Television, Radio Ads Push Gardner to Dump Trumpcare

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is positioned to take a key role as Senate Republicans attempt to craft something plausible out of the steaming pile of crap health care legislation that the House narrowly passed earlier this month. As we noted on Monday, Gardner is saying lots of words about his perspective on Trumpcare (the “American Health Care Act,” or “AHCA”) though most of those words are little more than inane partisan talking points.

While Gardner may be avoiding talking specifics on health care, one local advocacy group is not wasting any time on the issue. The organization “Healthier Colorado” is spending $125,000 on two weeks worth of television and radio ads in an effort to convince Gardner to stay far away from the AHCA. The ads feature Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger delivering a message highlighting the negative effect Trumpcare could have on rural Colorado.

 

According to a press release:

“People across Colorado stand to lose under Trump’s health care plan, but rural communities would be hit the hardest,” said Monger. “I know that Sen. Gardner has stood up for rural Colorado on other issues, so we need to make sure he knows what’s at stake on this one.”

With the Medicaid expansion enacted under the Affordable Care Act, 87,000 rural Coloradans have gained health coverage, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Trump-endorsed American Health Care Act would end this coverage. The proposed Medicaid cuts in the bill would also put the bottom lines of rural hospitals in peril and slash access to addiction treatment at a time when opioid addiction is at crisis level in rural communities. Overall, the cuts would shift $14 billion in costs to the State of Colorado by 2030.

The “Healthier Colorado” ads are well-timed; the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to release a new score on the impact of the AHCA on Wednesday.

George Brauchler Gets Schooled on SEO

For ordinary voters looking for more information about a candidate for office they hear about through word of mouth or see on the news, more often than not the first stop is Google. That’s one of the reasons why smart campaigns pay to make sure their content comes up at the top of search engines, as well as design their sites to be search-engine optimized (SEO). There is a whole industry of companies who specialize in this fine art.

Unfortunately, if you Google GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler’s name, his campaign website is nowhere to be found:

There are a couple of news stories about Brauchler running, and of course Brauchler’s infamous Twitter account–but not Brauchler’s own website. That’s a sure sign that nobody on his team has made it a priority. And trying some other search term combinations, it might not just be his campaign’s incompetence:

(more…)

Trump thanked for “giving up billionaire lifestyle” to “save the American people”

(With a straight face – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

President Donald Trump.

The Chaffee County Republicans posted a meme on their Facebook page this week featuring a photo of President Donald with the text, “TRUMP, the man that gave up his billionaire lifestyle to be humiliated and ridiculed and slandered in order to save the American people.”

“It’s good to see Donald Trump tearing down the established Old Guard Republican Party and calling out the Socialists that have hijacked the Democratic Party,” wrote the Chaffee Republicans in a comment above the meme.

Trump has been criticized for numerous actions, such as his request of former FBI director James Comey, whom Trump fired, to drop the FBI investigation of Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who later resigned.

But Trump’s highest profile critics haven’t been accused of slander.

A message left for the Chaffee GOP was not responded to.

The accusation of slander may be connected by the belief by some, like U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, that Trump has been the object of unfair media coverage. Buck stated recently that journalists are “inventing this Russia story.” However, there’s no evidence that Buck has asked journalists to correct their reporting on Russia. And technically, a newspaper would be subject to libel.

However, Trump has endured endless ridicule on late-night TV and elsewhere, with many, including Trump himself, suggesting that NBC’s Stephen Colbert is enjoying a ratings surge due to his skewering of Trump.

The strong support of Trump is a theme on the Chaffee GOP Facebook page. Another post reads:

The hysteria on the hard left should energizes us to stay involved and increase our efforts to take back America from the socialistic influence of the last 8 years!

Socialism is birthed in hatred and greed!

The United States of America is the strongest nation on earth, because it has had a united people, until recently! But we are getting dangerously close to Socialism, because a godless ideology has gained a stronghold in our educational system, the media and Hollywood, those tools are being used to persuade people that America is not great and to promote mistrust and hatred between races, between classes of people and a hatred toward the rule of law!

