Russia Helped Donald Trump Win White House; Now What?

Image via DailySquat.com

As the Washington Post — and every other major news outlet — reported late Friday:

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

The Obama administration has been debating for months how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, with White House officials concerned about escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign.

The Obama White House reportedly informed a small group of Congressional leaders — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — about these concerns in September. You can probably guess how President-elect Donald Trump responded to the news on Friday, but his “official response” was still a bit jarring. From CNN:

In a stunning response to widening claims of a Russian espionage operation targeting the presidential race, Trump’s camp risked an early feud with the Intelligence community on which he will rely for top secret assessments of the greatest threats facing the United States.

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the transition said in a terse, unsigned statement.

“The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.'”

The sharp pushback to revelations in The Washington Post, which followed an earlier CNN report on alleged Russian interference in the election, represented a startling rebuke from an incoming White House to the CIA.

The big question, of course, is “now what?” Congressional Republicans really have no good options here, and may just end up repeating Moscow’s line to demonstrate proof of chicanery in order to buy some time.

“The silence from Wikileaks and others since election day has been deafening. That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core.” — Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for a full investigation, though that won’t take place until next year because Congress has already adjourned for 2016. As Politico explains:

“Senate Democrats will join with our Republican colleagues next year to demand a congressional investigation and hearings to get to the bottom of this. It’s imperative that our intelligence community turns over any relevant information so that Congress can conduct a full investigation,” Schumer said.

Republicans have been largely mum on the matter and many declined comment on Friday night as the Senate took its final votes of the year. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who intends to probe the matter next year, said that everybody he knows says “that the Russians have interfered with this election.”

There’s little chance that this won’t end up as a largely partisan battle, but one way or the other, Americans need to know if another country intentionally subverted our election process.

Weekend Open Thread

“I would like to take you seriously, but to do so would affront your intelligence.”

–William F. Buckley, Jr.

BREAKING: State Rep. Tim Leonard Headed to Jail

UPDATE #2: Statement from House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst:

“It is my duty to protect the integrity of the House of Representatives, and it is troubling when a member does not uphold the law,” Speaker Hullinghorst said. “It is absurd to imagine Rep. Leonard taking a seat on the House Education Committee, to which he was reappointed just last week by Minority Leader Neville, and making important decisions for Colorado’s students when a judge has prohibited Rep. Leonard from making educational decisions regarding his own children.”

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UPDATE:

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Republican lawmaker Tim Leonard (HD-25) will spend the next two weeks in jail for violating a contempt of court order related to an ongoing family legal issue. As Marianne Goodland reports for the Colorado Independent:

A Jefferson County magistrate sentenced state Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen to 14 days in jail on contempt of court charges related to his 2013 divorce. A sheriff’s deputy handcuffed Leonard and led him from the courtroom Friday afternoon just after 2 p.m…

…Leonard ran afoul of Magistrate Marianne Marshall Tims in September over what the court said were multiple attempts to interfere with his ex-wife’s sole authority to make educational decisions for their four minor children.

Republican Rep. Tim Leonard, shown here sans orange jumpsuit.

Leonard becomes the first sitting lawmaker in at least 40 years to serve time while in office, according to longtime Capitol observers. [Pols emphasis]

Leonard’s stint in the pokey seemed to be a foregone conclusion back in October, when he angered a Jefferson County magistrate for repeatedly refusing to obey court-ordered mandates that he not interfere in education decisions related to his children.

As we wrote in this space on October 22:

There appear to be three issues in this story for Rep. Leonard to explain: the two lesser being his willingness to risk jail time in opposition to standardized tests and iPads being used in education. Leonard, a right-wing education “reformer” in the recalled Jeffco school board majority mold is certainly not alone in his opposition to either–though the described extent to which Leonard is taking his opposition could be reasonably considered, you know, lunatic.

The larger problem, of course, is that Leonard is forcing these educational decisions on his children despite his wife’s court-imposed sole authority to make such decisions. And the story suggests that this indicative of an uglier side of Rep. Tim Leonard than has been publicly understood up to now.

Leonard was appointed to the seat in HD-25 by a Republican vacancy committee earlier this year following the resignation of half-term lawmaker Jon Keyser. Leonard narrowly avoided losing to Democrat Tammy Story in his first General Election effort last month.

