Sen. Ray Scott/Grand Junction Sentinel Pissing Match Explodes

UPDATE: Bring it, says Sen. Ray Scott:

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Don’t f— with Jay Seaton.

We wrote on Friday about Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction’s over-the-top response to an editorial in the Grand Junction Sentinel–an editorial calling out Sen. Scott for inexplicably delaying debate on a bill to reform the public records process. Scott reacted with a bizarre tirade, denouncing the Sentinel as “fake news” and some other weird stuff about splashing ink in their face.

It wasn’t super coherent.

But Jay Seaton, the owner and publisher of the Sentinel, is responding to Scott’s bellicosity with the full hellish fury of a rich man scorned:

On Wednesday of last week, The Daily Sentinel opined in an editorial that Sen. Scott should give the bill a hearing and pass it on to the full Senate for a vote: “SB 40 deserves a fair hearing before the full Senate. We call on our own Sen. Scott to announce a new committee hearing date and move this bill forward.”

…Setting aside for the moment the mischaracterizations and mistakes in Sen. Scott’s tweet, (though it is true we were not able to reach him about why he canceled the hearing) the concern for me is the allegation that the Sentinel peddles “fake news.”

True, this term has become part of the national vernacular as some kind of general pejorative, but I take this allegation from Sen. Scott very seriously. It attacks the very reason for our existence…

It is important for newspapers to have thick skins, to absorb criticism when it comes our way and not respond to every slight, real or perceived. That said, there is a difference between criticism of a news story, editorial stance or perceived bias and what Sen. Scott has done. His tweet is patently, provably false.

Worse, he made his false statement knowingly for the purpose of diminishing the only real asset this newspaper has: its credibility.

Imagine the backlash if this newspaper publicly assailed someone based on no facts and invented things out of thin air for the purposes of impugning their character. We could be sued — and we’d deserve it.

I don’t think I can sit back and take this kind of attack from an elected official. We are brokers in facts. Words have real meaning in this business. Sen. Scott has defamed this company and me as its leader.

To borrow a phrase from another famous Twitter user, I’ll see you in court. [Pols emphasis]

So…if we’re reading that correctly, Seaton is going to sue Sen. Scott to defamation? It’s not for us to comment on the legal efficacy of such a lawsuit based on the subject matter in dispute, but we’re pretty sure Jay Seaton has a lot more money than Ray Scott. As President-elect Donald Trump will happily tell you, the financial resources to file and sustain a lawsuit against a less-wealthy detractor often matters more.

Pop some popcorn and stay tuned!

Sen. Ray Scott Calls Grand Junction Sentinel “Fake News”

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

Last Wednesday, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s editorial board called out one of their own, GOP Sen. Ray Scott, for inexplicably delaying a bill they support to improve the public’s access to public records in Colorado:

Public records laws are important tools for combating misinformation and getting to the truth. But the state has no obligation to provide electronic records in useful formats that easily lend themselves to analysis.

Senate Bill 40 would change that. The bill requires records custodians to provide records in digital forms if kept that way and requested as such. If a government agency keeps records in an Excel spreadsheet, for example, it should deliver them via open records request in the same format — not paper copies or PDFs, which aren’t searchable, sortable or easy to aggregate.

But first SB40 has to get past the same Senate committee that killed a similar version last year. The State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee was supposed to consider the bill on Monday but Republican Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction, who chairs the committee, said it wouldn’t be heard as scheduled…

SB 40 deserves a fair hearing before the full Senate. We call on our own Sen. Scott to announce a new committee hearing date and move this bill forward. Open records shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We have a difficult time understanding why anyone would oppose easier access to government data, which belongs to the public. [Pols emphasis]

In response to this very mildly-worded opinion piece, Sen. Scott…well, freaked out:

We have our own fake news in Grand Junction.

The very liberal GJ Sentinel is attempting to apply pressure for me to move a bill. They have no facts, as usual, and tried to call me out on SB 40 know as the CORA bill. They haven’t contacted me to get any information on why the bill has been delayed but choose to run a fake news story demanding I run the bill. You may have a barrel of ink but it just splashed in your face.

