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With visits to the small towns of Monticello and Norwalk, Hillary Clinton kicked off her presidential campaign in Iowa this week. There were no screaming hordes, but only the famous niceness and understated manner of the Hawkeye State. Most of the Iowans who talked with The National Memo had yet to make up their minds about Clinton — and those who had already decided weren’t eager to express strong opinions about her.

“Tell me her background,” said Maria White of Monticello, where Clinton held her first official Iowa event. “I just want to know her background. I want to know more about her. I want to see who else will run on the Democratic side. I need to see all the options. It’s far too early to make any big decisions like this.”

Rather than join a handful of onlookers gathered at the parking lot of Capital City Fruit in Norwalk, an equally lukewarm Colin Hart spent his Wednesday afternoon at a local park a few miles away from the closed event. He considers himself a Democrat, but said: “I’m not fired up about Hillary, okay? She always has too much negative controversy that doesn’t get resolved. It’s always emails or one thing or another.”

Hart, who is most concerned about cybersecurity and growing the economy, recalls that in 2007, he “was more excited about [Barack] Obama.” And like White, he said it’s too early in the campaign to make any decisions. “I don’t know if I’ll vote for her. It’s a long way off. I’m gonna wait and see but right now I’m not convinced.”

Others are not merely convinced, however—they are enthused. Jamie Lakers came from West Des Moines, 10 miles up the road from Norwalk, “to talk to Mrs. Clinton and show my support.” Hoping to catch a glimpse of the former Secretary of State as she attended a private event, Lakers brought snacks, a comfy lawn chair, and a book detailing the history of the Clintons to pass the time. When asked what he hoped to discuss with her, he replied, “Nothing specific. I’d want to go out to coffee or lunch and just visit, ask how her grandbaby is doing.”

Lakers predicted that economic inequality and the influence of money in politics “is going to be a top issue” in Iowa and nationally, along with “immigration politics.” He seems correct on both counts. Of the handful of members of the public who waited hopefully outside of Capital City Fruit, several mentioned immigration as a key issue.

Sylvia Valdez, who is originally from Mexico but now lives in Des Moines, brought two children she babysits along to Norwalk for the chance to see Clinton. When she saw Clinton’s “Scooby van” rush past, she squealed with excitement.

“I was a big supporter of Obama, but he didn’t do much for us Spanish DREAMers,” said Valdez. “I know friends who have been here since they were little. They want jobs, they want to go to school, and they can’t get that. [Obama] promised that if we voted for him, he would fix that, but he didn’t.” Her undocumented brother died while awaiting medical care that he was repeatedly denied, she said, because of his status. Now, her sister is sick and unable to get adequate care.

“I think Hillary will do better,” she said, adding that she intends to galvanize the Spanish-speaking community in Des Moines to campaign for the Democrat. “I hope. You gotta have hope.”

Many voters in Monticello and Norwalk spoke out for campaign finance reform. “More and more campaigns are talking about it, and that’s great,” noted Kevin Rutledge, a 24-year-old from the nearby town of Ottumwa, who held up signs in the parking lot of Capital City Fruit, calling for decreased military spending. “Even Lindsey Graham is speaking out, saying we need to overturn Citizens United. There’s national attention.”

That Clinton is potentially the first female president seems to inspire Iowan women in both Monticello and Norwalk. “Her gender matters to me,” said Linda Garrison, who stood outside of Clinton’s  Norwalk event. “I want my daughter’s children and my son’s children, both the boys and girls, to think they could be president. I don’t want them to think, as my generation has, that the job is for someone else.”

Anne and Maria: Anne Schafer and Maria White of Maria's Art, Monticello, IA. (Mara Kardas-Nelson)

Anne and Maria: Anne Schafer and Maria White of Maria’s Art, Monticello, IA. (Mara Kardas-Nelson)

Energetic 96 year-old Anne Schafer is Maria White’s aunt, and helps her to run a pottery shop in town. “I’d like to see her win. You know why?” asked Schafer. “Women are discriminated [against] all the time! You can’t do this, you can’t be that. I think we need a woman and I think Hillary’s the one. She’s a fighter.”

Even Gary Werninont, an elderly man who breathed uneasily through tubes while sipping black coffee at Darrell’s Eatery in Monticello, said, “We’ve had a black [man] in there, now it’s time to get a woman in there.”

But some younger women seemed less concerned with gender politics. “We’ve got a woman senator, and look at what we’ve got!” cried Erika McCroskey, who stood outside the Norwalk event. She was plainly referring to Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), whose 2014 campaign notoriously highlighted her ability to castrate a pig — and who is considered one of the most conservative elected officials in the state.

“If we’re going to get a woman who votes against everything we want, who wants that?” wondered McCroskey. White agreed that Clinton’s gender doesn’t matter. “It would be great to have a woman president, but that’s not the deciding factor.” But Schafer scolded, “When is a woman ever going to be anything if you can’t make up your mind?”

Even in nice, polite Iowa, the sexist attacks on Clinton have already started. A lone critic named Dallas Richardson stood outside the Norwalk event holding two signs: “We haven’t forgotten Benghazi” and “I bet Monica could handle two email accounts.”

Dallas: Dallas Richardson of Indianola, IA, outside of the Norwalk event

Dallas Richardson of Indianola, IA, outside of the Norwalk event (Mara Kardas-Nelson)

“I’m here to remind potential voters that she’s not the best woman in the world, and what she’s done, or hasn’t done, on Benghazi,” he said. The Monica Lewinsky reference, he explained, “just adds humor to a serious situation.” In Monticello, another lone male stood outside Kirkwood Community College. holding a sign that criticized gay marriage.

If Iowans’ support for Clinton remains low key for now, so does their criticism of her. Even Lakers, the diehard fan, conceded that he’s “a bit pessimistic” about her prospects. “I wonder if any Dem can win, if she can break the stereotype that she’s a political insider, a D.C. elitist. And if she’ll have the stamina to do it; it’s a grueling job! And she’s no spring chicken anymore. I’m concerned about her health.”

Still, when asked whether he’ll campaign for Clinton, he smiled and said, “I’ve already signed up.”

This post has been updated with photos.


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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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