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By Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla./WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Donald Trump on Friday chose Washington insider Donald McGahn to be his White House counsel, giving him the job of untangling potential conflicts of interest that the New York businessman’s presidency may present.

McGahn, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, had been the chief counsel of the Trump campaign and was one of the few members of the Republican establishment to embrace the outsider candidate.

While Trump during his campaign frequently promised to “drain the swamp” of the political establishment in Washington, McGahn has an extensive history in the capital, especially in conservative politics.

McGahn served for years as counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the arm of the Republican Party that oversees campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives.

During his time at the FEC, McGahn was an advocate for loosening restrictions on campaign spending and was widely praised for opening up more of the commission’s internal processes to the public.

Along with providing guidance on ethics issues, the White House Counsel’s office advises the president on the legality of proposed executive orders and legislation passed by Congress and vets potential administration appointees, including Supreme Court justices.

“Don has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump, a businessman who has never held public office, has real estate and leisure holdings all over the world, sparking concerns that his investments could color his decision-making in office. Trump has said that he will hand over day-to-day responsibilities of running his company to his children, but he has resisted calls to place his assets in a blind trust.

Trump also has expressed interest in finding a way to bypass a federal anti-nepotism law in order to give his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a formal White House role.

When Trump met with President Barack Obama earlier this month, Obama advised Trump during their Oval Office chat that his White House counsel would be an important job.

Trump has vowed to reverse Obama’s executive orders in a number of areas, including immigration and gun control. He also must nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. McGahn will be tasked with shepherding the nominee through confirmation hearings.

Trump, who is spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, also continued to round out his national security team on Friday, naming Kathleen Troia “K.T.” McFarland, as his deputy national security adviser.

McFarland served in three Republican administrations and was an aide to Henry Kissinger in the 1970s. A strong backer of Trump during the election campaign, McFarland will work with Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick as his national security adviser.

Neither position requires confirmation by the U.S Senate.

The appointments came amid reports that Trump’s aides are divided about his choice for secretary of state, with some preferring 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who harshly criticized Trump during the campaign, and others backing Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor.

Transition officials on Friday downplayed any internal tension, calling reports of discord “overblown.”

Officials said that after returning to New York, Trump will meet with several more potential cabinet picks on Monday, including John Allison, the former chief executive of BB&T Corp who has been mentioned as a possible choice for U.S. Treasury secretary, and Paul Atkins, a former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

(Writing by James Oliphant; Editing by Caren Bohan and Leslie Adler)

IMAGE: Donald McGahn, lawyer and Trump advisor, exits following a meeting of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s national finance team at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, U.S., June 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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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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