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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Published with permission from the Independent Media Institute

American workers contribute to Social Security with every paycheck. When they do, they are earning comprehensive insurance protections. Social Security insures against the loss of wages due to old age, disability, or (for the surviving family of a worker) death. While Social Security is best known as a retirement program, disability and survivor’s benefits are equally essential.

An attack on any part of Social Security is an attack on the entire system and all current and future beneficiaries. The latest proposal from Donald Trump’s administration, which is designed to rip benefits away from hundreds of thousands of Americans with disabilities, amounts to a declaration of war on Social Security.

The Trump administration proposal would require millions of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries to re-prove their eligibility for benefits as often as every six months—far more frequently than is currently the case. There is no justification for this policy. The United States already has some of the strictest eligibility criteria for disability benefits in the world. More than half of all claims are denied.

We should be making it easier for workers to claim the Social Security benefits they’ve earned with every paycheck, not harder. And ripping benefits away from current beneficiaries, who rely on them to survive, is even worse.

We know what the effects of the Trump proposal would be, because Ronald Reagan implemented a very similar benefit cut back in the 1980s. Reagan’s policy ripped away the benefits of 200,000 Americans with disabilities. The New York Times reported that “people with obvious physical and mental disabilities” lost their benefits “without having been interviewed.”

Ultimately, Reagan was forced to reverse his attack on Social Security after massive public outcry, and bipartisan condemnation from Congress—but not before 21,176 people died, including several who died by suicide, “because their benefits were cut off.”

Donald Trump himself might not be a diligent student of history, but his advisers—men like Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s chief of staff and a longtime enemy of Social Security—know exactly what they are doing. They want to resurrect Reagan’s Social Security cut knowing full well that it killed people.

This could impact any of us, even those of us who are currently healthy. Imagine that you are hit by a car tomorrow, and suffer life-altering injuries that prevent you from working. You’re faced with crushing medical bills, and you’ve lost your income. In such situations, SSDI benefits are a crucial lifeline. Donald Trump wants to rip that lifeline away.

Trump and Mulvaney are targeting people with disabilities first, because they perceive them as politically vulnerable. But if they are allowed to get away with this attack, it will be only the beginning. They want to destroy every part of Social Security, including retirement benefits, and turn it over to their criminal friends on Wall Street.

We must stop Trump’s plan. The Social Security Administration is collecting comments on the proposal until the end of January. You can comment opposing the plan here. Everyone must also call their elected officials. Congressional condemnation played a huge role in forcing Ronald Reagan to reverse his version of the attack, and it can stop Trump in his tracks.

If we let the politicians in Washington, D.C., take away some people’s earned benefits, it means they can take away all of our earned benefits.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Alex Lawson is the executive director of Social Security Works, a non-profit advocacy group that supports expanding benefits to address America’s growing retirement security crisis. Lawson has appeared on numerous TV and radio outlets and is a frequent guest host of The Thom Hartmann Program, one of the top progressive radio shows in the country.

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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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