Get More Smarter on Friday (December 14)

Get ready for a lot of “hemp” mentions in the near future. It’s time to 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…

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to run interference for Saudi Arabia when it comes to foreign policy decisions. From the Denver Post:

Gardner voted Thursday afternoon against ending U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen — one of a pair of votes taken in response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The amendment passed, however, with support from all Senate Democrats, including Colorado’s Michael Bennet, and a handful of Republicans.

“The tragic and extraordinarily complex situation in Yemen requires a political solution,” Bennet said in a statement. “It’s also critical to stress how inadequate the President’s response to the death of Jamal Khashoggi has been, in effect legitimizing his murder and failing to stand up for press freedom.”

President Donald Trump has continued to support Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite the CIA’s findings.

As the Washington Post explains, the Senate — not including Gardner — is at least trying to take on a leadership role in the absence of a strong voice in the White House:

On Thursday afternoon, a bipartisan coalition in Congress moved to fill the void and perform this function of the presidency that Trump has essentially outsourced. Senators voted 56-to-41 to cut off U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s often brutal conduct in the Yemen civil war. It’s the first time either chamber of Congress has asserted itself against the executive branch by using the War Powers Act, which became law during the depths of the Vietnam quagmire in 1973.

A few minutes later, the Senate voted unanimously to approve a separate, nonbinding resolution that blames Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for what happened to Khashoggi. The CIA concluded that MBS, as he’s known, probably ordered and monitored the dismemberment of the dissident journalist inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. But Trump has touted the authoritarian prince’s denials and sought to play down the expert assessment of his own intelligence community. There’s even a tape.

Gardner has said a lot of words about Saudi Arabia lately. None of them meaningful.

 

► Congressional Republicans have again settled on a familiar strategy regarding a potential government shutdown: Punt. As Politico reports:

The House and Senate left town Thursday with no strategy to avert a partial government shutdown next week, putting Congress on the brink of an intractable conflict that could drag out through New Year’s Day — furloughing hundreds of thousands of workers and costing taxpayers millions.

Frustrated lawmakers in both parties are complaining that congressional leaders have made zero progress since Tuesday, when Trump stunned even his fellow Republicans by boasting that he would take the blame for the closure of a dozen federal agencies if he doesn’t get money for his border wall.

Lawmakers say there is no public plan to prevent a partial government shuttering. And no secret plan either.

 

President Trump has more answers than a Scantron sheet in response to worsening news about Robert Mueller’s investigation into a myriad of 2016 campaign issues. From the Washington Post:

The president no longer disputes that he instructed his then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to make the payments to former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels.

Instead, Trump sought to evade that question Thursday by saying he never told Cohen to break the law — making a narrow assertion that was itself an admission that his and his team’s earlier denials were false…

…In these and other statements Thursday, Trump tried to place blame entirely on his lawyer for felonies that his advisers and allies are increasingly concerned could imperil the president. The statements come as Trump feels besieged by multiplying investigations in New York and Washington and uncertain about what may be around the corner, according to several of his associates.

The evolving strategy on the hush-money allegations is textbook Trump: Tell one version of events until it falls apart, then tell a new version, and so on — until the danger passes.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Friday Open Thread

“To be outspoken is easy when you do not wait to speak the complete truth.”

–Rabindranath Tagore

Everybody Should Have The Opportunity To Run Against Gardner

UPDATE: Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette now updating that Andrew Romanoff may not be a U.S. Senate candidate despite today’s filing:

A representative of Andrew Romanoff said Thursday’s FEC filing was an update to previously filed paperwork and was not intended to launch a new campaign for Senate.

We’ll update when we or anybody else learns more.

—–

The overwhelming consensus from post-election polls and press analysis is that Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado will be one of the nation’s most vulnerable incumbent U.S. Senators in the 2020 elections. With that in mind, it should surprise no one that a large number of Colorado Democrats are seriously considering a run against Gardner, setting up would could be a big and very competitive primary. Back in April of 2017, Gardner held a telephone “town hall” where he answered a question about Donald Trump’s tax returns saying “everybody should have the opportunity to release their tax returns.”

Today, everybody wants the opportunity to run against Cory Gardner.

