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Sen Kyrsten Sinema

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

In 2019 and 2020 — when Republicans still had a majority in the U.S. Senate — it was obvious that Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona had a lot more in common with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia than she did with the liberal/progressive wing of the Democratic Party. But it wasn't until the Joe Biden era, after Democrats regained the Senate, that she came to be seen as someone who could make or break the Democratic agenda. Journalist Lauren Gambino, in an article published by The Guardian on October 10, examines Sinema's political motivations — and whether Sinema is an "obstructionist" or a "pragmatist" depends on which interviewee The Guardian is talking to.

"For years," Gambino explains, "Sinema has honed a brand of centrism that observers say better aligns with the politics of Arizona, a once-Republican stronghold shaped by the conservatism of Barry Goldwater, a senator and nominee for president in 1964. Invoking the late senator John McCain as a hero, Sinema promised to be an 'independent voice' and appealed to suburban women, independents and disaffected Republicans. In 2018, Arizona duly sent a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 30 years."

Sinema, an adamant supporter of the Senate filibuster, has been a frequent source of frustration to liberals and progressives in her party. But independents and Never Trump conservatives tend to hold her in higher regard.

One of those conservative Trump critics is Chuck Coughlin, a Phoenix-based political consultant and former Republican. Coughlin, interviewed by The Guardian, said of Sinema, "Her ideological core is pragmatism. She understands that if she is to succeed in Arizona, she must succeed in this lane."

But Garrick McFadden, on the other hand, is among the Arizona Democrats who is openly expressing his frustration with Sinema. McFadden, who formerly served as vice chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, recently tweeted, "She has betrayed her friends and the promise she made to the Arizona people. She wants to play games, well in 2023 we start playing games with her."

Another Democratic Sinema critic is Phoenix-based activist Gilbert Romero, who told The Guardian, "She thinks she's like Teflon and nothing is going to stick to her; that's misguided. We've (unseated) much more powerful people than Kyrsten Sinema."

Among progressive Democrats, there has been talk of giving Sinema a primary challenge in 2024, when she will be up for reelection. But doing so would be risky, as Sinema is in a state with a long history of conservatism. Although Arizona has evolved into a swing state, it still isn't a deep blue state like Massachusetts, California or Vermont. President Joe Biden won Arizona in 2020 — contrary to the false claims of former President Donald Trump — but not by double digits.

One of Sinema's defenders is Danny Seiden, president and chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Seiden praised Sinema's "willingness to listen and not just toe the party line on all issues," telling The Guardian, "I think that's a rarity amongst both Democrats and Republicans these days."


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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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