So first of all, this was not “fake news.” It’s not even “news” at all, it’s an editorial. The central fact in the piece is something Sen. Scott doesn’t even dispute, which is that the hearing on this bill was delayed without explanation. Scott doesn’t explain why the bill was delayed, either, which you’d think would be the quickest way to get the Sentinel off his back. In short, Scott’s response is nonsensical, and if anything protests his own guilt.

The situation is a bit ironic to us, after public radio reporter Bente Birkeland wrote a fluffy little story this week suggesting (without much evidence) that Republicans in the state legislature are going “un-Trump”–changing tactics in order to build a better working relationship with the news media.

It would appear that Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction did not get the memo.

Get More Smarter on Friday (February 10)

Valentine’s Day is on Tuesday; you don’t have to panic just yet. 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…

Treason. That’s the story today and probably for a good deal of time in the near future, after the Washington Post reported late Thursday that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may have violated the Logan Act by illegally negotiating with a foreign government (in this case, Russia). Vice President Mike Pence might have gotten burned here as well.

 

► President Trump has rejected Rex Tillerson’s choice to be his right hand at the State Department because Elliott Abrams once said some things that weren’t very nice about Trump. From CNN:

President Donald Trump met with Abrams and the sources said that the meeting went well but when the President learned that Abrams had criticized him during the campaign, the President nixed Abrams as Deputy Secretary of State, according to the sources.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to convince Trump to offer the job to Abrams despite the criticism because he felt he needed Abrams’ experience.

Republican sources also say White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner also strongly supported Abrams, and tried to convince the President to reconsider.

“This is a loss for the State Department and the country and for that matter for the President,” said one Republican source.

 

► Another federal court has rejected President Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban, and the big orange guy is not pleased.

 

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

Republican Legislators Can’t Keep Healthcare Talking Points Straight

State Sen. Jimmy Smallwood

As you may have heard, President Trump and Congressional Republicans would like to repeal Obamacare…except that they have no idea what to do for a replacement plan. Here in Colorado, GOP lawmakers have their own proposal to tank the State Health Exchange, part of a nonsense plan that would rely on the Affordable Care Act to pick up the slack at a federal level (of course, the ACA may or may not continue to exist under the current Congress).

As John Frank of the Denver Post reported earlier this week, state Sen. Jim Smallwood is leading Republican efforts to repeal the state health exchange. Take a look at how he explains the GOP rationale here:

Sen. Jim Smallwood, a health insurance broker, is leading the effort to repeal the state exchange, a move that would send Colorado residents to the federal marketplace to buy insurance. The bill is not expected to advance through the Democratic-led House, but the GOP is rallying to the cause.

The freshman Republican lawmaker from Parker is adamant that his bill is not a political statement or “a vendetta against President Obama.” [Pols emphasis] Instead, he argues, the measure is designed to save the state money by eliminating a tax break for insurance companies and preventing future fees on health care plans…

…”There appear to be some obvious failures systemically within the gut of our state-based exchange, and my thought was, would the same thing happen if we were on healthcare.gov?” Smallwood said in a recent interview.

According to Sen. Smallwood, local efforts to eliminate the state health exchange have nothing at all to do with partisan rancor over Obamacare.

State Sen. Owen Hill

Except…well, that’s not what state Sen. Owen Hill says in an Op-Ed for the Colorado Statesman this week:

It won’t be easy, but Republicans have promised the American people a better way on health care, and our state and national leaders must deliver. [Pols emphasis]

Voters have elected a Republican majority in D.C., expecting them to repeal Obamacare…

…I’m proud that my fellow Republicans in Washington are determined to fulfill their campaign promise to repeal the ACA. But this is no mere public policy debate because real people’s lives and jobs are on the line. The GOP Congress and President Trump must also keep another of their campaign promises — to do right by American workers — if they want this repeal to truly improve the lives and health care of the American people.

When Republicans in Congress repeal Obamacare as they have pledged, they must make sure to replace it with a fair and free market where the government plays by the same rules as the rest of us. This means paying fair market value for health care services. Washington D.C. has mismanaged Medicare and Medicaid for years, forcing the rest of us to pick up the tab in other ways.

