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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

 

Earlier this month, my husband, Sen. Sherrod Brown, went on a listening tour of four early-primary states as he considered running for president. I traveled with him to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, as did a caravan of political reporters waiting to see if he would announce that he was in. (He’s not.)

After one of Sherrod’s news gaggles, a reporter pulled me aside and said, “How long before you guys shut down access?”

“To whom?” I asked.

“To us,” he said, pointing to the pool of journalists behind him.

This was in late February. At every public stop, Sherrod and I talked on the record with reporters. This has always been my husband’s practice, and long before he married me. I’m less accustomed to being on this side of an interview, but it would be an act of unforgiveable hypocrisy if, after nearly 40 years as a journalist, I were to start avoiding reporters.

Besides, we trust journalists.

“Why would we stop talking to all of you?” I said.

The reporter shrugged and rolled his eyes, as if I were putting him on. “Because every presidential candidate does,” he said. “You know that.”

Over the next few days, I made a point of asking veteran political reporters about this, and to a person, they agreed. Virtually all presidential candidates — and plenty of congressional candidates, too — regularly treat journalists as vermin to dodge and mislead. This is as true of Democrats as it is Republicans.

That’s disappointing — that’s not the word I want to use — but I can’t say I’m surprised. This disdain for journalists is increasingly common in the very people who have always needed our coverage to reach voters.

I have stood in the back of a rally and watched one of my husband’s colleagues praise freedom of the press to the cheering crowd. An hour later, at a private event, I listened to that same senator bash journalists as malicious and willfully stupid, as heads nodded.

Because I’m married to a senator, too many members of Congress, from both houses, have felt free to recite their litany of complaints about how journalists make their jobs harder. My response is always the same: If you think accountability to the American public is a hardship, journalists are not your problem. I’m not the most popular Senate spouse, but that’s never been an aspiration.

One of the things I noticed during our few weeks on the trail was how hard journalists work to cover these presidential races. Sherrod had a lot of events and meetings, and long drives to get to them, but we had a crew of staffers traveling with us. Their job was to make our lives easier. We never had to book our flights or drive ourselves, nor did we have to worry about directions or the healthy meals that miraculously appeared just when we needed them.

The journalists on the trail, including photographers and videographers, had to get themselves to everything. That’s a lot of schlepping, and a lot of caffeine, too. They had to stay awake on those long drives. We catnapped on the road.

I’m pointing this out because most of the America public has no idea what they ask of the journalists they expect to keep them informed. They also don’t know about all the obstruction and outright abuse inflicted on journalists by campaign staff members following their bosses’ orders.

 

Not all coverage is fair or accurate. Some of it is plain stupid. Journalists are human, and make mistakes. But what other profession so immediately and publicly admits its errors?

Every Democrat running for president should give journalists the access they deserve. We keep saying Donald Trump is wrong to call journalists the enemy of the people. It’s time to act like we mean it.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: Photo of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) by Ohio AFL-CIO/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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