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Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

While former Vice President Joe Biden remains the frontrunner in many polls on the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont can often be found in second place — and the Vermont senator and self-described “democratic socialist” raised an impressive $18 million during the first quarter of his campaign. If Sanders were to win the Democratic nomination and defeat President Donald Trump in the general election, he would be the most liberal/progressive president the U.S. has had since Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s. But some centrist Democrats fear that Sanders is unelectable, as a new report in The Guardian details with a review of the “anyone-but-Bernie” movement.

The Guardian’s Lauren Gambino reports that on June 18, the centrist think tank Third Way held an event in South Carolina — where about 250 people were in attendance and Third Way members expressed fears that Sanders would win the primary but lose to Trump in the general election.

Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, told the crowd, “I believe a gay midwestern mayor can beat Trump. I believe an African-American senator can beat Trump. I believe a western governor, a female senator, a member of Congress, a Latino Texan or a former vice-president can beat Trump. But I don’t believe a self-described democratic socialist can win.”

Cowan, in an interview with the Guardian, expressed his worries about Sanders’ influence on the Democratic Party, asserting, “He has made it his mission to either get the nomination or to remake the party in his image as a democratic socialist. That is an existential threat to the future of the Democratic Party for the next generation.”

Sanders was quick to respond to the June 18 event. The following day on Twitter, he denounced the anyone-but-Bernie movement as the work of “the corporate wing of the Democratic Party.”

The anyone-but-Bernie movement raises an interesting question: what about Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate who shares many of Sanders’ liberal/progressive views and has been surging in recent polls? Why would Third Way be so hostile to Sanders but not to Warren? Arguably, it comes down to messaging.

Warren, unlike Sanders, has rejected the term “democratic socialist.” The Massachusetts senator has declared that she favors “markets” and is a “capitalist to my bones”; Warren has positioned herself as a blistering critic of crony capitalism but not of capitalism itself. If anything, Warren is — not unlike President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s — promoting herself as a savior of capitalism, not an opponent.

On Twitter, Sanders shared a June 19 Politico report on Warren’s relationship with Third Way, which was highly critical of her in the past but in 2019, likes the fact that she stresses her capitalist credentials. At the Third Way event in South Carolina, Matt Bennett (the group’s co-founder) compared Sanders and Warren and stressed, “One is a Democratic capitalist narrative. The other is a socialist narrative.”

Truth be told, Sanders is really a capitalist — and the “socialism” that he favors draws its inspiration from FDR’s New Deal, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and the modern-day governments of Sweden, Denmark and Norway rather than Che Guevara or Mao Tse Tung. But in a soundbite culture like the United States, some people can’t get past the fact that Sanders is using the word “socialist” at all. And Trump is certainly using the word to bash Democrats and terrorize voters, claiming that only Republicans can save the U.S. from the type of severe economic problems Venezuela has been suffering under President Nicolas Maduro.

Despite all the Sanders-bashing at the South Carolina event, Cowan also warned the crowd against Democrats promoting a message of “warmed-over 1990s centrism” —declaring, “Voters do not want mushy, bland, empty Democratic centrism.”

Whether the Democratic Party will ultimately nominate Biden or another centrist for the 2020 election or go with someone more liberal/progressive remains to be seen. Sanders might win the nomination regardless of what Third Way thinks. But as the primary moves along, the anyone-but-Bernie voices in the Democratic Party will be no doubt be railing against him — and urging fellow Democrats to please refrain from calling themselves “socialists.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) waves at the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation’s Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference in Washington. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

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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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