Gardner BFF John Bolton Ready To Testify

UPDATE: As the New York Times’ Emily Cochrane reports, Sen. Cory Gardner is a-bobbing and a-weaving:

Better ask him a few dozen more times.

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John Bolton.

A big development to kick off the news week/year in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump, as the New York Times reports:

John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, said on Monday that he was willing to testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial if he was subpoenaed…

The development is a dramatic turn in the impeachment proceeding, which has been stalled over Democrats’ insistence on hearing from critical witnesses Mr. Trump blocked from testifying in the House inquiry into his pressure campaign on Ukraine. Mr. Bolton is a potential bombshell of a witness, with crucial knowledge of the president’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill out key blanks in the narrative of the impeachment case.

His willingness to tell the Senate what he knows ratchets up pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, who has refused to commit to calling witnesses at the impeachment trial, to change his stance. It is unclear how the White House will respond to Mr. Bolton’s declaration, but his statement strongly suggested that he would testify regardless of whether Mr. Trump sought to prevent him. [Pols emphasis]

The meat of ex-national security adviser and by-choice scary looking man John Bolton’s statement today:

The House has concluded its Constitutional responsibility by adopting Articles of Impeachment related to the Ukraine matter. It now falls to the Senate to fulfill its Constitutional obligation to try impeachments, and it does not appear possible that a final judicial resolution of the still-unanswered Constitutional questions can be obtained before the Senate acts.

Accordingly, since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study. I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.

Readers will recall that last September’s sudden exit by Bolton from the Trump White House was followed just days later be donations from Bolton’s PAC to a clutch of key Republican Senators who allegedly possess “remarkable understanding and knowledge of the threats we face” globally, prominently including Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. Gardner has been dead silent on impeachment in recent weeks after joining Republicans in condemning the process wholesale, but Bolton being called to testify against Trump is one of a few scenarios in the upcoming impeachment trial that could make it much harder for Gardner to stay under the radar.

Bolton’s potential testimony in the Senate trial against Trump is now one of several points of contention between GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer the two leaders are haggling over in advance of the impeachment articles being formally delivered by the House. But either way, whenever Sen. Gardner gets cornered next an update on the Gardner/Bolton mutual admiration society is definitely in order.

For Gardner’s sake, hopefully it’s something the boss will like on Twitter.

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‘No Labels’ Group Doesn’t Plan to Support Gardner Again

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Cory Gardner, “Problem Solver.”

A national organization called “No Labels,” which calls for a bipartisan approach to solve political problems, has no plans to support U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) again this year, as it did during Gardner’s 2014 campaign for Senate.

“We are not looking to do the seal of approval again this cycle, but there is a lot of time between now and the election,” No Labels Executive Director Margaret White told the Colorado Times Recorder last month.

No Labels turned heads during Colorado’s 2014 U.S. Senate race when it gave a “Problem Solver Seal of Approval” to Gardner.

White insisted that her organization did nothing to support Gardner in 2014 besides issue a news release.

But RealClearPolitics reported at the time that No Labels was participating in get-out-the-vote efforts in support of Gardner, during the final days of the close election.

Informed of the spending for Gardner, White said through a spokeswoman that in 2014 her organization “did not donate to the Gardner campaign or direct any outside efforts on his behalf, other than, as has been publicly reported, a few interns doing some canvassing.”

But federal campaign-finance records show that No Labels did, in fact, spend about $4,000 in 2014 in support of Gardner.

(more…)

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Because What 2020 Really Needs Is A Good War

UPDATE: As the Denver Post reports, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is not mincing words:

“I think this was a terribly reckless and provocative act,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, [Pols emphasis] a Denver Democrat and presidential candidate, on WGBH Radio in Boston. “It’s the latest in a long string of nonstrategic choices that Donald Trump has made in the Middle East, that has weakened our position in the Middle East, that has strengthened Iran’s position in the Middle East.

“And I think you couldn’t be more naive to believe that this was going to result somehow in Iran coming to the negotiating table, rather than creating the potential for another war — which is the last thing we need in the Middle East,” Bennet added. He called Trump “the weakest foreign policy president we’ve had in my lifetime,” which began in 1964.

—–

CNN reports on the news everyone on the planet with access to news is talking about:

President Donald Trump’s targeted killing of Iran’s ruthless intelligence chief adds up to his most dangerous gamble yet with other peoples’ lives and his own political fate.

By killing Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, Trump committed the United States to a risky open conflict that at best could stop short of all-out war with Iran that could cause national security and economic shocks in the United States and across the globe.

Starting right now, and given Iran’s easy access to soft targets, the Middle East and even Europe suddenly look a lot less safe for Americans, including US troops Trump may be even more tempted to haul home.

Caption: Iran is really pissed off now.

Al Jazeera reports from Tehran that the killing of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s second most-powerful leader has a nation already given over to bellicose rhetoric talking flat-out war:

The assassination of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in air raids by the United States has triggered a wave of emotions and garnered a response of solidarity and retribution across the otherwise divided Iranian political spectrum…

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed the threat of revenge and vowed that there would be consequences. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the killing as an “act of state terrorism” in a statement.

“The pure blood of Qassem Soleimani will surely strengthen the tree of resistance, unite the Iranian people, and make US policies in the region less effective by the day,” he said.

Iran’s National Security Council has convened an emergency meeting to decide Iran’s reaction to the killing. Reports say Khamenei has participated in the meeting for the first time ever, denoting the gravity of the situation.

One of the first reactions one can count on following a high-profile military action taken by the President without the prior approval of Congress is a protest, well-founded but routinely ignored, that at least top congressional leadership should be consulted before committing the nation to military action. Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado’s statement:

Only Congress has the power to declare war. The President’s unilateral decision to launch this airstrike, yet again, comes without consultation or caution and signals the need for clarification of the Authorization of Military Force. That is precisely why I voted in support of a bipartisan amendment earlier this year that would have avoided a dangerous escalation with Iran by preventing federal funds from being used for any military force in or against Iran without congressional authorization.

Congress must reassert its constitutional obligations under Article I without further delay. And the Administration must consult Congress, as required by law, on both the airstrike and the next steps necessary to keep our country and service members safe.

That’s consistent with the concerns expressed by members of Congress in both parties in response to unilateral military actions taken by President Barack Obama such as the 2011 military intervention in Libya, including Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver who had “significant questions” about committing American forces in that country even after Obama went on national television to explain.

