Get More Smarter on Monday (February 3)

It’s cold, wet, and icy today — please be careful out there, and don’t put stock in weather forecasts from rodents. 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…

Closing arguments are being made today in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, though acquittal appears to be a foregone conclusion — nevermind a new NBC News/Wall St. Journal poll showing that most Americans believe Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress. On Friday, Republican Senators blocked efforts to add new witnesses or documents to the impeachment inquiry, effectively ending any hope of a real trial in the Senate.

House impeachment managers are nevertheless making their final case today in the Senate. “Your duty demands you convict President Trump,” said Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) today on the Senate floor. As The Denver Post reports:

The Aurora Democrat spoke first Monday morning as the seven impeachment managers made their final case to the Senate and the American people. He quoted from the nation’s Founding Fathers and former giants of the Senate, such as Daniel Webster, as he urged senators to do what they almost certainly will not do: convict the president and remove him from office. [Pols emphasis]

“I submit to you, on behalf of the House of Representatives, that your duty demands you convict President Trump,” Crow said. “I don’t pretend this is an easy process. It’s not designed to be easy. It shouldn’t be easy to impeach or convict a president. Impeachment is an extraordinary remedy, a tool only to be used in rare instances of grave misconduct, but it is in the Constitution for a reason.

“In America, no one is above the law, even those elected president of the United States, and I would say, especially those elected president of the United States.”

You can watch Rep. Crow’s entire closing argument below:

 

 

► Meanwhile, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is still getting a lot of impeachment-related attention…but not in a good way. #CoverUpCory has become a national trend.

The editorial board of The Aurora Sentinel calls out Gardner and his fellow Republicans for their cowardice on impeachment:

America can add Jan. 31, 2020 to the list of the nation’s most appalling blunders.

Defying their sworn duty, overwhelming public opinion and decency, the Republican Party on that day succumbed to fear and corruption in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump.

Friday became historical as the day Senate Republicans refused to seek the truth about just how far the president had gone in blackmailing Ukranian officials, forcing them to undermine Trump’s political opponent…

…Republicans, and the entire nation know full well that a tsunami of truth and facts will eventually wash away Trump’s deceptions and obfuscations. Cowardly members of Trump’s own party, however,  prevented those revelations now.

Instead, Jan. 31, 2020 was the day Senate Republicans like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner shrank in fear and colluded in the scheme to hide Trump’s crimes from the American public. [Pols emphasis]

 

► It’s caucus day in Iowa. Readers of Colorado Pols will tell you who is going to win tonight. The Washington Post takes a look at how the ghost of Hillary Clinton still haunts Democrats in Iowa. Here’s a primer on the Iowa caucuses and how they will be different than they were in 2016.

 

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

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Neguse Slams Trump For Restricting Immigration From Eritrea

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette)

AP and the Denver Post reported Friday, and we wanted to make sure it got a mention:

The Trump administration announced Friday that it is curbing legal immigration from six additional countries that officials said did not meet security standards, as part of an election-year push to further restrict immigration.

Officials said immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania will face new restrictions in obtaining certain visas to come to the United States. But it is not a total travel ban, unlike President Donald Trump’s earlier effort that generated outrage around the world for unfairly targeting Muslims…

“America offered my family freedom and the opportunity to live the American dream,” said Neguse, of Lafayette. “The president’s ban does not align with American values or promises our country offers to migrants and refugees. I’m committed to making sure America welcomes all faith and religions.”

Historically independent, Eritrea endured a long and bloody conflict with neighboring Ethiopia that resulted in a large refugee diaspora and over 20,000 Eritreans migrating to the U.S. by 2000. Rep. Joe Neguse’s parents came to the U.S. during that conflict, and Neguse’s story as the son of immigrants from a war-torn nation is major plank in his biography.

A total of about 12,000 people from the six affected countries are estimated to be impacted by the new travel restrictions:

The new ban will “result in more suffering for untold numbers of families who will be prevented from reuniting,” said Mariko Hirose, litigation director for the International Refugee Assistance Project, in response to the announcement. “Many of our clients, who are in extremely vulnerable situations, will once again be harmed by this order, among them Eritrean children trying to reunite with their family members in the United States.”

Like so much else in the last three years, it’s likely that the swiftest remedy for these new travel restrictions will be the 2020 elections–especially after the new conservative Supreme Court backed the Trump administration over the first round of travel bans. Between now and then, we expect to see Rep. Neguse making the case for Trump’s ouster on this action and his personal story.

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Romanoff Posts Awful Q4 Fundraising Numbers

Andrew Romanoff

Former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, one of many candidates seeking the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 2020, filed his Q4 2019 fundraising report this afternoon…

It’s not good.

Romanoff reported raising about $313,000 in the last three months of 2019, leaving his campaign with roughly $686,000 cash on hand to start 2020. He also reported spending about $352,000 in Q4, which puts his burn rate somewhere south of terrible and well beyond anything sustainable.

These numbers would be fine if Romanoff were a candidate for Congress, but they are catastrophic for someone seeking a U.S. Senate seat in what is expected to be one of the most competitive races in the country in November. Here’s how Romanoff’s numbers compare to some of the other fundraising reports from the last quarter:

 

Romanoff can probably list a number of reasons as to why his fundraising has been so poor, but it doesn’t really matter why he is having trouble raising money. In 2020, you cannot win a U.S. Senate seat with a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Democratic frontrunner John Hickenlooper is putting together the necessary resources to win a tough U.S. Senate race after joining the field in late August. Romanoff has been a candidate for twice as long but has raised only about one-fifth of what Hickenlooper has reported.

Tomorrow is the first day of February in an Election Year. Romanoff is out of time.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (January 31)

Happy Nauru Independence 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…

► It appears that we are nearing the inevitable conclusion of President Trump’s acquittal at the hands of Senate Republicans who refuse to see anything wrong with anything wrong. On Thursday evening, Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander — who is not seeking re-election — was nevertheless unable to summon the courage to support a call for more witnesses in the Senate trial. Maine Sen. Susan Collins announced that she WOULD support a call for witness testimony, but without Alexander’s support there probably aren’t enough Republicans to make that happen. CNN’s Chris Cillizza breaks down how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell kept his caucus together on avoiding new witnesses.

As The Washington Post reports, the end is near — though it may be drawn out a bit longer still:

While many Republicans have expressed hopes that the expected failure of a vote to call new witnesses would mean a rapid end to Trump’s impeachment trial, officials are warning that might not be the case.

