Welcome, comrades! 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…
► National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may be gone, but the Russian cloud enveloping the White House isn’t dissipating one bit. As the New York Times reports today in its lead story:
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election…
…The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I. is sifting through as it investigates the links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the hacking of the D.N.C., according to federal law enforcement officials. As part of its inquiry, the F.B.I. has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said.
As the Washington Post writes this morning:
The credibility gap – maybe chasm is a better word at this point – keeps widening for Donald Trump and his White House.
And what does President Trump have to say about all of this? As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix”:
Trump’s response to these serious allegations, which have already cost him his national security adviser and now threaten the foundations of his presidency, has been decidedly flippant. In a tweetstorm Wednesday morning, Trump blamed the “fake news” media and Hillary Clinton for the stories and sought to pivot the conversation to how the information regarding the contacts between his campaign and the Russians leaked out…
…Given the seriousness of those allegations, tweets about the Clinton campaign or the “fake news” aren’t going to cut it. Congressional Republicans are getting more and more worried that this situation is spinning out of control and has the possibility to do serious damage to the entire party less than a month into the Trump presidency.
► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — has been rather quiet about the White House Russia scandal. In an interview with Denver7 on Tuesday, Gardner said…well, nothing, really. Gardner seems to be falling apart in general under the strain of his 100% voting record with Trump.
Meanwhile, Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) is pushing for a full investigation into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is also pushing for an official inquiry.
► Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is suing Boulder County for its unwillingness to open up its lands for oil and gas drilling.
Get even more smarter after the jump…
IN CASE YOU ARE STANDING NEAR A WATER COOLER…
► Outgoing State Republican Party Chairman Steve House is encouraging candidates to succeed him to stop bickering over who loves Donald Trump the most. From Ernest Luning at the Colorado Statesman:
Trump support took center stage last week in the Republican state chair race between former congressional candidate George Athanasopoulos and former El Paso County GOP Chairman Jeff Haysafter officials with the Colorado Trump campaign endorsed Hays in an email to Republicans.
Athanasopoulos responded that he’d been the first federal candidate in the state to endorse Trump, calling the campaign’s endorsement of Hays “so preposterous as to be ridiculous.” He added, “Jeff Hays and his supporters represent what the Republican Party used to be. They represent exactly the party that Donald Trump had to defeat on his way to becoming president.”
Hays allies swung back, pointing out that Athanasopoulos, an unpledged delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer, had cast a vote for Ted Cruz more than a month after endorsing Trump. Athanasopoulos called the charge meaningless, saying he’d promised the GOP delegates who elected him months earlier that he’d vote for Cruz if Texas senator was still in the running and was nominated at the RNC…
…In a later email to The Statesman, House said he wasn’t suggesting that the Trump team should stay out of the state chair race but wanted the candidates to move on.
► The Colorado Independent takes a look at Rep. Mike Coffman‘s attempts to pretend that he might hold a real town hall meeting sometime soon.
► Durango residents are pressing Sen. Cory Gardner to oppose a Trump administration effort to roll back regulations on methane waste. [Insert your own joke here]
► Discussions over repealing Obamacare have taken a bit of a back seat to stories about Russians controlling the White House. As Politico reports, the Republican repeal-and-maybe-replace plan is running out of oxygen:
Republicans have reached a gut check moment: After spending more than six years vowing to fix the flagging patient that is Obamacare, it’s the GOP’s own repeal effort that’s on life support.
Undoing the health care law despised by conservatives seemed to be a straightforward proposition for the party after it won the White House and retained control of both chambers of Congress. Instead, Republicans are sniping over how much of the law to scrap, what to replace it with and when. At this moment, it’s far from a sure thing any plan could get through Congress…
…“It’s hard to see how this gets done unless the president says, ‘OK, let’s do it this way,’” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a key committee chairman on Obamacare.
But it’s been awhile since Republicans have heard something substantive from Trump on Obamacare. When the president last weighed in constructively, he was prompted by Paul’s appearance on a cable news show, during which he railed against efforts to repeal the law without a replacement.
► Remember the old (pre-Internet) saying that you don’t pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel? State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) is learning firsthand that publicly — and ridiculously — attacking his hometown newspaper isn’t such a good idea. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and owner/publisher Jay Seaton are hitting back. Hard.
But if “fake news” is what you’re after, Sen. Scott will be more than happy to oblige via social media.
► Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) is reporting for duty as Republicans work to roll-back Obama-era regulations dealing with the environment. From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton is trying to roll back an Interior Department rule addressing valuation of federal coal, oil and gas production for royalty purposes, in the latest effort by Republicans to rescind regulations enacted by the Obama administration.
Tipton, R-Colo., and U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., have introduced a resolution that would use the Congressional Review Act to repeal the measure released last June by Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue…
…The group Center for Western Priorities on Tuesday blasted Tipton’s measure, saying the regulation closed a loophole that cost taxpayers an average of $124 million a year.
► Republicans and Trumpians are looking hard at the background of Gov. John Hickenlooper, whom they consider a potential challenger for the Presidency in 2020.
OTHER LINKS YOU SHOULD CLICK
► John Frank of the Denver Post crunches numbers on looming budget decisions for the state legislature. As Frank notes, increased spending for Medicaid — a favorite bogeyman for Republican lawmakers — represents a minor 0.4 percent change to the 2016-17 budget.
► As CNN reports, these are not fun times to be working in the White House. Donald Trump will always have his fake inauguration stories to warm his little heart.
► Check out the latest episode of the “Get More Smarter Show” to learn more about the nomination of Colorado judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.