But if you were hoping from similar candor from Colorado’s highest-ranked Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, you’ll be disappointed by his statement in response to the killing of Qassem Soleimani:

I commend the Administration for taking this decisive action today in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists. The world should not mourn Qassem Soleimani, a man whose name is synonymous with murder in the Middle East and who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members. I now urge the Administration to be prepared for possible retaliation, including against U.S. troops stationed in the region, and to consult closely with Congress on any next steps should the situation escalate. I hope Iran will realize its future depends on stopping its support of terrorism.

The question of course is not whether an avowed enemy of the United States like Soleimani should be “mourned,” but whether this action results in a wider conflict in the Middle East that could result in many more deaths, and plunge the nation into a full-scale war just as the 2020 election year gets underway. At this moment, there’s a lot we don’t know–what exactly prompted the decision to strike now instead of another time and place, the nature of the “additional attacks” it has been suggested were imminent had Soleimani not been killed, and whether the Trump administration has a plan for the aftermath of this action at all.

Three U.S. Presidents have been successfully impeached. Trump could become the first President who starts a war between his impeachment and the Senate trial. Politically this is all uncharted territory, which isn’t a new experience under Donald Trump. For the good of the country and the whole world, everyone should hope that this action was taken for legitimate and urgent national security reasons, and not to distract attention from Trump’s domestic political problems.

If the latter is true, the judgment of history will be very harsh.

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Like It Or Not, Abortion A Defining 2020 Battleground

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

The Denver Post’s Saja Hindi published before Chirstmas a very good long-form story on the changing politics of reproductive choice in Colorado, an issue long disparaged by local political reporters as irrelevant given the state’s solid Democratic control of the levers of power, but no longer as the rightward lurch of the federal judiciary up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court under President Donald Trump makes the previously unthinkable in terms of weakening abortion rights an increasing likelihood:

“It’s a moment where we have to decide what kind of society we want to have looking forward and who gets to decide who gets to control our access to information about reproductive health care,” said Karen Middleton, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado executive director. “It’s information and access, and both of those are being limited by policies at the federal level and the Supreme Court. And ultimately, it could be a Supreme Court decision that could overturn a lot of this.”

What’s happening in the rest of the country is setting off major alarms for Colorado advocates who want to protect the state from reduced access both on behalf of residents and for women traveling from other parts of the country.

“In Colorado, it’s imperative that we hold our ground on this issue and continue being a safe haven for folks who must bear the burden of travel for their abortion care, while also continuing to expand access and affordability to reproductive health care for folks who already live in our state,” said Fawn Bolak, Keep Abortion Safe co-founder.

In the last fifteen years, Colorado voters have repeatedly and soundly rejected “Personhood” abortion ban ballot measures. Perennial Republican legislative attempts to both make abortion a felony as well as impose the full range of “targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” a.k.a. TRAP laws, like those making their way through the court system after passage in other states have all failed. In 2020, local Republicans are promising to introduce another round of anti-abortion legislation, and in the context of a right-leaning Supreme Court ready to uphold such laws these efforts can no longer simply be written off–despite a strong Democratic majority in the legislature to ensure the bills don’t get far in Colorado. Colorado is only one election away from abortion laws that would have been unimaginable a decade ago.

Although the prevalent conventional wisdom is that abortion doesn’t itself decide elections, being an issue that according to polls contributes to but does not dominate the agenda of left-breaking unaffiliated voters who represent a plurality in Colorado, the likely presence of another abortion restriction ballot measure on the 2020 ballot will ensure abortion factors in voters’ choices up and down the ballot. Anti-abortion Republicans hope the sidestep of banning abortions later in pregnancy will draw greater support, but it’s still an arbitrary unscientific limit on a personal medical decision.

Coloradans vote no on those, and Republicans historically suffer collateral damage from the attempt. Sen. Cory Gardner’s 2014 victory, in which his opposition to abortion rights became a counterintuitive asset by persuading jaded reporters Mark Udall’s warnings about Gardner on the issue were “too shrill,” runs counter to that historic trend. In 2020, Gardner’s personal role in shifting the federal judiciary toward hostility to abortion and this latest state-level assault on abortion rights will both face the ultimate test.

We don’t foresee this ticket splitting.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Bold Predictions for 2020

This is it: The final episode of 2019 for The Get More Smarter Podcast. To close out the year, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii discuss the most important Colorado political stories of 2019 and look ahead to 2020 with some bold predictions. Will Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate in 2020? Can Sen. Cory Gardner win re-election? Which one of Colorado’s seven Congressional seats could flip next year? 

And for the first time, Jason plays America’s worst favorite game, “Duke or Donald.” Ian is the current record-holder in the game that nobody really wins, but can Jason take the title in the last episode of 2019?

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. If you have a question or comment, hit us up at AngryRants@GetMoreSmarter.com.

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Cory Gardner’s Pot Promises Getting Snuffed Again

Sen. Cory Gardner (R), holding a Sham-Wow.

Bloomberg News reports on the continuing impasse in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate over passage of the SAFE Banking Act, legislation to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to access banking services currently denied them under federal law:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said he’s hoping the Trump administration and other lawmakers can help him salvage a plan to provide banking services for the burgeoning marijuana industry that’s increasingly critical to his home state.

Gardner, facing a tough re-election bid in 2020, said he’s evaluating changes Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said must be made to a pot banking bill (H.R. 1595) that Gardner pushed for with Republicans and Democrats in both chambers.

Sen. Cory Gardner, a longtime staunch social conservative Republican who represented the beet-red 4th Congressional District, has always been a counterintuitive spokesperson in supporting the legal cannabis industry pioneered in Colorado and now the law in a growing bevy of states from coast to coast. Gardner like most of the bipartisan political establishment in Colorado opposed the passage of Amendment 64, but since legalization Gardner has made solemn vows to “honor the will of the voters.”

These are the voters Cory Gardner will answer to next year, after the voters of Colorado have punished Republicans in every subsequent election. So while Gardner may not be able to “honor” the will of Colorado voters like, you know, a Democrat would, marijuana offers Gardner a unique opportunity to please an electorate on the whole most unhappy with the Republican brand in general and Cory Gardner in particular.

But there’s just one little problem remaining: Republicans control the U.S. Senate.

Gardner said the bill has a long road ahead and that he’s nowhere close to having the number of votes required to show McConnell the measure can survive a filibuster. [Pols emphasis]

“I think the challenge is some agreement on language,” Gardner said. “It’s very difficult to come up with the 60 votes we need.”

The SAFE Banking Act, sponsored in the House by Colorado’s own Rep. Ed Perlmutter, passed in September by a lopsided 321-103 vote in favor–but with 102 of the 103 “no” votes coming from Republican House members. We haven’t heard whether the “changes” to the legislation being suggested by avowed marijuana legalization opponent Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, are acceptable to the bill’s House sponsors. Even if they are, there’s nothing to guarantee a majority of Republican Senators would be any more favorable to passing the bill.