A longer schedule could mean the trial stretches beyond Monday’s Iowa caucuses, further complicating the campaign schedules of the four senators seeking the Democratic nomination who are sitting as jurors.

A senior administration official and two congressional officials said Friday it was unlikely that senators would rush immediately to a verdict after the witness vote fails. They requested anonymity to speak candidly about internal discussions.

The administration official and a congressional official raised the possibility that the Senate could take up a new procedural resolution laying out rules for the trial’s endgame — which could include time for closing arguments, private deliberations and public speeches by senators.

The Senate passed such a supplemental resolution in the middle of the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

Perhaps no Senate Republican is more emblematic of the GOP’s blind loyalty to Trump than Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner. As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post revealed on Thursday, there is significant evidence that Gardner has known for years that former Vice President Joe Biden did nothing unethical in relation to his dealings with Ukraine, which invalidates a key Trump argument about why $391 million in foreign aid was withheld from the country.

You’ll be seeing a lot of the hashtag #CoverUpCory over the next year.

 

► Jason Salzman of the Colorado Times-Recorder takes an impeachment-related comparison of two of the most endangered Republican Senators in 2020: Gardner and Susan Collins of Maine. You can probably guess who ends up looking better.

 

► Monday is the deadline to change your voter affiliation in Colorado if you want to cast a vote in the March 3 Democratic Presidential Primary. There will probably not be chaos.

 

► As Jim Anderson writes for the Associated Press, legislation to repeal the death penalty in Colorado moved a step closer to passage with a vote in the State Senate.

 

► We’re still waiting for end-of-year fundraising reports from several federal campaigns, most notably those of Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Senate challenger Andrew Romanoff. If both campaigns wait as long as possible to file their reports, you probably won’t hear anything about the numbers until Saturday.

 

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

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WHOA: Gardner Already Knows Trump Defense is Bogus

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner made headlines across the country on Wednesday when he announced that he would not support calling new witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial. As we’ve discussed at length in this space, there has never been any real reason to believe that Gardner would could be dissuaded from covering up for President Trump’s misdeeds. But Gardner isn’t just ignoring any evidence in the Senate trial about President Trump’s extortion attempts with Ukraine; he already KNEW that allegations of corruption against former Vice President Joe Biden were completely without merit.  

As Greg Sargent outlines today in a devastating story for The Washington Post, Gardner has known for years that there was nothing even remotely suspicious about Biden’s dealings with Ukraine.

You should really read Sargent’s entire story, but we’ll summarize as best we can. Stay with us here, because this is a significant development.

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

First, you need to understand one of the primary defense arguments regarding Trump’s withholding of foreign aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into Biden. Writes Sargent:

A core claim from Trump’s team has been that Trump had at least some reason to suspect there was something untoward about Joe Biden’s efforts as vice president to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor.

They’ve cited two facts — that Biden threatened to withhold loan guarantees from Ukraine to leverage that ouster and that Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of Ukrainian company Burisma — which they claim presented a potential conflict of interest. That made Trump’s suspicions reasonable, they say.

 
Gardner knows this isn’t true, but how do we know that? Because he was present at multiple Senate hearings – in 2015 and 2016 – in which it was openly discussed that Biden was following stated U.S. foreign policy goals in pressuring Ukraine to dismiss prosecutor Viktor Shokin. As Sargent explains:

But, crucially, the public record at the time also shows that the ouster of Shokin, including the use of loan guarantees as leverage, was U.S. policy — and that at least some Republican senators knew all of this as it was happening.

Gardner was in attendance at this Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on October 8, 2015, in which an assistant secretary of state named Victoria Nuland explained that it was U.S. foreign policy – supported by the International Monetary Fund — to target Shukin as part of an effort to rid the Ukranian prosecutor general’s office of corruption.

Gardner was also present at this Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on March 14, 2016, at which Nuland updated Senators on efforts to oust Shukin.

This bears repeating: Cory Gardner has known for years that there was no basis for the Trump administration to allege that Joe Biden was involved in any sort of illicit dealings with Ukraine.

Cory Gardner KNOWS that there was no reason for Trump to seek a Ukrainian investigation of Biden, let alone to withhold foreign aid in exchange for such an investigation…which means Gardner KNOWS that Trump’s actions were a blatant abuse of power.

We’ll let Sargent bring this home:

The bottom line is that it was not legitimate for Trump to claim Biden’s effort to oust Shokin was linked to Hunter’s Burisma gig to justify his corrupt demand of Zelensky. To allow Trump to make this legitimate simply by saying there might have been such a link is to concede to him the power to rewrite reality with disinformation, all to justify his extortion of a foreign power to help him cheat his way through the next election.

GOP senators who know better might be prepared to concede that power to him. But we don’t have to.

#CoverUpCory isn’t just a fun hashtag. It’s the truth.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 30)

On this day in 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn-in as Chancellor of Germany. 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…

► Why was #CoverUpCory trending nationally on Twitter on Wednesday? Because Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) announced — after months of dodging the issue — that he opposes calling witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.

Earlier this week, Gardner said that he had “approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and with the seriousness our oath requires.” He apparently forgot to add the part, “but only for two weeks.” Gardner really just wants this all to go away.

Meanwhile, the Senate impeachment trial continues today, with Republicans looking to wrap things up in the next couple of days as long as they can prevent four elephants in their ranks from voting to hear from new witnesses.

 

President Trump’s attorneys presented a brazen new strategy on Wednesday in the Senate impeachment trial. As Aaron Blake writes for The Washington Post:

A decade after being acquitted of murder, Alan Dershowitz’s former client O.J. Simpson questionably planned a book and a TV special titled, “If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened.”

On Wednesday, Dershowitz assisted in a novel defense for his current client, President Trump: If he did it, it’s still okay. [Pols emphasis]

As The Post’s Erica Werner, Karoun Demirjian and Elise Viebeck write, Trump’s legal team advanced an exceptionally broad defense of Trump’s actions at Wednesday’s Q&A session of the impeachment trial. The most striking parts of that defense came when they entertained the idea that Trump was indeed out for personal political gain when he asked Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter Biden — despite long-standing denials that he was — and suggested even that that would be aboveboard.

It was almost as if they are girding for what might come from former national security adviser John Bolton.

In a separate story, The Washington Post points out that Trump’s attorneys notably refused to answer two very important questions.

As NBC News reports, legal experts are aghast at Dershowitz’s logic:

Dershowitz argued Wednesday that if a president engaged in a quid pro quo arrangement for their own political benefit, it is not impeachable because all politicians believe that their elections are in the public interest…

…Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, law school, said he thought Dershowitz’s argument was “absurd and outrageous.”