Republican legislators are saying two totally different things in response to concerns about trying to eliminate the state health exchange. Sen. Smallwood says this has nothing to do with the ACA and that his bill would allow the federal insurance market to pick up the slack for Colorado. Sen. Hill says this has everything to do with the ACA and is hopeful that there won’t even be a federal marketplace for healthcare sometime soon.

This entire exercise is completely idiotic, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the State Senate Majority can’t even keep their talking points straight.

#ShePersisted: State Senate Dems Read The Sessions Letter

Creative resistance from the Colorado Senate Democratic Minority, picking up the reading of a letter from Coretta Scott King opposing Jeff Sessions from his previous unsuccessful confirmation attempt in the 1980s after Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was controversially silenced in the U.S. Senate:

In reaction to Senate Republicans silencing Senator Elizabeth Warren while she was reading a letter from Coretta Scott King regarding Senator Jeff Sessions — the new Attorney General — and his nomination to a federal judgeship in 1986, some members of the Colorado State Senate Democratic Caucus put together a video of them reading Mrs. King’s letter.


Call it the ripple effect from a stupendous unforced error.

Good news: State Republicans aim to improve their relations with Colorado journalists

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R).

Republican leaders at the Colorado State Capitol are trying to improve their media relations, with off-the-record happy hours, weekly press briefings, and more, according to Feb. 6 report by Rocky Mountain Community Radio’s Bente Birkeland (included below).

That’s great news! I’m serious, because journalists can actually help facilitate good policy making, if Democrats and Republicans help them do their job.

Rep. Chris Holbert (R-Colorado Springs) says he and Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) want to be more “open and inclusive” and get to know the press better.

Rep. Justin Everett (R-Littleton) told Birkeland that Republicans “think there’s a liberal media bias, and then when you kind of see it in little things” it reinforces the perception. But Everett thinks better personal relationships lead to better stories.

He’s right.

Here are five tips for Republicans. Obviously these are offered from a progressive perspective, but I don’t think serious conservatives would disagree with me on this (plus I wrote a book about it):

  1. Don’t make sweeping generalizations about journalism, as some Republicans do when they complain openly about “liberal media bias” when they see a story they disagree with. There’s no study or proof of any “liberal media bias” at the local level, and making the accusation is rude. So be very specific about your complaints about coverage, and you’ll find reporters will be receptive to your criticism.
  2. Be factual. This is key. Journalists look for the truth, supported by facts. They don’t want to hear unsupportable statements like blaming Obamacare for Colorado budget woes.
  3. Don’t be boring. Think about your visual appeal.
  4. Don’t blow up your long-term relationships over a disagreement. Today’s news is history tomorrow.
  5. Don’t compliment Trump’s media-relations strategy, as Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) did in Birkeland’s piece, when he expressed admiration for Trump for calling journalism fake news. As wrote in a post yesterday, don’t insult reporters by calling their work “fake news,” even if they make a mistake.

Oh, and can progressive journalists attend those happy hours?

Colorado GOP Leaders Love Trump…Even if They Don’t Know Why

Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Cañon City).

There’s a fascinating new story in the Colorado Statesman from Ernest Luning about how Colorado Republican leaders view the state’s electorate entering the 2018 cycle. As Luning reports from a GOP donor luncheon last month in Denver, Colorado legislative leaders have totally bought-in to the Donald Trump phenomenon — not that they understand any of it:

Leading Republican lawmakers told a group of GOP donors that the party is poised to capture the Colorado voters who swung to Donald Trump last fall but cautioned against assuming they’re in the bag just yet…

…Colorado Republicans have the chance to bring Trump voters into the fold, [Senate President Kevin] Grantham said, as some elements of the traditional party coalitions appear to be up for grabs.

“It’s going to be simple, but it won’t be easy,” he said…

There are some interesting things happening in this discussion, but the central theme is the same: Colorado Republicans want you to know that they are pro-Trump because they think you are also pro-Trump. But they don’t know why:

Noting that Trump did unusually well among blue collar and union workers in Colorado, Grantham said that figuring out how the billionaire businessman peeled them away from the Democrats would be the key to adding those voters to the Republican coalition.

