Get More Smarter on Friday (February 17)

Have a nice President’s Day Weekend; try the meatloaf. Now, let’s see if we can’t 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…

► As the Associated Press reported this morning, President Trump is considering mobilizing the National Guard — as many as 100,000 troops — to undertake mass deportation efforts across the country. Colorado is one of the states listed in the draft memo obtained by the AP.

Again: The President of the United States of America is considering deploying the military to conduct mass roundups and deportations across the country. This is all kinds of wrong.

 

A “shit sandwich.” That’s how Vice Admiral Robert Harward viewed an offer from President Trump to become the next National Security Adviser — an offer Harward publicly declined — which leaves the Trump administration scrambling to find another candidate for one of the most important jobs in the White House. The resignation of former NSA Michael Flynn highlights a massive credibility problem among national security experts, as the Washington Post explains:

Multiple former national security experts conjectured that the hang-up specifically was Trump’s deputy national security adviser, KT McFarland, a TV commentator who has not served in government since the Reagan era. Few foreign policy professionals consider her qualified for the job. [Pols emphasis]

…Harward certainly knows the struggles that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson have had hiring their own staff — neither has an announced deputy; Harward was not about to subject himself to the same micromanaging from the White House. Former State Department official and vocal Trump critic Eliot Cohen says, “It makes it very difficult for any serious person to take the job under less reasonable conditions than Harward seems to have demanded, i.e., control of staffing.” He explains, “No sane person would take this extremely important and difficult job without (a) control of staffing, and (b) eliminating or neutering Bannon’s shadow NSC staff.” …

…Harward’s decision reflects how far the president and this administration have fallen in the eyes of esteemed national security experts, including current and former officials. The White House is without an experienced chief of staff or normal internal decision-making procedures. [Pols emphasis]

 

► Congress is preparing for its annual President’s Day recess, which will keep lawmakers out of the nation’s capitol until February 27. Before he skipped out of town, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) released a video in which he declares that he will not support a repeal of Obamacare without a concurrent replacement plan. The New York Times on Thursday reported on a potential new GOP healthcare plan that would redirect money from the lower- and middle-class to the benefit of the wealthy in America.

 

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

CO Attorney General Coffman files suit in support of Oil & Gas Commission, will not “indulge” Boulder County

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

On Tuesday, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman appeared on KDMT’s (1690am) Business for Breakfast with host Jimmy Sengenberger  to announce her intention to intervene in a dispute between Boulder County and the state Oil and Gas Commission.

Coffman has decided to file a lawsuit – seeking a permanent injunction– to end Boulder County’s five-year-old moratorium on oil and gas development, which was instituted in February 2012 and continued via extensions approved by the Boulder County Commission.

The moratorium and subsequent extensions were passed with the intention to “allow them time to develop new regulations in their county and prepare to accept new applications for oil and gas development in Boulder County” Coffman explained.

While other local communities have instituted similar moratoriums – specifically in Longmont, which prompted a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in May 2016 that found a moratorium lasting two-and-a-half years is too long — Boulder’s moratorium is uniquely the only one statewide which remains in place.

Sengenberger inquired as to how the Attorney General arrived at the decision to file suit.  In her response, Coffman confirmed that the decision is discretionary to her office, but seemed to be triggered by a “magic number”.

HOST JIMMY SENGENBERGER:  […] Is this a choice you’re able to make, sort of, with your own discretion, or is this something that would be required for you to move forward with, as Attorney General?

COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Well, I suppose I could ignore it–the fact that a local community is violating state law – but I don’t think that is a wise or responsible thing for me to do as Attorney General.  […]  So, for five years they’ve just continued to extend their moratorium.  Their last extension was in December of last year.  And attorneys for the Oil and Gas Commission told them at that point and in public hearings, “Look, you’re violating the law and the Supreme Court rulings in cases involving Longmont and Fort Collins — that were directly on point – in May of 2016 and said, ’Communities, you can’t do this any longer.’”     Boulder is the only one that continues to say “no”, and to lock down any new applications for oil and gas development, which hit the five-year mark – which is sort of the magic number as far as we are concerned in our office.  And that was last week.  And we just said, “All right.  This is enough.” We can’t continue to indulge Boulder in taking more time to write regulations, [as Boulder is continuing to request].