“It means that a president could break any law or abuse any power and say that it was for the public interest because the public interest would be served by his or her election,” he said.

And Sanford Levinson, a University of Texas law professor, said Dershowitz’s argument was “on its face, preposterous.”

And yet…Senate Republicans are eating it up.
► Fundraising reports for federal campaigns are due to be filed before the end of the day on Friday, January 31. While many candidates for federal office in Colorado have already made their end-of-year and Q4 2019 fundraising numbers public, we’re still waiting to find out results from the campaigns of Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Senate challenger Andrew Romanoff. If both campaigns wait as long as possible to file their reports, you probably won’t hear anything about the numbers until Saturday.

 

► The Colorado State Senate is again debating legislation that would end the death penalty in Colorado. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett discusses this bill and other hot items under the Gold Dome in this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast.

 

 

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

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: #CoverUpCory

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, your regular (relatively) host Jason Bane is joined by Alan Franklin and producer extraordinaire Ethan Black to discuss the latest impeachment news — we had to come back and record twice just to keep up — as well as #CoverUpCory Gardner, John Bolton, and next week’s Iowa caucuses. Later, House Majority Leader Alec Garnett joins us to update the latest news on the Colorado legislative session and to provide his “lock of the week” for those of you laying down bets on the Super Bowl “Big Game” this weekend.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com.

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“Yosemite Samantha” Lands Coveted Tom Tancredo Endorsement

Lauren Boebert.

Ernest Luning at the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, the CD-3 Republican primary heats up with the announcement that former Republican congressman, presidential candidate, and fringe-right gadfly extraordinaire Tom Tancredo is throwing his weight behind upstart primary challenger Lauren Boebert:

Calling her a “principled, no-nonsense patriot,” former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo on Monday endorsed fellow Republican Lauren Boebert, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in a primary.

The immigration hardliner who served five terms in Congress said in a radio ad obtained by Colorado Politics that Boebert, the pistol-packing owner of Shooters Grill in Rifle, “has the same fight in her that I brought to Washington.”

…The ad also touts Boebert’s well-publicized confrontation with Beto O’Rourke when the Texas Democrat brought his soon-to-be-concluded presidential campaign to Aurora to talk about gun violence in September.

Tancredo, one of the legendary pillars of Colorado’s special breed of “kamikaze conservatives” who helped relieve the GOP of most of its power in this state in the last fifteen years (see: The Blueprint by Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer), nonetheless wields a built-in base of support that remains quite influential within the party. Tancredo is also blissfully untethered by any loyalty to the Republican elites in Colorado, who generally remain supportive of incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton.

Does Tancredo’s support win Boebert the primary? Of course not. But we can’t see how it hurts.

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Tipton, Gardner Celebrate “Dirty Water Act”

Ricardo Lopez Jr. of the Pueblo Chieftain reports:

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which replaces the Waters of the United States Act approved by the Obama administration in 2015.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis immediately denounced the move, calling it a plan “to gut federal clean water protections.”

The revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: the territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters…

“In Colorado, we value our clean water. Our rivers, streams, and lakes serve as the lifeblood of our communities and help support our thriving outdoor and agriculture industries,” Polis said Thursday. “Our administration will continue to reject attempts by the Trump administration to gut proven ways to protect our health and environment.”

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb:

Federal agencies on Thursday finalized a new clean-water rule that supporters including U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton say provides much-needed regulatory certainty.

But opponents, including the administration of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, say it will result in the weakest protections since the passage of the Clean Water Act nearly a half a century ago…

Last April, the Polis administration and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted joint comments on the rule proposal that was finalized this week. Their letter said that as with many western states, the large majority of Colorado’s stream miles are intermittent or ephemeral. [Pols emphasis] The state said the proposal would shrink federal jurisdiction far below guidance issued in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration “to a smaller number of Colorado waters” than what presidential administrations have required since the Clean Water Act’s passage. While many ephemeral waters aren’t jurisdictional under the 2008 guidance, the new rule categorically excludes them from jurisdiction, “regardless of their connection to downstream waters,” the state wrote.

Although the new rule is intended to resolve “uncertainty” over the extent of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction, meaning continued special-interest grumbling and court challenges since the Obama administration passed the 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule, this rollback is particularly bad for arid Western states. The seasonality of precipitation and overall scarcity of water here compared to states east of the “20 inch isohyet” means many ephemeral waterways which most certainly can contribute to water pollution in “navigable” bodies of water covered by the Act will lose their federal protection.

It’s a classic case of choosing economic interests over environmental protection, and it works against both Rep. Scott Tipton’s and Sen. Cory Gardner’s claims to be different from other Republicans on conservation–or at least attuned to how these issues differ in the state they represent from other regions of the country. The only people this new rule should make happy are those who benefit financially from being able to pollute small bodies of water with impunity.

And it’s hard to imagine that being a majority of Colorado voters.

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Crow Impresses on First Day of Impeachment Trial

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who sits dutifully behind President Trump’s legal team on the floor of the U.S. Senate, has been getting hammered in national news outlets for his blind obedience to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Team Trump despite an oath to be an “impartial juror” in the President’s impeachment trial.

Colorado Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora), meanwhile, is earning rave reviews for his performance as one of seven House “impeachment managers” prosecuting the case against Trump. Here’s NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent Kasie Hunt on Tuesday:

In Gardner and Crow, Colorado has two high-profile connections to the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. The contrast couldn’t be more stark.

From The Daily Caller:

Tuesday’s session lasted almost 13 hours, according to CNBC. Crow, a former Army Ranger, spoke late into the evening and noted that despite the late hour, it was morning in Ukraine, where soldiers were fighting Russia and depending on U.S. aid. He previously served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The American people deserve answers,” Crow said Tuesday. “I remember what it feels like to not have the equipment you need when you need it. Real people’s lives are at stake. That’s why this matters. We need this information so we can ensure that this never happens again. Eventually, this will all come out.”

“We will have answers to these questions. The question now is whether we will have them in time, and who here will be on the right side of history.”

— Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora)

Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post has more on Crow’s performance from Tuesday:

Crow took to the Senate floor in the evening to argue for a subpoena of documents from OMB, where testimony and media reports suggest officials were concerned by Trump’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine.

“We know these documents exist and we know the only reason we do not have them is because the president directed OMB not to release them,” Crow said, referring to what he claims are key documents that reveal how the president’s controversial order was enacted. “Because he knows what they would show.”

