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Elmau Castle (Germany) (AFP) – World leaders Monday warned Russia it would face stepped-up sanctions for its “aggression” in Ukraine, as they wrapped up a G7 meeting also pledging strong action to fight climate change.

At a luxury retreat nestled in the picture-perfect Bavarian Alps, the leaders of the most powerful countries also tackled threats to global security posed by Islamist extremism and risks to the global economy from Greece.

For the third time, Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin was barred from the summit due to what US President Barack Obama termed his “aggression in Ukraine”, as the group of seven top powers closed ranks against Russia.

“We … stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase cost on Russia should its actions so require,” said the leaders in a joint communique after the two-day huddle.

“We recall that the duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia’s complete implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the leaders added, referring to a peace deal struck in the Belarus capital.

The tough line from the world’s power brokers came as Ukraine’s defence minister accused pro-Russian rebels — backed by Moscow — of deploying an army of 40,000 men on the Ukrainian border.

The force threatening Kiev was equivalent to that of a “mid-sized European state”, said Stepan Poltorak.

Clashes in recent days between the Ukrainian forces and the separatists have threatened the ceasefire deal thrashed out in Minsk.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canada’s Stephen Harper on Saturday made a point of visiting Kiev on their way to the summit, to voice support for Ukraine’s embattled leaders, as a recent flare-up in fighting in the east has left at least 28 dead.

Sanctions could also be “rolled back” if Russia lived up to its commitments, the communique said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hosting the talks, also noted that Russia was involved in resolving several other global crises and called for their “cooperation.”

The leaders also sought to thrash out other threats to global security over a lunch of Thai chicken soup, trout and a peach dessert with almonds.

In an unusual move, the G7 leaders invited the heads of countries threatened by jihadist groups, including the leaders of Nigeria and Iraq, both battling deadly insurgencies.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was invited to discuss the US-led campaign to help his country fight the Islamic State extremists who launched a lightning offensive a year ago and have snatched over a third of the country’s territory.

Abadi also got one-on-one time with Obama to discuss the Washington-led campaign to help Baghdad recover territory lost to IS militants, whose self-proclaimed “caliphate” extends deep into neighbouring Syria.

Another visitor to the summit, Nigeria’s newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari, put a “shopping list” to the G7 leaders, seeking help to fight an insurgency by Boko Haram Islamists blamed for 15,000 deaths since 2009.

Buhari has been tested with 11 separate attacks that have left at least 93 dead in the week he has been in the job.

“We reaffirm our commitment to defeating this terrorist group and combatting the spread of its hateful ideology,” said the leaders, in reference to the Islamic State group.

Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, meanwhile, pushed their G7 counterparts to reach consensus on another burning global issue, climate change, ahead of a crunch year-end United Nations summit in Paris.

The leaders stressed that “deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions” were required with “a decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century.”

The aim was to send a clear signal to push other nations taking part in the Paris meeting to commit to reducing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, which threaten to melt ice caps and glaciers, raise sea levels and bring more violent storms and floods.

Another pressing problem has been the haggling between debt-hit Greece and its international creditors — the EU, ECB and IMF — and the fear that a messy default could lead to Greece exiting the eurozone, with unknown repercussions for the world economy.

The issue arose again when the G7 leaders met another guest in their “outreach talks” Monday, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde.

Merkel warned “we don’t have much more time” to resolve the debt crisis, with Athens and its creditors — the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and European Central Bank — having been locked in negotiations for five months on reforms needed to unlock 7.2 billion euros ($8 billion) in rescue funds that Athens desperately needs.

As has become tradition at such gathering, several thousand anti-G7 protesters marched over the weekend in largely peaceful demonstrations.

There were a handful of clashes with the police and a few arrests but overall the demonstrations were colourful and non-violent.

The summit also provided some colourful moments, notably just before talks when Merkel invited Obama to have beer with lederhosen-wearing locals in a small Bavarian village.

Photo: A group photo at the G7 summit near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in southern Germany, on June 8, 2015. (AFP / Mandel Ngan)

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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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