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An ordinary hypocrite would know better than to demand absolute freedom of speech for his friends, and deny it to his critics in the next breath. But then Donald J. Trump is no ordinary hypocrite. Because that’s exactly what the president did last week.
 Last Thursday, social media giant Facebook announced that it was banning a bunch of crackpot conspiracy theorists and professional race-baiters from its platform. The list included Infowars’ Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, racial provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and the notorious Jew-baiter and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
All but the last, of course, are Trump’s allies in seeking the crucial antisocial sorehead vote. Taking to Twitter, the president erupted: “I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America—and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH!” Trump wrote. “We are monitoring and watching, closely!!”
Actually, the First Amendment begins “Congress shall make no law…” It doesn’t say a word about private entities such as Facebook, the Washington Post, the National Enquirer, or the publication in which you are reading this column. All are free to publish or not publish, as they choose. The Constitution’s purpose is to enhance press freedom, not limit it.
As usual, Trump’s got it backwards. His pet bigots remain free to speak, but nobody’s required to amplify their voices.
By Sunday, the president had changed his tune on censorship. He retweeted a Twitter account calling for the defenestration of a Fox News personality who criticized him. “When you look at the continuous incorrect statements by [Judge Andrew] Napolitano over the past 2 years, it is fair to ask FNC why they allow him to have national air time…Unacceptable! Take him off the air!”
 Napolitano, see, had committed the unpardonable sin of reading the Mueller Report. Like the 450 or so former federal prosecutors who have signed a statement saying that anybody but the president would be prosecuted for obstructing justice for his attempts to hamstring the Russia investigation, Napolitano was shocked by Trump’s actions. He used words like “immoral” and “repellent.”
Remember, this is the same president who once threatened a federal investigation of Saturday Night Live for lampooning him. Twice, actually. Both when actor Alec Baldwin’s comic impersonation first got under his skin, and then again when the show was re-broadcast a few months later. 
 It’s axiomatic: show me a bully, I’ll show you a coward.
Not that Facebook deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. With regard to InfoWars, what took them so long? From the social media giant’s perspective, this amounts to a cost-free publicity stunt. Former Fox News sweetheart Megyn Kelly did a takedown of InfoWars’ sweaty, blustering proprietor Alex Jones during the first outing of her ill-fated NBC News career almost two years ago.
Banned from Facebook? Jones and Watson, his British alter ego, deserve to be tarred, feathered and exiled to a desert island in the remote South Pacific, along with their imbecile followers. Preferably one that gets swallowed up as the oceans inexorably rise. Global climate change has got to be good for something.
Just to remind you, Jones is currently being sued for his bizarre insistence that the 2012 massacre of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut was a hoax—supposedly an Obama-orchestrated theatrical spectacle to promote gun control.
It’s not going well for him.
Another of InfoWars greatest hits was a 2016 YouTube posting in which Jones asserted that Hillary Clinton had raped, murdered and dismembered scores of children. “Yeah, you heard me right,” he claimed. “Hillary Clinton has personally murdered children. I just can’t hold back the truth anymore.”
So naturally, he’s Trump’s bosom buddy. In the midst of the 2016 campaign, the candidate gave Jones’ radio program a 30-minute telephone interview. “Your reputation is amazing,” Trump said.
That’s definitely one word for it.
On Saturday, Trump re-tweeted Paul Joseph Watson’s indignant response to his Facebook banishment. “Dangerous’. My opinions? Or giving a handful of giant partisan corporations the power to decide who has free speech? You decide.”
 It’s an easy call. Among Watson’s greatest hits are a same day post arguing that the mass murder of 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech University “could very well be another government black-op.” According to Nico Hines in The Daily Beast, within a week of the 2005 London Underground terror attack that killed 52 of his countrymen, he published “How the Government Staged the London Bombings in Ten Easy Steps.”
This joker wants a mass-media platform with no strings attached? Let him petition the BBC.
 Anyway, these two are probably the least noxious of the rabble-rousers Facebook banned. The others, such as neo-Nazi pal Yiannopoulos, and “white genocide” promoter Laura Loomer, like Farrakhan, traffic in overt race-hatred.
It’s a damned shame to see even Trump defending them.
IMAGE: Screenshot of Milo Yiannopoulos.


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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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