Crow went through a timeline of events related to the withholding of aid to Ukraine in the summer of 2019, punctuating his remarks on several occasions by saying, “The American people deserve answers.” Crow talked about his own combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the importance of military aid to soldiers in wartime.

“Who knew what, and when? OMB documents would shed light on OMB’s actions as the president’s scheme unraveled,” the congressman said.

Crow’s background as an Army Ranger who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan allows him to frame the withholding of military aid from Ukraine in a very personal manner; there aren’t many Members of Congress who could have the same impact, as you can see from this CNN clip below:

One member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation is standing up for what he believes and making a passionate case for his colleagues to follow. The other is Cory Gardner.

Kudos to Jason Crow.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Colorado’s Critical Role on Choice

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, Ian Silverii has a baby (well, not on the podcast), so Alan Franklin joins Jason Bane to talk about Sen. Cory Gardner getting hammered by national reporters; how Jon Caldara getting canned from The Denver Post epitomizes a larger problem for Colorado Republicans; and how Big Potato picked up a smashing victory. Later, journalist Madeleine Schmidt joins Alan and Jason to discuss her reporting for Jezebel about Colorado’s important role as a safe-haven for women facing difficult decisions about abortions later in pregnancy.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com.

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McConnell Backs Down as Impeachment Trial Begins

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

As Politico reports, there are some significant happenings already as the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump gets underway:

Senate Republicans backed down from an aggressive timetable and new restrictions on evidence in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, changing course after protests from senators like Republican Susan Collins of Maine.

Instead of crammingas many as 48 hours of opening arguments from House impeachment managers and the White House counsel into just four days this week, McConnell’s resolution will now give each side 24 hours to speak over three days. That could ultimately extend the trial by two days. And a controversial provision in the plan that would not have automatically included the House’s evidence was also scuttled from a previous draft.

McConnell’s rule changes — which include the admission of evidence from the House impeachment process — were so last-minute that they were actually written out by hand, as NBC News reports. As the New York Times confirms, McConnell made the adjustments due to pushback from his own caucus:

Mr. McConnell made the change after key Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, argued that the rules for Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial should not deviate from the rules used during the only modern precedent, the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999.

Ms. Collins, a moderate Republican who is likely to face a tough re-election bid later this year, has significant sway with Mr. McConnell, as her votes could change the outcome of the trial.

We will update this post as more information becomes available.

 

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New York Times Can’t Find Cory Gardner, Either

Invisible Cory GardnerOver the weekend, the New York Times published a long, comprehensive story about the curious inaccessibility and general invisibility of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

They keep expecting to see Senator Cory Gardner everywhere — on the local Fox affiliates in Colorado, on Facebook, on literature crammed inside their mailboxes. They are voters who wear tasteful crepe blouses and carry structured Kate Spade totes, who like how their 401(k)’s are performing but say they could do without President Trump’s “temperament.”

They are members of one of the most coveted groups in electoral politics: suburban women. But in their field of vision, Mr. Gardner, Colorado’s top Republican officeholder, is almost nowhere to be found…

… Unlike most Republican senators, Mr. Gardner has been largely mum on the articles of impeachment against the president and the Senate trial starting Tuesday. Early in the process, he called the impeachment inquiry a “total circus,” but notably refused to answer questions about whether the president’s conduct with Ukraine had been appropriate.

Mr. Gardner hasn’t indicated one way or the other whether he’d vote to subpoena witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, even as some other senators facing tough re-election fights, like Senator Susan Collins of Maine, have expressed an openness to doing so. Last week on Capitol Hill, he evaded reporters eager to pin down his thoughts, his handler hurrying him into the nearest elevator. On Thursday evening, when a local Colorado reporter caught him at the Denver airport, a smiling Mr. Gardner offered still no clarity. “We have a trial,” he said. “That’s where we’re at right now.”…

… “I’m confused as to why he’s not out on the stump more, because that’s what he was so good at in 2014,” said Colorado Republican operative Tyler Sandberg.

We took note last week about Gardner’s embarrassing run-in with 9News, in which he repeatedly said “We have a trial” in response to questions seeking much more substantial responses from a United States Senator about the most important political issue of the day. What the Times story also found, however, is that Gardner’s fellow Republicans are as mystified as everyone else by the Yuma Senator’s current political strategy:

Dick Wadhams, a veteran Colorado Republican operative, was not bashful about calling out Mr. Gardner’s fear of public exposure. “If I had one criticism of him,” Mr. Wadhams said, “it’s that his team keeps him locked up in a fortress.” (Mr. Gardner and his aides did not return multiple requests for comment.) [Pols emphasis]

Impeachment has served only to highlight Mr. Gardner’s silence, whether on his own record or the national issues du jour, according to other Colorado Republicans. His caginess has frustrated some Trump supporters in Colorado, whose votes Mr. Gardner will almost certainly need to prevail in November, when Democrats are likely to come out in force in the presidential election.

Sen. Cory Gardner waves as he exits Air Force One behind President Trump in Oct. 2018.

Gardner’s attempts at invisibility might not be paying off in the manner in which he might hope, as this closing paragraph from the Times elaborates:

Amy Conklin [a former Littleton City Council member who has supported Gardner in the past] conceded that Mr. Gardner had done some good work in the Senate. But what looms largest in her mind, what she says she’d be hardest pressed to forget, are a handful of photographs she’s seen of Mr. Gardner, including one from last winter, in which she described him as “smiling and waving, following Trump out of Air Force One.” [Pols emphasis]

The Senate impeachment trial against President Trump gets underway today. Gardner will hide as much as he can and is not expected to be anything but a loyal soldier for Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell and the White House (as Politico made clear in an impeachment preview today).

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 16)

Happy “National Nothing Day.” We’re not sure if you are supposed to celebrate or not. 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…

► And so it begins. From The Washington Post:

The historic impeachment trial of President Trump got underway Thursday with the arrival in the Senate of the seven House managers to formally present the two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States, is headed to the Senate later Thursday, where he is expected to be sworn in to preside over the trial focused on the president’s conduct toward Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the trial will get underway “in earnest” next week.

Fallout also continued Thursday from new allegations by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Trump knew of his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine that could benefit Trump politically. The impeachment charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — center on the allegation that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former vice president Joe Biden.

The Washington Post has more on the latest allegations from Lev Parnas that do not look good for President Trump.

 

► The Government Accountability Office says the Trump administration broke the law in attempting to restrict foreign aid to Ukraine. From the New York Times:

The Trump administration violated the law in withholding security assistance aid to Ukraine, a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency said on Thursday, weighing in on a decision by President Trump that is at the heart of the impeachment case against him.

