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By Jim Galloway and Ernie Suggs, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — The family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has served notice to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal that it wants input into any monument to the slain civil rights leader erected on state Capitol grounds — if the state expects free use of King’s copyrighted likeness.

On MLK Day in January, before an Ebenezer Baptist Church congregation, Deal promised to work with the Legislature to give King a more prominent place on Capitol grounds. A bill to that effect passed the House Monday; it must still pass the Senate.

It is a rare and politically delicate piece of bipartisan legislation, carrying the signatures of House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, a Bonaire Republican, and state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, a Sandy Springs Republican, as well as two Democrats: Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus and Tyrone Brooks of Atlanta.

If the King letter does not imperil the bill, it could cool Republican enthusiasm for the measure.

Smyre, one of the longest-serving lawmakers in the Legislature, said he was surprised by its timing — it was written the same day the House approved the bill. He said he looked forward to briefing its author on the ways of the Capitol.

“My job is shepherding this bill through the legislative process,” Smyre said. “Thereafter, the right people will be assembled and the right meeting will be held.”

News of the letter surfaced on the same day King’s only surviving daughter, Bernice King, repeated pleas to her two brothers not to sell a Bible he carried and his Nobel Peace Prize medal.

The two-page letter from the corporation that oversees the King estate went to Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff. It reminded remind Deal that the King estate owns all rights to King’s “name, image, likeness, words, rights of publicity, copyrighted works, recorded voice, and trademark interests.”

It also chided the governor for not getting in touch. “When the media reported that the Governor referenced this initiative in remarks he made on the King Holiday, we expected to hear from your office and the appropriate parties seeking the Estate’s input and approval,” wrote Eric Tidwell, managing director of Intellectual Properties Management.

“To date, we have not received any formal request for permission to utilize any of Dr. King’s (intellectual property).”

The missive provoked a quick exchange between Riley, the governor’s top aide, and the King family representative.

“We will continue to monitor the legislation,” Riley wrote in a same-day email. “Please do not assume the governor would ever try to financially capitalize on the legacy of Dr. King. He is simply … trying to honor a great Georgian.”

Tidwell replied that “the notion of monetizing Dr. King’s image on the part of the governor never crossed our mind.” The King family has often allowed licenses to use King’s image at no cost to governments, Tidwell said. But the family wants to be included “in the process to determine how Dr. King will be honored.”

Repeated calls to Tidwell by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution were not returned Thursday.

HB 1080 does not offer any specifics of how King would be honored, but sets the process in motion — and states that the project would be paid for with private funds.

Smyre said the family would be “fully” involved if a statue is built. He said the fact that a licensing issue would eventually arise was well known, as was the King children’s diligent efforts to control their father’s legacy and intellectual property rights.

The most vivid and recent example occurred in conjunction with the 2011 erection of the King Memorial on the National Mall.

Before the memorial opened, King Inc. battled with the foundation that funded the project over control — seeking, for example, to have all King’s books removed from the memorial bookstore.

In 2013, King Inc. forced the foundation, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation, to shut down after refusing to allow them to continue using the name “Martin Luther King Jr.” The website that had been the foundation’s primary fundraising tool was also shut down.

The foundation had paid the King family $2.7 million for the use of King’s likeness and quotes on the memorial.

At times, disagreements over the proper stewardship of their father’s legacy has split even his children into warring camps.

Thursday morning, five days before she is required by a judge to turn over her father’s Bible and Nobel medal, Bernice King renewed her public campaign to persuade her brothers not to sell the items.

“I implore you to consider the magnitude of this moment in history and how you want your individual legacies to be defined,” she said. “I urge you to reconsider your position, so when the books are written, you will be on the right side of history.”

Following a January vote, in which her bothers outvoted her 2-1 to seek a buyer, Bernice King refused to surrender the two items. Her brothers filed suit to compel her to do so.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons


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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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