Later in the interview, the Attorney General also pre-emptively defended against charges of doing the bidding on behalf of the Oil and Gas Commission of Colorado, which inexplicably are not filing the lawsuit directly, despite their position with standing and their previous involvement in the case.

Coffman stated to Sengenberger that her direct involvement was driven by a number of considerations, including the long history [of oil and gas industry] in Colorado bringing well-paying jobs to the state which have fueled our economy, and protecting Colorado’s reputation as “business friendly” by enforcing parity and predictability in policy.

Journalist David Sirota, in his International Business Times article on Coffman’s intervention in the Boulder County dispute, reviewed reports and analyses of campaign finance disclosures which show steep increases in campaign contributions in 2014 and 2016 Colorado races from oil and gas donors.  The implication is that Coffman directly and indirectly benefitted from the influence of oil and gas campaign donations, and therefore her rationale is subject to scrutiny.

Further coverage of Attorney General Coffman’s interview can be found in the Coloradopolitics.com blog piece, linked here.

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…)

Colorado’s Public Lands & Public Health Under Attack by House GOP

FRIDAY UPDATE (PK): The House GOP’s efforts to tear down the national BLM methane venting rules is up today.  The Durango Herald has joined with the Sentinel and the Denver Post in urging that Congress leaves this rule in place.

From E&E News (subscription) this morning:

Republicans in Congress are invoking their authority under the Congressional Review Act to repeal rules finalized during President Obama’s last months in office, including several regulations opposed by the energy industry. The Senate yesterday voted to kill an Interior Department rule designed to protect waterways from coal mining pollution…

The House today considers a resolution that would wipe from the books the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which aims to prevent methane venting, flaring and leakage during oil and gas production.

New Mexico rancher Don Schreiber said he is incensed by the possibility.

“The thought of people without a vulnerable exposure, without exposing their own lives, the lives of their families, their wives, daughters, children, to this threat is infuriating to me and so outside anything that’s reasonable or just,” he said.

 

…”Those insults to our health, air quality, wildlife and climate go on around the clock, and we’re on the sharp end of the stick,” Schreiber said. “We ride our horses right into those BTEX discharges.”

 

THURSDAY POLS UPDATE: Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah is reportedly killing this bill after intense backlash:

Over “fear it sends the wrong message,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz will abandon his bill that called on the Interior Department to dispose of or sell 3.3 million acres of “excess” public lands.

Chaffetz, R-Utah, had reintroduced the legislation in January, saying the disposal was “long overdue.” He’s backed off the plan since then, seemingly in response to the many conservationist groups that protested the plan on social media…

Chaffetz has introduced the bill every year since 2010, but it has never passed or gone forward to a committee hearing. The legislation accords with other Republican efforts in Utah to take control public lands, which account for about two-thirds of the state’s area.

“While there are national treasures worthy of federal protection, there are lands that should be returned to private ownership,” Chaffetz said in 2011.

—–

Rep. Tipton’s district includes some of America’s most prized, visited and awe-inspiring public lands, as well as North America’s largest cloud of methane pollution. House Republicans are preparing to sell some of Colorado’s public lands, and to gut protections for air and water.

As noted in a previous diary I wrote here, the Republican assault on the lands, water and air did not take long. First up under a “rule change” devaluing the public lands held in trust for all Americans. That was immediately followed by efforts to roll back whatever environmental protections are most vulnerable.

Among the rush to gut environmental rules and protections, we learn that Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz has proposed legislation to begin the public lands sell off.  Public lands that Chaffetz wants to put up for sale are in ten states, according to an article in The Guardian.