“Why Pueblo? Why Wisconsin? Why Michigan? Let’s latch onto that and carry it into the next cycle,” Grantham said. “We need to start looking for a governor candidate who can speak to these folks,” he added.

As Luning points out, of course, Democrat Hillary Clinton actually carried Colorado by five points over Trump — the third straight victory for the Democratic Presidential candidate in our state. Democrats have been pondering the loss of Wisconsin and Michigan since Election Day, and apparently they are not alone in their confusion as to what happened and why. Colorado Republicans don’t seem to know what happened here.

Nevertheless, there will be giant heaping helpings of red meat. And lots of Trump. You had better like both.

The Anti-Homeowner Bill That Won’t Go Away

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Construction defect.

Like the old Yankees coach Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s deja vu all over again!”

Just when Colorado homeowners thought that there was progress on finding ways to encourage affordable housing construction, wealthy developers are dishing up the same old measures to strip legal rights away from new home buyers so they can protect their profits.

Only two weeks after the bipartisan team of House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D) and Senate President Kevin Grantham (R) co-sponsored an insurance reform bill to lower construction insurance rates — identified by developers as THE barrier to building affordable condos — SB 156 was introduced.

SB 156 will harm those of us unlucky enough to have purchased a defective home, pure and simple. If you buy your dream home that turns into a nightmare of leaking walls or crumbling foundations, the bill ban homeowners from amending HOA governing “declarations” — this would allow developers to rig the system against you! The bill would:

Seize Your Legal Rights: Would strip your basic legal right to a jury trial by writing unfair declarations that dictate whether and how homeowners can fix construction defects and interfering in how homeowners want to make decisions that impact their homes and property.

Mandate Your Participation in Unfair Arbitration: Would force you and your neighbors into arbitration which is typically rigged for developers and against homeowners through terms like:

  • Requirements to obtain the developer’s own consent in order to bring a lawsuit.
  • Arbitration firm choice is made solely by developers, who often have close relationships with the firm/s.
  • Arbitration process may take place where the developer wants, including out-of-state.
  • Limits on the amount of restitution homeowners may seek, even if it doesn’t cover the cost of repairs.

Shift Expensive Costs to You and Your Neighbors: SB 156 would steer homeowners away from the judicial system which they support with taxes, making them pay for the high costs of a private arbitration process. Even if homeowners appeal an unfair decision, they will be on the hook to pay for another round of expensive, private arbitration. Plus, expanding developers’ right to appeal makes the process even more expensive and time-consuming.

Interfere in Homeowner Decision-Making: SB 156 would allow developers to dictate all the rules, like:

  • Prevent homeowners from empowering their elected HOA board to act on their behalf.
  • Require a 100% homeowner vote, even when developers retain one or more units — or a written vote, even if homeowners are military personnel stationed overseas, those working two jobs or non-English speakers.

New home buyers should expect that their homes are well-built and safe. But sadly, some homes are simply NOT built right with dangerous problems like rotting framing and structures that are not wind-resistant. We can’t let bad developers shirk responsibility when they sell a defective home– especially on the most expensive product most Coloradans ever purchase.

Help us defend Colorado’s new home buyers — click here to add your voice to let your elected officials know you expect them to protect our rights, not big developers.

SB 156 will harm those of us unlucky enough to have purchased a defective home, pure and simple.

Senate Republicans Send Trump Resolution To The “Kill Committee”

UPDATE #2: Peter Marcus at the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

With little notice, Senate Republicans on Tuesday held a hearing on a Democratic effort to encourage President Trump to rescind temporary refugee and select immigration bans…

Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, a sponsor of the resolution, said he was informed about the hearing Monday morning.

Demonstrations in opposition to Trump’s bans have taken place throughout Colorado, especially in Denver, where thousands of people protested the presidential directives.

“There are thousands of Coloradans who feel this way,” said Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver. “I wondered if you knew why we don’t have anymore people here to testify.”

—–

UPDATE: HJR17-1013 dies in Senate State Affairs as Democratic lawmakers fume:

—–

After a resolution passed the Colorado House last week condemning President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from numerous Muslim-majority nations, word came late last night the Colorado Senate Republicans were routing the resolution to the State Affairs Committee, where it is likely to die:

A fiery debate is underway right now in this committee, click here to listen in–and if you’re so inclined and positioned, head for Senate Conference Room 357. We’ll update with developments as we get word.

