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

The Proud Boys Return To Neverland

@FromaHarrop

Trump demonstrator in Proud Boys attire

So, the Proud Boys now judge Donald Trump "a total failure" and "extraordinarily weak." The members of the far-right group understood at last that when the former president denounced them for doing what he incited them to do, they looked ridiculous.

How to save face? They couldn't concede that posting pictures of themselves engaged in a murderous assault on the U.S. Capitol was supremely stupid. No, it was that Trump was too cowardly to join them. But thinking that he would was also supremely stupid.

After winding the mob up with insane ranting about a "stolen election," Trump urged it to march to the Capitol to stop the counting of votes. "You'll never take back our country with weakness," he said. "And I'll be there with you."

Of course, he wasn't there with them. It was some strange Neverland these Lost Boys came from. How else explain their expecting Trump to expose himself to the swarm, much less risk injury in a violent encounter?

While the boys were vandalizing, looting and threatening to hang elected officials, according to The Washington Post, Trump serenely watched the rampage on White House TVs. At a certain point, though, it dawned on the president that the unfolding horror was not in his interests. He conferred with advisers and lawyers to ensure he wouldn't take the rap for it.

Thus, at 2:38 p.m. Eastern time, after a Capitol Police officer had already been killed, he tweeted, "Stay peaceful!" He then issued a video in which he told the herd to go home.

A day later, he condemned the blockheads for their "heinous attack" and said he was "outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem." And to think that some of the Proud Boys actually expected a presidential pardon for their crimes.

The main objective here is not to point out the treachery of Trump. It's not even to question the right wing's willingness to believe that Trump hadn't lost. With all those conspiracy theories infesting their media — and weeks of getting pounded by a charismatic speaker's lies — one could envision their swallowing the nonsense that dark forces had denied victory to he whom they called "Emperor Trump."

The Proud Boys' grasp on reality was never all it could be, but still. The group had it together enough to closely follow Trump's 86 unsuccessful legal challenges to the election results. It should have been easier to note Trump's long history of covering his rear end and employing an army of lawyers to countersue those he had betrayed. But somehow, the Lost Boys thought they'd be an exception.

And so, they portrayed the double-cross as an unexpected abuse of what they imagined as their honor. They hit back — or so they thought. "The Proud Boys Now Mock Trump" is how a New York Times headline characterized their criticism.

With all due respect to the headline writer, the people being mocked are the right-wing rioters facing criminal charges after being turned in by their children, ex-wives and (former) employers. Trump is back at Mar-a-Lago, smelling the sweet chlorine from his swimming pool and playing golf.

The insurrectionists now have their own lawyers. Despite the "heinous" nature of their acts, some of the legal advisers have taken the tack of portraying their clients as naive nitwits.

The lawyer representing the "QAnon Shaman" says the would-be actor regrets what he did but was duped by Trump. And he refers to his client in clownish terms — as "the guy with the horns and the fur, the meditation and organic food."

The Proud Boys are now saying in online posts that the group should drop politics and abandon both parties. They may be on to something, finally.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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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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