Colorado Pols Regular Gets “SLAPPed”


Pete Kolbenschlag.

We’re obliged to bring to our readers’ attention a distressing situation affecting one of our longtime readers and guest bloggers, Paonia-based environmental activist Pete Kolbenschlag. For years, Kolbenschlag has provided our community with insightful commentary on energy and conservation issues affecting Colorado’s energy-rich Western Slope.

But as the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reported this week, Kolbenschlag has been hit with what’s known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) by energy company SG Interests over comments he made on an online news story:

Pete Kolbenschlag says the suit brought by SG Interests against him is unfounded and an attempt to silence him. He has raised more than $10,000 from more than 150 donors in just four days in an ongoing crowd-funding effort to pay for his defense.

SG Interests sued Kolbenschlag Feb. 21 in district court in Delta County over a comment he posted on the Glenwood Springs Post Independent website about a Nov. 28 article in that newspaper. The article said SGI planned to sue the federal government over the Bureau of Land Management’s cancellation of 18 SGI leases in the Thompson Divide southwest of Glenwood Springs, based on evidence of alleged collusion between the Obama administration and environmentalists to reach a predetermined political conclusion.

SGI proceeded with suing over the lease cancellations on Feb. 10.

The company says Kolbenschlag falsely stated in response to the Nov. 28 article that while SGI alleges collusion, “let us recall that it, SGI, was actually fined for colluding … to rig bid prices and rip off American taxpayers.”

And as Webb continues, Kolbenschlag appears to be right:

Kolbenschlag’s comments were a reference to allegations by the Justice Department that SGI and Gunnison Energy Corp. colluded in acquiring four leases covering some 3,500 acres in the Ragged Mountain area of Delta and Gunnison counties. The companies agreed in 2013 to pay a combined amount of more than $1 million to settle a civil antitrust action and alleged violations of the False Claims Act in the case. [Pols emphasis] Neither company admitted wrongdoing.

The fact that the companies settled without admitting wrongdoing appears to be the basis for the libel claim by SG Interests, which strikes us as extremely dubious–if not legally than certainly morally. Moreover, there’s no reason to believe that a comment on an online news story of a small-town paper would be injurious to this large energy company. The tactic of large companies filing libel or other such civil suits against individual critics is deeply controversial even with far nastier subject matter.

We can’t forget that this is the same SG Interests who Rep. Scott Tipton admitted to letting directly author large portions of legislation he introduced addressing the conflict over drilling in the Thompson Divide area:

In an interview, Tipton confirmed its origin, and documents obtained by The Denver Post show that Tipton’s draft legislation duplicates — word for word — entire sections of the proposal offered by SG Interests.

Writing at this blog and elsewhere, Kolbenschlag has been highly critical of SG Interests, their large donations to Tipton, and Tipton’s role as a vehicle for their desired policies. We’d say it’s likely that the comment Kolbenschlag is not anything close to the most serious allegation he has made about the company–it’s just the one they decided they could sue over.

With all of this in mind, we hope our readers will head over to Kolbenschlag’s legal defense fund page and consider helping him out as he readies for his David vs. Goliath legal battle. As of this writing, the page is up to $16,175. Legal defense isn’t cheap, and nobody has deep pockets like the energy biz.

Good luck to Mr. Kolbenschlag, and thanks again for all the great posts.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 1)

March is definitely arriving in lamb form — in the Denver Metro area, at least. Let’s go ahead and see if we can Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening (full text here). As Eli Stokols writes for Politico, Trump displayed a less-angry version of himself during his prime time address, but was no less vague on his many policy proposals:

Not an official “State of the Union” address, Trump’s first speech to Congress was an attempt to stabilize his administration and improve his standing with the public, which views Trump more unfavorably than any other president after only a month in office. Beyond showcasing a more presidential posture to the largest national television audience he’s had since his inauguration, Trump also sought to set out some shared goals for the Congress that will largely determine the nature and scope of his eventual accomplishments…

…After such a rocky first five weeks, Trump needed to present himself to members of Congress, many of whom have recently been met by anti-Trump mobs at town hall meetings, as a reasonable collaborative partner as they begin a long legislative journey. He spoke not of past grievances, but of a future full of opportunity. For an hour at least, beefs gave way to bright banalities. [Pols emphasis]

For the most part, the president’s specific policy prescriptions were as broad and vague as they were sweeping and ambitious. Trump called on Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that “expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better healthcare.” He laid out a broad outline of what an alternative would look like, but steered clear of specifics that could jam up negotiations among congressional Republicans.

