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By Maria Recio, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, possible GOP presidential candidates, courted conservatives Thursday in Washington by presenting themselves as chief executives with a vision.

Perry, the evening keynoter at the annual meeting of the American Principles Project, a conservative group, touted his experience in creating jobs in Texas, “the 13th largest economy in the world.”

But he told the enthusiastic crowd that it was not enough to be against the current administration.

“We must articulate what we are for,” said Perry. “And in that respect, as we look to 2016, we must remember we are not electing a critic-in-chief, we are electing a commander-in-chief.”

Perry said expanding energy production, reforming the tax code, reducing regulations, and providing an educated workforce were central to boosting the economy.

“Americans have become cynical that Washington can ever change,” said Perry. “And I am skeptical that an agent of change can come from Washington.”

Jindal used a luncheon speech to criticize Common Core, a set of educational standards that many conservatives have attacked as excessive regulation of local policy.

“Education is at the heart of who we are as a society,” said Jindal, and that should be determined locally, not by the federal government. He has sued the federal government over Common Core. Perry was an early critic of the program.

Both Republicans, who emphasized their track records as chief executives of their states, are looking at the 2016 race. Perry, in particular, is getting into campaign mode, trying to gain some momentum after the entry of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a potential contender.

Earlier on Thursday, Perry named 83 high-profile donors, many from Texas, to the advisory board of RickPAC, his political action committee. He’s heading to New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state, next week for a two-day swing.

Naming the donors was a way of signaling his potential fundraising prowess, at a time when Bush and others are wooing donors across the country and Perry is fighting an indictment at a crucial point in his campaign preparation.

Perry, who retired as governor in January after 14 years in office, lost a bid last week to have the two-count felony indictment against him dismissed. He was charged in August with abusing his office and coercing a public servant after he threatened to cut off funding for the Travis County public corruption unit if the district attorney in charge didn’t resign after being arrested for drunken driving. She refused to resign, and the governor vetoed the funding.

Perry is fighting the charges, saying they’re politically motivated.

“He’s under indictment, and that’s going to make it much more challenging for him to establish credibility,” said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential expert at the University of Texas, Austin. “It complicates a presidential candidacy.”

Perry underwent a style change last year, donning eyeglasses and abandoning cowboy boots (to help his bad back), which was seen as part of a bid to be taken more seriously. The Texan has been trying to erase the memory of his failed 2012 presidential campaign, famous for the “oops” moment during a debate when he forgot one of the three federal agencies he proposed abolishing.

“By the time the election was over, a significant amount of Republicans in Texas were shaking their heads at the governor’s performance,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.

Perry has been prepping more for this campaign and at Thursday’s speech spoke about the next two years being “about a vision to restore America’s place in the world.”

He said that as governor he had helped secure the border with Mexico and he criticized the U.S. inaction in the Middle East.

Jindal, asked by reporters Thursday whether he’s running for president, said, “We’re thinking about it,” and added that he and his wife were talking and praying about it.

“If I were to run, it’s if I had something unique to bring to the race,” he said.

Photo: Denise Flores via Flickr


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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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