The 10 states affected are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Residents can see how much acreage is earmarked for “disposal” in their counties by checking a PDF on Chaffetz’s website.

January 2017: Public lands already going up for sale. And some of the most vulnerable environmental rules, not to mention bedrock environmental laws, are about to be gutted.

In addition to selling off and opening up more public lands for development, House Republicans are eager to gut protections for clean air and water as well. Through the Congressional Review Act certain of President Obama’s more recent regulations are open to attack by a simple Congressional majority.

Two that are among those most vulnerable to roll back are the Stream Protection Rule–which expands protections for streams and waterways from coal mining; and the BLM’s Methane Waste Rule–which tightens regulations around wasting (which usually means leaking or venting) methane from oil and gas operations, a leading contributor to methane pollution.

Diverse Destinations

Delta County showcases some of its public lands – who knows which ones the House Republicans are about to sell off?

Although Colorado already has methane rules in place, through action at the state level that also applies to most federal lands, our air isn’t protected from activity in adjacent states–like Colorado’s Uinta and San Juan Basins, oil and gas fields which are both in Rep. Tipton’s Third Congressional District and also both in neighboring states where Colorado’s methane rules don’t apply.

(more…)

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 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.

 

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

Of Course Rick Perry Doesn’t Know Squat About Energy Secretary

Rick Perry, our next Secretary of Energy (whatever that means).

As revealed yesterday in a stunning piece in the New York Times, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — Donald Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary — doesn’t really have any idea what his potential new job actually entails:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal…

…Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.

And…now we have Rick Perry. Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine sums up Perry and the Department of Energy with a simple Tweet:

Call Your Senator – Refuse Rex Tillerson as Sec/State

Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO and Trump’s Nominee for Secretary of State, Accepting the Order of Friendship from Vladimir PUtin in 2013. Wikipedia Russia

Today, January 11, 2017, was the first day of hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFR) on the confirmation of Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. Tillerson evaded direct questions about if he would continue to press for removal of sanctions against Russia. He refused to denounce Russia’s human rights abuses of Syrian civilians.  He equivocated about whether climate change is caused by human activity. He seemed clueless about world affairs, outside of Russia. He played dumb about Russian hacking. And he gave little indication that he would act independently of his boss, Donald Trump.

The hearing will continue Thursday, January 12, and from that point the SFR can decide to move the nomination to the entire Senate for an up or down vote, or stall it in committee, effectively killing the nomination. We want Tillerson’s nomination to die in the SFR committee. If the SFR Senators get enough calls from their constituents, it can happen. Public pressure has prevented complete gutting of the Government Ethics Office, and has postponed several hearings that Trump originally wanted on 1/12/17


Five Reasons to Call Your Senator Now to refuse this nominee

  1. Exxon is the world’s #1 contributor to climate change. The company has known for 40 years that fossil fuel extraction and burning contribute to climate change, and it has spent 35 of those 40 years actively denying the science and lobbying to prevent worldwide action on climate change.  Meanwhile, Exxon factored warming seas into its calculations on Arctic oil extraction.
  2. Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State, would enter with huge conflicts of interest. Tillerson could reverse or make policy decisions about U.S. sanctions against Russia. Reversing sanctions would allow a $500 billion Arctic oil exploration deal to go forward, making Exxon and Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft rich, even if it makes the U.S. less safe. Tillerson himself owns $218 million in Exxon stock.
  3. The Arctic climate is fragile. It’s not just the risk of spills; methane and black carbon pollution from offshore oil development will increase global warming.

    Polar Bear on Arctic ice

    Expanded drilling would increase Arctic ice melt and decrease wildlife habitat. – Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  4. Tillerson has no experience in diplomacy . World diplomacy is not one giant business deal – there are very delicate situations in the world that need tact, knowledge, and patience.
  5.  Tillerson cannot be trusted to put the USA’s interests ahead of Russia’s or of Exxons –  as intelligence expert Malcolm Nance asked on MSNBC’s Joy Reid show, “Do we want a secretary of state who is going to be working hand in hand first and foremost for the U.S. and Russian petrochemical industries?”