Why The Insurance Exchange Repeal Bill Is Goddamn Nonsense

Freshman Sen. Jimmy Smallwood (R).

John Frank and John Ingold of the Denver Post report on continued posturing over Senate Bill 17-003, the all-but-doomed measure from Republicans to repeal the Connect For Health Colorado insurance marketplace:

The leaders at Colorado’s health insurance exchange are working to keep alive the online marketplace, even if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, while Republican state lawmakers want to shut it down now.

The contradictory approaches put Connect for Health Colorado, the state-based exchange where 175,000 residents purchased insurance in 2016, at the center of a debate that is only amplified by the efforts in Washington to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

The national and state efforts, though separate, are fueling uncertainty in Colorado about the future of health care coverage and crystallizing the political divide after the election of President Donald Trump…

The bill’s primary sponsor is freshman Sen. Jim “No Jokes Please” Smallwood, a health insurance broker–whose profession outside the Capitol presents obvious questions about his motives for running this legislation.

The freshman Republican lawmaker from Parker is adamant that his bill is not a political statement or “a vendetta against President Obama.” Instead, he argues, the measure is designed to save the state money by eliminating a tax break for insurance companies and preventing future fees on health care plans…

“There appear to be some obvious failures systemically within the gut of our state-based exchange, and my thought was, would the same thing happen if we were on healthcare.gov?” Smallwood said in a recent interview. [Pols emphasis]

And this, folks, is where the efforts of national and state Republican lawmakers come into fundamental conflict. Colorado Republicans want to shut down our insurance marketplace in favor of the federal system, but Washington D.C. Republicans want to shut down the federal system. Each one is using the other as their excuse–Smallwood says the feds will do it better, and the GOP Congress says the states will do it better.

Obviously, only one of them can be right! And it would be a real, you know, problem if national and local Republicans were to both get their way, wouldn’t it? Once you understand that they can’t both have their way, it becomes clear that one of these two legislative pushes is a huge mistake. For a party that had six years to figure out what to do when they finally got the chance to repeal the bête noire of Obamacare, you’d think they’d have a consistent plan from the federal to the state level.

Either nobody has thought this through, or nobody cares–and neither is a good way to make literal life-and-death policy.

Get More Smarter on Friday (February 3)

Can we demand a recount in Punxsutawney? How do we know that the groundhog wasn’t paid off by “Big Winter” to keep it cold for another six weeks? 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…

► That big wall between Mexico and the United States that President Trump has repeatedly promised is running into plenty of opposition from Congressional Republicans. As CNN reports:

A growing number of congressional Republicans are objecting to the cost and viability of a proposal that was a rallying cry for the billionaire businessman during his insurgent campaign. Interviews with more than a dozen GOP lawmakers across the ideological spectrum suggest Trump could have a difficult time getting funding for his plan approved by Congress.

Many bluntly told CNN they’d likely vote against any Trump plan that is not fully offset with spending cuts, while others questioned whether Trump’s vision would adequately resolve the problems at the border.

“If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you’re going to have to show me where you’re going to get that money,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a key swing vote who has already broken with Trump over his nominee for secretary of education.

“I don’t see how you can get a bill like that through (Congress) without offsets,” she added. “I don’t see how that’s possible.”

At a projected cost of $12-15 billion, it’s not hard to see why so-called “fiscal conservatives” would be freaking out a little bit.

 

► Remember Bowling Green!?

Don’t remember Bowling Green? You’re not alone. But here’s what President Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews of MSNBC on Thursday:

“Two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people didn’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

Conway is correct that this didn’t get covered…primarily because it never happened. From the Washington Post:

In defending President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees, immigrants and citizens from Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries, Conway referred to something that didn’t happen — the “Bowling Green massacre.” (She also incorrectly said that Obama “banned” Iraqi refugees, which we have previously fact-checked as false.)

Conway was on her way to a Four-Pinocchio rating when, about an hour and a half after The Fact Checker sent her a query about her remarks, she tweeted that she meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists.”

