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By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. — Hillary Clinton’s name won’t be on any ballot in November, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see her supporters hit the campaign trail this year.

Ready for Hillary, the political action committee that hopes to lay the groundwork for Clinton’s second presidential run, plans to help candidates for Congress, governor, state legislatures, even local offices in the off-year elections that don’t garner much enthusiasm.

The group expects to knock on doors, make phone calls, send out emails soliciting donations and register people to vote in support of any candidates that Clinton endorses. It will tap into Ready for Hillary’s own list of nearly 2 million supporters.

“Folks that don’t typically come out in 2014 are coming out because Ready for Hillary is taking the energy around her and her potential candidacy and giving them something to do today,” said Adam Parkhomenko, a former Clinton campaign staffer and now executive director of Ready for Hillary.

Already, the group has started holding campaign events across the nation that offer 2014 candidates an opportunity to meet Clinton supporters.

Next week, it will hold events with Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio. Future events are planned for Sacramento, Calif., Raleigh, N.C., and Kansas City, Mo.

“We hope that you will play a role in helping Democrats come out on top,” Ready for Hillary sent in an email to supporters.

Clinton is widely expected to endorse candidates later in the year. Former President Bill Clinton has already campaigned for Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The traditional Democratic groups working on 2014 elections say they welcome the help in a crucial year where their party is trying to keep a slim majority in the Senate, as well as hold onto seats in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. In addition, 36 states will hold governor’s races and nearly all 50 will have state legislative elections.

Matt Canter, deputy executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is dedicated to keeping a Democratic-led Senate, said it’s “terrific” that Ready for Hillary is conveying to supporters that the fight right now is for Congress.

But privately some Democrats say they worry that resources, most importantly contributions, will be sent to Ready for Hillary, instead of a group solely dedicated to the 2014 elections. And they hope Ready for Hillary’s core mission of supporting Clinton in 2016 doesn’t distract from the midterm elections.

“Elections this year should be the focus,” said Lou D’Allesandro, a veteran state senator and Democratic operative from New Hampshire. “Let’s not put the cart before the horse.”

Priorities USA, one of the Democrats’ richest political action committees, had indicated it would sit out the 2014 races and hold onto its money for Clinton’s expected, but not certain, run for the White House in 2016. Stung by criticism, the group recently asked its donors to contribute to congressional races.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said it appears that outside groups, including Ready for Hillary, are merely trying to fill a void left by a “nonexistent” Democratic National Committee, which is nearly $16 million in debt. In recent weeks, the DNC has announced plans to ramp up its efforts to support Democrats running for office up and down the ballot.

Former advisers formed Ready for Hillary last year _ just after Clinton stepped down as secretary of state — as a way to recruit volunteers across the nation for a potential campaign.

Clinton, 66, said she expects to decide later this year whether to run in 2016. “It’s such a difficult decision, and it’s one that I’m not going to rush into,” she said late last year on the ABC News special “Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2013.”

The former first lady, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state is already the presumed front-runner for her party’s nomination in 2016, dominating the potential field of candidates by huge margins.

If she runs for president, Clinton could benefit from having helped Democrats in 2014. But her image could take a hit if Democrats incur significant losses. Democratic political consultant Drew Lieberman said he sees no downside to capitalizing on enthusiasm for Clinton to help candidates this year.

“There aren’t many national figures as popular as her,” he said. “Anybody should be getting as much Hillary Clinton as they can right now.”

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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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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