The goal is to divide America so that it will fail and then the one world crowd, the ruling elite can have full power over the masses! That is not good for our children and grandchildren, in fact it is the worst form of slavery!

Michael Dougherty Makes Three for A.G.

Michael Dougherty

As Joey Bunch writes for the Colorado Springs Gazette, Democrats now have three candidates for Attorney General in 2018:

“As attorney general, I will do what I have done for my entire career, fight for what is right,” Dougherty said in a statement. “Our attorney general should share the same values of everyday Coloradans, such as protecting our water, environment and public safety.

“The attorney General has to be above politics and do the right thing for all the people of Colorado. Consumer protection, public safety, and transparency of government are non-partisan issues and I plan to work with people from all across Colorado to make real progress.”

Before joining the DA’s office in Golden, Dougherty ran the criminal justice Section of the Attorney General’s Office, supervising special prosecutions, environmental crimes, financial fraud and the Peace Officer Standards and Training Unit, according to his website.

He also represented the office in hearings and meetings with the legislature. Before taking over the Criminal Justice Section, Before that, he supervised the the Colorado DNA Justice Review Project for the AG’s office.

State Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton) and University of Colorado Law Professor Phil Weiser have previously announced their intentions to seek the Democratic nomination for Attorney General in 2018. Incumbent Republican Cynthia Coffman continues to threaten to run for Governor, but she is more likely to run for a second term instead.

The Daily D’oh: Former CIA Chief Drops Anvil on Trump’s Head

There is so much breaking news lately on the ever-widening allegations about Russian ties to the Trump campaign that it can be difficult to keep track of everything. With that in mind, we’ve created what we’re calling “The Daily D’oh!” to help you stay up-to-date on President Trump and the rest of the White House staff as more news emerges about Russia, James ComeyRobert Mueller, special investigations and everything else related to this ongoing crisis…

 

♦ D’OH!
Former CIA Director John Brennan testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee today. From the Washington Post:

Former CIA director John Brennan said Tuesday that he personally warned the head of Russia’s intelligence service last year that Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election would backfire and damage the country’s relationship with the United States.

And here’s the New York Times:

As Russian hackers and propagandists tried to manipulate the American election last year, the C.I.A. noticed a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and associates of Donald J. Trump’s campaign, John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, said Tuesday.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Brennan described a nerve-fraying few months as American authorities realized that the election was under attack and worried that Mr. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight. His remarks were the fullest public account to date of the origins of an F.B.I. investigation that continues to shadow the Trump administration.

“I know what the Russians try to do. They try to suborn individual and try to get individuals, including U.S. individuals, to act on their behalf, wittingly or unwittingly,” Mr. Brennan said. When he left office in January, he said, “I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

Mr. Brennan acknowledged that he did not know whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives and said the contacts might be benign. But his confirmation of those contacts was the latest revelation to undermine Mr. Trump’s changing account of his campaign’s links to Russia.

Gah! Er, D’oh!


♦ D’OH!
As Chris Cillizza outlines for CNN, Trump needs a new narrative on the Russia investigation:

And Brennan isn’t just some guy. He’s not only a former CIA director under the Obama administration, but also someone with decades of experience in the intelligence world.

This is not someone reading the papers or watching TV and making a snap judgment about Trump and the Russians. This is someone who was intimately familiar with the intelligence gathering regarding Russian attempts to meddle in the election. His voice matters more than most.

So when Brennan says the Russian efforts to “suborn” members of the Trump campaign “raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,” it makes it far more difficult for Trump and his senior aides to dismiss all of the questions about Russia’s involvement in the election as simply a media-created conspiracy.

Here’s the definition of “suborn.”


♦ D’OH!