Call your Senator on the  Foreign Relations Committee

Contact info:

  1. Marco Rubio (R-Florida)  @ Next election: 2022
  2. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee)(Chairman) Next election: 2018
  3. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) Next election: 2020
  4. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) Next election: 2022
  5. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) Next election: 2018
  6. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) Next election: 2020
  7. David Perdue (R-Georgia) Next election: 2020
  8. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) Next election: 2022
  9. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) Next election: 2022
  10. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) Next election: 2018
  11. Todd Young (R – Indiana) Next election: 2022
  12. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) (Ranking Member) Next election: 2018
  13. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) Next election: 2018
  14. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) Next election: 2020
  15. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) Next election: 2020
  16. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) Next election: 2020
  17. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) Next election: 2018
  18. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) Next election: 2018
  19. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) Next election: 2020
  20. Cory Booker (D- New Jersey) Next election: 2020
  21. Jeff Merkley (D- Oregon) Next election: 2020

Get More Smarter on Monday (December 19)

Don’t everybody go rogue all at once, now. 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…

► Weeks of huffing and puffing from so-called “Rogue Electors” or “Hamilton Electors” should come to a close today when the 538 members of the electoral college meet in states across the country today to officially cast their votes for President. Colorado’s nine Presidential electors will gather at the State Capitol today at noon for a ceremony that may or may not see Secretary of State Wayne Williams start punching people.

As Brian Eason reports for the Denver Post:

The “Never Trump” movement has sparked lawsuits in Colorado and elsewhere, and anti-Trump protests are planned at all 50 state capitols. Colorado’s protest is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The state’s delegates are scheduled to vote at noon at the state Capitol in Denver.

The odds of success seem vanishingly small. The Associated Press last week reported that it had interviewed more than 330 of the 538 electors and found little appetite — even among Democrats — for an Electoral College revolt.

And it’s not Democrats that the movement needs: it’s 37 Republicans from the 30 states in which Trump won the popular vote. That makes Colorado’s rogue Democratic electors irrelevant, aside from the symbolic value of solidarity with their Republican counterparts.

Colorado remains a focal point of electoral college dissent today — though protests are taking place all over the country — but it doesn’t seem likely that a Trump challenge will succeed. Of course, it didn’t seem all that likely that Donald Trump could get elected President in the first place, so maybe we’re in for another 2016 surprise. Here’s a look at what could happen if enough electoral college members actually do go rogue today.

Meanwhile, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is speaking out against any effort from Hamilton Electors to avoid choosing Trump today. Ironically, we still don’t know if Gardner himself actually voted for Trump after calling on the GOP nominee to drop out of the race in early October.

 

► A bipartisan group of Senators continues to push for a quicker investigation into allegations that Russia influenced the 2016 election in the U.S. As Politico recaps:

Four influential Democratic and GOP senators on Sunday amplified their call for a special investigation into foreign cyberwarfare, defying Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has already ruled out a select panel to probe Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) urged McConnell in a new letter to create a Senate select committee on cyber, a panel that Schumer said would focus not only on Russian meddling but also potential threats from other countries, including China and Iran…

…McCain had previously called for a select committee specifically examining the Russian involvement into the election. But the Sunday call — amplified through Sunday show appearances, a news conference and finally, a joint letter — renews the scrutiny of the Russian interference that President-elect Donald Trump has dismissed as “ridiculous” and “just another excuse” from Democrats who lost on Nov. 8.

President-elect Donald Trump, meanwhile, indicated over the weekend that maybe Russian interference in the 2016 election was a good thing.

