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Mitch McConnell’s True Colors
Mitch McConnell’s True Colors

Since June, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus have filibustered three separate Democratic voting rights bills, refusing to permit even a floor debate on the legislation as GOP-led states intensify their assault on the franchise.

But with Senate Democrats gearing up for yet another attempt to strengthen federal voter protections, McConnell is signaling a willingness to cooperate with the majority party on a far more narrow reform effort—one that would entail tweaks to the obscure Electoral Count Act.

"It obviously has some flaws," McConnell said Wednesday of the 1887 statute, which sets out procedures for the counting of electoral votes and gives members of Congress the ability to dispute the results of presidential contests. Nearly 150 Republican lawmakers voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, just hours after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol last year.

Reforms to the Electoral Count Act are "worth, I think, discussing," the Kentucky Republican added.

Voting rights advocates immediately sensed danger—and urged Democrats not to play along with the GOP leader.

"It's a trap!" the progressive organization Indivisible warned in an email to supporters late Wednesday as momentum behind Electoral Count Act reform continued to build, fueled by the work of right-wing organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute and Cato.

Earlier Wednesday, both Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—whose refusal to support filibuster reform is a major reason for Democrats' failure to pass voting rights legislation—voiced support for the push to alter the Electoral Count Act.

Manchin, who is facing pressure from a McConnell-aligned dark money group to uphold the 60-vote filibuster, told Politico that nascent discussions on the 1887 law are "a good start."

At least they've got people talking now," said the West Virginia Democrat. A bipartisan group convened by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has reportedly begun discussing a plan to reform the Electoral Count Act.

A spokesperson for Sinema, meanwhile, said the Arizona senator "continues to believe bipartisan action is needed to strengthen our democracy and has been in constant contact with colleagues in both parties on this and other potential areas of common ground."

But voting rights campaigners and experts fear that growing focus on the Electoral Count Act will distract from more fundamental efforts to end voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, and other anti-democratic practices that Republicans are deploying in states across the country ahead of the pivotal 2022 midterms.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote in a series of tweets earlier this week that while changes to the Electoral Count Act are worth pursuing, they would be no substitute for the passage of robust federal voter protections.

"We must not deny the truth: that voter suppression schemes create obstacles designed to frustrate voting and drive down turnout among Black, Latino, Asian American, student, and disabled voters," wrote Ifill. "It is an affront to democracy and a denial of full citizenship that must be addressed."

Indivisible co-executive director Ezra Levin expressed similar concerns in a statement Wednesday evening.

"Who on this earth believes Mitch McConnell woke up this morning and decided to start caring about democracy? Nobody," Levin said. "McConnell is working to outmaneuver Democrats."

Reforming the Electoral Count Act "would do nothing to reverse or prevent gerrymandering or voter suppression," he continued. "If McConnell can convince Manchin and Sinema to go down this path, that would successfully sideline efforts to pass the big, consequential democracy bills that combat voter suppression."

"Our message to Senate Dems is simple: Don't get distracted!" Levin added. "Pass the damn Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis [Voting Rights Advancement Act], and don't fall for McConnell's tricks."

In a new petition, Indivisible urges Senate Democrats to "add reforms to the Electoral Count Act as an amendment to the Freedom to Vote Act to ensure these reforms are passed ALONGSIDE the other bills."

Thus far, it appears that the Senate Democratic leadership does not intend to back Electoral Count Act reform as a standalone alternative to the Freedom to Vote Act and other voting rights legislation.

“The Electoral Count Act [reform] says you can rig the elections anyway you want and then we'll count it accurately," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico in an interview.

The Freedom to Vote Act, a compromise measure crafted after the GOP and Manchin obstructed the more sweeping For the People Act, has the support of every member of the Senate Democratic caucus.

If passed, the bill would establish Election Day as a legal public holiday, expand early and mail-in voting, prohibit partisan gerrymandering, and strengthen campaign finance regulations, among other reforms.

But because no Republicans support the bill, the legislation has failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required under the current filibuster rule.

While Schumer is vowing to pursue changes to the upper chamber's rules if Republicans filibuster the Freedom to Vote Act a second time, Manchin has declined to endorse specific filibuster reforms.

"Being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option—it's very, very difficult," Manchin told reporters earlier this week, referring to the procedure by which Democrats could alter Senate rules without needing Republican votes.

"It's a heavy lift," he added.

Sean Eldridge, founder and president of Stand Up America, noted in response that "Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans reformed the filibuster to confirm three Trump Supreme Court nominees with simple majority votes."

"If 51 votes is good enough for a lifetime confirmation to the highest court in our land," Eldridge wrote on Twitter, "it should be enough to protect our freedom to vote."

Article reprinted with permission from Alternet

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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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