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Some blessed day, America will be rid of the Trump administration. But the “normalization” of misconduct by this president’s entourage will leave indelible stains — one of which will bear the name Jared Kushner.

Unlike his constantly blithering and blabbering father-in-law, Kushner usually goes about his self-serving business in the White House very quietly, hiring lawyers to spout his alibis. When he granted an interview the other day to Axios on HBO, the result was predictable. This epitome of nepotism demonstrated once again why he should hold no public position of trust.

Although Kushner was mocked for his evasions and denials when Axios correspondent Jonathan Swan asked him about Trump’s bigoted “birther” campaign and attacks on Muslims, that was a sideshow. Nobody can expect him to speak frankly about those topics, and his opinions about the president don’t matter anyway.

What he said about the Russian incursion into the 2016 election was far more troubling. He claimed that he never noticed the subject line on the email from Donald Trump Jr. that summoned him to the infamous Trump Tower meeting with the Russians — “FW: Russia — Clinton — private and confidential.” Worse still was Kushner’s retort when Swan asked what he would do if the Russians were to approach with offers of dirt on the Democrats in 2020.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is that we were not given anything that was salacious.”

Let’s be real: As the top officials in the U.S. intelligence community have pointed out many times, usually with hair on fire, there is nothing hypothetical about the Kremlin’s ongoing and aggressive meddling in our elections. There is no doubt that President Vladimir Putin prefers the malleable and amoral Trump to any possible alternative.

And there is no reason to expect that Kushner would do anything differently from what the Trump gang did in 2016 and ever since. They will encourage the Russians and then cover up their alliance with America’s adversaries by lying, just as they did last time.

Kushner’s arrogant attitude is even more stunning because the House Oversight Committee has spent months investigating his security clearance. Letting him run around the White House and the world with access to classified materials seemed like a very bad idea before the Axios interview, owing to his conflicts of interest and dubious behavior. He routinely disrespects the most fundamental ethical and legal standards, as he did when he met in the White House with bankers who had loaned his family firm half a billion dollars.

He is also a target of intelligence operators from many countries, all of whom view the callow Kushner as a potential stooge, open to blandishments, flattery and offers of money. Intercepted conversations about targeting him made our own intelligence officials blanch with worry. So did his bumbling but ill-intentioned attempt to establish a “back channel” with Russian officials during the Trump transition.

Now he has informed us, on the record, that he just might not report a contact by meddling Russians to the FBI. He says he doesn’t know how he will respond when they show up again. This may be the simplest question any White House official has ever been asked, with the most obvious answer. And he got it dead wrong.

Perhaps someone should have told Kushner that reporting any such illicit offer by a foreign adversary to federal authorities is the minimum expected of any official holding a security clearance. Then again, he seems impervious to any understanding of the dubious activities that propelled his father-in-law into power. He recently mischaracterized the Russian Trump campaign as the purchase of “a few Facebook posts” and added that the special counsel investigation has done greater harm to American democracy.

Kushner’s own utterances disqualify him from any level of security clearance. If the United States were to have a government that valued national security, he would be fired from his unearned White House job, instructed to clean out his desk, and briskly escorted from the premises. It is yet another sign of how far we have fallen that he won’t be going anywhere.




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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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