The Government Accountability Office said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld nearly $400 million for “a policy reason,” even though the funds had been allocated by Congress. The decision was directed by the president himself, and during the House impeachment inquiry, administration officials testified that they had raised concerns about its legality to no avail.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the G.A.O. wrote. “The withholding was not a programmatic delay.”

“Trump did nothing wrong” was never a sustainable argument, but it has become downright silly now.

 

► Ahead of the Senate impeachment trial, all 100 U.S. Senators will take an “oath of impartiality” given by Chief Justice John Roberts that will go something like this:

Getty Images

 

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to run in terror from reporter questions about impeachment and President Trump, though late Wednesday he veered away from pretending to have not seen the articles of impeachment so that he could pay lip service to the idea of being “an impartial juror.” Meanwhile, it seems even some of the more unflappable Republican Senators are starting to snap under the pressure of trying to support a corrupt President:

 

► Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is getting lots of attention as one of the seven House impeachment “managers” appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday. You can read more from The Denver Post, The Colorado Sun/CBS4, Denver7, and Colorado Public Radio.

Elsewhere, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) played a part in the historic decision to transmit articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate.

 

 

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

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Reporters Still Looking for Cory Gardner’s Spine

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was busy today firing off Tweets about trade agreements and speaking in front of an empty Senate chamber about the four corners of Colorado and…something.

What Gardner was NOT doing today is the same thing has has NOT been doing for months: Commenting in any way, shape or form on the pending impeachment trial against President Trump.

Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post has noted Gardner’s refusal to talk about the most important political subject in the entire country, but he’s not alone in trying to track down the elusive junior Senator from Colorado. As The New York Times reported today:

For Republicans in difficult re-election races — with the possible exception of Ms. Collins, who is her own brand in Maine — the political calculations are complex. Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Martha McSally of Arizona and Mr. Gardner all face tough contests in states that are not nearly as conservative as they used to be…

…The pressure on Mr. Gardner mounted on Monday when the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans that describes itself as “dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism,” targeted him in a brutal advertisement that described the Colorado senator as “just another Trump servant — weak, frightened, impotent — a small man, terrified of a political bully.”

“Colorado voters want a fair trial in the Senate and honest leadership,” the ad said. “Either do your job, or Colorado will find someone who will.”

In the Capitol on Tuesday, Mr. Gardner was making himself scarce. When Republicans wrapped up a luncheon featuring a discussion of trial procedure, he zipped out a back door and headed for a little-used elevator, avoiding a throng of waiting reporters. 

“I’m sorry, he’s got to get going,” an aide to Mr. Gardner told a reporter who followed him, as the elevator doors opened and the senator slipped inside. Then Mr. Gardner jumped in, begging off any discussion of whether he could be the elusive fourth vote who could upend hopes of a quick acquittal of Mr. Trump. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner’s, um, “spinal problem” is quite a contrast with another prominent member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation. This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) was among seven Representatives chosen to prosecute the House impeachment case in the upcoming Senate trial.

One man is standing up to fulfill the Congressional duties set forth in his oath of office. The other is hiding from reporters in elevators. If you’re embarrassed by the ridiculous charades of Sen. Cory Gardner in this critical moment in American history…well, you absolutely should be.

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) at far right of image.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 15)

Happy “Korean Alphabet Day.” Please celebrate responsibly, or whatever. 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…

► The House of Representatives will vote today to send articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the announcement today and introduced the seven House Members who will serve as “impeachment managers.” One of them is Colorado’s own Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora).

The Washington Post breaks down how Crow ended up being among Pelosi’s chosen few:

The Democrat from Colorado is in his first term as Congress. Before Congress, he served as an Army Ranger, leading combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also partner in a law firm in Colorado. According to the Almanac of American Politics, he wasn’t a prosecutor, but he “conducted internal investigations nationwide, responded to emergency events and handled a wide-range of government inquiries.” He also represents the kind of district — a suburban one in a swing state — that Democrats will need to hold onto in November to keep their majorities.

He is the only manager who does not sit on any of the impeachment inquiry committees, but he had a role in swaying Pelosi to authorize the impeachment inquiry. He was one of seven House freshmen with national security backgrounds who co-authored a Washington Post op-ed calling Trump’s actions on Ukraine impeachable, a move that signaled a significant momentum shift within the Democratic caucus. Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry a day after that published.

Crow’s selection provides a stark contrast to the impeachment involvement of another key Colorado elected official: Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). As Justin Wingerter writes for The Denver Post, Gardner just keeps ducking questions about President Trump:

Gardner’s office declined again Tuesday to answer questions from The Denver Post about whether he would support a motion to dismiss the two charges against Trump or vote to allow witnesses in a Senate trial that’s expected to begin next week. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah have said they want to keep open the option of hearing from witnesses after opening arguments.

CBS reported Monday that the White House expects at least four Republicans will vote to call witnesses in the Senate trial. That “possibly” includes Gardner, according to the report, though he has said nothing to indicate that he will. There are 53 Senate Republicans, and a simple majority of 51 votes will be needed to pass trial rules.

Silence has become the norm for Gardner on the topic of impeachment. His office previously declined to say whether witnesses should be called and whether he agrees with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “total coordination” with the White House.

The New York Times apparently wasn’t able to corner the squirrelly Senator, either:

In the Capitol on Tuesday, Mr. Gardner was making himself scarce. When Republicans wrapped up a luncheon featuring a discussion of trial procedure, he zipped out a back door and headed for a little-used elevator, avoiding a throng of waiting reporters.

“I’m sorry, he’s got to get going,” an aide to Mr. Gardner told a reporter who followed him, as the elevator doors opened and the senator slipped inside. Then Mr. Gardner jumped in, begging off any discussion of whether he could be the elusive fourth vote who could upend hopes of a quick acquittal of Mr. Trump.

 

► Evidence continues to mount against President Trump ahead of a Senate impeachment trial. As Jennifer Rubin writes for The Washington Post:

One can only imagine what evidence we have yet to see during the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. With each new tranche of evidence — including emails regarding the hold on military aid to Ukraine and now documents from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s — the conclusion that Trump abused power and obstructed the investigation becomes incontrovertible…

…Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me the new evidence is ” jaw-dropping” and “highly incriminating of both Giuliani and Trump.”

 

► Candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination met for another debate on Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa — just three weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Who won and who lost the big debate? Here are a few takes from The Washington Post, CNN, Politico, The New York Times, and The Des Moines Register.

