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There may come a time when top officials of the Trump administration, including the president himself, will no longer be able to travel abroad without fear of arrest by international authorities. Every day now, evidence accumulates that Trump and his appointees are perpetrating crimes against humanity on the southern border.

Even Trump’s conscience seems to have been shocked, momentarily, by the wrenching news video of a father and his little daughter drowned in the Rio Grande last Sunday. Or so he wants us to believe. The images of Oscar Alberto Martinez holding his 23-month-old Angie Valeria, their bodies face down in the river, forced the nation’s attention to the terrible effects of his administration’s crackdown. Driven away from safer ports of entry, those innocents perished as the father tried to save his child at a dangerous crossing point.

While Trump’s sadistic approach has failed to discourage migration, he has certainly succeeded in wrecking the international image of the United States. Make America great again? Not since the exposure of torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 has our reputation sunk so low.

For many months now, the world has looked on our government in horror as the truth has emerged about human caging, family separations and intolerable living conditions inflicted on migrants. With each episode, this situation has grown more intolerable, as we learned that thousands of children have been snatched from their parents and then somehow disappeared, with federal authorities unable to account for their location or condition.

Trump being Trump, he immediately sought to deflect blame onto “the Democrats,” suggesting that his opponents’ humane attitude draws refugees northward at their peril. But by now he knows that his ill treatment of those migrants has done nothing to dissuade them from fleeing violence and starvation in their home countries — a consequence of U.S. foreign policy that predated Trump but that he has only made worse.

The latest damning evidence comes from within Border Patrol facilities near McAllen and Clint, Texas, where a visiting physician and attorneys found kids living without any of the necessities for decent existence. According to Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier, the minors she examined in those facilities were subjected to “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.” They had been unable to bathe or even wash their hands for days, which could lead to outbreaks of illness. Several infants had come down with flu, which sent them to neonatal intensive care in a local hospital. All of these children have suffered trauma, said the doctor, which provoked her to compare their treatment to “torture.”

The lonely voice of sanity on Fox News Channel, anchor Shepard Smith, was moved to point out that the United States is now subjecting migrant children and adults to conditions not permitted for prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. Which is another way to say that the government is perpetrating crimes against humanity. (When Trump claims that the underlying cause is a lack of funding, remember that he was fully prepared to seize money, constitutionally authorized or not, to build his border wall.)

What drives a government that once stood for something better to commit these acts? The earliest signal was that inflammatory speech delivered by Trump four years ago on the day he declared his presidential candidacy. Demonizing immigrants as rapists and worse, he commenced a campaign of dehumanization that has continued to the present. Since then, this administration’s innate barbarism has been reflected in both policy and personnel, starting with presidential adviser Stephen Miller, whose own family has publicly deplored his cruelty. The incoming chief of Customs and Border Patrol is Mark Morgan, a hardliner who says he can tell whether a minor child will join MS-13, the ultra-violent criminal gang, merely by “looking into their eyes.”

So now the children are to be demonized, too.

When a government intentionally harms a group of civilians through propaganda, policy decisions and physical mistreatment, resulting in the death of innocents and the destruction of families, its officials are committing offenses against both U.S. and international law. That is what is happening today in this country — and someday, those responsible may yet be held to account.

Trump and his associates should stand warned.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

 

 

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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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