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Trump tells U.S. Treasury Department to review universities’ tax exempt status in war over liberal influences

President Trump on Friday threatened the tax-exempt status of and funding for universities and colleges, claiming that “too many” schools are driven by “radical left indoctrination.”

The threat comes amid the president’s escalating battle over schools’ plans for learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump did not name specific institutions whose tax-exempt status he wants the Treasury Department to review. Most private and public colleges and universities are exempt from taxes because they qualify as 501(c)(3) organizations.

It would fall to the IRS, a bureau of the Treasury Department, to conduct the review that Trump described. However, federal law prohibits the IRS from targeting groups for regulatory scrutiny “based on their ideological beliefs.”

Trump’s latest remarks come amid his escalating battle over schools’ plans for learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The president has sought to pressure schools to physically reopen come fall, even suggesting he could withhold federal funding from those that do not comply with his demands.

Schools across the country shuttered in the spring and moved to virtual learning amid the pandemic, and local officials are contemplating plans for safely restarting classes in the fall while preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Trump has suggested local officials want to keep schools physically closed for political reasons and not health ones.

The president has recently complained about schools being driven by what he describes as a radical left-wing ideology. He spent a decent portion of Independence Day remarks at Mount Rushmore warning of a “far-left fascism” controlling American schools, newsrooms and other institutions. 

“The violent mayhem we have seen in the streets of cities that are run by liberal Democrats, in every case, is the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias in education, journalism and other cultural institutions,” Trump said, referencing recent protests that have grown across the country in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, some of them turning violent and resulting in the destruction of property and statues.
 
“Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but that were villains,” Trump continued.

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