Alternative facts.

 

One of the foremost charter school advocates in the United States says that Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is absolutely not qualified for the position and is urging the Senate to reject her nomination. Despite a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos is still moving forward in the process but will have to sweat out a full floor vote on Monday.

 

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

Quick! Throw Some Cold Water on Sen. Kevin Lundberg

Sen. Kevin Lundberg

Nothing gets state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) frothing at the mouth like “abortion.” Just say the word within earshot, and Lundberg reacts like Pavlov’s dog. You can practically see the ripples of electrical activity inside that ham sandwich between his ears.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, Sen. Lundberg is a member of the powerful and important Joint Budget Committee (JBC), a seat from where he’s happy to waste time on pointless discussions of imaginary abortion-related problems. As Lundberg happily explained to constituents via an email newsletter this week, he took the opportunity during a Jan. 25 JBC meeting to voice his opposition to funding school clinics because of some mysterious belief that school “nurses” might be referring sick kids to abortion providers. From Lundberg’s newsletter, dated Feb. 1:

During a Joint Budget Committee hearing several weeks ago I asked the Colorado Department of Education a question they found rather uncomfortable.  The Department was asking for additional funding for school clinics. In the description of school clinics it stated that they primarily provide referral services for medical care. [Pols emphasis] 

The question was: “do school clinics ever refer students to abortion clinics?” The Department said they do not know. My next question was what policy they have in place concerning this issue. Weeks later they essentially admitted they have no policy.

I asked this because the Colorado Constitution (Article V Section 50) prohibits any state funds from being used directly or indirectly for abortions. Referring a student to an abortion clinic is indirectly participating in the abortion.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg’s most recent constituent email update.

Maybe Lundberg has uncovered some vast new conspiracy.

Or…or maybe the Department of Education doesn’t actually have a formal policy that their school clinics are forbidden from referring children for abortions because why would they??? 

We went back to the recordings of the JBC meetings on Jan. 25 so we could hear Lundberg’s concerns firsthand. Here’s the play-by-play:

Sen. Lundberg: “I, consequently, will not vote for any funding or any reimbursement for funding … until their policy is clearly in coordination with the colorado Constitution [regarding abortion]…”

Rep. Young: “…this is for children with disabilities… some were wheelchair bound and needed transfers just for basic care…”

Sen. Lundberg: “Thats why it is important to be cleared up. I believe they need to act on this. I dont believe we should move forward with any funding or reimbursement of funding until they do the right thing.”

And finally, Lundberg’s closing statement:

“Until I see substantive evidence that they have a policy that says we dont go down the road of indirect funding for abortions … until that occurs, I dont see any reason for additional funding coming in any way.”

So…until we can assure Sen. Lundberg that school clinics are not recommending abortions to students, he cannot in good conscience approve any increased funding for children with disabilities.

Got it?

Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 2)

You dirty son of a groundhog! Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter after emerging from his palace this morning and seeing his shadow. 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…

► There are growing concerns about President Trump’s mental and emotional fitness, and it’s becoming a problem in international relations. On Wednesday, President Trump hung up the phone during a conversation with the Australian Prime Minister. From the Washington Post:

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Also on Wednesday, Trump may or may not have threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico.

Trump has a position on a topic, and everything else is wrong. If you are concerned about any of this, President Trump says, “Just don’t worry about it.

 

► President Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric may be fun for campaigns and television shows, but it may actually backfire in International diplomacy. From the Washington Post:

President Trump and Iran traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an “inexperienced person has threatened” his country.

The exchanges reflect the Trump administration’s toughening stance on Iran, but also point to wider changes in the White House as it advances a combative and iconoclastic ­foreign policy. The shifts appear to ­sideline traditional diplomacy and concentrate decision-making among a small group of aides who are quickly projecting their new “America first” approach to the world.

Just before the Senate confirmed Trump’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday, national security adviser ­Michael Flynn made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to deliver a stern warning to Iran over its most recent ballistic missile test.

Trump bangs his fists, and Iran shrugs.