With that in mind, we’re beginning with this post a running list of the Democratic candidates who are officially in the U.S. race, seriously considering, or maybe would make the jump given the appropriate encouragement from the right people. And as we’ll explain, there’s lots of room for this list to grow, including big names who could become prohibitive favorites upon entry:

Former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff filed to run just today, confirming widespread rumors that he would take his second shot at a U.S. Senate seat after losing the hotly contested 2010 Democratic primary to now-Sen. Michael Bennet. Romanoff remains popular among grassroots Democrats, and has stayed in the game with his unsuccessful challenge to Rep. Mike Coffman a few years ago.

Lorena Garcia, executive director of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition, announced her run in late November. Although she has never held elected office, Garcia is a longtime director or numerous local political nonprofits and is a frequent presence at the state capitol during the legislative session.

Here are candidates who haven’t yet formally joined the race but are known to be considering:

Outgoing Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran has an energetic base of support among Denver Democrats, who have made no secret of their desire for her to run–but could struggle elsewhere.

Former Colorado Sen. Michael Johnston, who lost the gubernatorial primary despite large helpings of out-of-state ed “reform” support, still has resources he could draw upon for a Senate bid.

Former Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett indicated an interest in the race last year.

Trish Zornio, who seems nice but would be best described as a minor candidate in the event she files for the race.

From there, the speculation turns to potentially big names who could upset or even end a primary if they were to announce their own runs. This would include Rep. Ed Perlmutter and freshman Rep. Joe Neguse–and yes, even Gov. John Hickenlooper in the event he reconsiders a run for President. Cary Kennedy was another potential first tier candidate, but she just took a high-level position in Jared Polis’ administration.

Again we’re not intending this to be a comprehensive list, and names are likely to come and go before we get to anything like a final slate of Democratic primary candidates. The multitude of qualified candidates on the Democratic bench, combined with Gardner’s widely-recognized weakness, means this is going to be a compelling primary.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (December 13)

Tremendous amounts of political news. It’s time to 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…

► Gun deaths in the United States have reached a new high, as CNN reports:

Nearly 40,000 people in the United States died by guns last year, marking the highest number of gun deaths in 38 years, according to a new analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database.

A similar analysis was first conducted by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, a non-profit gun policy advocacy group.

CNN replicated that analysis and found that 39,773 people died by guns in 2017, which is an increase of more than 10,000 deaths from the 28,874 in 1999.

CDC statisticians confirmed with CNN on Thursday that these numbers are correct and they show gun deaths have reached a record-high going back to at least 1979.

We’re #1! Dammit.

 

A new farm bill made it through the House of Representatives on Wednesday and is now on its way to the desk of President Trump.

 

► Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) emerged as a major player in discussions that will likely ensure that Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House. Perlmutter helped negotiate a deal that will set term limits on Democratic leadership to pave the way for new “generational” change in two years.

 

► “Medicare X” is not the name of a new superhero. The Colorado Sun explains:

Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is giving a new push to his grand idea for fixing America’s health insurance market.

He calls it Medicare-X — “the best name I ever came up with,” he says. Bennet, a Democrat, touted the idea last week at the Colorado Health Institute’s annual Hot Issues in Health conference, then spoke about it afterward with reporters.

On the political spectrum of health-policy ideas, Medicare-X sits somewhere in the middle — a more moderate and incremental approach than the single-payer plans many of his fellow Democrats have been endorsing, but with plenty of federal involvement to draw fire from Republicans skeptical of government meddling in the marketplace.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Ed Perlmutter Gets Hard Concessions For Pelosi Support

Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports on the deal struck yesterday between a group of dissident Democratic members of Congress and presumptive Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi–a deal that includes significant changes to the way Democratic House leadership works, most importantly through a term limit that will ultimately apply to Speaker Pelosi herself:

A person familiar with discussions said Democrats wanted to avoid entering the 116th Congressional session leaderless and divided. This agreement will likely quell that intra-party debate.

“An important conversation was started here and going forward I feel confident our leaders will work to share their knowledge, experience and skill with those who aspire to leadership for the sake of our caucus, our party and our country,” said Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter in a statement.

