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

By Chris Adams, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday strongly defended the approach and legitimacy of an Obama administration power plant rule that Republicans attacked as regulatory overreach and Democrats said was vital.

In a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rule proposed last month will remove hundreds of millions of tons of carbon and hundreds of thousands of tons of other harmful air pollutants from the emissions of existing power plants that now taint the nation’s skies, boosting the health of American citizens and of the planet in general.

“The science is clear. The risks are clear. And the high costs of climate inaction are clear,” McCarthy told the panel in what was her first time testifying on the power plant rule. “We must act.”

But the rule is contentious, tied up in coal-country politics and the ongoing debate over climate change. In coal-heavy states such as Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky, citizens, politicians and industry groups have attacked the rule as a major disruption to their economies — part of what they say is President Barack Obama’s “war on coal.”

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), a committee member, said that the concerns of coal states _ as well as others _ have been ignored as the EPA barrels ahead with its proposal.

“In fact, the administrator refuses to listen to the thousands of Americans who will be impacted by this rule,” he said. “The EPA administrator has refused to go out and visit folks in coal country whose lives the agency is upending. The EPA administrator won’t hold a public hearing in Wyoming — won’t hold a public hearing in Kentucky.”

In general, Republicans pushed McCarthy and the administration hard, saying that the EPA didn’t take enough input before releasing the rule and that it overstepped its legal authority in doing so. Beyond that, they said the whole rationale for the rule was flawed — that the science on climate change and global warming was unsettled and often contradictory.

Democrats responded that the rule-making process was elaborate and ongoing. As it stands, the rule is still in process, with a public comment period that runs through October and public hearings next week in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington. They said that the legal authority for the proposal was well-established and that the overwhelming number of experts on climate change said it was time to act.

The rule at issue was released last month by the Obama administration and is designed to substantially reduce carbon pollution in the nation — a process that could shutter older coal-fired power plants and spur development of more wind and other alternative energy sources. It requires that states develop plans to lower carbon pollution by specified amounts.

The testimony from the current head of the EPA also came a month after four former administrators of the agency — all of them appointed by Republican presidents — appeared before a Senate panel and said that climate change is real and that the federal government has the responsibility and the legal authority to combat it.

While that session was somewhat out of the ordinary, most of Wednesday’s session fell along traditional party lines. Republican senators bashed the proposal as unnecessary and burdensome and Democratic ones said it was both vital and legitimate.

During opening statements, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) bluntly laid out his objections.

“The proposed rule is a breathtaking regulatory overreach,” he said. “It is a job-killer. It is based on questionable science. It is of dubious legality under the Clean Air Act. It amounts to an end run against Congress. It is inflexible. It would have no effect on the climate and is therefore pointless, and it is punitive.”

Responded Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and the committee’s chairwoman: “Well outside of that, you love it?”

And joked Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont: “So you’re leaning yes, it that right, Roger?”

Photo: haglundc via Flickr

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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.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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