Because this legislation would be objectively good for a burgeoning legal industry in Colorado, we certainly would welcome its passage in the Senate, and this post is not meant to criticize the efforts of anyone working to do so. But in the case of Cory Gardner, there’s just no way to separate him from the intransigence of the Republican Senate leadership Gardner voted for. If Mitch McConnell wanted the Republican Senate to pass a pro-marijuana bill, it would happen. And in a Democratic-controlled Senate, it will happen.

In the unfortunate but likely event nothing happens on the SAFE Act, let alone any of the other more permissive marijuana bills in the hopper before November, there’s only one remedy for pro-marijuana Colorado voters. Take the longer view of the issue, and do their part to flip control of the U.S. Senate.

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“The Happy Warrior Has Become a Car Salesman”

One owner. Low miles.

The latest U.S. Senate prognostication from the Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy declares the Senate majority very much in play as 2019 comes to a close, which most readers already know–and that Colorado’s incumbent GOP Sen. Cory Gardner is one of several must-win swing races expected to decide the majority in the 2020 elections.

The Senate math hasn’t changed. If Democrats want to win the majority, they need a net gain of three seats if they win the White House or four if they don’t. There are only two Democratic-held seats in jeopardy: U.S. Sens. Doug Jones in Alabama and Gary Peters in Michigan. It is hard to see how Republicans expand the playing field beyond these two races…

Republicans have three seats in Toss Up: U.S. Sens. Martha McSally in Arizona, Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Susan Collins in Maine. Of the three, many Democratic strategists believe that Colorado is more vulnerable than the other two. It certainly leans more Democratic. Presumptive nominee, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, hasn’t had an easy time. He is getting challenged from the left, has committed a couple of gaffes, and is the subject of an ethics investigation that will be the subject of a March hearing. Still, Democrats say that voters understand that Hickenlooper is quirky, while they believe that Gardner isn’t the Senator they elected in 2014. To paraphrase one strategist, the Happy Warrior has become a car salesman. [Pols emphasis]

In fairness, Duffy then claims that “Gardner has a record of legislative accomplishments on which to run, which GOP strategists contend will carry more weight with voters.” But her description of how Colorado voters have become disenchanted with Cory Gardner’s relentless affected positivity, while delivering the same tired Republican talking points they hear everywhere else, sums up well the dilemma for Gardner the polls also show. Any complacency among local Democrats that may have existed in 2014 is long gone, and five years of Gardner fronting unpopular Republican policy goals–and now Donald Trump himself–have stranded Gardner on the wrong side of an alienated electorate.

That is why Democrats’ road to the Senate majority next year runs through–arguably starts in–Colorado.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (December 19)

If you’re counting today, there are six shopping days left until Christmas. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► “Trump Impeached.” If you picked up a newspaper anywhere in the United States today, there is a good chance this was the headline at the top of the page.

Collage via The Guardian newspaper

As The Washington Post explains, the impeachment spotlight now turns to the U.S. Senate:

The day after Trump was impeached by the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, questions continued to swirl about the timing and scope of an anticipated Senate trial regarding his conduct toward Ukraine.

House leaders suggested a possible delay until they can get a guarantee of a fair trial in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, in a floor speech, sharply criticized the House process as rushed and unfair and suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is “too afraid” to transmit “their shoddy work product.”

Meanwhile, Trump, who is just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, praised Republican unity Thursday in opposing the move, claiming that is “what people are talking about.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is apparently waiting to send articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate until she has some assurances that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to some basic parameters about how a Senate trial might proceed.

Colorado’s Congressional delegation split along party lines on both impeachment questions. Via The Denver Post:

“Unfortunately, President Trump has left us no choice,” Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, said on the House floor Wednesday. “The fact of the matter is, the president abused the power of his office and invited a foreign country to interfere in our elections. In so doing, he undermined the sanctity of the free and fair elections upon which our republic rests.”

Meanwhile, Greeley Republican Rep. Ken Buck — who also serves as the State Republican Party Chairman — continues to promote his strange argument that virtually every other President in American history could have been impeached based on the same standards as those used in allegations against President Trump.

 

► President Trump spent Wednesday evening at a campaign rally in Michigan, where he inexplicably suggested that the late Rep. John Dingell of Detroit was “looking up” from Hell.

 

 Late in the day on Wednesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a long-awaited ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Politico explains the court’s decision to punt on the broader question of whether the ACA can remain in place:

…the appeals court ruling largely ducked the central question of whether the rest of the Affordable Care Act remained valid after Congress removed the penalty for not having health insurance. The three-judge panel instead sent the case back to a Texas federal judge, who previously threw out the entire law, to reconsider how much of Obamacare could survive.

The high-stakes ruling keeps the legal threat to Obamacare alive while reducing the likelihood the Supreme Court could render a final verdict on the law before the next elections. Still, the appeals court’s decision could renew pressure on President Donald Trump and Republicans to explain how they will preserve insurance protections for preexisting conditions after failing to agree on an Obamacare replacement for years.

 

Don’t miss this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast, featuring an exclusive interview with Governor Jared Polis.

 

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

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Court Ruling on Affordable Care Act Released

UPDATE #2: It ain’t over until it’s over, and it may never be over.

—–

UPDATE: University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley tries to sort out the news:

—–

Punt!

We finally have a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Well, part of a ruling, anyway.

As CNBC explains:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate provision was unconstitutional but punted on deciding whether the rest of the landmark health-care law should be tossed out.

The court is ordering a lower court judge to reconsider whether ACA, more commonly known as Obamacare, should remain intact.

“The individual mandate is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power,” the ruling stated. “On the severability question, we remand to the district court to provide additional analysis of the provisions of the ACA as they currently exist.”

Texas and other Republican-led states brought the suit, which was defended by Democratic-led states and the House of Representatives. The court heard arguments in July.

The suit alleged that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was unlawful under the federal government’s taxing powers after Congress reduced the penalty for not having insurance to $0 in 2017. Texas argued that therefore the ACA, more commonly known as Obamacare, must be scrapped.

We’re still waiting for more analysis on this mixed bag of a ruling, but at first glance it seems accurate to call the decision a “punt” by the 5th circuit. This certainly isn’t a positive decision for supporters of the ACA, but it’s far from the catastrophic ruling that some had feared; there was plenty of speculation that the ACA could be ruled unconstitutional altogether.

