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Washington (AFP) – Republicans launched an angry counter-attack Friday as the U.S. government shutdown dragged deep into a fourth day, with House Speaker John Boehner fuming: “This isn’t some damn game.”

President Barack Obama meanwhile digested an embarrassing blow to his foreign policy and the U.S. image abroad after he was forced to cancel plans to jet to Asia for a pair of diplomatic summits.

Boehner jumped at the chance to seize the high ground by citing an unnamed official who was quoted speaking dismissively of the shutdown, which has sent hundreds of thousands home without pay.

Summoning outrage at a news conference, Boehner said: “This morning, I get the Wall Street Journal out and it says, ‘well, we don’t care how long this lasts, because we’re winning.’

“This isn’t some damn game. The American people don’t want their government shut down and neither do I,” Boehner said, theatrically waving a copy of the paper.

The White House tried to contain the damage from the Journal quote, which dominated the media messaging war raging between Obama and his Republican foes on Capitol Hill.

Obama even staged a photo op — a rare stroll outside the White House to a nearby sandwich shop — to clean up the misstep, declaring “nobody is winning” from the first shutdown in 17 years.

“There’s no winning when families don’t have any certainty over whether they are going to get paid or not,” Obama said.

“This shutdown could be over today,” Obama said, calling on Boehner to call a vote on a temporary funding measure to reopen government operations.

Obama spokesman Jay Carney said on Twitter: “We utterly disavow idea WH doesn’t care when it ends. House should act now, no strings attached.”

Obama is refusing to negotiate with Republicans over budget issues until they pass a temporary bill to open the government and agree to raise the $16.7 trillion U.S. statutory borrowing limit — without which Washington could default on its debts for the first time ever later this month.

But Republicans are demanding the president enter into talks on their goal to defund or delay his health reform law — a step Obama refuses to take.

“I was at the White House the other night and listened to the president some 20 times explain to me why he wasn’t going to negotiate,” Boehner complained.

Obama on Thursday took the decision to cancel his visit to Bali for the APEC summit and Brunei for the East Asia summit, in what analysts described as a blow to his signature policy of shifting more diplomatic and military weight towards rising Asia.

“The cancelation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government,” said a White House statement.

“This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world.”

Obama had previously cancelled onward visits to Malaysia and the Philippines next week as it was impossible to put together his huge traveling entourage at a time when much of his White House staff has been furloughed.

The shutdown was caused by Congress’s failure to pass a spending bill to fund government operations by October 1.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been sent home without pay, monuments like the Statue of Liberty have been barricaded and national parks have been closed down.

No end is in sight to the impasse, which Obama on Thursday branded as a reckless Republican farce.

The House of Representatives was due Friday to vote on a string of measures to open favored areas of the government, including funding for suspended US intelligence operations, nuclear safety and Food and Drug Administration inspections.

The White House warned that in the unlikely event of the bills making it through the Democratic-led Senate and reaching Obama’s desk, the president would veto them.

Democrats have warned Republicans they should simply open the entire government, not make piecemeal efforts to fund popular areas of government operations.

With the shutdown threatening to last through the weekend and into next week, there were no serious compromise efforts taking place on Capitol Hill.

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

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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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