 

► It’s an icy day in Metro Denver, which is something Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is growing quite accustomed to feeling. After a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos may need a tie-breaking Senate vote from Vice President Mike Pence to make it into the Department of Education. As we noted in this space yesterday, DeVos has lost the support of two Republican Senators after demonstrating during the last few weeks that she has very little understanding of what her proposed job entails.

As the Colorado Statesman reports, a growing number of state lawmakers are also voicing their opposition to DeVos.

 

The fight is on over the Supreme Court now that Donald Trump’s nominee has been announced. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wasted no time in sitting down for a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuchwhich is more than Gardner would even consider for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016.

 

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

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 1)

You wanna march? Let’s march on that damn groundhog tomorrow so that we can hurry up and get to Spring. 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…

► Rules? Rules?!? We don’t need no stinking rules! Republicans in the U.S. Senate have decided to abandon rules and decorum and all that crap so that they can hurry up and ram through appointments for Donald Trump’s Cabinet. Republican leaders are trying hard to blame Democrats for this mess, conveniently ignoring the fact that the GOP started well down this road last year when it refused to hold hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

From Politico:

Democrats said they were boycotting the confirmation proceedings because of concerns that Price and Mnuchin had misled the committee, and that the nominees needed to provide more information.

Republicans slammed Democrats as being obstructionists and downplayed their concerns with the nominees.

 

► As expected, President Trump on Tuesday nominated Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) managed to squeeze in a meeting with Gorsuch at his office this morning in Washington D.C. — something Gardner refused to do for Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016.

For Senate Republicans, Gorsuch represents something of a reward for their 2016 efforts at preventing Garland from donning the black robes of a Supreme Court Justice. The Denver Post has more reaction from Colorado officials.

 

► Republican legislators in Colorado are trying to repeal Colorado’s health insurance marketplace at the same time that Connect for Health Colorado is seeing a record surge in people signing up for coverage. A large crowd gathered at the State Capitol on Tuesday to speak out against GOP efforts to dismantle the state health exchange.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 31)

So long, January! 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 Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday for supporting the Constitution over the demands of the President. From the Washington Post:

In a news release, the White House said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.” Trump named in her place Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Boente said he would enforce the president’s directive until he was replaced by Trump’s attorney general nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala)…

…The move came just hours after Yates ordered the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s immigration order, declaring in a memo that she was not convinced the order is lawful. Yates wrote that, as the leader of the Justice Department, she must ensure that the department’s position is “legally defensible” and “consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix,” the big story isn’t that Trump fired Yates — it’s how he went about it:

There’s no problem with the Trump White House disagreeing with the past administration’s stance on immigration. That is, of course, their right. But, again, the scorched-earth condemnation of Yates strikes me as rhetorically overboard and, dare I say it, not terribly presidential…

…What Trump’s statement, viewed broadly, teaches us — or, maybe, re-teaches us — is that this president sees only two kinds of people in the world: Loyal friends and disloyal, terrible enemies.  Principled — or occasional — opposition is not part of that equation. You are either all the way for him or all the way against him. Black and white. No room for grays. [Pols emphasis]

And, thus, the reinvention of politicians such as Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). The website FiveThirtyEight has come up with a nifty formula to track Congressional votes in the age of President Trump. Yes, that’s Gardner with a 100% “Trump Score.”

 

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) says President Trump’s Muslim travel ban is “an embarrassment.” From the Denver Post:

During a brief interview Monday at Reagan National Airport, Coffman said, “I certainly would agree with the president that Islamic terrorism is a real threat to our national security.

“But I think the policy was poorly thought-out and badly executed and I think it’s just an embarrassment,” he said. “It seemed that it was more crafted by campaign operatives than national security experts.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Denver) also had strong words for Trump’s travel ban on Monday, saying that it “needlessly antagonizes our allies around the world.”

Elsewhere, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) finally issued a statement about the travel ban that was just a nonsense word salad. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) remains the only member of Colorado’s delegation to refuse to comment on the travel ban.

 

► The Denver Post takes a look at Denver Judge Neil Gorsuch, who is reportedly a finalist to be named by President Trump to the Supreme Court. Trump is scheduled to announce his Supreme Court nomination this evening. The Boulder Daily Camera has more on the potential nomination of Gorsuch.

 

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