Today’s ruling likely means that a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the ACA won’t arrive before the 2020 election. In the meantime, you’ll have to busy yourself with Googling the definition of “severability.”

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Zoinks! Gardner (Again) Flees from Questions on Impeachment

UPDATE: Gardner is apparently not going to follow Mitch McConnell’s lead and flat-out declare that he is in the tank for President Trump, which McConnell revealed in astonishing fashion on Tuesday. As NPR reports:

“I’m not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. “The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.”

—–

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) decided long ago that he would tie his political fortunes to President Trump. As such, Gardner really, really, really doesn’t want to talk about impeachment proceedings against The Big Orange Guy.

Gardner has been playing hide-and-seek with media outlets for the better part of five months now. The one time that reporters finally cornered Gardner on Trump and his dealings with Ukraine — at a Chamber of Commerce event in Denver in October — the Yuma Republican melted down like a nazi at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

The House of Representatives is finalizing its part in the impeachment process this week, which means that all eyes are moving to the U.S. Senate as it prepares for an impeachment trial in early January. Naturally, reporters on Capitol Hill are poking around for information about how the Senate might proceed, all of which makes Gardner extremely nervous. Here’s Bloomberg News reporter Laura Litvan trying to get some sort of comment from Colorado’s Junior Senator:

“We’ll have a trial!” Run!!!

We can only assume that Gardner is totally cool with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s incredible decision to coordinate strategy on an impeachment trial with White House attorneys. If Gardner has a different opinion, he’s keeping it to himself. As Jason Salzman of the Colorado Times Recorder noted on Monday, Gardner is keeping quiet so that he can pretend to be an impartial juror in the Senate:

On conservative KNUS last week, host Steffan Tubbs asked U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) why Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner wasn’t speaking out more on impeachment.

Buck replied with, “I think Cory is absolutely right. Cory will be part of the jury in the near future, and I think Cory is demonstrating that he is entering this with an open mind, that he wants to see the evidence. But Cory is a thoughtful and he is a senator that is well-respected because he holds his cards close to his vest. And I think that that Cory Gardner, when he speaks and when he says, ‘I’ve listened to the evidence and this is my vote,’ it’s much more convincing than if he was a partisan all the way along.” [Pols emphasis]

But while Gardner might not say it directly, he has already betrayed any pretense of impartiality. As Kyle Clark of 9News noted last week:

Gardner’s persistent obfuscation would almost be funny if we weren’t talking about an issue as serious as the impeachment of the President of the United States. Don’t be shocked if he tries to call in sick for the first three months of 2020.

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Republicans Flummoxed on Prescription Drug Pricing

Image via AARP

While you were reading about impeachment news last week, you may have missed a significant vote in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives addressing an issue that is of utmost concern to American voters in 2020: Reducing the outrageous costs of prescription drugs.

The “Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act” (HR-3) passed out of the House on Thursday on a largely party line vote (Colorado’s four Democratic House Members voted “YES,” while all three Republicans voted “NO”) and will now head to the place where all good pieces of legislation go to die: The desk of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. As CBS News explains:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill would cap Medicare recipients’ out-of-pocket costs for medicines at $2,000 a year. It would use about $360 billion of its projected 10-year savings from lower drug costs to establish Medicare coverage for dental care, hearing, and vision, filling major gaps for seniors.

But the legislation has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate, and the White House has issued a veto threat. Still, Democrats saw a victory in the message their bill sends to voters…[Pols emphasis]

…Pelosi is claiming bragging rights because her bill would deliver on the promise that President Trump made as a candidate in 2016, when he said he would “negotiate like crazy” to lower prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients. It’s a pledge that Mr. Trump has backed away from as president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner don’t know where to go from here.

Polling data continually shows that health care and prescription drugs top the list of voter concerns in 2020…much like they did in the Democratic wave year of 2018. A recent survey from Healthier Colorado found that 82% of Colorado voters believe that prescription drugs are too costly; nearly half of voters say that health care in general is unaffordable. The bill passed last week in the House of Representatives has the support of groups such as AARP, but McConnell won’t touch it in part because it is fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry. As Politico reports today, the issue has put Republicans in a bind:

Yet with an election year cresting and massive divisions among his members, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is staying put. Associates say the Kentucky Republican is not eager to make a move that splits his caucus and could incur the wrath of the well-financed pharmaceutical industry.

A final decision will wait until after the Senate’s impeachment trial. Many Senate Republicans, however, know they need to do something to satisfy Trump and avoid the awful optics of doing nothing at all.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) this summer advanced a bill that would fine drugmakers that hike prices above inflation rates, but from the start it had more Democratic support than Republican backing. Even though a significant number of GOP members say it’s a bold stroke with crucial presidential support, many Republicans liken the move to price controls that would kill innovation.

This quote from Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy sums up the absurdity of the GOP’s position: “Thank goodness Republicans control the Senate. That said, we still need something to make medicines affordable.” Ya think?

Republicans have lambasted impeachment investigations against President Trump as a distraction from the key issues facing average Americans, but Democrats snatched that stool right out from under them last week by multitasking on important topics. As The Hill explains:

Vulnerable Democrats in swing districts can point to the legislation as keeping a long-held promise to let Medicare negotiate drug prices. Members can show they are focused on kitchen table issues despite the chaos over impeachment.

The bill also gives moderate Democrats in Congress a chance to tout a health care issue that’s separate from the “Medicare for All” debate consuming the Democratic presidential primary.

“If a Democrat wins the White House and the party takes control of the Senate, a bill to allow the government to negotiate drug prices seems much more likely to pass than Medicare for All or even a public option,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health care policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Congressional Republicans are now in the unenviable position of arguing against the substance of legislation that would reduce health care costs for millions of Americans. Republican leaders can shake their fists at the idea of “price controls” for prescription drugs, but that language only makes a dent with pharmaceutical lobbyists; controlling prices is exactly what average voters want to see from Congress on the issue of prescription drug costs.

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Gardner On Trial: “Total Coordination,” Et Tu?

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s interview last Thursday in the friendly confines of the Sean Hannity Show offered a definitive preview of what we can expect in the in-all-probability imminent trial of President Donald Trump on articles of impeachment making their way through the U.S. House now–and surprising nobody except for with his frankness, as USA TODAY reports, there will not even be any pretense of impartiality in this proceeding:

Democratic lawmakers slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s intention to be in “total coordination” with the White House on impeachment strategy as Congress prepares for a historic vote to impeach President Donald Trump next week.

In a Thursday evening interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, described his planning with the White House.

