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Reprinted with permission from CT Viewpoints.

With the election of a Republican president and control of the U.S. Congress by Republicans, you’d think Planned Parenthood is in trouble. Defunding the reproductive health organization has been for years a rallying cry among Republicans, especially Christian conservatives opposed to abortion. With the GOP now in power, it would seem the tide has finally turned.

It hasn’t. In fact, Planned Parenthood has the advantage.

What gives Planned Parenthood the advantage is the insistence among leading Republicans to tie together two things that should not be tied together if Republicans hope to protect their majority. They evidently believe their majority, especially in the House, is impervious, because they have linked the defunding of Planned Parenthood (to the tune of $500 million) with their proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

The Republican Party has always been between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the health care law. Though often called Obamacare, the program is a fundamentally conservative creature that maintains a role for private health insurers when a saner public policy scheme would have been Medicare for All.

So whatever they proposed, the path was always going to be treacherous. But when the Republicans rolled out a replacement Tuesday called the American Health Care Act, it was clear the very same people railing against “death panels” for eight long years still have no idea what they are doing.

The proposed law would cut $600 billion out of the federal budget, but almost all the savings would go to the very affluent. Meanwhile, subsidies to ordinary people would vanish. In their place, the Republicans aim to offer tax credits to buy private insurance. The new law would also repeal the mandate requiring everyone to buy insurance or pay a penalty.

In terms of policy, this is not smart. Subsidies allowed millions to pay for insurance upfront. Under the new plan, people would have to wait for reimbursement after Tax Day. This won’t work. Most Americans can’t pay for insurance now and wait to be paid back later. They do not have ready cash.

Nixing the “individual mandate” means healthy people will leave the insurance pool, leaving sicker people behind, which will in turn raise the cost of health care for everyone, even those already covered. House Speaker Paul Ryan habitually uses the phrase “death spiral” to describe Obamacare. The real death spiral awaits if the Republicans pass this bill.

But policy isn’t why Republicans —specifically, Republicans representing affluent white suburban districts won by Hillary Clinton — are worried. These Republicans face no fallout from constituents getting major tax cuts. They have no fear of constituents losing health insurance, because their affluent white suburban supporters do not require federal subsidies. But there is one thing these Republicans fear, and fear gravely.

An overt assault on women.

If you defund Planned Parenthood, you send a signal to all of your female voters that women’s issues don’t count. That’s what freshman congressman U.S. Rep. John Faso, who represents parts of the Hudson Valley, told the GOP leadership last month during a retreat. He said: “We are just walking into a gigantic political trap if we go down this path of sticking Planned Parenthood in the health insurance bill. If you want to do it somewhere else, I have no problem, but I think we are creating a political minefield for ourselves —House and Senate.”

The Democrats are banking on it. If they stay unified in the Congress, they can squeeze vulnerable blue-state Republicans. The Democrats need 24 seats to retake the House in 2018. You can bet every Republican like Faso has a big fat imaginary bull’s eye on his back.

The minefield isn’t limited to the U.S. Congress. Republican leaders in blue states are concerned, too. Fight for tax relief all you want, the thinking goes, but please please pretty please don’t enrage the women. That’s why GOP Gov. Charlie Baker, of Massachusetts, is talking about replacing whatever might be lost in federal funds with state funds. That’s why Republican moderates are asking the party leadership to decouple Planned Parenthood from health care reform, because if you insist on tying them together, the party may end up losing twice.

There may be another way of looking at this, and it’s upside down. There is no win for the Republicans in repealing and replacing Obamacare. As I said, it is already a conservative program. The party has distorted reality so much that austerity freaks like the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, and Freedomworks are already opposing it. So are powerful nonpartisan groups like the American Medical Association and the AARP. If the Republicans mess this up, they will suffer, big league. They may pay a price for gutting Planned Parenthood, but the price will surely be higher if they foul up health care reform.

Which is why some think there’s a reason the GOP leadership insists on coupling Planned Parenthood with replacing Obamacare. If they were separate, the party would have no one to blame when they foul up health care reform. But by poisoning the replacement plan with a defunding plan, they can blame their failure on a familiar foe, Planned Parenthood.

It would be genius if it weren’t so short-sighted.

John Stoehr is a lecturer in political science at Yale and a New Haven resident.

IMAGE: Anti-abortion activists (L) rally next to supporters of Planned Parenthood outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook


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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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