 

► You have until Midnight tonight to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare — for coverage beginning Jan. 1 — after Thursday’s deadline was extended to account for a heavy volume of interest.

 

 

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

Get More Smarter on Thursday (December 15)

Happy Bill of Rights Day! Catch up on your Colorado politics news while you wait in line to see the new Star Wars movie. 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…

► Evergreen Republican lawmaker Tim Leonard is still sitting in jail in Jefferson County…and House Republicans are still sitting on their hands. As the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

Republican leadership in the state House of Representatives is still withholding comment beyond a statement issued last week about one of its members jailed Friday for contempt of court in a divorce dispute…

…Reached for a response Tuesday to Hullinghorst’s remarks, House GOP Communications Director Joel Malecka said the House Republican leadership regards the incident as a personal matter and that no further statements would be forthcoming. [Pols emphasis]

Leonard was just elected to his first full term in the legislature after being appointed by a Republican vacancy committee last January; now he is the first sitting legislator to serve time in jail in at least 40 years. This is indeed a personal matter…for the more than 50,000 voters in HD-25 who cast a ballot in November.

 

► Repealing Obamacare could lead to a national disaster. As CNN reports:

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Barack Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services, told CNN Wednesday that dismantling the Affordable Care Act will hit millions of Americans’ healthcare coverage, result in a spike in premiums and unleash widespread uncertainty across the insurance market…

…”If there is repeal, there would be chaos,” Burwell said in an interview at a diner in Newark, New Jersey. “If your child is on your policy ’til 26, and it’s repealed, that goes away. If you have a pre-existing condition — asthma, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, any of those things — you could be kept off of insurance if you had to make a move or a transition or were unemployed for a portion of time.”

She added: “The 20 million folks who have gotten insurance — that would go away too.”

That 20 million figure is the estimated net increase of individuals insured through Obamacare. Many policy experts agree with Burwell that the law, now almost seven years old, is so massive and complicated that rolling it back would inevitably be a messy and disruptive process. [Pols emphasis]

Never fear! Congressional Republicans are totally maybe possibly going to come up with an idea to replace Obamacare at some point after they gut the healthcare law. But in the meantime, yay chaos!

 

► The U.S. Federal Reserve is trying to protect against Donald Trump making inflation great again. From Politico:

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised interest rates for only the second time in a decade with the prospect of as many as three more increases to come in 2017.

Central bank chair Janet Yellen suggested that she and her colleagues would keep their eyes on Trump’s plans for steep tax cuts and infrastructure spending, with the Fed poised to hike faster if the president-elect and the Republican Congress start pumping massive amounts of cash into the economy…

…The emerging Trump-versus-Yellen battle is in large part based on completely opposite views of the current U.S. economy.

The Fed sees unemployment at just 4.6 percent, a third-quarter growth rate of 3 percent and rising wages as signals that the economy is close to overheating. The central bank wants to bump rates back up to more normal levels over the coming years to prevent crippling inflation. [Pols emphasis]

 

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Throwback Thursday: Vladimir Putin Says, “Help Me Stay Rich!”

We took note back in August of 2014 of a mysterious public persuasion campaign waged on behalf of energy producers by a fly-by-night group called the Friends of Safe Energy. Wheatpaste posters with a QR code directing to viral videos appeared in downtown Denver near the state capitol and reportedly in other visible locations in the state:

The videos were meant to be snarky brags from Middle Eastern and Russian energy barons about spending your money acquired through energy wealth–but in addition to being light on facts about the sources of American energy, the ads were widely condemned as racially insensitive and xenophobic:

“Offensive. Insulting. Demeaning. (It’s) Stereotyped and stigmatized versions of people,” said Robert Hazan, the chair of political science at Metropolitan State University. “Unfortunately, (it’s) protected by free speech.”

Today, it’s enough to note that at least one of the foreign villains of this pro-domestic energy campaign, Russian President Vladimir Putin

(more…)

Beauprez Keeps Getting Dissed for Interior Secretary

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right) is only getting one response as he campaigns for Interior Secretary.

