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So do you think guns should be allowed at the Republican National Convention?

Granted, the question is moot. On Monday, the Secret Service announced that only its agents and Cleveland police will be allowed to bring firearms into Quicken Loans Arena when the GOP assembles there this summer. But “moot” is not the same as irrelevant.

As you may know, the Secret Service put its foot down because of a petition at Change.org demanding that convention goers be allowed to bring weapons to the Grand Old Party. The fact that the arena does not allow weapons, says the petition, is “a direct affront to the Second Amendment and puts all attendees at risk.”

It goes on to say: “As the National Rifle Associationhas made clear, ‘gun-free zones’ … are ‘the worst and most dangerous of all lies.’ The NRA, our leading defender of gun rights, has also correctly pointed out that ‘gun-free zones … tell every insane killer in America … (the) safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”

The petition adds that because “Cleveland … is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in America” and because of “the possibility of an ISIS terror attack on the arena,” convention goers must be allowed to bear arms.

As of Tuesday, over 50,000 people had signed.

Presumably, at least some of them recognized the petition as a pitch-perfect satire, albeit from a man whose sense of humor is drier than saltines in the Sahara. CBS News has identified the author, who styles himself “the hyperationalist,” as a fellow named Jim — he would give no last name or city of origin — who told the network he’s a liberal Democrat. But, he said, “I’m 100 percent sincere in my conviction that guns should be allowed at the GOP convention. (It would be a reflection of) the policies they sought to impose around the nation.”

He’s right, of course. The Republican Party has marched in lockstep with the NRA for many years, pushing an agenda of guns everywhere for all people at all times.

So why not guns inside the Republican Convention? If it’s OK to have guns in schools, bars and churches, then why not there? If Republicans in Iowa think blind people should have guns and Republicans in Alabama want little kids to have guns, then why not sighted adults? If, as Republicans routinely argue, more guns equal greater safety, why shouldn’t convention goers be armed? Wouldn’t this provide better protection for their candidates?

So far, the party has declined to answer. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in whose open-carry state the convention will be held, told reporters he would defer to the Secret Service. Ditto Ted Cruz, who once gleefully ate bacon cooked on the barrel of an AR-15 rifle. Donald Trump said that before he comments, he will need to read “the fine print;” the petition is 799 words long.

The party’s silence magnifies its hypocrisy. If Republicans believe what they say, they should demand the right to cram as many firearms into that 20,000-seat arena as it will hold. This is shaping up as the tensest, angriest, most contentious convention of modern times. By GOP reasoning, it would be safer if handguns, machine guns and the odd bazooka were added to the mix. It should tell you something that no Republican will say that now.

For years, they have promoted their cynical, dangerous policy of pushing guns into every cranny of American life. The rest of us have argued against it with limited success. But now, along comes Jim, eviscerating both party and policy in a single brilliant stroke and reminding us that when people make foolish arguments, sometimes it’s better not to fight them.

Sometimes, it’s more damning if you just take them at their word.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

(c) 2016 THE MIAMI HERALD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo: Gloria Lincoln-Thompson carries her 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol in her waist band during a rally in support of the Michigan Open Carry gun law in Romulus, in this Michigan April 27, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/Files

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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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