“We’ll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president as well as the Senate,” McConnell said. [Pols emphasis]

Speaking in Qatar this past weekend, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina went even further, saying flat-out that no trial is even needed:

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Saturday that he’s made up his mind that President Trump should be acquitted, dismissed the notion that he has to be a “fair juror” and said he doesn’t see the need for a formal trial in the Senate.

Under the rules of the Senate governing impeachment as specified in 1868 for the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, Senators are required to recite an oath before the beginning of the trial to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.” In the case of Richard Nixon faced with impeachment in 1974, it was the intervention of his fellow Republicans to make it clear Nixon’s position was no longer tenable that left him with no choice but to resign. Based on everything we’re seeing only two days before the House likely passes articles of impeachment, there will be no moment of conscience for Republicans this time around.

Politically, short-circuiting the Senate impeachment trial will have varied effects on responsible Senators based on the politics of the state they represent. Lindsey Graham represents a state that may tolerate a wholesale disregard of such a solemn responsibility, but the vulnerable incumbent Republicans who will also be sworn in to “do impartial justice”–Martha McSally in Arizona, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Susan Collins in Maine, and especially Cory Gardner in Trump-hostile Colorado–could do real harm to themselves depending on how they proceed. That’s why Rep. Ken Buck is lauding Gardner for holding on to the pretense of impartiality while assuring the GOP base on talk radio that Gardner is in lockstep, or if you will, “total coordination” with Trump.

For Cory Gardner, representing a state that has soured dramatically on the Republican brand since his own and then Trump’s election, the all-but-decided outcome of the Senate impeachment trial is arguably not what matters most. The voters of Colorado are watching to see what Gardner does, no less than the President himself–and that means Cory Gardner is also on trial.

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Gardner Smart to Act Like Impartial Juror He’s Not, Says Buck

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Mitch McConnell, Cory Gardner.

On conservative KNUS last week, host Steffan Tubbs asked U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) why Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner wasn’t speaking out more on impeachment.

Buck replied with, “I think Cory is absolutely right. Cory will be part of the jury in the near future, and I think Cory is demonstrating that he is entering this with an open mind, that he wants to see the evidence. But Cory is a thoughtful and he is a senator that is well-respected because he holds his cards close to his vest. And I think that that Cory Gardner, when he speaks and when he says, ‘I’ve listened to the evidence and this is my vote,’ it’s much more convincing than if he was a partisan all the way along.”

In fact, Gardner hasn’t been spewing out news releases on impeachment, like KNUS’ Steffan Tubbs wants him to do.

But the senator has already called the impeachment inquiry a “total circus” He also voted for a Senate resolution condemning the inquiry.

The irony hasn’t been lost on 9News’ Kyle Clark, who tweeted Dec. 10: “Quite the contortion in [Gardner’s] statement on impeachment. Says it’s a ‘total circus’ to ‘appease the far-left’ but Gardner says as a juror in Senate they’ll be ‘bipartisan and fair.'”

And speaking of contortion, Buck doesn’t have a problem saying that he “absolutely” does not believe that Gardner will vote against impeachment, which is what he told Tubbs Friday.

So Buck is saying, Gardner needs to act like an impartial juror, but don’t worry my fellow Republicans, Gardner will absolutely vote with Trump.

That’s what it looks like when a contortionist defends a contortionist.

Buck’s own impeachment behavior is getting national attention.

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times spotlighted Buck as having the “most twisted” defense of opposing the impeachment.

The twisted moment came, Dowd wrote over the weekend, when Buck said that it doesn’t make sense to impeach for obstructing Congress because “we were sent here to obstruct this Congress.” It was “a campaign promise.”

If you read that a few times, then Buck’s defense of Gardner maintaining his non-silence silence to be impartial seems logical.

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You’ve Been Warned, Colorado



At an event at the White House today, President Donald Trump remarked that he will “be in Colorado a lot,” citing our “great Senator” whom he needs to “extend,” which is presumably not a reference to Sen. Cory Gardner’s diminutive stature. As readers know, Gardner has said repeatedly that he hopes Trump will travel to Colorado so that locals can have the “opportunity” to learn to love the President like he does.

Polling may not support Gardner’s hope that Coloradans will ever learn to stop worrying and love Trump, but as the local press has explored this week he may not have a lot of choice in the matter.

So get ready Colorado, and put away anything you don’t want to be, you know, grabbed by.

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Jeffco Dems to Host Democratic Senate Candidate forum in Evergreen


US Senate Democratic Candidate Forum

December 12 6:30 PM- 8:30 PM (Meet and Greet starts at 5 PM)
El Rancho Brewery, Evergreen, Colorado

Three months before the March 7th, 2020, non-Presidential caucus, the Jefferson County Democratic Party will host a US Senate Democratic Party Candidate Forum. The Democratic party has held other US Senate candidate forums around the state and this is the first forum in Jefferson County.

Jefferson County is the 4th most populous county in Colorado and faces specific challenges in terms of wildfire mitigation, preserving open space, and maintaining enough affordable housing. In addition, voters recently failed to pass 1A, which would have allowed the county to reinvest revenue over the TABOR cap back into essential county services, so the county must work within TABOR limits and make 16.1 million dollars in cuts to public safety, transportation and other departments.

RSVP: 303-237-1359 / office@jeffcodems.org
Press contact: Rob Eadie 303-618-7581

Suggested donation: at the door $10 to Jefferson County Democratic Party

The forum will be held at the El Rancho Brewery, 29260 US-40, Evergreen, CO 80439

Meet and Greet starts at 5 PM. Candidates will speak from 6:30 -8:30 PM. The forum will be moderated by Mr. Christopher Arlen.

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The Fatal Contradiction Cory Gardner Can’t Unwind


President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

If you haven’t already done so, stop what you’re doing and read the story driving the day’s political news in Colorado, an impressive deep dive into Sen. Cory Gardner’s re-election prospects from the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul. Paul’s feature-length exploration of the challenges facing America’s Most Vulnerable Senator™ going into the 2020 elections touches on themes we’ve been talking about in this space literally for years, and are combining now to create a perfect storm for Gardner from which there may well be no escape. The first four paragraphs of Paul’s story summarize Gardner’s dilemma perhaps better than any story we’ve read anywhere:

In 2016, when Donald Trump ran for president, Colorado’s Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner didn’t mince his words about the GOP nominee: “I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women.”

Gardner was reacting to an “Access Hollywood” recording of the candidate bragging about sexual assault. He said he didn’t vote for Trump, instead casting a ballot for Mike Pence, now vice president, as a write-in candidate.