Michael Flynn, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015

Evidence continues to mount that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn flat-out lied about his ties to foreign governments when he was being vetted for his security clearance. From CNN:

According to the Report of Investigation, which Rep. Elijah Cummings refers to in his letter to committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Flynn made false statements to investigators about who funded his foreign trips, including a 2015 trip to Russia where Flynn was paid roughly $45,000 to speak at an event in Moscow. According to the letter released Monday by Democrats on the committee, Flynn claimed that his trips were funded by “US companies.”

The report stated that Flynn said he “had not received any benefit from a foreign country.”

Flynn also claimed to investigators he had no substantial contacts with foreign government officials, saying he only had “insubstantial contact.”

Flynn was shown sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2015 dinner. [Pols emphasis]


♦ D’OH!
The Senate Intelligence Committee is considering taking stronger action to compel Flynn to cooperate with investigators, as Politico reports:

The Senate Intelligence Committee will likely take new actions Tuesday to force President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn to comply with a subpoena, Chairman Richard Burr said in an interview.

The committee served Flynn with a subpoena to compel him to turn over documents regarding his contacts with Russian officials, but Flynn has asserted his right not to incriminate himself. The committee is mulling compelling him to appear before the panel and perhaps subsequently holding Flynn in contempt of Congress, among other options designed to make him produce the documents.

 

♦ D’OH!
President Trump leaned on top intelligence officials to publicly downplay allegations that his campaign illegally coordinated with Russia in the 2016 election. From the Washington Post:

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.


♦ D’OH!

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain does not like where this story is heading.

 

Trump’s Budget Basically Calls For Killing Poor People

UPDATE #3: If you’re doing the math at home, 2+2=7.

—–

UPDATE #2: Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez is all smiles, kill the poor to stop terrorism:

As the House develops the budget resolution that will guide the FY18 appropriations process, I welcome the president’s input on federal spending priorities. Our country is at a critical junction, and the federal government cannot continue to spend money it doesn’t have. As terrorist groups continue to perpetrate evil acts and spread fear around the world, we must prioritize funding for national defense and diplomacy. It is also critical that we focus federal resources on programs that deliver results for Americans and create jobs, and we must ensure our social safety nets are sustainable for those who truly need them. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the budget and appropriations committees to ensure the priorities of the Third Congressional District are reflected in our budget blueprint and upcoming appropriations bills.

—–

UPDATE: Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver rips into Trump’s budget:

“The President’s heartless budget proposal amply shows his lack of concern for Americans’ health, financial struggles and hopes for a better life for their kids,” DeGette said. “It punishes the most vulnerable while propping up the wealthy and making preposterous assumptions about the country’s economic growth. And it guts funding for diplomacy and development at a time when we should be investing more in our country’s leadership in an unstable world – a short-sighted approach that will leave us weaker.”

Among the President Trump’s health-related changes that will harm the middle class and the poor are a $610 billion cut to Medicaid over 10 years, a steep reduction in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and a $7 billion decrease in the budget of the National Institutes of Health. The President’s proposal would slash the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31.4 percent and the State Department and related programs by 29 percent. It also eliminates Health and Human Services support for Planned Parenthood and funds for international family planning.

Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder:

This is a reckless budget that would weaken America.

President Trump’s budget not only goes against his campaign promise to protect Medicare and Social Security and ensure that no American would lose their health insurance, it does so while increasing deficit military spending even though we spend more than the next seven nations combined on our military already.

The budget is a clear statement of the President’s values. In it, special interests win over the middle-class, multi-national corporations win over small businesses, and millionaires and billionaires are afforded a huge interests win over the middle-class, multi-national corporations win over small businesses, and millionaires and billionaires are afforded a huge small businesses, and millionaires and billionaires are afforded a huge tax cut at the expense of children, science, and our future.

In the 21st century, we need solutions that lift Americans up rather than knocking them down, and the President’s budget would knock down the knocking them down, and the President’s budget would knock down the very foundations that make our country great.