The District 7 representative was a key part in negotiating this deal. He now backs Pelosi for Speaker, as do six other members of Congress who were previously opposed to her election. He said he believes her support for term limits will help create a pipeline for a new group of Democratic leaders.

The Denver Post’s Anna Staver:

The deal gives Pelosi at least one and possibly two more terms — or four more years — as speaker. It also sets term limits on the other three top Democratic positions: majority leader, whip and assistant Democratic leader.

“I have pushed for new leadership because I want to see generational change in the Democratic Caucus,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “I am now convinced that generational change has started and will continue to accelerate.”

Putting an exit plan in place earned Pelosi the support of Perlmutter and many others in the small group of “rebel” representatives in the U.S. House who have been calling for her and other top Democrats to step aside.

It should be noted that the agreement to limit terms for Democratic House leadership was not popular among, well, everyone in Democratic leadership:

“She’s not negotiating for me,” [incoming House Majority Leader Steny] Hoyer said, adding that she has not kept him apprised of the ongoing negotiations. “I think there’s a lot of discussion about it. I don’t think it’s going to happen. I hope it doesn’t happen.”

“No … I have not supported term limits,” Hoyer said. “I am against term limits because I have a term limit. It’s a two-year term limit.”

Which only underscores the significance of the deal Perlmutter struck yesterday. The reality is that Pelosi had already done most of the work needed to consolidate support ahead of the formal House leadership election in January, and the remaining holdouts were hitting the limit of their negotiating power. But more than a face-saving kumbaya, this is an agreement that will guarantee the change of leadership Perlmutter wants in due course. Both sides can plausibly claim a win, and House Democrats can unite going into their new majority.

Not to mention that incoming Speaker Pelosi seems to be holding her own just fine.

Pokemon Go is an Alt-Right Recruiting Tool?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As 2018 draws to a close and we begin to reflect on what we probably all agree was another strange year, I’d like to offer this as an emblem of where we’re at: progressive women along Colorado’s Front Range are going around destroying neo-Nazi propaganda that appears to have been strategically placed near — wait for it — Pokemon Go waypoints.

The propaganda is being disseminated by the recently formed white nationalist group Identity Evropa, which in recent months has been ramping up activity in the Rocky Mountain region. They gained notoriety after helping organize 2017’s Unite the Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter-protester was murdered, and recently held a rally in Denver’s Civic Center Park.

Their goal? Lure young white men with conservative leanings into the white supremacist fold to revitalize the image of their movement and bring it into the mainstream.

The group, which leaders have referred to as a “fraternity,” is especially active on college campuses, where it hopes to attract well-educated and clean cut men – not, as their founder Nathan Domingo put it in an interview with the Daily Beast, “some uneducated redneck living in the bayou somewhere.”

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Cory Gardner’s Latest Hit: What Consumer Financial Protection?

President Trump (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

NPR reported last week on the vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm Kathy Kraninger as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency that has suffered from severe and very deliberate neglect under President Donald Trump:

The Senate voted 50-49 Thursday to back Kraninger as head of the consumer protection watchdog agency. She has worked for the Office of Management and Budget since March 2017.

She will succeed her OMB boss Mick Mulvaney, who has been the CFPB’s acting director, for a five-year term. An associate director for general government at the OMB, Kraninger, 43, held prior jobs at the departments of Homeland Security and Transportation.

Kraninger’s appointment is another slight by the Trump administration against the CFPB, an agency Mulvaney has worked to weaken from within.

Vox provides a little more background on the years-long partisan fight over the CFPB, and how the leadership of the bureau turned downright hostile to its mission under Trump:

The CFPB was created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform and formed in 2011. Its mission is to protect consumers who are dealing with banks and taking on debt, including mortgages, student loans, and credit cards. Under its first director, Cordray, who was confirmed in 2013, the bureau by its own tally handled more than 1.2 million consumer complaints and brought about nearly $12 billion in relief for harmed consumers…

Under Mulvaney, who once called the bureau as “sick, sad” joke, the CFPB took a sharp turn in its activities. Mulvaney reportedly scaled back an investigation into the Equifax data breach, relaxed restrictions on often predatory payday lenders, and recommended Congress pursue sweeping changes to the CFPB’s powers.

