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It would have been so easy, a way for the Trump administration to honor an American icon and reach out to some of those Americans who believe the Republican Party has no use for them. But did anyone honestly think any member of the team leading the country under the direction of Donald J. Trump was going to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill?

Instead Trump and company’s song-and-dance about why a plan put in place before they moved into the White House would be delayed until well after they leave just confirms that they care little for the wishes of Americans who probably did not vote for them, but who are Americans nonetheless, and that they have no knowledge of or interest in the history that has shaped this country.

The move to again force Tubman to the back was a clarion call to Trump’s base, a signal of who is important and who is not.

That the woman tossed aside as the embodiment of “pure political correctness,” as the move was described by the president, deserving of, in his view, maybe a place on the $2 bill, was a Civil War spy, scout and nurse, an abolitionist, a suffragist and a hero called “Moses” for her strength and her grit, is just more proof of how far the Republican Party’s relationship with people of color and women has fallen.

According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the move on the “Tubman” would be postponed until at least 2026, with the bill not likely to be in circulation until 2028 (and it has been reported that the tactic was to head off Trump canceling the Obama administration action altogether). So much for the plan to unveil the redesigned bill in 2020 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

At a congressional hearing, Mnuchin’s figuratively foot-shuffling, downward-gazing performance was in response to questioning by Massachusetts Democrat Ayanna S. Pressley, an African-American House freshman. The delay is needed to focus on addressing security and counterfeiting concerns, he said, though who doubts fast-tracking would be in order if the action were more to the administration’s liking? But when your slogan is “Make America Great Again,” you are always stuck in reverse.

Besides the president’s obvious displeasure with the choice of Tubman, there is his professed admiration of the man she would replace, the seventh U.S. president, Andrew Jackson. Trump has seen Jackson as a kindred spirit, as someone who has defied the “arrogant elite,” and has laid a wreath at Jackson’s tomb at the Hermitage, his plantation in Nashville.

Who can forget the White House ceremony honoring Native American “code-talkers,”when he turned the focus from their World War II sacrifice into an offensive attack on  Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, all while a portrait of Jackson looked on?

Trump always glides past the unsavory portions of Jackson’s character, including his status and wealth built on the buying and selling of men, women and children and their labor, and his signing of the Indian Removal Act, which resulted in the deaths and forced relocation of tens of thousands of Native Americans.

Mnuchin’s misdirection did not hide a thing.

In reality, Trump should admire Tubman. She was a perfect example of a strong leader, a quality he admires, at least in dictators. After escaping her own brutal enslavement, she returned time and again, as conductor and driver of the Underground Railroad, to free others, despite the dangers, and with the law, shamefully on the side of the morally lawless, against her.

Trump professes to love the military. Tubman, Civil War hero, was buried with military honors in 1913. And as supporters of the Second Amendment, Trump and Republicans should recognize Tubman, who carried a gun on her missions, as one of their own.

Some Republicans have stepped up to support bipartisan legislation to speed up action on printing the “Tubman.” There is the Harriet Tubman Tribute Act of 2019, introduced in the Senate by New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, and its companion bill in the House, with New York Republican John Katko as lead sponsor. Pressley, a co-sponsor, has said, “People other than white men built this county.”

Who would think that sentiment would be controversial in 2019? But with a president whose campaign was based in part on grievance and “white identity” politics, it is where we are.

Tubman’s attributes and achievements are mind-boggling, especially considering her status as a woman born into enslavement, almost fatally injured by brutal mistreatment, illiterate, who still never let anything stop her from her life’s and the country’s work.

Perhaps Trump feels insecure when he compares that record to what he, with all his wealth and privilege, has done for his fellow man.

He is not alone, though. This latest action is, with a few exceptions, the culmination of the Republican Party’s decades-long mere lip service to inclusiveness, since its Southern strategy of appealing to whites after civil rights laws were passed and its voter suppression tactics that have sought to nullify those gains ever since.

Increasingly, it is the party of Lincoln in name only.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as a national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

IMAGE: The Harriet Tubman Memorial in Cambridge, MD.


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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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