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By Niels Lesniewski, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

Sen. Joni Ernst’s motorcycle ride and barbecue got most of the attention last weekend as Republican presidential candidates descended on Iowa, but the state’s senior senator spent plenty of time with the presidential prospects as well.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley isn’t expected to have any trouble winning a seventh term, but he’s taking nothing for granted. He told Roll Call last week he anticipates making appearances with other candidates and said there would be more fundraisers for his own political efforts.

Grassley told reporters in Iowa over the weekend he would encourage presidential prospects to attempt what he called the “full Grassley” — a reference to his annual tour of each of the 99 counties in his home state.

“Senator Grassley really appreciates the assistance he is receiving from the presidential candidates and all of the events have been successful,” Grassley’s longtime general consultant and strategist, John Maxwell, said in an email this week.

Maxwell said Grassley was interested in hosting events with each of the dozen-plus prospects who are expected to get into the race, with the expectation Iowa will be of interest well beyond the 2016 caucuses as a general-election battleground.

Maxwell noted that the only time in the past five presidential cycles that the GOP carried Iowa in a presidential contest came in 2004, when Grassley also appeared on the ballot. Grassley’s race is considered Safe Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Grassley has not held an event of a scale similar to Ernst’s “Roast and Ride,” which some have compared to the annual steak fry thrown by Sen. Tom Harkin, who has since resigned from the Senate. But Grassley has welcomed all presidential prospects to join him at the Iowa State Fair and at smaller events, such as the fundraiser he held with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on June 6.”We welcome the opportunity to be first in the nation. We want to be first in the nation,” Grassley said at a media availability coinciding with the fundraiser with Walker, who had earlier ridden with Ernst. “We want all candidates to feel welcome here. So, it isn’t only because he’s been a good governor that I would want him to be here campaigning. I think that this is the one state where it doesn’t matter whether you’ve hundreds of millions of dollars to run for president of the United States, or very little,” Grassley said.

“I want a strong party in here Iowa … not just should I be a candidate and ultimately be the nominee, but I want to make sure that Sen. Grassley and the great members of Congress are sent back, not just for Iowa’s sake but for the nation’s sake,” said Walker, who is expected to formally enter the presidential contest sometime after Wisconsin wraps up work on its state budget.

Grassley has said that his home state’s key role in the presidential nominating process does have fundraising benefits, and Republicans would seem well-served to appear with the longtime lawmaker. Grassley’s among the most popular and well-connected figures in the state and does more than fundraising, Maxwell said.

“For example he has a long history of accompanying and introducing candidates around the Iowa State Fair. He and the candidates have great fun doing that and it is an experience the visitors never forget,” Maxwell told CQ Roll Call. “These activities give Iowans the opportunity to learn about the candidates and in turn allows the candidates to learn about Iowa, its people and priorities. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation and believe our experience can help the whole country.”

In addition to the warm words for each other, Grassley and Walker praised Sen. Ron Johnson, the first-term Republican senator from Wisconsin who faces one of the most difficult re-election contests in 2016, with an expected rematch against Democrat Russ Feingold, who Johnson ousted in 2010.

Walker pointed to the contrast between Johnson and Feingold, while Grassley pointed to Johnson’s committee chairmanship, making an argument about his clout.

“He’s chairman of one of the most important committees in the United States Senate, the committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It’s not only homeland security. That part of it is obviously very important, particularly in the time of terrorism, but the other aspect of it, it’s the committee that does the most investigations of any committee in the Congress of the United States.”

(c)2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr


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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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