 

► Today is the deadline for open enrollment for health care coverage through Connect for Health Colorado.

 

 

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Jason Crow Among House Impeachment Managers

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this morning the names of seven Democrats who will help prosecute the House impeachment case in a U.S. Senate trial as soon as next week. Colorado Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) was among the names selected.

As Politico reports:

The seven lawmakers will be tasked with prosecuting the case against President Donald Trump in the Senate’s trial, giving them a high-profile role and a chance to be at least a footnote in history.

The long-awaited announcement comes as the House is scheduled to vote later Wednesday to send the managers and the two impeachment articles over to the Senate — a formality that triggers the start of the trial.

Pelosi’s list reflects her desire for geographic, racial and gender diversity among the impeachment managers, and it draws from the Democratic Caucus’ wide swath of legal and national security-related experience.

Here’s Politico’s rundown of Crow’s selection:

Crow, 40, was a surprise choice, but Pelosi has leaned heavily on the so-called “national security freshmen” in the Democratic Caucus during her deliberations for the impeachment process. [Pols emphasis] Crow, serving in his first term, doesn’t sit on any of the committees charged with investigating Trump. But he is a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he received his law degree at the University of Denver. He was one of seven national security-oriented freshman lawmakers who wrote an op-ed in September calling for an impeachment inquiry after the Ukraine scandal came to light. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

This is a very big deal for Crow and for Colorado in general.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 14)

Happy “Feast of the Ass” day. Please celebrate responsibly, or whatever. 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…

► The House of Representatives will vote on Wednesday on the issue of sending articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate in advance of a Senate trial on President Trump’s misconduct. Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, says he still opposes the idea of calling witnesses in a trial — yeah, read that sentence again — as word leaks that some Republican Senators might support such an idea. From The Hill newspaper:

McConnell on Tuesday knocked talk of calling additional impeachment witnesses, arguing that Democrats want the Senate to go “fishing” during the soon-to-start impeachment trial.

“If the existing case is strong, there’s no need for the judge and the jury to reopen the investigation. If the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place,” McConnell said from the Senate floor…

…A small number have suggested they are open to calling witnesses midtrial, but they’re getting public pushback from their conservative colleagues, who warn that if Republicans support calling former national security adviser John Boltonthey also have to support calling witnesses Trump might want such as Hunter Biden or the whistleblower at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.

Democrats are planning to force votes on calling four witnesses, including Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. They need four GOP senators to successfully call a witness.

CBS News reported late Monday that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) might be among those Republican Senators who are supportive of calling witnesses in a Senate trial — though the odds are long that Gardner will do anything other than whatever McConnell tells him to do. A recent poll from Quinnipiac University found that 66% of Americans support the idea of witness testimony from former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Elsewhere, James Hohmann of The Washington Post ponders 10 questions now that the House is poised to send impeachment articles to the Senate.

 

► A Republican group called “The Lincoln Project” absolutely blasted Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) with a new advertisement on Monday. A subsequent “Truth Test” from 9News was equally brutal.

Says 9News anchor/reporter Kyle Clark: “Calling Senator Gardner a weak, impotent, small man? Let’s assume they’re speaking figuratively, and label that opinion.”


► Candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination (most of them, anyway) will debate once again tonight in Des Moines, Iowa — just three weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

 

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

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Weak, Frightened, and Impotent

The Get More Smarter Podcast drops its 25th episode with a look at a killer new (Republican-led) advertisement against Sen. Cory Gardner; the Trump administration makes Iran foreign policy more problematic for Colorado Republicans; and we preview the first full week of the Colorado legislative session with another discussion featuring House Majority Leader Alec Garnett.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

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Trump Keeps Digging on Iran; Colorado GOP Getting Buried

Clockwise from top left: Cory Gardner, Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn, and Scott Tipton.

The House of Representatives voted last week on a resolution to restrict President Trump’s ability to attack Iran without provocation. The vote was split along party lines among Colorado’s delegation, with all four Democrats in approval and all three Republicans voting “NO.”

Colorado’s three Republican Members of Congress — Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Ken Buck (R-Greeley), and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) — may soon be looking for avenues to walk this vote back. As Aaron Blake explains for The Washington Post, President’s Trump’s ever-changing rationale for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani “has utterly fallen apart”:

Trump has said in recent days that Soleimani was planning to “blow up” the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and also that he was going after “four embassies.”

But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper revealed on talk shows Sunday that the idea that Soleimani was about to attack four embassies wasn’t based on intelligence. Instead, he said it was simply something Trump and others “believed” to be the case.

Here’s Esper trying to explain Trump’s comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” over the weekend:

“What the president said was, he believed it probably could have been. He didn’t cite intelligence.”

“He believed it probably could have been.”

Trump administration officials are scrambling to understand and explain Trump’s Friday comments. Members of Congress who were briefed last week on the Iran strike said this was the first they had heard about a potential attack on American embassies. If there was such intelligence indicating this type of attack, nobody bothered to alert any of the embassies that would have theoretically been at risk.

Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote on a similar War Powers Resolution as soon as this week. Though Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) hasn’t yet had to cast that vote, he is in a worse spot than his Colorado colleagues after he came out last week in full-throated defense of the killing of Soleimani. Said Gardner:

“I commend the administration for taking decisive action last week in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists planning an imminent attack on American targets. The administration’s action, with regard to Qassem Soleimani, was not only decisive, but necessary and legal under longstanding presidential authority to protect American lives from imminent attack.”

Decisive? Only in that Soleimani is definitely dead, since the threat from Iran is probably stronger now than ever before (according to polling from Quinnipiac University, most Americans polled now think that we are less safe as a result of Soleimani’s death).

Necessary and legal? Was it necessary and legal to kill an Iranian General and bring the United States to the brink of war based on something that “probably could have been” a threat? That’s almost a rhetorical question now.

Gardner has long portrayed himself as something of a foreign policy expert in the U.S. Senate, but now Democratic Senate candidates can tee off on Gardner as uninformed and dangerous when it comes to dealing with foreign threats. Much of what Jennifer Rubin writes about Trump for The Washington Post today could also apply to Gardner:

The ever-shifting explanations for Trump’s conduct are emblematic of how his utter lack of credibility in the national security realm has come back to haunt him. He has gone from smearing the intelligence community, to praising it, to inventing intelligence. The media too often pretend that there is credence to his assertions or that maybe there is some super-secret intelligence that cannot be shared with them.

Trump has a consistent pattern of misleading the public and out-and-out lying. He has ignored uncontroverted intelligence, hyped false allegations and now given what seems like false justification for launching offensive military action without congressional authorization.