—–

The New York Times reports on President Donald Trump’s budget proposal being released formally today in Washington–a budget nothing short of jaw-dropping for its massive cuts to basic safety net programs Americans have been backstopped by for generations, setting up the next battle royale and moral crisis for the Republican-controlled Congress:

The document, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” encapsulates much of the “America first” message that powered Mr. Trump’s campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent and spending more than $2.6 billion for border security — including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico — as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.

The wildly optimistic projections balance Mr. Trump’s budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation’s debt.

To compensate, the package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters who propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.

The plan would cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. It would eliminate loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations.

Of course, the president does not actually write the budget–that’s the job of Congress, just like it’s the job of the state legislature in Colorado every year. To pass Trump’s budget as-is would be a very straightforward kind of political suicide for Republicans, locking in huge losses in 2018 that are already broadly feared. At the same time, the ideological far right is clamoring for such sweeping change, with no regard for the political consequences.

Although it sets up Trump to be loathed even more than his dismal approval ratings indicate today, we assume this budget is meant to be a negotiating position as opposed to a final proposal. By chipping away around the margins of these draconian proposed cuts, congressional Republicans get to “play savior” while still making cuts that will hurt a lot of people. It’s cynical politics, to be sure, but it’s also a clever way to obscure the blame.

Because there is going to be blame. Even a fraction of these cuts are doing to do harm that will a prove a major political liability for every lawmaker who votes yes. Much like the dogma-driven campaign to repeal Obamacare, a campaign that has outlived its political usefulness but can’t be stopped now for political reasons, the nation is now forced to examine the consequences of what Republicans have advocated for years.

And it’s scary stuff.

Tuesday Open Thread

“A man is usually more careful of his money than he is of his principles.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Republican gubernatorial candidate attacks likely opponent for “politicizing” PERA

(Dracula declares war on Kennebunkport! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

In an unusual development on the gubernatorial campaign trail last week, a Republican candidate has criticized a likely opponent for “politicizing” Colorado’s public pension program.

“You know, one of my opponents claims [PERA is] a major crisis. I don’t believe it’s a major crisis,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell told Jimmy Lakey, who’s the morning host on KCOL 690-AM Friday.

“I don’t believe we should be politicizing it,” Mitchell continued. “Certainly, it has been a broken system from a standpoint that the benefits are too generous and the incentives are perverse. But I don’t believe it’s in a state of crisis.”

Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who’s expected to join the growing list of GOP gubernatorial candidates, has been highly critical of Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) for years, saying, among other things, that the program’s growth forecasts are unrealistic thereby subject the state to a potentially catastrophic unfunded liability.

In terms of news media coverage over many years, Stapleton is defined by his criticism of PERA.

Often casting himself as a rare voice of reason in a sea of nonchalance about PERA, Stapleton has even said neither the PERA board nor state judges cannot make fair decisions about PERA because they are part of the state retirement program.

Analysts point out that Stapleton’s attachment to the PERA issue could be a political liability, simply because a large majority of people have no idea what PERA is, and many of those who do want it built up, not torn down, because public employees rely on it, not Social Security, for their retirement.

On the substantive PERA issues, in contrast to Stapleton’s drumbeat of crisis, Mitchell argued on air that PERA should be reformed, but there’s not a lot to worry about anytime soon.

MITCHELL: “It’s certainly a problem. I mean, we have — in the big picture, the fund has about $40 billion of assets. It’s paying out about two-and-a-half billion dollars a year in benefits. So, it’s fully funded for the next 30 years even with a 0% return. Obviously, it has never returned anywhere near that. But the benefits are, bottom-line, simply just too generous. We’re paying people 75 percent of their last three years’ average wages. And that should be changed to a 10 year average instead of a three year average. In addition, we have got to create incentives where people leave the state workforce, that it doesn’t create a burden on PERA.”

PERA backers say the fund is stable and will be able to provide benefits to all its members.