Former Congressman and two-time gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez really wants to become Interior Secretary under President Donald Trump. The feeling is apparently not mutual.

Beauprez’s name was floated as a potential Interior choice by the Colorado Springs Gazette a few weeks ago — though the only confirmation the Gazette received was from Beauprez himself. “Both Ways Bob” has definitely been working hard trying to get on Trump’s radar, and even managed to convince the Denver Post to publish a weird backhanded endorsement for the job.

But if there is a short list for Interior Secretary, Beauprez’s name does not appear to be listed. Late last week, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers was rumored to be Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary…until she wasn’t. McMorris-Rodgers apparently did not get the thumbs-up from Trump, and now Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke is the new favorite for the job.

All hope is not yet lost for Beauprez, however; it is not clear that Zinke actually wants the job of Interior Secretary, as Republicans had been grooming him for a potential U.S. Senate run against Democratic incumbent Jon Tester.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 14)

Canada has lost a great thespian; RIP Alan Thicke. 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…

► A judge ruled against a request by some Colorado electoral college representatives that might have allowed them to cast votes for someone other than Hillary Clinton, who captured Colorado’s nine electoral votes in November. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

Colorado presidential electors who do not vote for Hillary Clinton as the winner of the state’s vote risk criminal charges after a Denver judge delivered the second setback in two days to an effort to block Donald Trump from winning the presidency.

Denver District Judge Elizabeth Starrs ruled that state law requires members of the Electoral College, when the body meets at noon Monday, to vote for the presidential and vice presidential candidates who received the most votes in Colorado.

The order also granted authority to the Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, to replace electors who violate the law — essentially ending Colorado’s role in the “Hamilton Electors” movementto keep Trump from the White House.

Two of Colorado’s electors have filed an appeal to the federal judge’s ruling.

 

► President-elect Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he has selected ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as Secretary of State. Tillerson’s nomination could face a stiff challenge from the U.S. Senate, where Republicans such as John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio have all expressed serious concerns about Tillerson’s close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will get an early crack at making a decision on Tillerson; as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gardner will vote on Tillerson’s nomination before he is considered by the full Senate. It is expected, however, that Gardner will just do whatever the oil and gas industry tells him to do.

 

Donald Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor has been less than secure about handling classified information. As the Washington Post reports:

A secret U.S. military investigation in 2010 determined that Michael T. Flynn, the retired Army general tapped to serve as national security adviser in the Trump White House, “inappropriately shared” classified information with foreign military officers in Afghanistan, newly released documents show.

Although Flynn lacked authorization to share the classified material, he was not disciplined or reprimanded after the investigation concluded that he did not act “knowingly” and that “there was no actual or potential damage to national security as a result,” according to Army records obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act.

Well, that’s awesome. In the meantime, perhaps somebody in the Trump administration could convince the President-elect to actually listen to security briefings at some point.

 

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

Trump Confirms ExxonMobil CEO as Secretary of State Choice

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of State

On Tuesday, the transition team for President-elect Donald Trump made official one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington D.C. in the last week: ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is Trump’s pick to serve as Secretary of State.

It has been reported in numerous outlets that Trump and Tillerson could be in for a tough battle on the road to confirmation from the U.S. Senate. From FiveThirtyEight.com:

Russia will soon become an axis of conflict between President-elect Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate. Trump may have a difficult time securing Senate confirmation for Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, his pick for Secretary of State, because of Tillerson’s ties to Vladimir Putin and Exxon Mobil’s business interests in Russia. Furthermore, the Senate may soon launch an inquiry into possible Russian interference in the presidential election, something that Trump opposes.

