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The Republican Club

Image courtesy of Andy Thomas

Scene 1: The study off the Oval Office. January 19, 2021, 11 p.m.

Trump is alone, gazing at a print called "The Republican Club," showing him as the center of attention of past Republican presidents while they play cards.

TRUMP: I'll have that picture packed up in the morning. The best. Hang it in my presidential library. Sell it at the gift shop. What's Lincoln drinking? They say he was a teetotaler. Looks like a beer. I bet he sneaked a beer. The artist got everything right. I'm drinking a Diet Coke. Lincoln couldn't stop the Civil War. I didn't have a civil war. That thing at the Capitol? A big little nothing. Lincoln couldn't carry Texas. I carried it twice. His wife held seances. They spoke to ghosts. Robert E. Lee drove Lincoln crazy.

Scene 2. The Lincoln Bedroom. Midnight.

Trump is in his pajamas, wearing a bathrobe, sitting up in bed, with a channel changer in his hand, surfing between three TV screens, showing Fox News, Newsmax and the One America Network.

TRUMP: Never spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom. Creepy. But it's my last chance. (Calls out.) Melania? Gone to her bedroom. We're up at five in the morning to get to Andrews for the big sendoff, twenty-one gun salute, big rally when we land in Florida, beginning of the comeback. (Calls out again.) Melania? Nothing. I'll tweet out my Farewell Address. (He reaches for his cell phone, starts writing.) "My fellow…" God damn it, nothing. Schmucks cut off my twitter. Lorena Bobbitt, Hillary, Kamala. (Calls out.) Miller! Stephen! Stephen Miller! Jason! Jason Miller! (Waits a second.) Nothing. Nobody there.

(Trump feels a slight breeze and a chill, and hears the rustle of something moving. He wraps his bathrobe tighter. Before him stands a familiar figure, with a long trailing orange sheet wrapped around his neck.)

TRUMP: Jeffrey!

JEFFREY EPSTEIN: You don't believe in ghosts, do you?

TRUMP: How long have you been dead?

EPSTEIN: Five hundred and twenty-eight days to be exact.

TRUMP: Didn't see it coming, did you? You can take that sheet off your neck now. You used to be a better dresser.

EPSTEIN: You're the only one who can see me now.

TRUMP: You must have come for a reason. What do you want from me?

EPSTEIN: Too late for a pardon.

TRUMP: I liked you a lot better than a lot of the people I gave pardons. You sure you don't want anything? (Epstein shakes his head.) All right, have it your way. But don't go anywhere. I could use some company. I just have to give my last presidential order. (Trump picks up the White House phone.)

WHITE HOUSE OPERATOR: Mr. President…

TRUMP: Double cheeseburger, fries and a Diet Coke. (He hangs up.)

EPSTEIN: I've lost my appetite.

TRUMP: Take a chair. Take off that sheet. There's no evidence you exist, Jeffrey, you know that.

EPSTEIN: Evidence? You remember those photographs we took with the girls? They were in my safe at East 91st Street. When the FBI raided they took everything.

TRUMP: You never had much time to talk. I guess you can talk now. So, tell me, what's it like on the other side?

EPSTEIN: Every day I go to your mansion at Mar-a-Lago. You greet me at the door. There's a party going on. The room is filled with a legion of girls, all of them dancing, trying to get our attention. I tell you a joke. You point to one girl and whisper to me, "She's hot." We laugh. Then the cutest of the girls, six of them, come up to me and take me by the hand. They lead me to a room with a massage table. They put a sheet on it, giggle and tell me to take my clothes off. They leave. I lie down on the table. Then nobody ever returns. I just lie there. The next thing I know it's the next day and I'm going to your mansion at Mar-a-Lago. You're at the door. It all happens again exactly the same way.

TRUMP: When you come to my place are you wearing the sheet?

EPSTEIN: Only when I am let out to wander on the wings of the wind.

TRUMP: But why bother me now? No pardon. I don't get it. What's in it for you?

EPSTEIN: I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day. This is the first and last time I will make myself known. A very little more is all that's permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My time is nearly gone here, while your time here ticks away. I am here to warn you of your fate. I will be the last to tell you of your chance and hope once you leave this house. It's what I learn over and over again every single day when I visit you at Mar-a-Lago. (Epstein wraps his orange sheet around his neck.)

TRUMP: What is it?

EPSTEIN: There's no happy ending.

Sidney Blumenthal, former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, has published three books of a projected five-volume political life of Abraham Lincoln: A Self-Made Man, Wrestling With His Angel and All the Powers of Earth. His play, This Town, about a scandalous White House dog, was produced in 1995 by LA TheatreWorks.

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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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