A coalition called the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security has crunched numbers showing how PERA’s stability has improved over the past decade.

Listen to Mitchell here:

 

 

Gardner Says Words About Healthcare Legislation

Cory Gardner’s teeth.

Today’s Denver Post features a long story about Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and his utterances on healthcare reform legislation in the Senate. The story, written by the Post’s Washington Bureau reporter, Mark Matthews, is basically just a vessel for Gardner to recite worthless platitudes — some more nonsensical than others – while generally treating the Yuma Senator with kid gloves. Let’s take a look.

Early in the story, Gardner fires off a bunch of nonsense about finding “something that can pass” and the need to “find a solution…that reduces the cost of care and increases the quality of care.” Of course, the House healthcare bill that passed earlier this month does absolutely none of these things; if Gardner has an explanation for these policy disparities, it isn’t included in the story.

The goal of Republican lawmakers is to shift patients, such as those added to Medicaid, to health insurance covered by the private sector. But Gardner said he wants to provide as much time as possible for these Medicaid patients to find new insurance — though he wouldn’t commit to a specific deadline when asked whether the 2020 date in the House bill was appropriate.

“We need to have a glide path that works for the states,” Gardner said.

Uh…what? Gardner supported gutting Medicaid when he was in the House of Representatives, but earlier this year he signed onto a letter with a handful of other Republican Senators in which he expressed concern that Trumpcare does not effectively protect the Medicaid expansion population (Mark Matthews even wrote a story about it for the Post). But instead of probing this question further, the Post just goes with a quote about a “glide path.”

…Gardner has said he likes how the Affordable Care Act allows children to remain on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26 and also protections for patients with pre-existing conditions; a shield the House bill would lower by allowing states to get a waiver from that requirement for the individual market.

“We need to make sure the people with pre-existing conditions continue to have coverage and continue to have access to affordable coverage,” Gardner said…

…But make no mistake. Gardner wants to repeal the 2010 health care law — including its fines on citizens who don’t buy insurance and penalties on large businesses that don’t provide coverage.

Gardner says here that he wants to protect pre-existing conditions and preserve the idea that children can remain on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26. If those benefits sound familiar, it’s because they already exist under Obamacare. “But make no mistake,” Gardner wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act!

Let’s move on…

How the Senate address health care could have long-range political repercussions for Gardner, who faces voters again in 2020.

For months, Gardner has been the target of liberal activists in Colorado who are angry about his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There’s been a steady presence of protesters at Gardner’s office in Denver, and health care was a major sticking point for activists who gathered earlier this year at a pseudo town hall meeting — complete with a cutout of the Colorado lawmaker.

Here the Post makes it a point to remind readers that outside groups staged a town-hall event with a cardboard cutout of Gardner – yet provides zero context as to why this would have occurred. There is literally no mention here of the fact that Gardner hasn’t held a town hall meeting with constituents in more than a year. That seems relevant, no?

The House was criticized for voting on its plan before getting a price tag from the Congressional Budget Office; Gardner said it was important but didn’t commit entirely to getting a CBO score before a vote.

“Obviously we want to turn it around quickly, and there are going to be other scores out there that will show us what the bill will do and it’s important to not just look at the CBO score. There will be other experts out there and other analysts out there will show their opinions as well,” he said.

This is one of the stranger parts of today’s story. Gardner apparently “won’t commit entirely to getting a CBO score before a vote,” but barring parliamentary rule changes, this isn’t a point of argument. As the Washington Post explained on May 4:

…members of the House voted on their bill before they received a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which measures how much the legislation would cost and how many people stand to lose coverage under it. Senate budget rules require a CBO score that proves the legislation will not increase the deficit after 10 years. The Senate parliamentarian can’t even start reviewing the AHCA without a score from the CBO, which is expected to take several weeks. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner obviously doesn’t think much of the CBO, which is a position he’s elaborated on in the past. The CBO is expected to present an analysis of Trumpcare 2.0 on Wednesday, and if the Senate is going to base its health care legislation on the House version, a CBO score is required by rule. This would be another good place in the story to elaborate on a conflicting statement from Gardner. Instead, we get this:

No matter what happens, however, health care is likely to remain at the forefront of issues for Gardner and his constituents.

