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Most Democrats back a bill passed by the House of Representatives to address the Puerto Rican debt crisis, but Sen. Bernie Sanders is asking for more. 

The bill, spearheaded by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and endorsed by the Obama administration, would institute a federal oversight board, with members chosen by the White House and Congress, to renegotiate Puerto Rico’s debt.

With Puerto Rico’s Democratic primary looming, the Vermont senator announced that he plans to introduce legislation next week that would do more, including permitting the Federal Reserve the ability to provide emergency loans while allowing Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy — something that is not currently allowed to do, due to a mysterious 1984 law which also applies to the District of Columbia. Sanders’ proposed legislation would also allocate funds towards rebuilding the islands’ infrastructure while increasing Medicaid and Medicare payments to its residents.

Puerto Rico has long been mired in a debt crisis spurred by hedge funds taking advantage of the islands’ cheap junk bonds and favorable tax policies.

“These vulture funds are getting interest rates of 34 percent on tax-exempt bonds that they purchased for 29 cents on the dollar,” Sanders said. “It has been estimated that as much as half of Puerto Rico’s debt is owned by these vulture funds.”

The legislation reflects Sanders’ campaign’s call to improve the manner in which the federal government treats Puerto Rico, which has suffered due to its second-class status as a territory. Last year, Sanders called for Puerto Rico’s right to receive the protections and benefits granted to states. Puerto Ricans pay Social Security but are not eligible for the program’s Supplemental Security Income, and funding for Medicaid and Medicare for Puerto Rico is much less that would be were the island a state. And while Puerto Ricans are American citizens, they cannot cast a vote for president in the general election.

Sanders hopes his legislation will resonate with the working class people in Puerto Rico in time for Sunday’s primary vote. Both the Clinton and Sanders campaign have held rallies on the island, which sends 60 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Sanders traveled to the island while Clinton opted to send her husband, former president Bill Clinton, to campaign as a surrogate.

We have got to make it clear to these billionaire hedge fund managers that they cannot have it all,” Sanders said during a speech in Puerto Rico last month. “They cannot receive a 100 percent return on their investment while children in Puerto Rico go hungry.”

Gov. Alejandro Padilla endorsed Clinton on Wednesday, citing their joint support of the bipartisan bill.

Although polling data in Puerto Rico is scarce, Clinton holds a 65 percent to 34 percent lead in a poll conducted in March and April. Notably, Clinton defeated President Obama in the 2008 primary by a similar margin — 67 percent to 13 percent.

The voting process on the island could be problematic, however. A Puerto Rican newspaper has reported that the amount of polling stations available during the upcoming primary has been reduced by more than two thirds. Initially, the territory’s Democratic Party announced that 1,500 polling stations were planned for the primary, but that number has been trimmed to 430, raising concerns that low-income Puerto Ricans will be shut out of the only U.S. presidential vote they will be able to cast in this election cycle.

Photo: A worker takes off U.S and Puerto Rican flag after rally of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

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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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