Scandal grows over Florida governor’s SWAT raid against Covid-19 whistleblower

An extreme abuse of power is unfolding in Florida, where GOP governors have compiled an ugly record of suppressing, intimidating, and punishing state employees for bringing science into policy discussions.

The previous GOP governor, Rick Scott (now a U.S. senator), prohibited state employees prohibiting them from using the words “climate change,” “global warming,” or “sea level rise.” (Read about that here.)

His successor, Gov. Ron DeSantis, is one of the worst governors for Covid-19 response, bordering on denial, which has included lying to the public about the severity of Covid-19 in Florida. (Read about that here.)

Back in May, Rebekkah Jones, a state healt department data scientist, was sacked for refusing to alter Covid-19 data. Then, over the summer, she continued speaking out, effectively becoming a whistleblower. On December 7, 2020, a heavily armed SWAT team raided her home, kicking down the door without knocking, and pointing guns at her young children — actions clearly intended to frighten and intimidate.

They seized phones, computers, and flash drives. Whoever sent them obviously is looking for names of state employees she’s in contact with. Jones went on CNN and said, “After speaking to my attorneys and looking over the evidence (state agents) said they have, I actually think that they’re not after me.” She believes “it’s part of a larger purge of DOH employees who are seen as disloyal to Gov. Ron DeSantis or won’t get behind his messaging about the current state of the pandemic in Florida,” a Tallahassee newspaper said (read story here).

The armed thugs who raided Jones’ home had a search warrant — the entry, search, and seizure would be an egregious violation of her constitutional rights if they didn’t — and on the surface, at least, that makes it look like a legitimate law enforcement function, which is how it’s intended to look.

But CNN took a closer look (here) at the search warrant, and the judge who issued it, and found what looks like a political judge doing DeSantis’s bidding for a nefarious purpose.

He’s only six years out of law school, the son of a lobbyist and DeSantis crony, was appointed to the bench by DeSantis last month (as noted here), and issuing this search warrant was his first judicial act. (Photo, left; his name is Joshua Hawkes.)

There can be little doubt this search warrant didn’t get the independent judicial scrutiny that is all that stands between police and the sanctity of citizens in their own homes. Think about it: Governor DeSantis makes a political functionary a judge who signs a search warrant allowing armed men to invade a private citizen’s home, and threaten her and her family with guns, to get the names of state employees who might be doing things DeSantis doesn’t like, such as telling the truth about how bad Covid-19 is in Florida.

This is, of course, only one part of a larger scandal. Across America, from meatpacking plants in Iowa to Florida’s tourist beaches, Republican governors and other officials have decided to trade lives for business profits, and to smooth a path for this abominable policy, have tried to silence doctors and scientists, and suppress information about how bad the pandemic is.

This isn’t the first time in American history. Presidents and Pentagon ofificals lied to the American people about the Vietnam War, which was a major scandal at the time, and played a role in bringing down two presidents. But Covid-19 has already killed nearly 5 times as many Americans as the casualty toll of that war, with many more to come.

Our government is empowered to make decisions that sacrifice lives for policy goals. It does that every time our nation goes to war. But it’s one thing to do it with public consent, as during World War 2, when Americans got behind the war effort after the Pearl Harbor attack. But this time, such consent is absent; the American people are at best divided over how Covid-19 should be handled, as they were during the Vietnam War.

Facing that situation, DeSantis sent people with guns to silence those telling the truth about his deadly Covid-19 policies. Florida’s voters might not sign off on those policies if they have the information DeSantis is trying to suppress by intimidating and bullying state health department employees. That’s what he’s doing it.

It’s an extreme and illegitimate abuse of power.

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  1. What is a lying Republican to do? #

    Try telling the truth.

    Wouldn’t it be easier to tell voters the truth about the pandemic in Florida, rather than go to all the trouble of sending an armed swat team to intimidate a data scientist and her family?

    Kick down doors of the scientist’s home, seize phones, computers and flash drives.
    Pointing guns at the scientist’s children.

    Because the truth is so scary? Or political ambition and power is greater than the greater good of taking care of dying citizens from the pandemic? Admitting the truth is to be responsible and then act responsibly.

    This governor needs to be recalled.