 

Cory Gardner: From Trump Critic To Trump Toady

What a difference an unexpected win makes, as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Joey Bunch reports:

Cory Gardner once called Donald Trump a “buffoon” and even called for him to drop out of the presidential race a month before the election, but the U.S. senator from Yuma is now busy handing out olive branches to the administration.

Thursday Gardner, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump’s likely nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations…

This week Gardner also has had facetime with billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, the proposed commerce secretary, and former George W. Bush administration labor secretary Elaine Chao, Trump’s proposed nominee to head transportation—a key contact for Colorado, which needs billions of dollars in highway aid.

It’s not like anyone should have expected Sen. Cory Gardner to stand by the alleged principles that led him to call for President-elect Donald Trump to pull out of the race in early October, but Gardner’s whiplash-inducing turnabout on Trump since the election is one of the only public signs of a very difficult problem the upwardly-mobile Gardner’s rejection of Trump created in the wake of Trump’s victory.

It’s true that basically every Republican who abandoned Trump during the campaign (or never supported him at all) has had to “kiss the ring” since Election Day, but Gardner’s very public calls for Trump to pull out of the race puts him in a position where he needs to work overtime to ingratiate himself with the new regime. Which isn’t a problem for Gardner, who has built his political career on switching sides when expedient–from a Democrat to a hard-right Republican Congressman to America’s fakest champion of birth control.

If anything, it would be nice to not have Gardner’s acrobatics so breezily glossed over by the local political press. Perhaps the only thing more unprecedented than the speed with which Gardner switches his loyalties is how no one seems to question it.

Get More Smarter on Friday (December 9)

You basically have about two weeks to finish your Christmas shopping. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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-elect Donald Trump’s approval rating a few weeks before Inauguration Day is historically bad. From CNN:

Americans say Trump has also done too little to distance himself from white supremacists. And a majority are concerned that his business ties will present conflicts.

As Trump prepares to take office, 41% say they approve of the job he has done explaining his plans and policies for the future of the American people, while 55% say they disapprove of the job Trump has done.

That 41% approval rating is lower than President Barack Obama’s 72% in December 2008 and President George W. Bush’s 50% in January 2001 — in the wake of a disputed election. It’s also lower than President Bill Clinton’s 62% in January 1993 and President George H.W. Bush’s 65% in March 1989.

That 41% is most definitely not a Yuge number.

 

► As Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post, many high-profile Republicans seem to be grappling with the reality of the hypocrisy of their own Party:

The other day, president-elect Donald Trump cheerfully urinated all over an idea that Tea Partyers have long held aloft as one of their most sacred founding principles. “Sometimes you have to prime the pump,” Trump told Time Magazine, explaining why he wants a big infrastructure spending package — the sort of Keynesian economic spending policy that Tea Partyers regularly denounced as a dire threat to the republic throughout the Obama years.

As Time put it, Trump “has little patience for the organizing principle of the Tea Party: the idea that the federal government must live within its means and lower its debts.”

Today Politico reports that some congressional Republicans are suddenly deciding that this alleged organizing principle isn’t so hallowed, after all. Politico quotes multiple Republicans either embracing Trump’s infrastructure spending idea in principle or going through laughable contortions to avoid directly denouncing it. One comes out squarely for a “federal commitment” to spending on “world-class infrastructure.” Another actually uses the dreaded S-word — stimulus — arguing that it would “make sense” to “examine” how to do some projects “through a stimulus and infrastructure package.”

For more, check out the full story from Politico.

 

► No Cabinet position for you! Sorry, Bob Beauprez — President-elect Trump has selected Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers to lead the Interior Department.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Colorado Week in Review: 12/9/16

“Remember when Americans could say ‘Merry Christmas’ without getting viciously attacked?”

(It wouldn’t be Christmas without a “War on Christmas”- Promoted by Colorado Pols)

woods-says-people-who-say-merry-xmas-get-viciously-attackedWhy did State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada) share a recent Facebook post asking, “Remember when Americans could say ‘Merry Christmas’ without getting viciously attacked?”

What reality is she in?

If you listen to KNUS 710-AM or follow Woods on Facebook then, yes, you might actually think meanie liberals are out there waiting to viciously attack you if you drop the Merry-Christmas bomb. It’s manufactured.

It’s sad that Woods, who lost her seat in last month’s election, apparently believes it. And I’d like the opportunity to discuss her Facebook post, first revealed by Charles Buchanan on the Colorado Times Recorder, but she doesn’t return my calls.

