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What a thing of beauty, our First Amendment.

Think about it: In only 45 words, it lays out five constitutional rights.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Pure poetry.

Notice that it says nothing about how a president — any president — can imprison or strip Americans of their citizenship for exercising these rights. Donald Trump’s tweet suggesting otherwise in his rant against flag burners doesn’t change this glorious fact. We had these freedoms before he was elected and, if we’re vigilant, we’re going to have them after he’s long gone from the White House. Can I hear an “amen”?

Maybe we should memorize the First Amendment, and not just because our president-elect appears to lack even a passing familiarity with it. There’s value in committing to memory language that moves us.

Brad Leithauser addressed this in his 2013 New Yorker essay titled “Why We Should Memorize”:

“The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. (Catherine) Robson puts the point succinctly: ‘If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.'”

May our hearts ring with the rhythms of our First Amendment freedoms. There’s nothing like breathing in the promise of America to help us stay calm when someone insists our country keep its word.

Take flag burners, for instance. Our Constitution and our Supreme Court insist they can burn our flag without losing their freedom. Every time they do it, though, someone else is yelling, “Oh, yeah? Well, we’ll see about that.”

I don’t enjoy seeing someone burn the American flag, mostly because I’m not a fan of watching anger meet fire. I’m not keen on American flag bandanas, either. You know that line of forehead sweat that slowly creeps over the Stars and Stripes? Just feels wrong. Why aren’t people who oppose desecrating the flag complaining about that?

After Trump tweeted his unconstitutional take on our constitutional right, I Googled “American flag” and “clothing.” My Lord, there’s a bowie knife to the patriotic heart. Page after page of stuff that surely would offend the love-it-or-leave-it crowd.

Personally, I could have done without the guy modeling the American flag bikini briefs. I’m never going to be able to un-see that particularly star and stripe. I also don’t see the charm in American flag harem shorts, American flag leggings or American flag flip-flops. The American flag under the soles of filthy feet. Say that out loud and tell me you aren’t trembling.

It’s enough to drive a girl to grab her American flag beer can koozie — you want to say cozy, but don’t, because it’s keeping your beer kool, get it? – and slide it onto the nearest can of brew. The koozie, by the way, is on sale for $9.99. (“You save $5.00!”) Nothing says America like a U.S. flag wrapped around a can of Coors.

We could have a much healthier discussion about the politics of flag burning if we were honest about why those flag burners bother some of us. Could it be that we just aren’t comfortable with fellow Americans willing to question what in high heaven is going on in America? That maybe we’re just afraid of what comes next?

We hear a lot about how defacing the flag insults our men and women in uniform, but they do not sacrifice their comfort and too often their lives to protect a strip of fabric usually made in China. They are preserving our freedoms, including the five listed in the First Amendment. Let’s stop insulting their intelligence by suggesting they don’t know the difference.

Let us breathe in the promise of America and exhale to the rhythm of our freedom.

Or not.

That’s America.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: A giant American flag hangs from the West tower of the George Washington Bridge in between New York and New Jersey ahead of the U.S.-Germany 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match June 26, 2014.  REUTER/Mike Segar   

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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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