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Vladimir Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin's troops are deserting their leader's illegal and ill-fated war in Ukraine, which commenced on Thursday, February 24th.

The Atlantic Council estimated on Tuesday that in just 84 days, "one-third of the 190,000-strong invasion force" has been captured, injured, or killed. The organization calculated that "based on the current rate of attrition, the Russian army will suffer 50,000 combat deaths by September."

Although Putin has haplessly attempted to downplay the scale of the depletion of his units, the magnitude of the losses is weighing heavily on the occupiers who are stuck in his pointless, genocidal "special military operation."

Met with valiant resistance by the Western-equipped Ukrainians from the moment that they crossed the border into Ukraine's sovereign territory, Putin's men are exhausted, demoralized, and have determined that the casualty toll and absence of necessary materials are unsustainable.

The abysmal conditions on the ground are purportedly triggering a mass mutiny among the disenchanted ranks.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate posted an intercepted telephone conversation to its Facebook page in which an aggrieved Russian soldier revealed that he and his comrades plan to quit.

According to translations provided byThe Daily Beast, the “mobilized” men are fed up with Putin's incompetent leadership as well as the Kremlin's lack of battlefield support.

The situation is so untenable, the individual said, that "even the Chechen forces fighting alongside them mock them as 'meat,'" noted The Daily Beast.

He predicted to a personal contact back in Russia:

Everyone who is here … I’m telling you … everyone is planning to take off on the 26th.

Who in turn replied:

Isn’t that stupid?

Which was countered with:

Isn’t it stupid that we’re here?

The infantryman then disclosed that Putin's forces intend to ditch their assignments “on the basis of the fact" that Moscow "put us on the front with absolutely nothing.”

The continued back-and-forth was remarkable.

“I want to tell you even more... a battalion commander is leaving with us and even a staff colonel," he told his friend. “They don’t provide us with any [equipment],” he said, complaining that certain weapons are outdated relics leftover “from 1945.”

I “look at them and go, ‘holy shit, what would you need those for?’ They laugh at us. You know what they call us? Blessed. We ask, ‘Why blessed?’ They say because we are walking around with no equipment, no helmets, without anything. … The Chechens call us meat," he said.

“It’s not desertion, because we shouldn’t be on this territory. … We crossed the border as 200s,” he added, which is Russian slang for slain personnel. “We’re not actually here. So if they say I’m a deserter, fuck off, I’m not here. Prove otherwise.”

Amazingly, in a second seized exchange that was shared on Facebook, two Russian fighters were heard contemplating how to quickly escape the carnage.

One of them apparently encouraged his mate to "take someone else’s weapon, a Ukrainian one, and shoot yourself in the legs."

The story continues here (subscription required).

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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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

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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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