Wow. People sure are interested in health care policy!

Senator Cory Gardner is going to play a significant role in crafting health care legislation in the U.S. Senate, but he doesn’t talk to his constituents and generally tries to avoid talking about the issue publicly – all of which calls for reporters to seek out serious answers. Instead, we get this worthless interview from the Post in which Gardner just talks in vague generalities.

Look, the point of this blog post isn’t to trash the Post or a specific reporter/editor. What we’re saying, really, is that this kind of story has no point. You’re not wrong to expect more from Colorado’s newspaper of record.

FOX News Just Makes Stuff Up About Durango, Colorado

FOX News reporter Joseph Kolb.

Locals in the picturesque southwest Colorado town of Durango wondered what “Durango” FOX News was talking about, as the Herald’s Shane Benjamin reports:

The story, headlined “Legalized marijuana turns Colorado resort town into homeless magnet,” was the most-read U.S. story Wednesday on www.FoxNews.com.

It was written by Joseph J. Kolb, a Fox contributor who was in town for a soccer shootout last weekend, according to those he interviewed. For his 850-word piece, Kolb quoted five sources: a man holding a cardboard sign; a gift shop manager; an anonymous hotel clerk; Durango Police Chief Kamran Afzal; and Tim Walsworth, executive director of Durango Business Improvement District,

In an interview Wednesday, Walsworth took exception with Kolb and his story, saying the reporter barely identified himself, omitted comments that didn’t fit his angle and based the article on a few opinions. The result was a superficial glance at an issue in a community the writer was passing through, those who talked to him said.

“I question the credibility of the reporter,” Walsworth said.

And he wasn’t the only one:

“Just this year there has been a major influx of people between 20 to 30 who are just hanging out on the streets,” [gift shop owner Caleb] Preston was quoted as saying. “The problem is while many are pretty mellow, there are many more who are violent.”

Preston said he didn’t say those exact words, and his comments centered around the idea that panhandling has risen to the forefront of public discourse; not that the problem has become worse. [Pols emphasis]

The consensus seems to be that FOX News reporter Joseph Kolb was determined to write a story about how legal marijuana had turned Durango into a “haven for recreational pot users” regardless of what local sources actually told him. And sure enough, Kolb’s portrayal of Durango is nothing any of us who have been there would recognize:

The picturesque town near the New Mexico border, once a vibrant, upscale community dotted with luxury hotels, is being overrun by panhandlers – thanks, in part, to the legalization of marijuana.

The town suddenly became a haven for recreational pot users, drawing in transients, panhandlers and a large number of homeless drug addicts, according to officials and business owners. Many are coming from New Mexico, Arizona and even New York.

So folks, let us reassure from personal experience that Durango is very much still a “vibrant, upscale community,” and the luxury hotels are busy in all four seasons. We recommend the historic Strater Hotel downtown, though it’s far from the only choice. There is absolutely no appearance along Durango’s Main Avenue that the place is being “overrun” by homeless folks in town for pot or anything else.

In short, the entire story is textbook FOX News cockamamie bullshit. We sincerely hope this misinformation doesn’t do anything to harm Durango’s tourism economy–and to help make sure it doesn’t, we’re booking a weekend at the Strater. We encourage you all to do the same.

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 22)

Happy Victoria Day! It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump is in the midst of his first major overseas trip since he took office (or as Trump calls it, “my big foreign trip“). Trump is in Israel today after spending the weekend in Saudi Arabia, where he put his hands on a glowing orb and generally enjoyed not talking about scandals involving Russia.

But then, Trump being Trump, he made sure to bring up “that Russia thing” in a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel’,'” Trump told reporters in Jerusalem. “Never mentioned it during that conversation. They were all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word ‘Israel’.”

