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The likelihood of Americans getting $2,000 virus relief checks has risen since Democrats swept the Georgia runoffs on Tuesday to take back the U.S. Senate.

On Wednesday, Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock made history, becoming Georgia's first Black senator after defeating GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed in December 2019 to serve out the remainder of former Sen. Johnny Isakson's term. Democrat Jon Ossoff also triumphed over Republican Sen. David Perdue, who came under scrutiny on multiple occasions last year for several insider trading allegations, which he has repeatedly denied.

The dual victories mean Democrats will now have the majority in the House and Senate, as well as the White House. Previously, under Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate GOP patently refused to pass additional COVID-19 relief for Americans, suggesting it would overburden the U.S. economy and that the public did not actually need the money.

In December, Congress finally passed a $900 billion COVID relief package that included $600 direct payments to Americans, after Republicans blocked a $1,200 stimulus payment passed earlier in the year by House Democrats as part of a separate relief bill.

Donald Trump himself pushed for an increased $2,000 shortly after the election, prompting the House to pass additional legislation responding to that demand. But McConnell rejected the bill, saying that it needed to be attached to other priorities, which Democrats staunchly opposed.

Now, with Warnock and Ossoff set to join the Senate, Democrats and Republicans will have a 50-50 split in the chamber, where Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris will act as the deciding vote. This majority advantage would release the Senate from gridlock and could allow them to send Americans a bigger COVID relief check.

"Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP stood in the way of much needed $2000 checks going out the door, but now thanks to electoral change, this needed investment in our nation's people will hopefully be made," said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, in an interview with the American Independent Foundation this week.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already signaled his willingness to parcel out more direct relief.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, he stated, "One of the first things that I want to do when our new senators are seated, is deliver the $2,000 checks to the American families."

The same day, Schumer released a statement on the Georgia races, saying, "It feels like a brand new day. For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people."

Schumer added that "help is on the way," as Democrats are committed to "bold change."

Warnock and Ossoff are proponents of increasing the $2,000 direct payments, themselves, with both having said in media interviews that people need the relief.

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden has also gotten behind the idea, saying that "$2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency for so many people who are struggling right now" if Ossoff and Warnock won on Tuesday.

Biden previously called the $600 relief check legislation a "down payment" on future COVID relief.

"At a time when every dollar counts to get food on the table for Americans, an influx of additional cash can make the difference between survival and struggle. We anticipate the new Congress will focus quickly on an additional stimulus package which will include more money for individuals," Gilbert said this week.

Bipartisan Policy Center senior vice president Bill Hoagland told CNBC that he thinks the increased direct payment would be "a stimulus package that [Biden] and the vice president-elect put together."

Alex Lawson, who leads the liberal advocacy group Social Security Works, similarly told the Washington Post that he is holding Biden and Democrats to account for past statements, saying, "They're now going to have to deliver that, starting with the checks on day one."

Even some Senate Republicans have voiced support for a $2000 stimulus check, including Josh Hawley (MO) and Marco Rubio (FL). Neither have yet said whether they would vote in favor of such a bill, if presented after Biden takes office. Hawley has notably worked to overturn the 2020 election results, voting to oppose certification of the Electoral College results on Wednesday and egging on pro-Trump extremists who, inspired by election lies Trump and his allies have pushed as well as direct instruction from Trump to march on the building, attacked the U.S. Capitol that same day.

In recent months, polls showed that a majority of Americans, including Republicans, supported giving out more than the $600 direct payments that Congress passed previously.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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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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