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By Joseph Tanfani and Kurtis Lee, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton waded into the increasingly intense fight among Democrats over trade on Sunday, saying President Barack Obama should listen to critics of a proposed Pacific trade deal and try to come up with “an agreement that would be better and not worse for American workers.”

Clinton, who had avoided commenting on the trade debate for weeks while it was under consideration in Congress, told supporters at a gathering in Burlington, Iowa: “I have held my peace because I thought it was important for the Congress to have a full debate without thrusting presidential politics and candidates into it.”
Now, however, after the House’s rejection Friday of legislation that would have given Obama so-called fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals, “I think the president and his team could have a chance to drive a harder bargain, because they are now in the position of saying to all of these other countries, ‘We need to maximize the number of winners.'”

Clinton’s decision to side with the critics marked her most consequential break with Obama since she began her presidential campaign. It came on an issue that unions, environmental organizations and other groups in the left wing of the Democratic Party have turned into a test of strength against the White House.

The decision by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to oppose the trade legislation came as a stinging rebuke to Obama. Republicans, led by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said Democrats were speeding Obama’s transition into lame-duck status.

Clinton’s comments in Burlington were her second set of remarks on trade during a day of campaigning in Iowa. Earlier, at a rally in Des Moines, she made a more ambiguous statement, saying that “the president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi, who have expressed their concerns about the impact that a weak agreement would have on our workers.”

At the Burlington event, she was more emphatic, saying that to win her support, the 12-nation Pacific trade pact would have to be made “better” than the deal the administration is negotiating.

“What I want to see is a concerted effort to see how far we can push the agreement. If we push it far enough where it looks like we can do a better job, where we can have more winners than losers, then we can make that judgment. If we can’t, then we should make the other judgment.

“You will not hear me line up in this case with the ‘pro trade’ or the ‘no trade’ because my view has always been: Is it good for America or not?” she said. “If the specifics can get better then maybe it’s something worth supporting. If they can’t, then we don’t.”

She specifically criticized two elements of the deal under negotiation. Specialized panels that hear trade disputes need to “listen to other voices besides corporate interests,” she said. And big drug companies, which would be among the main winners in the deal, should be required to give Medicare a break on drug prices in return for the advantages they would receive, she said.

Both proposals would be bitterly opposed by Republicans.

Clinton’s previous silence on the issue had garnered strong criticism from some members of her party and rivals seeking the nomination, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Sanders had urged Clinton Sunday to “side with the unions” against passage of the trade bill, which will be reviewed in the House again next week.

“I would hope very much that Secretary Clinton will side with every union in this country, virtually every environmental group, many religious groups,” in opposition to the trade proposal, Sanders said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Spurred by criticism from labor unions and the left, House Democrats rebuffed a dramatic personal appeal from Obama on Friday and voted down a package of measures that would have allowed the White House to conclude a trade deal that Congress could approve or reject but could not amend.

Although the House approved fast-track authority, it rejected a related measure to retrain displaced American workers, something Democrats usually support. Labor and many Democrats are skeptical that the proposed free-trade deal would benefit U.S. workers.

The Senate had passed both measures as a package.

Earlier Sunday, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez predicted that the proposed trans-Pacific trade accord would be completed despite the rejection by House Democrats.

“I’m very confident that we can find a way,” Perez said on ABC’s “This Week.” “There are multiple pathways here.”
Ryan, who supports the deal, said he remained optimistic.

“The president has a lot of work to do with his own party to turn this around and salvage this,” Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s ironic,” he added. “They are the ones who are making him a very lame-duck president, his own party.”

(c)2015 Tribune Co. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo by Public Citizen/Flickr

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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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