Kraninger doesn’t have much of a track record for Senators to have evaluated during her confirmation, but by all accounts she is expected to continue Trump multipurpose henchman Mick Mulvaney’s willful mismanagement of the CFPB to relax oversight over lenders and credit reporting agencies. Affirmatively speaking, Kraninger had nothing to offer in this position–her confirmation was strictly based on the administration’s desire for her to have the job, and the unifying Republican contempt for this agency and the legislation that created it told Republican Senators all they needed to know.

For Sen. Cory Gardner, whose vote to confirm Kraninger was decisive like every other GOP Senator, this was a continuation of an already dismal record on consumer finance issues that he’ll be made to answer for in 2020. For Gardner in particular, consistently voting to protect loan sharks over consumers puts him in direct conflict with Colorado voters, who just approved Proposition 111 to cap interest rates on predatory payday loans by over 77% of the vote.

It may not have the drama of an issue like abortion, but this could easily be another big liability for Gardner in 2020 if it becomes a major point of debate–for example, in the event longtime CFPB proponent Elizabeth Warren is on the 2020 ticket for Democrats.

And if there’s one thing Cory Gardner doesn’t need, it’s more liabilities.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 12)

We have reached the teens! There are only 19 days remaining in 2018. It’s time to 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 tried to film an episode of “The Apprentice” in the Oval Office on Tuesday, and it did not go well at all. As the Washington Post explains, Trump got his first taste of divided government on Tuesday:

In his first two years in office, President Trump operated without a clear check on his power. With his party controlling both houses of Congress, he issued demands from his bedroom in the form of early-morning tweets, and legislative leaders got in line. He rarely was personally confronted about his untruths and misstatements. And he mostly ignored congressional Democrats, choosing to spar instead with journalists.

That all came to a crashing halt Tuesday. In an extraordinarily heated public fight with the nation’s top two Democratic leaders, the combustible president confronted for the first time the enormity of the challenge he will face over the next two years: divided government…

…With Democrats sweeping into power in the House in January, Trump for the first time will be forced to work with the opposition party to govern. And if Tuesday’s spectacle is any indication, Pelosi and Schumer intend to be tough adversaries. They showed an eagerness to challenge the president by using some of his own tactics against him. They tried not only to debate him on policy, but also to hold him accountable for his fact-challenged bluster and to paint him as weak and inept.

 

► President Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison today as a result of illegal activities he allegedly performed at the behest of Trump.

 

Another poll, another bad set of numbers for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). According to a survey conducted this month by Change Research, Gardner is wildly unpopular heading into the last two years of his Senate term:

The poll also found that 50% have unfavorable feelings towards Senator Gardner compared with 38% who are favorable and if the election were held today, he would lose to ‘the Democratic candidate’ 47% to 41%.

Given their size in the state, independent voters who do not identify with one of the two major political parties are particularly important. Senator Gardner’s net unfavorables are 14 points higher than his favorables among this group and he loses them by 13 points in a head-to-head with a generic Democrat.

Gardner’s numbers in Colorado have been positively brutal for more than two years now.

 

► Britain’s Conservative Party has called for a vote to oust Prime Minister Theresa May, which could be a precursor to a sea-change election in Old England.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

BREAKING: Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

President Trump and former personal attorney Michael Cohen

From CBS News:

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen has been sentenced by a federal judge in Manhattan to three years in federal prison.

Prosecutors had recommended a “substantial term of imprisonment” for Cohen, who pleaded guilty to both lying to Congress over a possible Trump Tower Moscow project, and to campaign finance violations for paying women who alleged affairs with Donald Trump. Cohen’s lawyers had asked that he serve no prison time.

Cohen, according to the Associated Press, said in his defense that “blind loyalty” to Mr. Trump “led me to take a path of darkness instead of light.”

Prosecutors say they believe Cohen committed illegal acts at the direction of Mr. Trump, named “Individual 1” in court filings. Mr. Trump has disowned Cohen, calling him “not very smart.”

We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.

Worst Source Scenario, Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives

Yesterday evening, the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives posted a link to their Facebook page that immediately raised eyebrows–not so much because of the subject matter, but rather the source:

That’s not a misprint: the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives posted to Facebook linking to the Daily Stormer, one of the nation’s–perhaps one of the world’s–most scurrilously white supremacist websites, which fought a running battle against internet service providers in the last couple of years to remain accessible outside the “dark web.”

