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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Even for somebody whose job it is to keep up with the news, some stories are just too upsetting. So it was with the recent release of a United Nations scientific report on biodiversity. A week after the fact, I had to force myself to go back and read the story. Headlined “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace” in the New York Times, the 1500-page study documents nothing less than the destruction of creation as we know it.
I use the term “creation” advisedly. As a species, we are desecrating the earth, a sacrilege against any God we can imagine.  
 Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben calls the U.N. report “as depressing a document as humans have ever produced.” According to the scientists who wrote it, absent drastic, planet-wide action climate change and habitat destruction will bring about mass extinctions worldwide over coming decades. Along with severe warming, deforestation, air and water pollution, promiscuous use of pesticides, over-fishing, even widespread poaching are all contributing to the accelerating catastrophe.   
Already, the current rate of global extinction is “at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years.” Absent drastic action, roughly 1 million species of plants, animals, reptiles, insects and fish will vanish from the earth forever within decades. Animals such as elephants, lions and bears will live only, if at all, in zoos. The effects on human civilization—such as it is—are unimaginable.
Think you won’t miss most insects, for example? Then who’s going to pollinate food crops that human diets depend upon?
Already, impoverished peasants worldwide are fleeing places where traditional agricultural practices have been rendered impossible. Persistent drought, for example, has ruined coffee plantations in the highlands of Guatemala: refugees are showing up at the Mexican border.
The temptation is to resignation. Or to denial, another word for despair. After all, I won’t be around decades hence to witness the worst of it. So why should I care?
In this country, one of our two major political parties has gone anti-science, indeed anti-reason in a big way. The president of the United States describes climate change as a Chinese hoax—as if a worldwide cabal of scientists from dozens of disciplines ranging from atmospheric physics to plant cell biology was even possible. To anybody with even the slightest grasp of the scientific method, such a thing can’t happen. Alas, that excludes Trump.
Historically, the blame lies mostly with the oil, natural gas and coal industries. Adopting techniques borrowed from the tobacco companies’ campaign to deny the link between cigarettes and cancer, outfits like Koch Industries have peddled climate denialism with great success.
Today’s GOP has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry. “That’s what happens,” author McKibben told the New Yorker, “when you have the biggest industry in the world all in behind the most consequential lie in human history.” 
If there’s hope, it’s that the accelerating pace of climate-driven disasters has put denialists on the defensive. Wildfires, floods and increasingly destructive hurricanes have gotten peoples’ attention. Last summer, the ironically-named city of Paradise, California was consumed by flames. The summer before, Santa Rosa burned. Where will it be this summer?
How many 500-year flood events can Houston, TX have in a three year period before much of the city becomes uninhabitable? New Orleans? Coastal Florida narrowly avoided disaster last year. Will Trump live to see the Atlantic Ocean roll across his Mar-a-Lago resort? You’d have to say the odds are favorable.
Meanwhile, atmospheric carbon dioxide passed 415 parts per million for the first time in human history. What Trump pretends to believe doesn’t matter. It’s not a matter of belief, it’s a matter of geophysics. It’s going to get hotter. Temperatures in the Arctic reached the 80s last weekend.
Polls are beginning to show an aroused populace. According to a recent CNN survey of 1,007 registered voters, fully 96 percent said it’s important that a presidential candidate propose “aggressive action to slow the effects of climate change.” Even 56 percent of Republicans in another poll agreed that government should limit carbon emissions from power plants, and levy carbon taxes.
Public attitudes, in short, are changing fast. Even faster across Europe. But can they change fast enough to bring about the kind of vast, planet-wide effort necessary to stave off a rapidly-encroaching catastrophe? Frankly, it’s hard to imagine human beings putting aside narrow self-interest and hard-wired tribal enmities for the common good. Put that way, I’d say no way.
But then last night at dusk, Jesse, my 13-year-old Great Pyrenees and I—two old duffers out walking before bedtime—encountered a red fox at the edge of a wooded thicket here in the middle of town. He paused and stared at us, impossibly beautiful, a survivor. A sign.
IMAGE: The Aletsch Glacier is pictured from the Eggishorn summit in Fiesch, Switzerland, August 22, 2015. One of Europe’s biggest glaciers, the Great Aletsch coils 23 km (14 miles) through the Swiss Alps – and yet this mighty river of ice could almost vanish in the lifetimes of people born today because of climate change. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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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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