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By Bryan Lowry, The Kansas City Star (TNS)

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed an executive order Tuesday rescinding a protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state workers put into place eight years ago by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius’ executive order in 2007 said state workers could not be discriminated against, fired or harassed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Brownback, a Republican, issued an additional executive order affirming that state employees could not be discriminated against because of their race, religion, gender, age or country of national origin.

“This Executive Order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” Brownback said in a short statement that did not specifically refer to sexual orientation or gender identity. “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the Legislature and not through unilateral action.”

He said the order also reaffirmed commitment to “hiring, mentoring and recognizing veterans and individuals with disabilities.”

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the state’s leading LGBT rights group, said state workers could now be judged on whom they love at home rather than on their job performance.

“This action by the governor is an outrage,” he said. “Gay, lesbian, and transgender state employees across Kansas have trusted they would be safe from discrimination and harassment in their workplace but Sam Brownback has, by erasing their job protections, declared ‘open season’ on every one of them.”

Democrats called the move regressive and discriminatory. Republicans were mixed in their reactions.

Democratic state Rep. John Wilson accused the governor of trying to “divert attention from his irresponsible management of the state and focus on divisive and discriminatory social issues.”

House Democratic Leader Tom Burroughs said in a statement that “Brownback is playing to his base and attempting to distract from the serious budget crisis facing our state. The bottom line is this: All Kansans deserve to be treated fairly and with respect and no Kansan should be denied equal protection under the law.”

GOP state Rep. J.R. Claeys called the notion that a state worker could be fired for being gay unfortunate.

“No one,” he said, “should be made to feel ashamed of who they are and I don’t think anyone should ever lose their job for being gay.”

GOP state Rep. John Rubin, a former federal judge, defended the governor’s decision from a legal standpoint, saying that if sexual orientation isn’t a protected class at the federal level, then the issue should be up to the Legislature to decide.

“Until sexual orientation is either added in Kansas as a protected class under our law or added federally, which it isn’t now … I think that’s the Legislature’s prerogative,” Rubin said. “Whether they should be a protected class is a separate question. … But it isn’t a protected class until we say it is.”

Dave DePue, director of the Capitol Commission, a Christian organization, said that if Democrats want to include sexual orientation as a protected class, they should do it through a bill rather than an executive order. DePue often advises Brownback on social issues, but he said Tuesday’s executive order came as a surprise.

Brownback also rescinded eight other orders put into place by Sebelius and Mark Parkinson when the two Democrats were governors of Kansas. He officially ended several councils and task forces set up by the two, including the Kansas Broadband Advisory Task Force and the Interagency Working Group for Wind Energy, which had been inactive.

Photo: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr

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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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