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Jim Lamon

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.Arizona Republican Senate candidate Jim Lamon has repeatedly said he wants to save and preserve Social Security. But his own campaign website reveals that he aims to raise the program's eligibility age and to privatize it, leaving millions of Americans to fend for themselves.

In a video message on his website, Lamon claims, "Social Security is headed for a train wreck, for bankruptcy. Politicians who kick the can down the road, we must save Social Security. I intend to be bold in the U.S. Senate to make it happen."

"So we got to get the priorities: national defense, internal security, border control, our law enforcement agencies, those people who can't provide for themselves mentally, physically, and also, of course, Social Security, Medicare," he said in a November radio appearance with Arizona talk show host Jeff Oravits.

But his campaign policy page reveals that his idea of saving Social Security is actually making significant cuts to the program and privatizing it for people who are not yet retired.

After blaming the "deterioration" of the 87-year-old entitlement program on China and abortion, Lamon calls for a series "fundamental systemic improvements."

First, he says, America must "gradually increase the benefits access age" because "47% of people on Social Security are younger than 65; the intent was never to support people still well able to work."

According to the Social Security Administration, workers can access benefits if they are at least 62 years old, disabled, or blind. Dependent family members can also receive benefits in some circumstances. Lamon's plan would force those people to work longer to receive the benefits they are entitled to receive.

A Lamon spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Lamon also calls for "universal savings accounts" that would allow individuals in invest their money in risky retirement funds rather than guaranteed government retirement benefits. He calls this an "option for every worker to enjoy the benefit from investment in the US economy while also creating a tangible, inheritable asset for their children, instead of the government-controlled trust fund model."

That would turn Social Security from a pension program into a government-endorsed 401(K) plan. Under then-President George W. Bush in the early 2000s and again in 2018, Republicans unsuccessfully pushed similar privatization schemes.

Experts say a plan like this would benefit the wealthiest Americans and put millions of future retirees at the mercy of the stock market. Someone who put their Social Security funds into a bad investment could be left with nothing, leading to exactly the sort of poverty for senior citizens that the program was designed to end.

In a 1997 article, Brookings Institution economist Henry Aaron wrote that privatizing Social Security was "a bad idea whose time will never come."

"It is far and away the most important U.S. antipoverty program," Aaron wrote of the existing system. "Privatization is a bad idea because it places risks on individual workers that they should not be expected to shoulder and that Social Security now spreads broadly among all workers. It would create costly and needless administrative burdens."

Polls show little support for what Lamon wants to do.

An August 2020 survey by AARP found that 96% of American adults said Social Security was either the most important program or one of the most important programs the government operates.

Another poll that month, conducted by Data for Progress, found 54% of likely voters ranked "preventing cuts to Social Security benefits" as their most important issue for the 2020 election.

Lamon has also been open about his desire to cut Social Security and other entitlement programs.

In a January appearance on the right-wing Charlie Kirk Show, he said that he would preserve the programs for those who already rely on Social Security and Medicare, but "after that, Charlie, everything's on the table" for cuts. "And I intend to be brutal," he promised.

In a radio interview that month on Tucson radio station KVOI's Inside Track, Lamon endorsed entitlement cuts to balance the federal budget, saying, "'Oh Jim, are you going to take those?' You're damn right, because that's where the money is."

After Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released his party's "Rescue America" plan, which includes letting Social Security and Medicare expire every five years and be subject to reapproval by the Congress, Lamon embraced the package. He joked to supporters in March that it appeared Scott could have plagiarized the plan from his own website, claiming, "Looks awfully familiar!"

While Republicans have long wanted to dismantle Social Security and other government entitlement programs, in 2016 candidate Donald Trump ran on a promise to preserve the programs without cuts.

"Every Republican wants to do a big number of Social Security. They want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid," he said in April 2015, just before kicking off his campaign. "And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years."

"I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid," he reaffirmed in May 2015.

As he did with most of his major campaign promises, Trump abandoned this pledge, vowing in January 2020 that he would make major cuts to the social safety net "toward the end of the year" because he had such a great economy.

Lamon was not only a strong Trump supporter; he also fraudulently pretended to be an elector for Trump in the Electoral College after President Joe Biden won the presidential election in Arizona in 2020.

Lamon has a complicated relationship with government programs. In a March fundraising email, he decried COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation, including the Paycheck Protection Program that provided billions in forgivable loans to businesses, as a "socialist spending binge." But DEPCOM Power, an energy company he founded and ran at the time, took $2.6 million in funds from that very program in May 2020.

Recent polling by RealClearPolitics shows Lamon and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich as front-runners for the GOP nomination for Senate, with venture capitalist Blake Masters close behind.

The winner will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly on Nov. 8.

Kelly has pledged not to dismantle entitlement programs, saying in a 2020 ad, "I've got a message for Arizonans: I will protect Social Security and Medicare. Period."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

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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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