Russia hasn’t been a focal point for policymaking in the Senate over the past several years outside of a few resolutions passed by unanimous consent. Therefore, there aren’t a lot of votes to indicate which senators might take the most hawkish positions toward Russia. However, we can look at two recent developments to get a sense for which senators might be most willing to hold the line against Trump…

Guess who makes the list of Republican “hawks” on Russia who could take a prominent role in Senate confirmation of Tillerson? Hint: His name rhymes with Mory Fardner:

There aren’t a lot of surprises on that list. It includes three of the most well-known Russia hawks in the Senate — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida — along with Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of the few Republicans to represent a state won by Hillary Clinton. [Pols emphasis] There’s also Portman, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Three of those Republicans — Rubio, Gardner and Johnson — are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will vote on State Department nominees before their names go to the entire Senate. [Pols emphasis] Republicans will have just a one-seat advantage on the committee, so any GOP defections could potentially scuttle Tillerson’s confirmation.

What do I think about Rex Tillerson? Well, I’ll tell you, but…hey, look over there!

But as James Hohmann writes for the Washington Post, Gardner may be reluctant to oppose Tillerson’s nomination in part because he needs to raise big money from the oil and gas industry:

Cory Gardner will be reluctant to upset the energy industry, not just because he’s from Colorado but because as NRSC chairman he’ll need to aggressively hit up oil executives for money the next two years.

Is Rex Tillerson really a good choice for Secretary of State? Who cares so long as the oil and gas industry says so!

What does Sen. Gardner have to say about Tillerson’s nomination? As the Colorado Springs Gazette reports…not much:

We asked whether Gardner had a position yet on Tillerson and were told by Communications Director Alex Siciliano: “Senator Gardner will carefully consider whomever is nominated for Secretary of State on their merits, and their merits alone.”

Hopefully you weren’t holding your breath waiting for something more substantial from Gardner, who really just wants to make sure that Donald Trump takes him off of his “naughty list” for being completely unhelpful during the 2016 election. If Gardner is concerned about Russia’s growing ties to the incoming administration, don’t expect to hear it from him anytime soon.

 

Rick Perry Nominated for Energy Secretary

UPDATE: Perry’s selection as Energy Secretary is good news for Democrats in one regard. As “The Fix” reports:

Almost everyone — including Harry Reid — expected West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) to take a job in the Trump administration. Tuesday, Manchin said he was staying put…

…Manchin’s surprise decision to stay in the Senate and, presumably, to seek a second term in 2018 is a major break for Democrats who badly needed one. Had Manchin abandoned his seat, there is a roughly zero percent chance Democrats would have held it in November 2018. Manchin is a popular former governor who is regarded as apolitical, a necessary status in a state that Donald Trump won by 42(!) points in 2016. Even with his decision to run again, Manchin could face a real challenge from Reps. Evan Jenkins or Dave McKinley or state Attorney General Patrick Morrissey. But the incumbent Democrat will start a race against any one of that trio as a favorite.

—–

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry

From Politico:

On a presidential debate stage five years ago, Rick Perry blanked on the Energy Department’s name when trying to include it in a list of agencies he promised to abolish — memorably concluding with “oops.”

Now Donald Trump has chosen the former Texas governor to lead the sprawling department, which oversees the security of the nation’s nuclear weapons and has played major roles in President Barack Obama’s climate agenda and nuclear deal with Iran. Three sources close to the transition confirmed the choice Tuesday…

…The conservative Heritage Foundation last month urged the next president to eliminate vast swaths of the department, including all the research, development, regulatory and loan programs that the Obama administration has used to drive advances in green energy, as well as its 700-million-barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And last week, Trump’s transition team asked DOE to supply the names of all agency employees who had worked on Obama’s climate initiatives, a request that Democrats and former staffers denounced as a “witch hunt.”

Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, also had the Energy Department in his sights during the 2012 presidential campaign, when he called for eliminating it as part of his program to shrink the federal government.

So, uh, Rick Perry is going to head up a department that he does not think should exist. This is like hiring Denver Broncos legend John Elway as the President of the Oakland Raiders.