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Donald Trump

Donald Trump is still the most dominant Republican in the country, but his very mixed primary record has left his air of invincibility in tatters.

As The Washington Post's Aaron Blake notes, Trump has a 30% problem. While several of his endorsees won their races convincingly, most of them either won or lost with a less-than-middling 30-some percent of the GOP vote. They include:

  • Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina (North Carolina House): Lost
  • Charles Herbster (Nebraska governor): Lost
  • Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia (Georgia secretary of state): Lost
  • Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (Idaho governor): Lost
  • Mehmet Oz (Pennsylvania senator): Too close to call, recount underway
  • J.D. Vance (Ohio senator): Won
Of the nine contested races where Trump endorsed early enough to potentially make a difference (and that didn't result in a runoff), six fell into the 30th percentile. Former Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, trying to unseat sitting Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, finished even worse at just 22 percent. Two others outperformed the trend by some 20 points to win their races: Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina (North Carolina Senate), and Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia (West Virginia House).

But the overarching trend suggests that Trump's endorsement typically guaranteed candidates getting right around a third of the Republican primary vote or less. In other words, the "the hardcore Trump 'stolen election' contingent appears shy of a majority of the party," as Blake wrote.

Plus, primaries typically attract the most active and fervent voters, so the die hard 2020 election deniers and Trump cultists will likely make up an even smaller slice of GOP voters in a general election.

To reiterate, Trump is still the odds-on favorite to win the 2024 GOP nomination if and when he announces, and the MAGA movement is still pulsing through the GOP electorate.

But at the same time, Trump is more vulnerable now than he was heading into the Republican primaries, and everyone seems to know it.

By and large, profile-in-courage awards aren't going to any Republicans, other than maybe Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and several others who voted to impeach Trump. But some Republicans outside of Washington are testing the waters of betrayal.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been crowing about the Republican Governors Association's $5 million investment in Georgia to insulate Kemp from Trump's revenge tour.

"What we have to decide is: do we want to be the party of me or the party of us? What Donald Trump has advocated is for us to be the ‘party of me,’ that everything has to be about him and about his grievances," Christie told Politico. “Trump picked this fight."

What Christie is actually asking there is, “Do we want a party at all, or just a cult?”

Former Vice President Mike Pence—who is weighing a presidential run despite a brush with death by hanging—dared to campaign with Kemp in open defiance of Trump. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky both campaigned for the Senate bid of Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama well after Trump cut Brooks loose when it appeared he was tanking. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu even called Trump "fucking crazy" during the annual Gridiron Club event in Washington last month.

"The press often will ask me if I think Donald Trump is crazy. And I'll say it this way: I don't think he's so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain't getting out!" Sununu said in his remarks.

All this has Trump a touch on edge, and some aides and party officials have been trying to talk him down from announcing his 2024 bid before the midterms are over, according to The Washington Post. He's constantly peppering his aides with questions about polling, his potential rivals, and who they are meeting with. He's also weighing the announcement of a so-called presidential exploratory committee to freeze the field.

The argument against an early announcement is party-based: Republicans don't want Trump to inject himself into the midterms in November any more than he already has. The argument for announcing early is Trump-based: Chase most potential challengers out of the race before they get any momentum. But Trump also has legal considerations, particularly regarding any liability for the January 6 insurrection. If Trump were officially running, it would pile one more giant headache onto an already fraught web of considerations at the Department of Justice.

Whenever Trump announces—and it seems certain that he plans to—he will clearly have competition now.

“It isn’t going to be a clear field for him. There’s a lot of people who want to go against him,” one GOP operative who recently met with Trump told the Post. “If he runs, [Mike] Pompeo, Pence and Chris Christie all will consider running against him. Who knows what [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis will do? These guys are out there working, they are hitting every donor they can find, they want to run.”

And yet, Trump still dominates the field in every poll on the topic. A recent Post/ABC poll found that 60 percent of Republicans want GOP leaders to follow Trump's lead for the party versus 34% who said they wanted the party steered in a different direction.

The same poll also found that 54 percent of Americans overall believe Trump should be charged with inciting the January 6 insurrection.


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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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