Colorado’s Republican Members of Congress bizarrely decided to take Trump’s word on Iran when they came to his defense. Now they’ll need to decide on which Iran story to take seriously from here on out.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (January 10)

The First Son-in-Law is 38 years old today. 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…

► The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to limit President Trump’s ability to take unilateral military action without Congressional approval. As CNN reports:

The vote was 224-194. Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Francis Rooney of Florida crossed party lines to vote in favor while Democratic Reps. Max Rose of New York, Ben McAdams of Utah, Anthony Brindisi of New York, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma and Stephanie Murphy of Florida voted against the resolution.

Now that the resolution has passed the House it will next go to the Senate.

Freshman Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst and senior Defense Department official, is the sponsor of the resolution, which calls on the President “to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran” unless Congress declares war or enacts “specific statutory authorization” for the use of armed forces.

You read that correctly — Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz voted IN FAVOR of the resolution.

Of course, the Senate is where all good things go to die; it is unlikely that Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell will even entertain a vote on the matter if he can avoid it. Some Republican Senators have expressed support for a “War Powers Resolution” after a disastrous White House briefing on Iran earlier this week.

Meanwhile, President Trump may have decided to kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani to perhaps appease Republican Senators whose support he needs in a coming impeachment trial.

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her chamber may send impeachment documents over to the U.S. Senate as soon as next week. From the New York Times:

In a letter to colleagues Friday morning, the speaker moved to end a weekslong impasse over the impeachment process that had left the president’s fate in limbo. She did not announce the members of the team she will ask to manage the case, but said the House should be ready to vote to appoint them sometime next week.

“I have asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate,” Ms. Pelosi wrote after lawmakers departed the Capitol for the weekend. “I will be consulting with you at our Tuesday House Democratic Caucus meeting on how we proceed further.”

Once the House votes and the articles are transmitted, the Senate’s proceeding, only the third impeachment trial of a sitting president in American history, will begin promptly — as soon as Wednesday based on Ms. Pelosi’s timeline.

 

► If you thought that Republican lawmakers in Colorado might be more reluctant to embrace their lunatic right-wing base after last year’s string of recall failures…well, we know you probably didn’t think that. The GOP still loves itself some lunatics.

Meanwhile, Colorado Republicans made it very clear during Thursday’s “State of the State” address that they have zero fucks to give about immigrants or refugees in Colorado.

For more on Gov. Polis’ “State of the State” speech, check this recap from The Denver Post or this annotated version of the entire speech via The Colorado Sun.

 

► Don’t miss the first 2020 episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast, featuring an in-depth interview with House Majority Leader Alec Garnett.

 

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

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Republican Senators Furious Over “Demeaning” Iran Briefing

THURSDAY UPDATE #2: Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) expanded on his comments in an interview with National Public Radio. Greg Sargent of The Washington Post singles out one of the more distressing pieces of that interview: Trump administration officials wouldn’t acknowledge a single hypothetical scenario in which they would consult Congress prior to taking significant military action.

As Sargent writes for the Post:

Our system is now functionally that one person makes these extraordinarily consequential decisions. Plainly, the person in question is not fit to do so.

Indeed, in this case, you’d think the starkness of the situation would get Congress — or, more precisely, congressional Republicans, since virtually all Democrats will do the right thing this time — to reassert its authority…

…Trump has threatened war crimes, has boasted about the size of his missiles and just ordered an assassination of a senior military leader in a sovereign country without alerting Congress or seeking its approval, based on intelligence that is dubious at best and on rationales that have fallen apart.

But Trump’s tweet calling on “all House Republicans” to vote against the new war powers measure now means that being loyal to Trump is synonymous with giving him unconstrained warmaking authority, despite all the madness we’ve seen. And so it shall be.

—–

THURSDAY UPDATE: Um, what?

Vice President Mike Pence said today the White House didn’t actually tell Congress any significant information about the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. From The Washington Post:

Appearing on the “Today” show, Pence said the Trump administration actually did not share some of the most important information, because of its sensitivity…

…So to recap: The White House is now saying the information provided to lawmakers indeed might not have been as compelling as it could have been, but that Congress and the American people just need to trust that it’s there.

As The Post’s Shane Harris noted, that’s difficult to swallow. Even if an administration doesn’t share all the information widely with Congress for fear of leaks, it generally shares highly classified information with a smaller group of high-ranking lawmakers who are experienced in intelligence matters.

If the goal of the White House is to make supporters like Sen. Cory Gardner look like complete idiots…it’s working.

Remember that this Tweet came after Gardner had already praised the earlier briefing.
—–

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee unloads on Trump administration officials today after a “demeaning” briefing on military action in Iran in which they were told not to question White House decisions.

Today may have been a singularly important moment for America during the Trump administration — the day that unquestioning support from Republican Senators finally started to crack. As The Hill newspaper reports:

GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) ripped the administration over a closed-door briefing on Iran on Wednesday, announcing they will now support a resolution reining in President Trump‘s military powers. 

Lee, speaking to reporters after a roughly hourlong closed-door meeting with administration officials, characterized it as “the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue.”…

…Lee said the officials warned that Congress would “embolden” Iran if lawmakers debated Trump’s war powers.

“I find this insulting and demeaning … to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold. I find it insulting and demeaning to the Constitution of the United States,” Lee said.

Both Senators Paul and Lee made it clear that they would now be supporting the War Powers resolution sponsored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, which would limit the President’s ability to use military force in Iran. Senator Lee noted that he had been undecided on this decision until today’s briefing.

It’s difficult to get a full sense of the fury emanating from Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee unless you listen to his remarks in full. Take a look:

Here’s just a brief snippet of Lee’s rant in front of members of the media this afternoon:

“It is not acceptable for officials within the Executive Branch of government — I don’t care if they’re with the CIA, with the Department of Defense, or otherwise — to come in and tell us that we can’t debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran. It’s un-American. It’s unconstitutional. And it’s wrong.” [Pols emphasis]

From what Lee and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul are saying, today’s Iran briefing seemed to be largely about Trump administration officials telling U.S. Senators to just shut up and accept whatever foreign policy decisions are being made by the White House. Obviously, this was not well received by independent-minded Senators.

Of course, some Republicans are still not willing to question the Trump administration. Here’s Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) unashamedly parroting talking points from the very same briefing that incensed his colleagues:


In a 2014 campaign ad, Gardner infamously looked into the camera lens and claimed, “when my party is wrong, I’ll say it.”

