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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Last week, we learned that nothing will ever improve President Obama’s image in the world more than Mitt Romney traveling abroad. Mitt insulted all of London, praised socialized medicine in Israel and brought along an aide who told reporters to “Kiss my ass!” at a holy site in Poland. The lesson was: When your schtick only appeals to people who hate the President of the United States, it’s hard to be diplomatic.

Mitt then returned home from that mess to face the biggest mess of his campaign: taxes.

No, not the controversy around his tax returns. Though you probably know that Harry Reid, who happens to be the highest-ranking Mormon in the U.S. government, publically accused Mitt of not paying any taxes for the last ten years. This accusation, the Senate Majority Leader claimed, was based on information from a very credible investor in Bain Capital. Now making accusations based on hearsay is a low down, dirty honey badger tactic, no doubt. (It’s a tactic so low down and dirty that it’s reminiscent of how Mitt demanded that Ted Kennedy release his tax returns in 1994 and that his opponent’s spouse release his returns in the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial primary — while refusing to release his own.)

Actually, Mitt’s real mess is his tax plan—which we now know would raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans. A new study by the Tax Policy Center pointed out that Mitt’s plan includes massive tax breaks for the richest Americans while leaving middle class families to pay up to $2,000 more a year.

Suddenly Mitt’s incredibly low 14 percent personal tax rate on an income of over $20 million a year became more than a talking point about fairness. It was an example of the kind of tax policy he believes in: Millionaires like him need more tax cuts and the middle class needs to pay for them.

And suddenly, Mitt needed to distract attention from his new status as a Republican nominee proposing to raise taxes on the middle class. What to do?

First, attack the group that produced the study — which is a group you once praised as “objective” and “non-partisan.” When that doesn’t work, change the subject.

What did Mitt decide to change the subject to? The auto industry. Romney released an ad Thursday that blamed the President for a GM dealership closing. What the ad didn’t mention is that if Mitt Romney had his way, there would be no GM dealerships in America any more.

LOL.

Yes, Mitt is now past the point of taking credit for an auto rescue he opposed. He is now saying that he would have saved more dealerships.

This is why Mitt is one of the most unlikable presidential contenders on record. He rejects the one useful accomplishment of his life—Romneycare. At the same time, he says the President can’t run on his record and then tries to run on the President’s record of saving the auto industry.

Mitt Romney taking credit for the auto rescue is like John McCain taking credit for keeping Sarah Palin out of the White House. It’s like the Coyote taking credit for the Roadrunner’s good health. It’s like Al Gore taking credit for hotter summers.

In 2008, only one national figure opposed the rescue of the auto industry: Mitt Romney. In an op-ed he placed in the New York Times charitably headlined “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Mitt wrote, “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” It was an easy position to take because at that point, government bailouts were less popular than even George W. Bush and Bernie Madoff.

Mitt wanted private equity firms like his own Bain Capital to finance managed bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, while global markets were crumbling. The problem was that firms like Bain refused to do so. So the government stepped in. The Obama Administration then took over the rescue.

Three years later, the rebirth of the auto industry has sparked an economic renewal in Ohio and Michigan that no one anticipated.

Yes, Ohio and Michigan. Romney can’t win the election without Ohio, a state that history says no Republican can lose in a successful presidential campaign. And if he wins Michigan, one of his home states, his election would be guaranteed. These are the two states that had the most to lose if the auto industry had disappeared and took one of every eight American jobs with it.

Mitt’s campaign is a mess, but he won’t sink below 45-46 percent of the vote because he has already been spent close to a billion dollars to slander this President. But if he’s counting on the voters of Ohio and Michigan to ignore the tax increases he’s proposing for the middle class or to forget where Mitt stood when they needed him most, he’s only fooling himself.

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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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