meet industries' needs and will only grow. Some lawmakers seem to think STEM subjects are ALL that matters.

When I was in school, the STEM subjects produced some of my lowest grades. But our changing economy apparently needs more workers educated in the STEM subjects. It doesn't specifically name any school or area but Lewis used multiple Eastern Kentucky districts, most of which he represents, as deserving examples.

Republicans have harshly criticized Jefferson County education leaders and Democrats when they controlled the House for allowing "educational genocide" in the economically depressed and largely African American West End of Louisville. But I heard nary a word about using the bill to entice more accomplished teachers to the West End.

• Two weeks ago in this space, I asked if President Donald Trump's defense team arguing a president may do pretty much anything so long as he or she "BELIEVES" it is in the national interest. I wondered if Trump's acquittal by the feckless Republican Senate might unleash an even more unrestrained Trump.

We all knew the answer and Trump has proven us right. He's exacting revenge on anyone he thinks participated in the investigation into his "perfect" (strong-armed) call to the Ukrainian president.

Trump demonstrated once again he either has not read the U.S. Constitution or has no regard for it. He opined publicly on Twitter that prosecutors were unfair to long-time Trump crony Roger Stone by recommending a sentence of 7-9 years for lying to Congress and witness tampering during investigation of the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump called the sentence recommendations "an insult to this country" and a "miscarriage of justice." William Barr, Trump's Attorney General who heads the Department of Justice, quickly announced he would review the recommendations.

Inasmuch as Barr has acted entirely as Trump's lap dog, it isn't difficult to predict that he's likely to reduce the recommended sentence. This prompted all four prosecutors to resign from the case and two of them to leave the DOJ. Then he went after the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, who presided over trials of several Trump associates last year and will set the sentence and isn't bound by the recommendations.

This prompted widespread and scathing criticism of Trump and Barr from legal scholars, other prosecutors and even former DOJ prosecutors who worked under previous Republican administrations. Why even Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) pretended shock and outrage.

I say "pretended" because Graham has become Trump's leading backer in the Senate and Collins justified her votes to deny witnesses and acquit Trump by saying she was confident Trump had learned his lesson from the Ukrainian affair.

She's correct about that. He's learned he can act with impunity, even if it is illegal or unconstitutional. It seems so long as Republicans -- led by Kentucky's Mitch McConnell who when running for re-election in 2014 promised to restore the Senate to regular order -- control the Senate.

Perhaps Trump could shoot five people on Madison Avenue and they wouldn't do anything about it.

Ronnie Ellis is the former statehouse reporter for CNHI Kentucky and writes a weekly column. Follow him on Twitter @cnhifrankfort.

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