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By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, dpa (TNS)

BRUSSELS — Eleven leaders from the European Union and the Balkans conferred Sunday to find common ground on how to handle the migrant tide crossing their countries, with overwhelmed Slovenia warning that the EU will fall apart without a joint approach.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic spoke of “small steps forward” after a first round of talks in Brussels, expressing confidence that “we will be able to overcome all the disputes and all the problems regarding blame games.”

“I’m not sure that we are going to conclude something that would be very helpful immediately, but … I think that all of us will be at least a bit better than we used to,” Vucic said.

Europe is contending with its largest population movement since World War II, with almost 700,000 migrants and asylum seekers arriving by sea this year — many of them from war-torn Syria.

Tens of thousands of refugees have crossed the western Balkans to make their way from Turkey to wealthy northern European countries. The surge has shown no signs of abating despite the onset of colder weather. Bottlenecks in countries with strained resources have left migrants out in the mud, rain and cold.

The nations along the western Balkan route have so far largely been passing on refugees, leading to recriminations and political tensions between neighboring countries.

“Until today, it was difficult to find a solution because a series of countries adopt a stance of ‘not in my own backyard’,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.

At stake is the future of Europe, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said before the talks.

“If we don’t do all we can together to find a common solution and to deliver it … then this is the beginning of the end of the EU and Europe as such,” he said.

The number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in his small country — more than 60,000 in the last 10 days, as many as 13,000 in one day — is “absolutely unbearable,” Cerar said.

Slovenia is the smallest nation to have inadvertently joined the western Balkan route, after Hungary sealed its border to migrants in mid-October.

“We will not be able to endure this for weeks to follow if we don’t get any help, if there is no cooperation,” Cerar said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the goal at the crisis talks was above all to provide help for refugees living in “unbearable conditions.” She underlined the need for Europeans to see this as “a common duty.”

“Every day counts,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who convened the meeting, told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “Otherwise, we will soon see families perishing wretchedly in cold Balkan rivers.”

The commission drafted a 16-point plan for the talks that proposed increased coordination, more shelter and services for needy migrants, and better border controls, including the deployment of support teams to Slovenia and a new mission at the Greek frontier with Albania and Macedonia.

Leaders were also considering whether to agree that “a policy of waving through refugees to a neighboring country is not acceptable,” according to the draft. But some leaders had appeared reluctant before the talks.

Photo: The EU is meeting to discuss what to do with migrants like this one, a boy who is waiting to enter a makeshift camp at the Austrian Slovenian border near the village of Sentilj, Slovenia, October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger


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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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