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Lt. Gov. John Fetterman

By Jarrett Renshaw and Joseph Ax

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) -Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman won the state's Democratic primary on Tuesday with nearly 60 percet of the vote in a critical U.S. Senate race --despite having been hospitalized since Friday after suffering a stroke.

Fetterman, a progressive Democrat whose easy victory over centrist Rep. Conor Lamb came just hours after Fetterman's campaign said he had a pacemaker implanted to address the irregular heart rhythms that caused the stroke, has said doctors expect a full recovery.

The Republican senatorial primary in Pennsylvania remained too close to call, with TV celebrity Mehmet Oz -- endorsed by former President Donald Trump -- vying for the party's nomination against former hedge fund executive David McCormick and conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette.

"If you'll allow me to be brutally honest for a second, 2022 is going to be hard year for Democrats," Fetterman said in an email to supporters.

The tattooed, goateed Democrat, who prefers shorts and hoodies to suits, added that "a typical Democrat, running a typical campaign, is going to struggle. To win PA, we're gonna have to do things differently."

Meanwhile, Rep. Ted Budd, also backed by Trump, won the Republican Senate nomination in North Carolina on Tuesday, while Republican freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn lost his seat after a series of scandals.

The Pennsylvania and North Carolina Senate races will play a critical role in November's midterm elections in which President Joe Biden's fellow Democrats are fighting to retain their slim majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate. Both seats are currently held by retiring Republican senators.

Budd, who beat former Governor Pat McCrory in the primary, will face Democratic former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who easily won her party's nomination in the race to succeed Senator Richard Burr.

Cawthorn, a staunch Trump ally, failed to fend off a challenge in a House primary from state Senator Chuck Edwards. With more than 60 percent of the expected vote tallied, Cawthorn trailed and conceded the race to Edwards.

Cawthorn, at 26 the House's youngest member, has angered his party's leaders with a string of embarrassing episodes, including claiming that conservative leaders invited him to a cocaine-fueled orgy, attempting twice to bring a gun onto a plane and having a video surface that showed him nude and gyrating against someone.

Republicans are positioned to regain control of the House, which could enable them to frustrate Biden's legislative agenda. Biden's public approval rating is at 42 percent, with 50 percent of Americans disapproving of his performance, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed on Tuesday.

Democrats have a better chance of keeping control of the Senate, currently split 50-50 between the parties with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.

In Pennsylvania, Barnette's rise -- along with that of state senator and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, a far-right candidate who has echoed Trump's 2020 election lies -- worried some establishment Republicans that the duo could prove too extreme for voters in the general election. Mastriano won the nomination last night in a field of four candidates.

Pennsylvania officials said voters requested 908,000 absentee or mail-in ballots. State law prevents these from being processed until Election Day.

Trump As Kingmaker?

Trump has endorsed more than 150 candidates as he tries to solidify his status as his party's kingmaker, though his picks have not always prevailed. His support helped author J.D. Vance win the Ohio Senate primary, but his favored candidate lost in Nebraska's gubernatorial race last week.

Barnette, seeking to become Pennsylvania's first Black U.S. senator, has called her rivals insufficiently conservative. She was photographed marching toward the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, alongside members of the extremist Proud Boys group shortly before a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building in a failed bid to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Barnette's campaign told NBC she did not take part in or condone the destruction of property and has no connection to the Proud Boys.

Trump last week endorsed Mastriano, who was also present outside the Capitol on the day of the riot. Mastriano played a significant role in the Trump campaign's failed effort to overturn the state's presidential results based on false claims of voting fraud.

Mastriano has said he would pursue a statewide abortion ban, after a leaked draft opinion showed the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination, has vowed to protect abortion rights. Shapiro said on Tuesday that he was isolating at home after testing positive for COVID-19.

In Idaho, meanwhile, incumbent Republican Governor Brad Little easily defeatedTrump-backed primary challenger Janice McGeachin, the state's far-righ lieutenant governor.

Primary elections are also taking place in Kentucky and Oregon.


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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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