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If you want to understand why the prospect of a Donald Trump nomination terrifies the GOP, look at this new poll from Democracy Corps that shows him losing by 13 percent to Hillary Clinton — while dragging down the entire GOP like a life vest made of anchors — or just check out his latest flailing attempt to define his position on reproductive rights, which he just seems to be discovering himself.

In an interview with CBS’s John Dickerson, the GOP frontrunner said that abortion laws shouldn’t be changed and then suggested in the next breath that the procedure is “murder.”

It’s pretty rare that one answer could infuriate both the wildly anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List — who said that with his answer, Trump “disqualified himself as the GOP nominee” — and the approximately one of three American women who have had abortion.

His campaign can “correct” whatever he says in statements and Trump can cry that he’s being edited. But as his party’s nominee, he’ll have to answer for this — and so will every Republican candidate in America.

Pissing off both sides of a fierce debate with the alacrity of a young Mark Fuhrman is becoming Trump’s speciality. But with Ted Cruz, Republicans can be assured that their nominee will be fixated on just one thing — upsetting liberals.

Cruz has shown some agility at moving towards the center, rhetorically, and he generally trails Clinton by less than Mitt Romney lost to President Obama. That’s why Republicans are serious about using every technical finger hold available to deny Trump the nomination; and given that the convention rules will be written mostly by Trump and Cruz delegates, it’s likely that the only person who could win the nomination other than the billion-dollar baby is the junior Senator from Texas.

Here’s why the party may regret trading a dangerous demagogue who will say anything to win for a dangerous demagogue who actually believes the terrible things he says.

  1. Cruz would be the most fervently anti-abortion rights candidate the GOP has ever nominated.
    Only about 1 in 5 Americans agree with Cruz that abortion should not be legal even in cases of rape or incest. We have no idea how many people support his belief that, as president, he could immediately ban abortion using the 14th amendment, because it’s so extreme that it’s never been polled.
  2. Cruz may be willing to get rid of background checks.
    Between 8 or 9 out of 10 Americans want to expand background checks to include all gun sales. Ted Cruz has signaled he’d get rid of all background checks anywhere they exist, touting the support of the far-right Gun Owners of America, a group “affiliated with white supremacists and the country’s anti-government militia movement” that wants to end all background checks on firearms purchases.
  3. Cruz is for mass deportations and is trying to out-anti-immigrant Trump.
    Would Cruz order mass deportations of the 11 million undocumented people in America? Of course, he would. Even if the person in question had simply overstayed a visa and had kids in the U.S.? “You better believe” it, Cruz told Fox News. Just as former Republican governor of California Pete Wilson scarred that state’s Republican Party forever, Cruz would become the face of mass deportations just four years after Mitt Romney lost the presidency advocating for self-deportation. Cruz’s stance on this, like most of his beliefs, has been drowned out by Trump’s, but as soon as he becomes the nominee, you won’t be able to escape it.
  4. Cruz wants to raise taxes on seniors to cut them for the rich.
    You could argue that all of the aforementioned issues just make Cruz a very conservative Republican, but he’s even terrible for the party when it comes to its core issue — taxes. The GOP has learned that you can effectively cut taxes for the rich, the party’s raison d’etre, as long as you cut them for everyone else. Cruz wants to do the opposite. “In an era when no politician of either party wants to cut retirement benefits for current seniors or raise taxes on the middle class, Cruz has quietly stumbled into proposing a gigantic tax increase on middle-class retirees,” Vox‘s Matt Yglesias explained. Cruz’s 19 percent sales tax would give trillions to the wealthy and raise taxes on the most vulnerable.
  5. Trump can be laughed off as a fluke; Cruz could define the party forever.
    “While everyone is focusing on the collapse of Trump’s popularity, no one has really noticed that Cruz’s numbers are plummeting too,” Salon‘s Simon Maloy wrote. “The same Washington Post poll that gave Trump crazily high negatives also found that Cruz is deeply underwater. His favorable rating is just 35 percent, while his unfavorable rating is 51 percent.” And that’s before Cruz is attacked for his tax plan or any of the other issues that would make him wildly unpopular with swing voters. Hilary Clinton has comparable unfavorables but has suffered decades of the Republicans’ best-funded and most vicious attacks. From shutting down the government, pandering to Donald Trump, and then wandering into the buzz saw of Trump’s attacks against him, Cruz’s popularity numbers are entirely earned. Combine his extreme views with his singular ability to make strangers nauseous and you have a devastating combination. Trump’s charm has kept him on television for decades; Cruz was the first politician able to refute charges of infidelity simply by reminding people who he is. And while Trump will certainly say horrible things that every other Republican will be forced to explain away, could they possibly be worse than what we can expect from Cruz’s father, who is sure that God sent his son to save America from gay marriage?

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz is accompanied by his wife Heidi and daughter Caroline as he speaks about the primary election results in Florida, Ohio and Illinois during a campaign rally in Houston, Texas March 15, 2016.   REUTERS/Trish Badger

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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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