But when it came time to “say it,” Gardner was nowhere to be found — despite Republican colleagues giving him all the cover in the world to pretend to challenge President Trump.

For Colorado voters in 2020, what Gardner didn’t say today says plenty.

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Gardner Enables McConnell’s Impeachment Trial Sham

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

As Politico reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he has the votes to plow ahead with rulemaking for a Senate impeachment trial that completely ignores the input of Democratic Senators calling for witness testimony as part of a trial:

McConnell said Tuesday hehas locked down sufficient backing in his 53-member caucus to pass a blueprint for the trial that leaves the question of seeking witnesses and documents until after opening arguments are made.

That framework would mirror the contours of President Bill Clinton’s trial and ignore Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s demands for witnesses and new evidence at the outset…

…McConnell’s strategy has key backing from the handful of Republican swing votes heading into the trial, though many senators, like Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), had hoped Schumer and McConnell could come to an agreement.

“We’ve gotten so snarled up with debate over witnesses that the two leaders haven’t been able to come to terms on this first phase so it looks like we’ll go forward with a Republican [package],” said Murkowski, who said she would support McConnell’s proposal.

So-called moderate Senators like Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins are the names most often mentioned today as reluctantly siding with McConnell’s power play, but as local reporters have figured out, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner should be on this same list.

As Colorado Pols readers well know, Gardner has been ducking and dodging for months on questions about President Trump’s impeachment. On Monday, The Denver Post and other reporters called Gardner out on his persistent obfuscation on the subject. Gardner, meanwhile, responded to new questions with a silly “But…Nancy Pelosi!” retort.

Key witnesses — such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton say they are willing to testify, and some Senate Republicans have paid lip service to the idea of allowing witnesses in a Senate trial (no doubt partly because they understand that the evidence against Trump is going to keep piling up either way). Gardner, however, isn’t even pretending that he will do anything other than whatever McConnell tells him to do.

Cory Gardner is completely in the tank for President Trump. Colorado reporters have figured that out, and their national counterparts won’t be far behind.

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“Yosemite Samantha” Assails Tipton Over “Amnesty Bill”

Lauren Boebert.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, upstart CD-3 Republican primary challenger Lauren Boebert broadsided GOP incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton over his recent vote with “Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 224 other Democrats” in favor of a new farm worker visa program bill:

Rifle restaurant owner Lauren Boebert, who announced last month that she is challenging the four-term congressman in the June primary, said that when Tipton voted for the Farm Workers Modernization Act of 2019 last month, he was voting for a pathway to citizenship for “illegal farm workers and their families.”

That bill, which established a new certified agricultural worker status and revamped parts of the nation’s H-2A agricultural visa program, cleared the U.S. House on Dec. 11 on a 260-165 vote. Thirty three other House Republicans voted for the bill along with Tipton, the only GOP representative in Colorado’s congressional delegation to do so.

“It was certainly shocking that you voted alongside Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 224 other Democrats to give amnesty to millions of illegal farm workers and their families,” Boebert wrote. “To then falsely claim, ‘This is NOT an amnesty bill” is a good indicator of why you should no longer be representing hardworking American citizens in Congress. How stupid do you believe voters are?”

Although it would be disingenuous for Democrats to directly criticize Rep. Tipton for voting with them and against an overwhelming majority of fellow Republicans, this vote could still be a big problem for Tipton in a Republican primary. There’s nothing that gets the blood of rock-ribbed conservative primary voters up like “caving” on immigration, and since President Donald Trump has made demonizing immigrants a central GOP campaign plank Tipton’s vote with Democrats on this bill is even more problematic–again, not in the general election, but Tipton has to get there first.

We said previously that Boebert’s best strategy is to seize the ideological momentum among hardcore GOP primary voters from Tipton, and successfully sell herself as a stronger conservative and more than just a novel personality. It still remains to be seen whether Boebert can compete down the stretch with Tipton’s well-oiled re-election machine, but savaging Tipton over this vote is strategically right on target.

Boebert says her objective is to become the “conservative AOC.” So far, so good.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 7)

Merry Christmas, Russia! 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…

► The Colorado legislature kicks off its 2020 session on Wednesday. Right-wing nutcases are descending on the State Capitol in preparation.

State Sen. Lois Court (D-Denver) will not be joining her colleagues in the Senate chambers. Court announced on Monday that she was resigning her seat after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease known as Guillain-Barré syndrome. From The Denver Post:

Court will step down Jan. 16, and her job will be filled by a Senate District 31 vacancy committee, the caucus said. Court’s seat is up for election this year, and she previously said she would not seek another term.

State Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, declared in October that he’d run for the seat, but he says now that he’ll seek appointment to the seat via the vacancy committee. Another announced candidate for Court’s seat, Maria Orms, also plans to seek appointment via the committee. If Hansen is tabbed to replace Court in the Senate, another committee would have to meet to fill his House seat.

Elsewhere in pre-session preparation news, House Democrats announced new committee assignments and Republicans say they want to focus on transportation funding legislation. The Colorado Sun previews the session with a Top 10 list.

 

As CNBC reports, there is still much confusion about whether or not the United States has agreed to withdraw military forces from Iraq:

Iraq’s Prime Minister said that the U.S. military sent a letter regarding American troop withdrawal from the country, Reuters reported on Tuesday, further deepening confusion over plans for troops in the region.

It’s the latest in a messy string of events sparked by a U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s top general.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said that his country received an English and Arabic version of the letter but that they were not identical. Therefore, Iraq requested clarifications on U.S. plans.

The news comes on the heels of the Pentagon’s admission that the letter informing Iraq’s Defense Ministry that U.S.-led coalition troops would leave Iraq “was a mistake.”

This headline from New York Magazine sums up the entire mess nicely:

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to avoid talking about pretty much anything. We recapped the last three months in the world of #NoCommentCory. As Megan Verlee of Colorado Public Radio notes, reporters have caught on to Gardner’s persistent obfuscation.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo says that Gardner’s silence on impeachment is precisely the reason journalists should keep asking him questions:

Take Cory Gardner. Is he going to come out for a real trial? Probably not. But he’s hiding in the background now because he wants to be able to present himself as independent-minded and moderate next November. It’s folly to give him that chance. Democrats should be focusing on him nonstop, making clear in Colorado and nationally that it really is all up to him. It’s not about some vague thing called Republicans or the Senate GOP caucus. It’s about him. He could change the equation himself, very quickly.

As Politico reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing to move ahead on setting rules for an impeachment trial without the input of Senate Democrats.

 

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