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ALGONAC, Mich. (Reuters) – Back in April, there were already early signs in this quiet Michigan town of the rural American discontent that helped propel Donald Trump to election victory, even if it was underestimated by the Washington establishment, pollsters and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

On a return visit after Tuesday’s election, Reuters found that many of Algonac’s 4,000 residents were jubilant that Trump had captured the White House, although there were also echoes of what some people said seven months ago: that he is an uncertain, high-stakes gamble.

But the bare fact of his success drew only shrugs: Who else did city folks really expect would win?

Reuters first visited this town on a bend of the St. Clair River in April after results from the Republican and Democratic parties’ primary elections suggested it might be a hotbed of the dissatisfaction with the status quo that would become a dominant force by November.

It was a town in a county in a state that all disproportionately turned out in the primaries for the unexpected outsider candidates: the Republican Trump, a rich real-estate developer and television star who had never held political office; and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont who had emerged as Clinton’s closest rival for the Democratic Party nomination.

Trump went on to win his party’s nomination, while Sanders was beaten by Clinton.

Even though they came at the problem from very different perspectives, both men had fired up a town that was in a sour mood, striking a chord with their talk of a rigged economic system and their loud disgust at the decline of American manufacturing.

Algonac leans Republican, and, on both visits, it took no time at all to find Trump fans, and only a little longer to find Sanders fans. But it took days of asking around to find someone with a warm word for Clinton. On Tuesday, the vote in Algonac was 68 percent for Trump, 27 percent for Clinton.

STRUGGLING REGION

Residents of Algonac can easily list the relatives and neighbors who have struggled with the painful decline of manufacturing or who were forced to move after auto factories with well paid union jobs an hour away in the Detroit area shut down or moved abroad.

Older residents recall decades back when Algonac was still a proud self-sufficient manufacturing hub, employing scores of locals at the Chris-Craft factory, which turned out photogenic wooden boats that remain prized by wealthy collectors.

Pete Beauregard has turned the factory into a harbor club where the town’s summer visitors stow their boats.

“The rural area is going to want to be heard,” he said, delighting in Trump’s victory.

Up the road, Jay DeBoyer was in a dive bar he had worked in as a younger man, drinking an afternoon glass of water and dressed in a suit he had worn to deliver St. Clair County’s final elections results to the courthouse in his role as county clerk.

“The center of the country is what put Donald Trump in office,” he said.

“If the economy’s okay, they shut their mouths and go to work,” he said, describing the sort of people who live in places like Algonac, where 97 percent of residents are white.

“But if you start to smack them, when you start telling the guys working in a coal mine in West Virginia, ‘For the good of the country, we’re going to put you out of a job, for the good of cleaner air we’re going to put you out of a job,’ then you start to create a constituency of people that fall into a category of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.'”

CRUDE TERMS FOR CLINTON

Mentioning Clinton, a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady, tended to draw scorn among Algonac residents in April, even among some Democrats who said they viewed her as untrustworthy.

Her election loss and emotional concession speech this week appeared not to soften this, with some expressing their ill-feeling in crude terms.

“Trump That Bitch,” reads a tall wooden sign alongside the main road into town, evoking a familiar anti-Clinton slogan among Trump fans.

Seeing it being photographed, Paul Paulus, 73, wandered out from the building where he was regreasing old tractors to boast he had built it entirely himself.

Some of his neighbors, particularly women, had told Reuters on both visits that, even if they disliked Clinton, they despaired at the insults and coarse language that Trump and his fans had reveled in. Paulus described his victory over such qualms.

“They had tried to get the township to take it down,” he said, smiling at the memory of the fight as he looked up at his sign. “But the township said it’s not coming down as ‘bitch’ is not a bad word. It’s a female dog.”

Jan Evans, a devout 64-year-old Christian who runs a store making slogan t-shirts for the local schools’ sports teams, said she thought there were better ways to talk about people. But she sympathized with the sort of anxiety that moved people to support Trump.

She recently learned that her monthly health insurance premiums under Obamacare, a healthcare law that Trump has said he will repeal and replace, would go from $120 to $357. But she worried that Trump’s victory would not help, either; she did not know what his healthcare plans were as he has not given details.

She said that when she voted, she filled out down-ballot lines for local and state elections and left the presidential vote until the end to give her more time to think.

“Neither one really deserved it,” she said of Clinton and Trump. Her pen hovered for quite a while, but she declined to say where on the ballot it landed.

“Everybody, they’re a little bit frightened, they’re hopeful, they know we need change,” she said of Trump’s victory. “But this is the change?”

(Editing by Jason Szep and Frances Kerry)

IMAGE: A supporter of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign at a Trump campaign rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

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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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