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The House Intelligence Committee is called that for good reason: It oversees intelligence matters. And Trump’s defenders on the committee think it’s their job to insult our intelligence.

One of their more novel defenses of how Donald Trump dealt with Ukraine is that he was implacably determined to root out corruption in that country. For sheer gall, that claim is hard to beat. It’s as though Bill Clinton had rebutted allegations of an affair with Monica Lewinsky by claiming to be a virgin.

It’s not just that Trump is personally corrupt, as he had to admit recently in settling a lawsuit that required him to shut down his foundation and pay a fine of $2 million. Last year, he also had to pay $25 million to settle lawsuits by students who said they were defrauded by Trump University.

His former lawyer Michael Cohen is in prison for providing hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, which he testified was at the direction of Trump.

Tony Schwartz, who ghostwrote The Art of the Deal, tweeted Thursday: “Donald Trump doesn’t clean up corruption anywhere. He lives and breathes it every day, in every way.”

It’s also worth noting that Trump has never shown the faintest concern about corruption in any other country. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), said Trump withheld aid because he wanted to make sure that President Volodymyr Zelensky met Trump’s demanding ethical standards. When Trump’s concerns were assuaged, he lifted the hold.

In fact, as former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified Friday, combating corruption was a high priority for her in Kyiv. When Trump removed her, he did so on the advice of Rudy Giuliani, who was working with corrupt Ukrainians she had antagonized.

“Individuals, who apparently felt stymied by our efforts to promote stated U.S. policy against corruption — that is, to do the mission — were able to successfully conduct a campaign of disinformation against a sitting ambassador, using unofficial back channels,” she said. Her removal only undermined the State Department’s anti-corruption efforts.

Jordan’s interest in the topic is a recent development. He and most House Republicans voted in 2015 to authorize lethal military aid to Ukraine — even though Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked it a dismal 142nd in the world. Corruption was not on the GOP radar then.

In 2017, Trump approved the aid despite Ukraine’s reputation. In May, Trump’s own Pentagon certified Ukraine’s “continued progress” on corruption. Republicans in Congress didn’t urge Trump to withhold aid to force reform, because they didn’t see it as necessary — until Trump decided to pretend it was.

If he was determined to keep hard-earned U.S. tax dollars out of the hands of a crooked foreign leader, then it was the first time. Trump has shown a fond affection for crooked foreign leaders, and he has been happy to provide them a cushion of U.S. cash.

Egypt gets some $1.3 billion a year in military aid — triple the amount that Trump withheld from Ukraine. Yet Egypt scores nearly as low as Ukraine in the Transparency International index.

The worst-rated country in the world, Somalia, will get nearly $500 million this year. Has Trump called President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to request good-government reforms? Has he ever heard the name Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed?

Afghanistan and Iraq, notorious for corruption, get large sums of American assistance. Trump is a loyal friend to Vladimir Putin, who miraculously became one of the richest people in the world on a government salary.

So is it plausible that Trump cared about graft in Ukraine? Don’t make me laugh. Anyone who reads the memo of his July 25 phone conversation with Zelensky can see his mind was elsewhere.

Trump never uttered such words as “corruption” and “reform.” He pointedly reminded Zelenskiy how much the U.S. has done for Ukraine. He urged him to investigate the Bidens. He told him to talk with Rudy Giuliani — who admits trying to get the Ukrainians to go after the Bidens.

When Zelensky expressed a strong desire for anti-tank missiles, Trump got to the actual point: “I would like you to do us a favor though.” Not: “I would like you to adopt the following reforms to ensure that our assistance is not wasted.” The favor was to unearth — or fabricate — information that would discredit Democrats, especially his potential 2020 election rival.

Jim Jordan may be able to fool many Republicans on the corruption defense. But I don’t think he could fool a polygraph.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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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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