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By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is set to seek early elections, state television said on Thursday, hoping to quell a rebellion in his leftist Syriza party and seal support to implement a tough bailout program.

Ministers have openly debated for days about what the government should do after a large number of hard left Syriza lawmakers refused to back the 86 billion euro ($96 billion) bailout in parliament on Friday.

However, a government official said on Thursday that the option of calling a parliamentary confidence vote had been shelved and the idea of seeking snap polls as early as mid-September had become more likely.

Tsipras — who remains popular in Greece and would be widely expected to return to power if elections were held now — was huddling with senior advisers on Thursday afternoon to decide his next move, a government official said.

“Everything is possible,” the official told reporters when asked whether Tsipras could announce elections later in the day.

ERT state television said the timing of snap elections would be announced later on Thursday.

Tsipras won power only in January and Greece’s complex constitution has special stipulations for holding elections less than 12 months after the previous vote. Under these, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos cannot immediately call an election if Tsipras resigns, but must first consult the other major parties to see if they could form a government — a remote likelihood with the current parliamentary arithmetic.

Tsipras had been expected to call snap polls at some point in the autumn after his bruising seven months in office when Greece nearly crashed out of the euro zone and shut its banks for three weeks during a standoff with its euro zone and IMF creditors.

After campaigning against bailouts, the 41-year-old prime minister accepted last month Greece’s third bailout, which demands tax increases and spending cuts, to avoid a banking collapse.

But the votes in parliament to pass the austerity measures laid bare a revolt by nearly a third of Syriza lawmakers, forcing Tsipras to rely on opposition support and robbing him of a guaranteed parliamentary majority.

AID DISBURSED

With the bailout finally approved in parliament and the first installment of aid disbursed — allowing Greece to repay a debt to the European Central Bank that fell due on Thursday — Tsipras is turning his focus to internal politics.

Senior aides, such as Energy Minister Panos Skourletis, said the split with the party rebels who are threatening to break away had to be dealt with. “The political landscape must clear up. We need to know whether the government has or does not have a majority,” he told ERT.

Syriza is expected to call a party congress in September to resolve differences with the rebels. But, expressing his personal opinion, Skourletis said Tsipras should move faster. “I would say elections first, then the party congress,” he said.

Tsipras is weighing at least two options. One is to call elections in September before voters start feeling the new bailout measures including further pension cuts, more value-added tax increases and a “solidarity” tax on incomes.

Knock-on effects of capital controls imposed in June, which are likely to stay until Greek banks are recapitalized later this year with bailout funds, will also hurt voters.

The other option is to delay the vote till October, after international creditors have reviewed Greece’s performance in keeping to the bailout program. They will then start to consider some way of easing the country’s huge debt burden.

Tsipras has long argued that Greece will never be able to repay all its debts and wants some to be written off. While the euro zone favors merely delaying interest and principal repayments, Tsipras could still present any debt relief moves as an achievement to the electorate.

A Metron Analysis poll on July 24 put support for Syriza at 33.6 percent, making it by far the most popular party, but not enough to govern without a coalition partner. No polls have been published since then due to the holiday season.

Syriza members have argued that the party should aim for a majority, saying this would achieve the stable government which Greece has lacked through the past five years of crisis.

“These elections, whenever they are announced by the government, will provide a stable governing solution. My feeling is that Syriza will have an absolute majority,” Dimitris Papadimoulis, a Syriza lawmaker in the European parliament, told Mega TV.

(Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Michele Kambas, Writing by Deepa Babington; editing by David Stamp)

Photo: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers his speech as he attends a news conference after a meeting at the Greek Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks in Athens, Greece, August 12, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

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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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