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Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump, on Tuesday, is traveling to Johnstown, Pennsylvania for a MAGA rally — an event that comes only three days after former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign event in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Between now and election day, Pennsylvania is a state that both campaigns are expected to pay very close attention to. And the Philadelphia Inquirer, in an article published this week, stresses that Pennsylvania, more and more, is looking like the state that could decide the election.


Inquirer reporters Julia Terruso, Sean Collins Walsh and Jonathan Tamari explain, "The occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue increasingly looks as if it could be decided by voters in Pennsylvania towns like (Johnstown). With 21 days until Election Day, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden — along with the TV advertising and campaign events meant to help them — are zeroing in on the state, where 20 Electoral College votes could push either one to victory."

If Biden carries every state that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won four years ago and flips Wisconsin and Michigan, that still doesn't get him to 270 electoral votes. But add Pennsylvania in that scenario, and Biden would become the next president of the United States. Biden has paths to victory outside of the Rust Belt: Arizona, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia, according to polls, are among the 2016 Trump states that are in play for Biden this year. But Biden is looking at Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin as the Rust Belt trifecta.

Trump's campaign, the Inquirer reporters note, sent former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to Pennsylvania for an "Italian-Americans for Trump" event in Philadelphia — and Biden has "ramped up his travel, aiming to focus the campaign on calling out Trump's mishandling of the pandemic and his contracting of COVID-19 as signs of the president's disregard for its seriousness. Biden visited Gettysburg, Erie and Johnstown in the last three weeks and plans to be in Philadelphia on Thursday for a televised town hall."

Biden needs a heavy voter turnout in Philly, an overwhelmingly Democratic and densely populated city that hasn't had a Republican mayor since the late Bernard Samuel left office in January 1952. But the former vice president also needs to win over as many residents of Central Pennsylvania as he can. Trump's strongest support among Pennsylvania voters is in the small towns and rural areas of Central Pennsylvania, which is the part of the state that Democratic strategist James Carville famously described as "Alabama in between" Philly and Pittsburgh.

Terruso, Walsh and Tamari note, "Priorities USA, one of the main Democratic Super PACs supporting Biden, told reporters last week that its analysis showed Trump's narrow path to reelection rides on Pennsylvania. Priorities rates Pennsylvania as the most likely 'tipping point,' the state most likely to deliver the decisive Electoral College vote that seals the election. But as polls show Biden rising and Trump struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic and his catching the virus, the Democratic group sees other routes to victory for Biden, with the former vice president viewed as competitive in states such as Florida, Arizona and Georgia."

The Inquirer reporters add that Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, recently told reporters, "We continue to see a widening of the path for Joe Biden to 270 Electoral College votes. Biden continues to shore up support, and Trump is struggling both to reconcile and to bring new voters into the fold. He is simply running out of time to turn things around."

According to Terruso, Walsh and Tamari, the Biden and Trump campaigns are both "pouring resources into Pennsylvania" — although Biden's resources are greater.

"Overall in September, the Biden campaign and pro-Biden outside groups outspent Trump and his allies by a 2-1 ratio, $31 million to $15 million, on Pennsylvania broadcast television, cable and radio, according to data from the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics," the reporters observe. "In recent weeks, the Trump campaign has cut advertising spending in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, and shifted resources to Pennsylvania. Even so, Biden maintains a spending advantage in the Keystone State. His campaign and allied outside groups have reserved almost $35 million in airtime in Pennsylvania from now through Election Day, compared with about $16 million booked by the Trump campaign and his allies, according to Advertising Analytics."

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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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