The story Trump was reacting to was this one, which ran a week ago in the Washington Post. And the thing about that story is that, well, the word “Israel” is never mentioned. Not one time…

Trump is the denying an allegation that, literally, no news organization made. He’s also implicitly confirming that, yes, he did talk to the Russians about classified information. [Pols emphasis] While the president has total freedom to de-classify material, the White House has urged media organizations — including CNN — not to report on the specific information Trump passed along due to how highly sensitive it is.

In a separate story, Cillizza also notes that Trump is regularly contradicting himself on foreign policy. The Washington Post notes the same phenomenon.

 

► Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is expected to invoke his fifth amendment right to not incriminate himself in response to queries from the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding his interactions with Russian officials. From the Associated Press:

Attorneys for Michael Flynn say that a daily “escalating public frenzy against him” and the Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel have created a legally dangerous environment for him to cooperate with a Senate investigation.

That’s according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press that was written on behalf of the former national security adviser under President Donald Trump. The letter, sent Monday by Flynn’s legal team to the Senate Intelligence committee, lays out the case for Flynn to invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and his decision not to produce documents in response to a congressional subpoena.

The letter says that the current context of the Senate’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election threatens that “any testimony he provides could be used against him.”

 

► The Supreme Court has ruled that Republicans in North Carolina illegally disenfranchised African-American voters in the state’s last round of redistricting. From the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature unlawfully relied on race when drawing two of the state’s congressional districts.

The decision continued a trend at the court, where justices have found that racial considerations improperly predominated in redistricting decisions by Republican-led legislatures in Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina. Some involved congressional districts, others legislative districts…

…In the split decision, Justice Clarence Thomas joined the liberal justices in saying race improperly predominated the drawing of the district. New Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was not on the court when the case was heard, and took no part in the decision.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

“Blowhard Brauchler” Out Over His Skis Once Again

George Brauchler.

On Friday, Gov. John Hickenlooper pardoned Rene Lima-Marin, a Cuban immigrant who had endured a terrible legal ordeal after being released mistakenly, re-incarcerated years later, ordered released again, then picked up by federal immigration agents for deportation as a legal immigrant who committed a felony. Hickenlooper’s pardon removes the underlying basis for Lima-Marin’s deportation, but it remains an open question whether the Trump administration will honor the pardon and halt his removal from the country.

In response to Hickenlooper’s pardon, GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler launched into a Twitter tirade attacking the decision, later issuing a press statement asserting that Hickenlooper’s pardon was not legal–despite the fact that Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly had asked for it.

That’s where the Denver Post’s Danika Worthington picks up the story:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper responded Saturday to criticism from District Attorney George Brauchler of his pardoning of Rene Lima-Marin, rejecting claims that he had acted improperly and broken the law in his haste to act.

The governor’s office said it had given proper notice to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office, even receiving a lengthy letter in reply. Additionally, the office said it was within the governor’s authority to skip the standard seven-year waiting period typically required for pardons.

But Brauchler responded later in the day to counter Hickenlooper’s claims — another war of words between two frequent rivals, especially now that the district attorney is campaigning for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.

Brauchler said his office received a clemency application for Lima-Marin, not one for a pardon, as required by law… [Pols emphasis]

The Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning goes down the process rabbit hole with Brauchler…and comes up empty:

Brauchler acknowledged Lima-Marin had filed an application for a commutation of his sentence, and his office had provided input on that to the governor’s office earlier this week.

“But a commutation of sentence is very different from a pardon,” he said. “We never had the victims consulted about a pardon. We never had input with the governor about a pardon. I was caught completely unaware the governor was considering a pardon…”

State Sen. Owen Hill, a Colorado Springs Republican who sponsored legislation last month calling on Hickenlooper to grant clemency to Lima-Marin — the Legislature approved the resolution unanimously — dismissed Brauchler’s complaints. [Pols emphasis]

“Reuniting Rene with his family is the right thing to do for him, his wife and his children,” Hill told The Statesman Friday night.

