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On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a hearing on the recent rise of domestic violent extremist groups and how they're targeting active and retired military members in their recruitment efforts. Extremism within the ranks is nothing new — both the Department of Homeland Security and terror experts have for years warned of domestic violent extremists in the armed forces — but ever since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the presence of active-duty military and veterans among the rioters who carried it out, there's been renewed concern about the issue.

But while two panels of expert witnesses testified about the problem, citing data and research that show not only that the problem exists but also that it's on the rise, Republican members of the committee repeatedly tried to derail the hearing by attacking their Democratic colleagues and the witnesses who testified.

In his opening remarks, ranking member Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) falsely accused committee Chair Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) of making the hearing a partisan exercise that would harm the reputations of veterans.

"It grabs at the headlines when veterans are accused of becoming violent extremists," Bost said. "But there is very little data on how many veterans are actually involved in violent extremism. ... We cannot let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch."

Bost wasn't entirely wrong in his comment about the lack of data, but as Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University, said in her testimony, "We suffer from a significant lack of data on veteran attitudes and support for extremist movements, although we do know from repeated incidents that veterans are frequently and disproportionately engaged in violent extremist action in the U.S. Army."

Bost was far from the only Republican on the committee to attack his Democratic colleagues. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) opened his remarks with a harsh message to Takano: "I hope every veteran in America is watching this hearing today and hearing from you and the majority in control of this committee that our veterans are so stupid and susceptible to becoming domestic terrorists that you and the Democrats have to save them from it," Banks said. "It's widely offensive and dangerous."

Banks then went on to focus much of his time questioning and mocking past tweets by Miller-Idriss addressing the trend of right-wing figures boasting about their consumption of red meat as performative masculinity. "Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss, you have presented numerous concerning statements that may lead people to question your credibility," Banks said. "Dr. Miller, I had a hamburger last night. Does eating red meat make me an extremist?"

Toward the end of the hearing, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), a freshman member of Congress who has become known for his extremist views and what some observers say are ties to white nationalism, joined in remotely from a mountain somewhere in his home district in North Carolina to slam his Democratic colleagues and the expert witnesses participating in the hearing. "The only extremism I am aware of that exists in a large manner inside of our military is an extreme level of patriotism," he said. "I do not appreciate this hearing. Veterans are being derided and spit upon."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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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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