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President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May talk in front of a portrait of Churchill

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Donald Trump on Thursday night sought to defend his public downplaying of the coronavirus threat by comparing his response to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

"As the British government advised the British people in the face of World War II, 'Keep calm and carry on.' That's what I did," Trump said at a rally in Michigan, where images showed the majority of rallygoers did not wear masks, nor adhere to social-distancing guidelines mandated in the state.

Trump added, "When Hitler was bombing London, Churchill, a great leader, would oftentimes go to a roof in London and speak. And he always spoke with calmness. He said we have to show calmness. No, we did it the right way. We've done a job like nobody."

The comparison is historically inaccurate.

Churchill did not hide information from the British people as his country was being bombed in World War II. Rather, Churchill was blunt about the threat.

In his first speech as prime minister, as the war against fascism raged in Europe, Churchill said:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.

Trump's inaccurate Churchill comparison Thursday night is part of a long history of Trump — as well as his aides and surrogates — invoking Churchill.

Earlier Thursday, Mike Pence also compared Trump's downplaying of the virus despite knowing its perils to Churchill.

"There's that old saying from World War II in Great Britain, 'Keep calm. Carry on.' That was the presidential leadership that I saw," Pence said in an interview on Fox News.

Back in June, after Trump tear-gassed peaceful protesters so he could stage a photo-op at a church across from the White House, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany compared Trump to Churchill.

"And I would note that throughout all of time, we've seen presidents and leaders across the world who've had leadership moments and very powerful symbols that were important for a nation to see at any given time to show a message of resilience and determination like Churchill, we saw him inspecting the bombing damage," McEnany said, adding that Trump's photo-op resembled Churchill's actions because it was "powerful and important to send a message that the rioters, the looters, the anarchists, they will not prevail."

Trump himself has also invoked Churchill a handful of times in the past.

Back in June 2019, after a Democratic debate in which now vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris attacked her now-running-mate, Joe Biden, Trump said Biden didn't handle it as well as Churchill would.

"I think she was given far too much credit for what she did. That was so out of the can what she said. That thing was right out of a box. And I thought that he didn't respond great. I wouldn't say it was — this was not Winston Churchill we're dealing with, okay? But it wasn't — it wasn't, I don't think, nearly as bad as they portended it to be," Trump said.

Back in June, as Trump raged about calls for removing monuments to Confederate generals across the country, he wondered aloud whether opponents of honoring traitors would also call for removals of Churchill statues.

"We believe that the beloved heroes of American history should not be torn down by militant mobs, but held up as an example to the world," Trump said, listing off statues of former presidents who were slave owners and whether statues of them should come down.

"How about Gandhi? How about Churchill? You know, Churchill — because this is going outside of our country now," Trump said.

In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 29, Trump brought up a Biden slip-up on the campaign trail, and complained that he isn't afforded any grace to make mistakes.

Trump said:

He's got a bad habit. "Ladies and gentlemen of Ohio, it's great to be with you." "Joe. Joe, you're an Iowa." That was seven times he's done that. I haven't done it once. And if I did, you know what I'd do? I'd walk off the stage because there's nothing you can do to come back from that. You can be — you can be Winston Churchill; he was a great, great speaker. Winston Churchill was pretty good, right? You could be Winston Churchill for the rest of the speech. And the press doesn't kill him.

Trump made almost an identical comment on Aug. 6. At what was supposed to be an official White House event at a Whirlpool plant in Ohio, Trump attacked Biden in a way he would at a campaign rally.

Trump said:

And, by the way, as I was leaving for the great state of Ohio — did you ever watch Biden, where he's always saying the wrong state? "It's great to be in Florida. Florida." "No, it's Ohio." I've never seen a guy — I haven't done that one yet; that's a disaster. I always say — Jim Jordan — if you do that, it's over, right? You can be Winston Churchill. The speeches is over; you just walk off the stage.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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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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