Flash forward to today, and Gardner’s political world is now spinning in the opposite direction. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner made an early endorsement of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. He has a direct line of communication to the president — they speak on the phone fairly regularly. And he has refused to answer questions about whether Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president — which are now the subject of impeachment proceedings — were wrong.

Of all the many unresolved contradictions in Gardner’s record, the evolution from calling for Donald Trump to pull out of the 2016 presidential race in October of that year saying “I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women,” to today where Gardner has not only endorsed Trump’s re-election but headlines fundraisers for Trump in New York City, is arguably the most damning. Jesse Paul’s attempts to get an answer to this fundamental question from Gardner were not successful, but Gardner is going to face the question again and again between now and next November. Short of admitting that tax cuts are more important to him than sexual assault, otherwise known as political suicide, we just don’t see how Gardner will ever have a satisfactory answer.

In every discussion of the upcoming U.S. Senate race in Colorado pitting an as-yet undetermined Democratic challenger against Gardner, a recurring theme is Gardner’s unusual degree of vulnerability as the narrow winner of his Senate seat five years ago, in a state whose politics have steadily been migrating leftward away from Gardner’s Republican brand both before and since. Gardner won his seat by less than two percentage points in 2014, an upset victory that relied heavily on re-invention to distract from a staunchly conservative record that would under other circumstances have rendered Gardner unelectable statewide.

At the same time, Gardner cannot simply move left to match the state’s political trajectory, since that means jilting the Republican base who overwhelmingly support Trump and in all probability will continue to do so until they take their last breath no matter what happens. Colorado’s independent plurality electorate may force candidates to reach beyond their base, but without the Republican base behind him Gardner cannot possibly put together a majority coalition to hold his seat.

With all of this in mind, it may be as today’s story concludes that the only feasible choice for Gardner is to hitch his wagon to Trump to the bitter end. But without some means we can’t envision today of deflecting the wrath of Colorado voters finally able to vote against Trump personally, the polls are right–and Cory Gardner’s fate is all but sealed.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 11)


Happy “Indiana Day.” Please celebrate responsibly. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

Jesse Paul of The Colorado Sun examines a question we have long pondered here at Colorado Pols: Does Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) have a breaking point when it comes to his fealty to President Trump?

Gardner made an early endorsement of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. He has a direct line of communication to the president — they speak on the phone fairly regularly. And he has refused to answer questions about whether Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president — which are now the subject of impeachment proceedings — were wrong…

…In a recent interview, Gardner declined to answer questions about his views on Trump and instead attacked Democrats. He has said, when explaining his support of the president, that he could never support someone who backs policies he said are socialist, including government-run health care or the Green New Deal.

Asked whether there is a red line that Trump could cross that would lead him to abandon his support of the president, Gardner didn’t directly answer.

There is a LOT of information to absorb about Gardner in this story — make sure to read the entire thing yourself — including some very unflattering comments from Colorado voters:

Alan Schwartz, another unaffiliated voter who said he leans left but has backed Republicans in the past, made a thumbs-down motion when asked about Gardner. “I feel he is a butt-kisser,” said Schwartz, adding that he was upset about Gardner’s support of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “He says he’ll do one thing and then flip over and go with Trump. I don’t trust him at all.” [Pols emphasis]

 

The House Judiciary Committee today begins the process of “marking up” articles of impeachment against President Trump.

9News runs down how Colorado elected officials feel about impeachment, none of which will surprise you. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) announced via Twitter that he has already made up his mind on an impeachment vote:

President Trump, meanwhile, says that abuse of power “is not even a crime.”

 

 Attorney General Bill Barr has been trying to help President Trump come up with evidence that the FBI was illegally targeting his 2016 campaign by investigating contacts with foreign officials. But as The Washington Post explains, the facts keep winning out:

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Wednesday that a senior prosecutor failed to convince him that the FBI’s 2016 investigation of President Trump’s campaign was improperly opened, revealing new details about internal tension among senior officials over the politically explosive case.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Horowitz was asked by the panel’s senior Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), if Attorney General William P. Barr or his hand-picked prosecutor on the issue, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, offered anything to change the inspector general’s view that the FBI had a valid reason to open the probe in July 2016.

“No, we stand by our finding,” said Horowitz, who said he met in November with Durham to discuss the findings in the inspector general’s 434-page report released Monday…

…Horowitz’s testimony marked his first public pushback to Barr and Durham, and further revealed the depths of the disagreement among senior law enforcement officials about Horowitz’s findings. Before the report was released publicly, The Washington Post reported that Barr disputed Horowitz’s conclusion that the FBI had sufficient grounds to open the investigation.

 

► Editorial pages across the country are coming to the same conclusion: President Trump must be impeached.

 

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

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Buck, Buck, Neguse!


This week on the Get More Smarter Podcast, President Trump is an anti-Semitic piece of garbage (more or less) who should absolutely be impeached; we find Sen. Cory Gardner at the bottom of the gutter in a new poll; Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton catches a primary challenge from a heavily armed West Slope barkeep; and Colorado Reps. Joe Neguse and Ken Buck take different roads on impeachment. Tune in now and get prepared for a special bonus podcast episode later this week.

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. If you have a question or comment, hit us up at AngryRants@GetMoreSmarter.com.

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Colorado Legislators Joined Extremist Groups for a “We Will Not Comply” Rally against Red Flag Law

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Approximately two hundred people rallied at the state Capitol Saturday against Colorado’s new “red flag” law, which allows guns to be taken from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Organizers of the “We Will Not Comply” rally included Rally For Our Rights activist Lesley Hollywood, conservative Facebook personality Sheronna Bishop, and gun rights activist Lauren Boebert, who just launched her campaign for Colorado’s Third Congressional District, where she will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the Republican primary.

Conservative activist Sherronna Bishop, who runs a Facebook page called “America’s Mom,” emceed the event. She thanked two groups for providing security: Boots On The Ground Bikers For Trump, and the Three Percenters.

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists a number of “three percent” anti-government extremist groups in Colorado, including the American Patriots III%, which provided security. Also among the attendees were members of the Proud Boys, which is designated as a hate group by the SPLC.

(more…)

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Mark Udall’s “Tedious Refrain” Reverberates Louder Every Day


Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As NBC News reports from the U.S. Supreme Court today:

The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law, mandating doctors perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before they can perform abortions.

The high court declined, without comment, to hear an appeal brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the state’s lone abortion clinic…

The ACLU had argued that the Kentucky statute had no medical basis and was designed only to coerce a woman into opting out of having an abortion. Defenders of the law said it represented a straightforward attempt to help patients make a well-informed decision.