Woods might say that disputes about the phrase “Merry Christmas” occur in the real world, outside of the conservative media bubble. And they do, especially about its use in public places. And they can be a bit vicious, no question, at times. But this is rare.

It’s conservatives, firing up the air in their bubble, who perpetuate the myth of viciousness, as Woods did this week on her Facebook feed.

Yeah, Let’s Make THIS GUY Our State Treasurer

Nic Morse, apparently

“What’s Nic Morse going to do next?” said no-one ever.

Nevertheless, here’s Joey Bunch reporting for ColoradoPolitics.com:

The calendar hasn’t yet closed on 2016, but increasingly the politics are turning to 2018, as Republican Nicholas Morse of Fort Collins tells me he’s thinking about running for state treasurer…

…“I wanted to put out a quick statement saying I have been asked to consider running for the state treasurer position in 2018,” he said.  “It is a position that I am interested in and something that I am going to put some considerable thought towards over the next six months.”

Morse reportedly was urged by President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign staff in Colorado to get in the race. [Pols emphasis]

Reportedly? According to who — Nic Morse?

If you’re not familiar with Norse Morse, and you shouldn’t be, he’s the Republican candidate who just barely avoided losing to Rep. Jared Polis by 20 points in 2016 (Morse came within 19.2 points of beating Polis!)

But nevermind all of that. The real star of this story is Morse’s campaign finance report. According to FEC data through October 19, Morse “raised” $163k in his race for Congress in CD-2, of which $114k is listed under “candidate contributions.” When you take a closer look at the report, however, you find this:

Image from Nic Morse campaign finance report (FEC).

Whoa…$112,500 for a website??? That’s a tad excessive. For $112,500, his website had better be able to control the International Space Station.

Anyhoo, Nic Morse for Treasurer. Or whatever.

John Glenn Dies at Age 95

From CNN:

John Glenn, a former US senator and the first American to orbit the Earth, died Thursday, according to Ohio State University. He was 95.

Wednesday, it was announced that Glenn had been hospitalized “more than a week ago,” according to Ohio State University spokesman Hank Wilson. He was at The James Cancer Hospital, which is located at Ohio State University. His illness was not disclosed.

Glenn had heart valve replacement surgery in 2014.

John Herschel Glenn Jr. made history in 1962 when he completed a three-orbit flight in a cramped space capsule dubbed Friendship 7. He later served for nearly a quarter-century as a US senator. In 1998, he returned to space at age 77, becoming the oldest person to ever do so.

AG Coffman: Go Trump! (But Please Leave Our Weed Alone)

Please don’t Photoshop a joint into this picture.

9NEWS reports that Colorado’s Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who famously yelled out “Go Trump!” at the end of (at the time) anti-Donald Trump Rep. Mike Coffman’s victory speech, is hoping aloud that the President-elect and his marijuana archenemy Attorney General Jeff Sessions tread lightly with regard to the budding marijuana industry in our state and several others:

“It’s difficult to anticipate,” says Colorado’s Attorney General, Republican Cynthia Coffman, speaking about any changes that Trump may implement. “I think we’ll be doing a lot in reactionary mode.”

Coffman says she would suggest that federal agencies should stop and ask questions of Colorado before taking any firm stance against it.

“You cannot paint one brush stroke on this and say, ‘This is what marijuana is,'” she says. “We have done a lot to regulate the industry. I think we have learned a lot. every year the legislature tweaks the statues and agencies adjust regulations so we have, I think, the best system of any state in the country in terms of marijuana regulation.”

It’s long been known that Trump is a teetotaler sobriety advocate, who himself claims to have never once drank alcohol–though naturally, he has made plenty of coin from the sale of alcohol at his many hotels and casinos. Despite Trump’s choice of anti-marijuana crusader Sessions as Attorney General, nobody knows yet if Trump’s soft spot for free enterprise (and the fortunes being made in this new industry) will win out over puritanism.

“The longer this period has gone on where Colorado has had legalized marijuana, and other states are trying to adopt it, I think, the more challenging it is for a federal administration to roll that back,” she says.