And the truly absurd part? Brauchler says he supports the hoped-for outcome of Hickenlooper’s pardon. Post:

Brauchler was careful to clarify that he believes Lima-Marin should be released and he opposes the move to deport him to Cuba — even as he objected to the pardon decision. [Pols emphasis]

Again, the reason Hickenlooper had to move quickly is Lima-Marin is by all accounts on a fast track for deportation. Without the pardon, his deportation is more or less automatic as long as the host nation of Cuba is willing and able to receive him–and they say they are. Recent changes to immigration policy toward Cuba and the general warming of relations between the two nations ironically makes it more likely that people in Lima-Marin’s situation, having come to America as children and knowing no other home, will be kicked out.

As for Brauchler, this is just shallow grandstanding. The governor’s constitutional authority to grant pardons supersedes Brauchler’s objections, and Brauchler concedes the moral high ground to Hickenlooper by agreeing that Lima-Marin should be freed. Brauchler clearly wants this to be a political fight over crime and immigration, not process questions–but he’s hiding behind the latter in an attempt to have it both ways.

And except for a few haters who need no encouraging to vilify immigrants, this isn’t going to help Brauchler become governor.

Caption This Photo: Trump and Saudi King Plot Global Domination

If this photo doesn’t set off every conspiracy theory alarm bell in Alex Jones’ head, we don’t know what will! Taken blissfully out of context from President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia this weekend, because as you know context is for wussies.

UPDATE: Such big manly hands though.

Ken Buck: “It’s Just Very Difficult” to Spread News of “Good Things” Happening in Washington

(There are good things happening? — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) said on a Denver radio show Friday that it was “premature” for the Trump Administration to appoint a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the last election–and that it’s “just very difficult” at his town halls to get his positive message out “about the good things that are going on” in Washington.

Asked by KDMT 690-AM host Jimmy Sengenberger if he thought it was a “smart move” for the deputy attorney general to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel, Buck said:

“I think that it was premature,” Buck answered. “I don’t think it was warranted at this time. I can see politically whey they want to remove themselves, the Department of Justice, from this inquiry. And I understand politically why it was done. But as a prosecutor, you wait until you have probable cause before you start doing things like special prosecutions or grand jury or other criminal investigations. So I just felt it was premature.”

Buck is a former Weld County District Attorney.

Buck’s comments came on the day it was revealed that Trump told Russian officials that former FBI Director James Comey was a “nut job” and his firing by Trump alleviated pressure on Trump about his campaign’s Russian ties.

Earlier in the week, a recording emerged of former GOP House Majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, saying he thinks Russian leader Vladimir Putin paid Trump. McCarthy said he was joking, even though he said, “Swear to God” after he made the comment in the audio tape. Multiple Trump officials, including Trump’s Attorney General, James Sessions, have admitted talking to Russians during the campaign.

Buck said Congress and Trump are doing a lot of good work, but “when I go to town halls, trying to the get positive message out about the good things that are going on is just very difficult.”

Asked why, Buck said the media “is fundamentally unfair in this situation; it’s a left-leaning media,” and Trump has “not done us any favors.”

He added that “the left if very well organized and focused on a singular message.”

“I tell ya, Jimmy, I think there are great things happening in the country, and the stock market today is reflecting some of those great things,” Buck said on air. “We have consumer confidence that is outstanding right now. We have low unemployment. You know, I was driving to the airport the other day, from Greeley down to DIA, and I saw five different HELP WANTED signs, and I haven’t see that in years….”

“For some reason, this narrative continues that there’s some sort of collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russians, and there’s just no hard evidence that leads to that conclusion,” said Buck.

Buck took over Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District when U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) was elected in 2014. Gardner defeated a Democrat, Betsy Markey, to win the seat in 2010.

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