Not long after this link was posted, somebody let them know:

The problem is that these two links are not to the same story whatsoever. “BizPacReview” is a fringe-right internet property that has long been regarded as a source of fake news, but the Daily Stormer piece includes extremely provocative anti-Semitic statements that we have real trouble imagining could be overlooked while reading it. Readers are free to hunt either down if they choose, we won’t be linking to them.

But this means either the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives member who posted this link didn’t read the story, or they did–and weren’t troubled by the words “smashing k—-s.”

Needless to say, we hope it’s the former.

“Moms Demand Automatics” To Rally During Denver’s Jan. 19 Women’s March

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Democrats are widely expected to pass gun-safety legislation next year.

But the Democrats’ legislative majority isn’t stopping pro-gun groups from preparing to fight.

A pro-gun group called Moms Demand Automatics is trying to get attention by organizing a counter-protest during Denver’s Jan. 19 Women’s March, according to the group’s Facebook page, which includes likes from Republican State House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock. About 100 people are interested or going to the rally, like former Republican House candidate Grady Nouis.

Another pro-gun gun entity, Rally for Our Rights, is raising money for billboards in Colorado and planning workshops on the legislative process.

One of Rally for Our Rights’ three proposed billboards calls it hypocrisy to support women’s rights and also to advocate for gun-safety legislation. The  billboard would state:

Politicians Who Claim to Support Women’s Rights Want to Take Away A Woman’s Right To Defend Herself with a Firearm. Why? RallyforOurRights.com

The group wants the billboards as part of a campaign to fight expected gun-control legislation.

“Colorado is going to be ground zero for gun control legislation after Democrats swept all three branches of state government on election day,” state’s the group’s GoFundMe page, which indicates that about $1,000 has been raised toward a $15,000 goal.

In addition to the billboard campaign, Rally for Our Rights plans to hold three free activist workshops in Colorado, including one at the offices of the Independence Institute, a libertarian entity most often aligned with Republicans.  The workshops, which will be scheduled later, are titled, “How to Be a Better Second Amendment Activist.”

The training includes information on the legislative and the electoral processes, as well as a “quick overview of the recall process.”

Rally for Our Rights is being promoted by longtime Tea Party activist Lesley Hollywood, who founded the group but did not respond to requests for comment. Hollywood recently appeared on NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch’s “NRATV” program.

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Trump Threatens Shutdown in Oval Office Shouting Match

Fun times all around today in the Oval Office

As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer clashed Tuesday over funding for the border wall, an explosive Oval Office encounter that ended with Trump declaring he’d be proud to shut down the government to get what he wants.

The stunning public spat, during which Schumer accused the president of throwing a “temper tantrum,” ended with no resolution and appeared to increase the chances of a partial government shutdown at the end of next week.

The three leaders pointed fingers, raised their voices and interrupted each other repeatedly as they fought over policy and politics.

Schumer lectured Trump that “Elections have consequences, Mr. President.”

Trump claimed that, because she is working to nail down the votes to become speaker, “Nancy’s in a siutation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.”

Pelosi answered: “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”

“I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”

— President Trump (12/11/18)

The Washington Post has the full annotated conversation. The entire exchange is fascinating, but it’s hard not to laugh at Trump’s ridiculous rhetoric about building a border wall with Mexico:

One thing that I do have to say is tremendous amounts of wall have already been built, and a lot of wall when you include the renovation of existing fences and walls renovated a tremendous amount, and we’ve done a lot of work. In San Diego we’re building new walls right now. And we’ve — right next to San Diego, we’ve completed a major section of wall, and it’s really worked well. So a lot of wall has been built. We don’t talk about that, but we might as well start because it’s being built right now. Big sections of wall. And we will continue that. And one way or the other it’s going to get built.

So much wall!

Earlier today, Trump also “threatened” that the U.S. military would “build the remaining sections of the wall” with all of the extra billions of dollars they have (not to mention the extra time):

So, yeah. The President of the United States of America, ladies and gentlemen.

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