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Historians of the modern presidency keep a special shelf for Richard Nixon — a noted place for a corrupt, power-mad and paranoid man who trampled constitutional ideals in his quest to hang onto his office. But Nixon must relinquish his title as modern history’s most corrupt president to a man who would leave him in the dust: President Donald J. Trump. Even Nixon would likely be alarmed by his behavior.

For all his conniving, all of his cover-ups, all of his lies, Nixon had an appropriate appreciation for foreign rivals, an understanding of the existential threats represented by our adversaries. Not so Trump. He would gladly hand over the keys to the kingdom to Russia — or North Korea, for that matter — as long as their strongmen showed him the deference which he craves.

In an alarming display of ignorance and arrogance, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last week that he would accept any incriminating information about his political opponents that Russia or any other foreign country might provide. Casually referring to such intrusions as “opposition research,” Trump said: “I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening … It’s not interference.”

The president said that while repeating, with a straight face, his frequent refrain that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which centered on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, was a “witch hunt.” (Trump has also told Stephanopoulos that he likes “the truth … I’m a very honest person” — a claim that is a funhouse mirror reflection of reality.)

Trump’s campaign marks the first time in American history that a foreign power is known to have intervened in a U.S. election, a stunning disruption of our revered political processes, a cunning use of soft power that would have left our intelligence services envious had it not happened to us. All of the years of the Central Intelligence Agency’s interference in lands from the Middle East to South America never yielded a result quite so neat and clean. We were successfully attacked by a foreign power without a shot fired or a body dropped. Russia’s assistance may well have been the boost that put Trump over the finish line.

And unlike Nixon, who at least had the good sense to be ashamed of his dirty tricks, Trump has just told a national audience that he would welcome Russian assistance should they offer it again. Reminded that his own FBI director, Christopher Wray, has said that any such intrusion should merit an immediate report to federal authorities, Trump angrily retorted, “The FBI director is wrong.” The president said he might not report any such contact by a foreign power.

Trump’s perfidies are so astonishing — so bold and bald-faced — that many Americans are left speechless, jaws dropped to the floor, unable to fully grasp the ramifications. Others, however, embrace Trump’s lawlessness, excuse his treachery, aid and abet his abuses. Here’s another distinction from the Nixon era: The U.S. attorney general, William Barr, has attacked those who point out Trump’s malfeasance. Barr, indeed, has launched a broadside against U.S. intelligence agencies for daring to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

And there are still other differences more troubling, more profound. Nixon ultimately resigned rather than face impeachment; he was rapidly losing the support of leading Republican office-holders as well as the allegiance of regular GOP voters. His presidency was unsustainable.

Trump lacks the self-awareness or sense of shame to resign. Besides, he continues to enjoy the support of the vast majority of Republican politicians from the U.S. Senate down to small-town courthouses. GOP voters, too, have shown a loyalty that would have thrilled Jim Jones. As Trump infamously put it during his campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

That suggests a rot that goes much deeper than one foolish narcissist and his chosen claque. A substantial minority of American voters are ready to throw out the U.S. Constitution, blow up cherished democratic traditions, and embrace a foreign dictator — so long as they can keep the man whose presidency is built on white nationalism. This is a putrefaction at the heart of the American system, a malignancy at the core.

The time for impeachment may have arrived, but it won’t cure what ails us.

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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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