“Bright banalities” is a nice way to summarize Trump’s policy ideas on Tuesday. Trump stuck to his usual fact-free statements to introduce most proposals, and as Karen Tumulty writes for the Washington Post, he avoided the kind of specifics that Congressional Republicans were hoping to hear:

Nor did the president give his Republican allies in Congress what they had wanted to hear, which was a sense of clarity on how he plans to achieve the ambitious agenda he promised. There were few detail offered and no nod to the complexity of the issues nor the fact that achieving his goals will require navigating deep fissures within his own party…

…Trump’s address was also notable for some of the standard Republican themes it did not include. He mentioned the federal debt only once, and the deficit not at all.

There’s plenty of reaction to Trump’s speech on the Internet tubes. Here are five key takeaways from the New York Times. Check Politico for more fact-checking on the President’s speech. Denver7 compiles some of the local reaction to Trump’s speech.

 

► The Washington Post points to the influence of Ivanka Trump and chief strategist Steve Bannon for Tuesday’s “Teleprompter Trump.”

 

President Trump is delaying the rollout of a new travel ban proposal on account of the fact that people didn’t completely hate his first big speech as President:

The decision came late Tuesday night as positive reviews flooded in for Trump’s speech, which struck a largely optimistic and unifying tone.

Signing the executive order Wednesday, as originally indicated by the White House, would have undercut the favorable coverage. The official didn’t deny the positive reception was part of the administration’s calculus in pushing back the travel ban announcement.

 

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

Get More Smarter on Monday (February 27)

Get caught up on your Colorado political news while you wait for that giraffe to give birth. 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…

President Trump will deliver his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, and as the Washington Post reports, Trump will be rolling out some fuzzy maths:

President Trump will propose a federal budget that dramatically increases defense-related spending by $54 billion while cutting other federal agencies by the same amount, according to an administration official.

The proposal represents a massive increase in federal spending related to national security, while other priorities, especially foreign aid, will see significant reductions.

According to the White House, the defense budget will increase by 10 percent. But without providing any specifics, the administration said that most other discretionary spending programs will be slashed to pay for it. Officials singled out foreign aid, one of the smallest parts of the federal budget, saying it would see “large reductions” in spending.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is proving to be very popular…in cardboard form. As Congress returns to “work” after its President’s Day recess, the buzz surrounding Gardner’s constituent indifference is only growing louder. Multiple media outlets covered Friday’s “town hall” event in Denver that was staged without the freshman Senator. Here’s more from the Denver Post:

Coloradans packed Byers Middle School gym and cafeteria Friday evening for a town hall event to ask Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner questions regarding issues such as health care, climate change and immigration.

Gardner, who did not attend the event, was represented by a large cardboard cutout…

…many town hall attendees said they have not been able to get in touch with Gardner and feel he has been unresponsive. Christine Robinson, of Parker, said she has called his office twice a day for the last month and has protested or visited his office in Denver five times without any answers to her questions.

“I am not a paid protester,” she said while waiting in line, which wrapped around the block of the middle school. “We’re here to send a loud message — to listen to us. He does not want to.”

 

► Democrats are feeling increasingly optimistic about the chances of winning several races for Governor — including in Colorado — in 2018. From the Washington Post:

As the chairman-elect of the Democratic Governors Association, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will quarterback his party’s efforts in next year’s gubernatorial contests. To say he’s bullish would be an understatement. “Democrats are going to crawl across broken glass on their knees to go vote in 2018, if the conditions exist as they do today,” Inslee said during an interview yesterday afternoon at the J.W. Marriott, before he headed to the White House for a black-tie gala hosted by President Trump…

No one can predict what the political environment will be a year-and-a-half from now, but historically the president’s party loses seats in his first midterm. 

Even if Trump was a generic Republican, which he is most certainly not, the terrain was already going to be quite favorable for Democrats. They have just 16 governorships, a dozen fewer than when Barack Obama took office.

In a separate story, the Post discusses the “hold your nose” view of President Trump that may prove to be a significant barrier for re-election in 2020. As the New York Times notes, we should get the first sense of the power of an anti-Trump strategy in the Virginia Governor’s race.

 

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

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]

 

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

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.