Setting the fiscal arguments aside, it may be more practical to note that shutting down the marijuana industry in Colorado and other states where it is currently legal is politically a very dicey proposition–for the Trump administration, but also for Republicans downballot in marijuana-friendly states. The support Trump would gain for stamping out legal weed in Colorado would come at a high cost in this swing state, and open a new rift between the libertarian-right voters who fell in for Trump and social conservatives.

It will be interesting to see if AG Coffman can be persuasive with the incoming administration regarding Colorado’s marijuana industry–or if Trump will only remember how those stoners in Colorado screwed him over.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (December 8)

Heat Wave! High temperatures should burst into the 20s today! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is among a group of Republicans who are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to stop President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Naturally, Pruitt has been selected by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next head of the EPA. From the Washington Post:

He is the third of Trump’s nominees who have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run. Ben Carson, named to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has expressed a deep aversion to the social safety net programs and fair housing initiatives that have been central to that agency’s activities. Betsy DeVos, named education secretary, has a passion for private school vouchers that critics say undercut the public school systems at the core of the government’s mission.

Conservation and environmental leaders are obviously not pleased about Pruitt’s appointment.

Meanwhile, concerns are growing about Trump’s over-reliance on military leaders in his cabinet after retired Marine Gen. John Kelly was announced as the new head of the Department of Homeland Security.

 

► Fast-food executive Andrew Puzder appears to be President-elect Trump’s choice for labor secretary. From Politico:

Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company for Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s and Green Burrito, and was a senior policy adviser to the Trump campaign. He also served as a presidential trustee to a joint fundraising committee organized between Trump and the Republican National Committee…

…Puzder’s selection would suggest that Trump, despite his strong working-class backing, will favor management over labor at the Labor Department. In 2010, Puzder coauthored a book titled “Job Creation: How It Really Works And Why Government Doesn’t Understand It.”

Indeed, Puzder has been drawing criticism from unions already. A Nov. 29 story posted on the website of the left-leaning American Prospect quoted Kendall Fells, organizing director for the Service Employees International Union-funded Fight for $15, saying, “Puzder as Labor secretary is like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of the Treasury.”

We probably don’t need to tell you how Puzder feels about increasing the minimum wage in the United States.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Pueblo Electoral College Member Ain’t Playin’

Peter Strescino reports at the Pueblo Chieftain:

Pueblo County Democratic Chairwoman Marybeth Corsentino, a Colorado elector in the Electoral College, said Wednesday that she doubts she would join in an effort to deny Donald Trump the presidency.

Not that Corsentino would not love to see that take place, but she said that she considers it her legal duty to vote for the presidential choice of the voters in Colorado, Hillary Clinton, who earned almost 75,000 more votes than Trump did in the state during last month’s election.

Two other Colorado electors, Polly Baca, a former Democratic state lawmaker, and Robert Nemanich, are among a national group calling themselves moral electors hoping to persuade Republican electors in other states to vote for a different GOP candidate to keep Trump from receiving 270 electoral votes.

Like we said yesterday, the impulse to take any possible action to deny Donald Trump the presidency is understandable from Democratic opponents, especially given the surprise nature of his victory and lack of a popular vote majority. But the fact is that a coup in the Electoral College against Trump after he won by the rules as they governed the election would be rejected by the American people. Absent convincing evidence that Trump did not win an Electoral College majority, which has not been produced despite an arguably unprecedented effort, Trump is the President-elect–and the consequences of breaking with our peaceful history of power transfers are immeasurably worse than Trump becoming President.

Obviously, we hope we don’t have to eat those last words someday.

On a local level, what we’re really arguing about here is a constitutional right of Electoral College members from Colorado to break Colorado law and vote for a candidate other than the one to whom they are pledged. If successful, this would certainly help de-legitimize the Electoral College in the mind of the voting public–which would be good in theory if you think the Electoral College is an anachronism. On the other hand, as long as the Electoral College remains the system by which we elect Presidents, there’s an argument that it needs to have whatever democratic protections that exist, like laws binding electors to their pledge. And of course, there’s plenty of reason for people in smallish states like ours prefer the Electoral College, since without it we’d get less attention in presidential election years.

Look, we know it’s a tough pill to swallow. But Trump’s opponents need to get ready to contend with his presidency. Because despite all the frustration, and as-yet unrealized fears, the battle to prevent Trump’s presidency is over.

Thursday Open Thread

Our server was under a brute-force attack this morning, says our web host. They have taken countermeasures.

We blame Russia until further notice.