The Hill:

The justices’ decision not to take up the case leaves intact a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the law against a First Amendment challenge that claimed the measure abridged doctors’ freedom of speech.

The Kentucky Ultrasound Informed Consent Act requires physicians, prior to an abortion, to perform an ultrasound, describe and display its images to the patient, and make the fetal heartbeat audible.

The imposition of medically unnecessary procedures to complicate an abortion is the current front line in the incremental campaign by anti-abortion activists to chip away at women’s right to reproductive choice, by making access in practice increasingly difficult–known as “targeted restrictions on abortion providers” or “TRAP laws.”

In the case of Kentucky’s mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound law, early in pregnancy it may be necessary to employ a more invasive transvaginal ultrasound probe, which (gentlemen) is inserted exactly where you think. Today’s inaction by the Supreme Court allowing this law to take effect worryingly presages other upcoming hearings on abortion restriction laws in Kentucky as well as other states.

A few years ago, the threat of such onerous restrictions on abortion rights being permitted by the Supreme Court seemed remote enough that the Denver Post, in their now-retracted endorsement of Cory Gardner over Sen. Mark Udall, arrogantly suggested that Udall’s warning that Gardner would help undo abortion rights was a “tedious refrain”–and that electing Gardner would “pose no threat to abortion rights.” Republican treachery in 2016 to deny President Barack Obama a Supreme Court appointment to replace Antonin Scalia, which Gardner supported, set in motion the historic shift to the right on the Court that has changed the political equation on abortion rights.

But in Gardner’s case, responsibility for Kentucky’s forced transvaginal ultrasound law is even more direct. In 2017, Gardner voted to appoint Trump federal court nominee John Kenneth Bush, a notorious conservative “culture warrior” activist who upheld the law last April in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s the decision the Supremes just refused to revisit.

We know there are some out there who believe the issue of Cory Gardner’s wholesale deception on abortion rights in 2014, which was subsidized by a local press and pundit establishment consumed by groupthink and mesmerized by Gardner’s mendacious charms has been argued to death, and is better laid at Udall’s feet and forgotten. In hindsight, that’s the same complacency which allowed Gardner to turn abortion politics against his Democratic opponent in 2014 despite the state’s overwhelming majority support for abortion rights.

Either way, as of today the time for complacency on abortion rights is over.

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Gardner’s Annual Christmas Party Returns to the Brown Palace Tonight

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senator Cory Gardner has been hard to find in Colorado this year. This evening, however, he and his family will be at Denver’s historic Brown Palace for his annual Christmas Open Home party.

According to the invitation, Gardner says he’s looking forward to seeing his fellow Coloradans come out to show support for our Western Values and get into the holiday spirit.

The holiday gathering is officially hosted by Gardner’s political action committee, Project West PAC. The committee spent over $1.2 million during the last election, including $430,000 in direct contributions to federal candidates. Recipients included the other three Republican members of the Colorado delegation, and 44 of Gardner’s GOP colleagues in the U.S. Senate.

The PAC is managed by the Starboard Group, the fundraising firm of choice for Colorado Republicans. The Starboard Group team tweeted a picture of themselves from the party last year.

The photo included their intern at the time, right-wing social media personality, Ashley St. Clair, who earlier this year was dropped by Turning Point USA for partying with white nationalists.

(more…)

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Get More Smarter on Friday (December 6)


Saturday is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day; Gov. Jared Polis has ordered flags to be lowered to half staff from sunrise to sunset tomorrow. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Will President Trump and/or his attorneys participate in impeachment hearings in front of the House Judiciary Committee? As The Washington Post reports, Trump has until 5:00 today to make that decision…but might choose to wait until the issue reaches the U.S. Senate:

A White House spokesman said Friday that Trump “welcomes” a trial in the Republican-led Senate and plans to bring forward “serious witnesses,” including the anonymous whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), and Joe and Hunter Biden.

“If it goes there, he wants a trial,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said during an appearance on Fox News. “He welcomes it. He wants the American people to see the truth. . . . He absolutely wants to bring forward serious witnesses, like the whistleblower, like Adam Schiff, like Hunter and Joe Biden. It they’re going to do this, if the Democrats want this fight, it’s something the president is willing to have.”

“He welcomes it.” That seems like a bit of a stretch.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she had instructed her Democratic colleagues to begin preparing articles of impeachment. Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post wrote up one of those “here’s what officials on each side have to say” stories that doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know.

 

 Former New York City Mayor and newly-minted Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg was in Aurora on Thursday to discuss his plans for addressing gun violence in the United States. As the Associated Press reports, Bloomberg is “calling for a ban on all assault weapons, mandatory permits for gun purchasers and a new position in the White House to coordinate gun violence prevention.”

 

► At least four people are dead after a shooting at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida.

 

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

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Silly Ethics Complaint Reaches New Level of Ridiculousness


Tweet via Denver Post reporter Justin Wingerter.

As we noted last month, a still-pending ethics complaint targeting former Gov. John Hickenlooper is a complete and total nothingburger. But don’t take our word for it…and don’t rely on the opinion of the The Denver Post’s editorial board, either. Just take a look at what happened today when the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission gathered once more to discuss the matter.

As Alex Burness writes for The Denver Post, today was another meeting about possibly scheduling another meeting:

A hearing on the pending ethics complaint concerning former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s travel on private planes might not take place until after Democrats’ caucus to select candidates for the U.S. Senate race.

Hickenlooper, who’s running for the seat, has filed motions to dismiss the allegations, as he and his team continue to characterize them as politically motivated. Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission, however, didn’t rule on those motions at Thursday’s meeting — the first since the group’s November release of a report on the complaint.

Instead, members tentatively set the hearing for March 17, though staff promised to try to find an earlier date that works…

…Hickenlooper’s attorney, Mark Grueskin, pushed for an earlier resolution, but the commission’s staffer advised that January is too soon for a hearing and that he has been unable to find an available conference room for the commission’s scheduled February meeting. [Pols emphasis]

“As we’ve said before, the most sensational accusations [in this complaint] are easy to dismiss.”

— Denver Post editorial (November 9, 2019)

This ethics complaint against Hickenlooper was filed in October 2018 by a newly-formed group called the Public Trust Institute, which is helmed by former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty. The crux of McNulty’s argument surrounds a handful of trips that Hickenlooper took before he finished his second term as Colorado’s Governor in January 2019. As The Denver Post has previously pointed out, there’s not much here that would be of any concern to, well, anyone.

Today’s hearing of the Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) all but confirmed that belief. If this complaint was really about a serious ethics violation, as Republicans would have you believe, then surely someone would be able to locate an available conference room before March 2020.

