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“We’re doing trade deals that are going to get you so much business you’re not even going to believe it,” President Trump told an American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in January. The attendees cheered.

Meanwhile, farmer income for the first three months of this year fell almost $12 billion. Farmers account for only 2 percent of all employed Americans, but the drop-off in their income was such that it suppressed the entire nation’s personal income growth number for March.

I’m convinced that even as Trump recharges the trade war responsible for so much pain, his many fans in agricultural America would still whoop at his punch lines. If they didn’t stop long ago as their misery mounted, why would they now?

You’ve got to hand it to Trump. His talent for seducing and entertaining his audiences is extraordinary. That takes genuine skill, and it’s also a useful means to hide a less impressive reality. Trump campaigned as a genius dealmaker who would spread his magic formula for getting rich across the land.

Trump’s supporters ignored evidence to the contrary. His six bankruptcies were public knowledge. Way back in 1987, as Trump’s Atlantic City investments were crashing, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a headline reading “Bankers Say Trump May Be Worth Less Than Zero.” A new report in The New York Times documents a decade of carnage (1985 to 1994), when Trump lost over $1 billion.

In 1988, when he lost almost $47 million, he announced, “If the world goes to hell in a hand-basket, I won’t lose a dollar.” In 1990, when he lost over $400 million, he said, “It’s been good financially.”

And his skilled spinning has hypnotized a usually sophisticated media into declaring this an era of amazing economic prosperity. Many of the indicators show strong growth for sure, but a look at the graphs of the decade-long expansion portrays the Trump years as mostly a continuation of the Obama years.

In terms of job creation, they’re not as good. The much-heralded jobs number for April was indeed welcome. It brought the average number of jobs created during the 28-month Trump presidency to 202,000 a month. But in Obama’s last 28 months, job growth averaged 220,000 a month. In 2014, he could have bragged of an average 251,000 a month but didn’t.

To soundtrack the news of 3.2 percent economic growth for the first quarter, Trump activated the nation’s marching bands. Under Obama, however, the quarterly gross national product quietly surpassed three percent growth eight times. In four of the quarters, it rose four percent or better.

In not-so-good news, the deficit under Trump will jump from 3.5 percent of the economy in 2017 to 5.1 percent in 2019. Piling up debt in good times will make digging out of bad times harder.

Back in the heartland, farm income rose in December only because the government sent out checks to cover some losses caused by the trade war. To be fair to Trump, farmers were also hurt by low prices for their commodities. And some confrontation with China was needed to change its unfair trading practices.

Unfortunately, Trump has been taunting the Chinese. He accuses them of wanting to delay negotiations until a “very weak” Democrat is president. That’s entertainment mode, not business mode.

Trade deficits are a much-misused measure of economic health. But since they are one of Trump’s favorite yardsticks, do note that the U.S. trade deficit has reached its all-time high under him .

Humiliating the other side is not a clever negotiating tactic, assuming results are the goal. A business executive would want to close the deal. An entertainer wants the show to go on.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: President Barack Obama (R) meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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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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