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No expressions of sympathy or regret can resurrect Eric Garner, the New York City man killed by police in July. Garner died after an officer placed him in what appears to be a chokehold during an arrest for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, an offense not usually regarded as a capital crime.

But, at the very least, officer Daniel Pantaleo (or his representatives) showed a spark of decency after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict him for any crime. “I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner,” he said in a statement. “My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”

That’s just one contrast to events in Ferguson, Missouri, where Officer Darren Wilson showed no hint of sympathy for teenager Michael Brown or his family. “I don’t think it’s haunting. It’s always going to be something that happened,” Wilson said in a televised interview.

There were other equally stark contrasts. While Brown’s response to Wilson will always be the subject of dispute, bystanders recorded video of Garner’s arrest and posted it on the Internet, where it went viral. There is no disputing Garner’s tragic last words as Pantaleo’s arm lingers around his neck: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Even Fox News’ bellicose Bill O’Reilly was moved to observe that Garner “didn’t deserve what happened to him.”

But the greatest contrast between the deaths of Garner and Brown may have been in the reactions of elected and civic leaders. Backed by its politicians, Ferguson’s police force responded to criticism of Brown’s death with excuses, equivocation and armored personnel carriers.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio took to the podium to express sympathy for Garner’s loved ones, and equally important, a simple shared humanity. Compassion. Understanding. Empathy. “This is now a national moment of grief, a national moment of pain,” he said. Members of Congress — liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats — joined to criticize the grand jury’s decision.

That matters. All citizens, regardless of color or creed or religion, want to believe that the people who govern them share their fears, their hopes, their aspirations. Or, at the very least, that their leaders can understand their frustrations.

Even now, that’s not always the case in the United States, especially when it comes to law and order. The criminal justice system is one of the last bastions of blatant racism, a tangled net of explicit prejudices and implicit biases, of rank stereotypes and unfair perceptions, a web that ensnares black men disproportionately. Countless studies conducted by experts have borne out the view held by so many black Americans: We do not stand equally before the bar of justice.

Black motorists are subjected to more traffic stops than white drivers. Black men and women are arrested more often for drug offenses, even though we are no more likely to be drug users than whites. And the use of the death penalty tilts against black defendants and devalues black lives: It is more likely to be meted out if the victim is white.

Has there been progress? Of course there has. The nation’s top law enforcement official, the attorney general, is a black man. But the nation’s criminal justice system started out in a hellishly low place — where officials were complicit in lynchings, where the wealthy extracted unpaid labor from black men by having them arrested, where black crime victims were ignored. De Blasio referred to that unfortunate history: “We’re not dealing with years of racism leading up to it, or decades of racism — we are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day.”

For all the striking contrasts between the reactions to the deaths of Brown and Garner, there was one stunning consistency: Grand juries saw no evidence of wrongdoing by a white police officer who killed an unarmed black man. Bear in mind that a New York City medical examiner, citing “compression of his chest and prone position,” ruled Garner’s death a homicide. Still, a Staten Island grand jury found nothing to suggest that Pantaleo committed any criminal offense.

Some things haven’t changed at all.

Photo: Demonstrators in Baltimore protest the Staten Island, NY, grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner chokehold case, on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

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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.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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