Of course, the entire point of this complaint was never about addressing serious ethical concerns. The goal here was always to harm Hickenlooper’s political fortunes, whether that entailed his brief run for President or his current campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

With that in mind, McNulty’s “Public Trust Institute” probably doesn’t mind that this case faces another 3-4 months of limbo for Hickenlooper. McNulty’s plan was to throw a bunch of crap at the wall in hopes of generating some sort of news headline that could fit into a negative advertisement against Hickenlooper — which is precisely what happened earlier this week. Whatever else happens from this point forward — and we’re not holding our breath that anything will happen — is just gravy for Republicans.

This story has gone on for too long already. Now, about that conference room shortage…

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33% Approval: Another Poll Shows Gardner Circling Drain


Sen. Cory Gardner literally standing behind President Donald Trump.

Healthcare advocacy nonprofit Healthier Colorado released a new poll yesterday conducted by Keating Research, principally focused on concerns voters have related to the group’s eponymous mission:

A majority of Coloradans are concerned about the rising costs of healthcare and prescription drugs, and prefer a public option to enroll in Medicare or Medicare for All over the current system, according to a statewide survey by Healthier Colorado, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of all residents throughout our state’s diverse communities.

The poll was conducted November 6-9, 2019, among a sample of 650 active voters, with an oversample in West Slope counties. Roughly half of voters surveyed (45%) said the cost of healthcare is unaffordable, while an overwhelming majority (82%) believe the cost of prescription drugs and medication is too high. When presented with the option to keep the current system in which health insurance is purchased through one’s employer or privately, or move to a public option or Medicare for All, only one-third of voters prefer to keep the current system. The other two-thirds were evenly split between wanting a public option and Medicare for All.

Useful information for the upcoming debate in the Colorado legislature beginning next month on a proposed public option coverage plan. But at the bottom of the release announcing this poll, right before the link to the full results at Keating, our readers will find the question we’re most interested in today, with all due respect to Healthier Colorado:

Overall, a majority of Coloradans (52%) believe Colorado is headed in the right direction. When asked about elected officials running for election in 2020, only 37% have a favorable view of President Donald Trump, while 60% view him unfavorably. Senator Cory Gardner, currently running for his second term fares less favorably, with 33% favorable, 45% unfavorable. [Pols emphasis]

If this poll is accurate, Sen. Cory Gardner is not just America’s Most Vulnerable Senator™. Gardner is in a downward spiral that there may well be no coming back from. This is the second poll this fall showing Gardner’s approval rating below 35%, several percentage points short of President Donald Trump’s own dismal 37% approval in Colorado and 12 points south of Gardner’s 45% unfavorable rating, clearly reflecting Gardner’s weakness among base Republicans–in addition to the state’s compounding wholesale rejection of Republican candidates that accelerated in last year’s historic Colorado Democratic landslide.

It’s hard to imagine Gardner losing the general election next November by the margin a 33% approval rating suggests, not least because many of those disaffected Republican voters are sure to hold their noses and vote–but to call these numbers bad news for Gardner’s re-election prospects is a considerable understatement.

While we can’t pronounce Cory Gardner a political dead man walking on the strength of one poll, these numbers are undeniably what that looks like.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 4)


Today is “National Cookie Day.” Please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The House Judiciary Committee today began its role in impeachment hearings by hearing testimony from prominent legal experts as to whether evidence unearthed thus far constitutes impeachable conduct by President Trump. Today’s hearings come one day after the House Intelligence Committee released a thorough report on findings from weeks of impeachment hearings and investigations. From The Washington Post:

“Ultimately the reason the Constitution provided for impeachment was to anticipate a situation like the one that is before you today,” Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman testified. “If we cannot impeach a president who uses his power for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy, we live in a monarchy or a dictatorship.”

The questioning had the air of an introductory constitutional law class focused on impeachment – including a featured chart listing the A, the B, and the C of high crimes and misdemeanors: Abuse of Power, Betrayal of National Interest, and Corruption of Elections.

House Democrats’ committee counsel Norm Eisen asked the law professors to explain whether it was necessary for Trump to have committed a statutory crime to be impeached. University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt said no. The scale of Trump’s obstruction was an abuse, he stressed, because it “torpedoes” the separation of powers in the Constitution.

“If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” he said.

One of the more dramatic moments in early testimony came after Republican Rep. Doug Collins questioned the knowledge and preparation of the legal experts testifying today. Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan was incensed at the suggestion:

“That everything I know about our Constitution and its values and my review of the evidentiary record and here, Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts, so I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”

Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) are both members of the House Judiciary Committee and were in attendance this morning…though Buck must have had something more important to do later:

It was revealed last week that Buck, who also serves as the Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, blew off most of the prior impeachment hearings that he was invited to attend as a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

 

President Trump is making a fool of himself and the United States at the NATO summit in London, and foreign leaders are having a hard time ignoring the circus. As CNN explains:

After President Donald Trump called him “two-faced,” Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, admitted Wednesday that he and other world leaders were talking about the US President when they were caught on camera at a Buckingham Palace event the night before.

The video, which has gone viral, shows British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, Trudeau and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appearing to have a laugh about Trump’s behavior during the summit. But none of the leaders explicitly named Trump.

“Last night I made reference to the fact that there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with President Trump. I was happy to be part of it but it was certainly notable,” Trudeau said during a Wednesday press conference.

As The Washington Post adds, Trump was clearly stung by the reaction of his counterparts:

Trump was later caught on an audio recording bragging to an unidentified summit attendee, “That was funny when I said that guy was two-faced.”

CLICK HERE to watch the video of foreign leaders expressing exasperation with Trump during a conversation at Buckingham Palace.

 

► North Korea is making vague threats toward the United States about expecting a “Christmas Gift” in the upcoming weeks. From CNN:

The ominous comments, which some have interpreted as a sign that North Korea could resume long-distance missile tests, comes as the clock ticks closer to the country’s self-imposed end-of-year deadline for nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.
Talks between the two sides have appeared to be in a rut in recent months, with North Korea conducting several shorter-range missile tests.

In a statement translated on the state news agency, Ri Thae Song, a first vice minister at the North Korean Foreign Ministry working on US affairs, accused US policy makers of leveraging talks with Kim Jong Un for domestic political gain.

“The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US,” Ri said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get,” added Ri.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), the self-professed “leader in the Senate” on North Korea, STILL hasn’t said a public word about this or anything related to strained U.S. relations with South Korea.

Gardner also won’t comment on Trump’s claims of election interference by Ukraine, but he will still say that Russia should be labeled a “state sponsor of terror.”

 

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

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