Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 5)

Friends don’t let friends mail their ballots when it is too late for them to be received in order to be counted. Visit GoVoteColorado.com to find out where to drop off your ballot before 7:00 pm tonight. 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…

► It’s Election Day today! Here are the latest ballot return figures analyzed by GOP polling outfit Magellan Strategies. For you last-minute voters, here’s a handy voting guide from The Denver Post. The Colorado National Guard will be assisting the Secretary of State’s office with cybersecurity matters.

For more of a national perspective, check out NPR’s Election Day guide. The biggest races are in Kentucky and Mississippi, where Democrats have a chance to win their respective battles for Governor in traditionally red states. The gubernatorial race in Kentucky could also be a significant moment for the issue of Medicaid work requirements.

 

► According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, President Trump’s approval ratings remain stagnant and he’s not looking good compared to potential Democratic rivals:

The new poll highlights the degree to which most of the country already has made a judgment about the president’s performance and their voting preferences next year. Among the 39 percent of registered voters who approve of Trump’s job performance, Trump is winning at least 95 percent support against each of five possible Democratic opponents. But among the 58 percent of voters who disapprove of Trump, he receives no more than 7 percent support.

Former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) run strongest against the president nationally, with Biden leading by 17 points (56 percent to 39 percent), Warren by 15 points (55 percent to 40 percent) and Sanders by 14 points (55 percent to 41 percent).

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the other two Democrats tested against Trump, also lead the president among registered voters, with Buttigieg up by 52 percent to 41 percent, and Harris ahead by 51 percent to 42 percent.

This data is all wrong, argues President Trump, who says “I have the real polls.” As CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains:

Faced with a slew of national polls that show roughly half the country supports not only his impeachment but also his removal from office, President Donald Trump did what he always does: Just say stuff.

Regardless of whether Trump’s super-secret polls really do exist, there are other numbers that murky the picture for 2020. As Nate Cohn notes for the New York Times, Trump opponents still have that pesky Electoral College thing to worry about:

Despite low national approval ratings and the specter of impeachment, President Trump remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election, according to a set of new surveys from The New York Times Upshot and Siena College.

Across the six closest states that went Republican in 2016, he trails Joe Biden by an average of two points among registered voters but stays within the margin of error.

Mr. Trump leads Elizabeth Warren by two points among registered voters, the same margin as his win over Hillary Clinton in these states three years ago.

The poll showed Bernie Sanders deadlocked with the president among registered voters, but trailing among likely voters.

As we wrote in this space in September, there’s a very obvious and straightforward reason for why Republicans don’t want to move away from the Electoral College and toward a popular vote system of choosing our Commander in Chief.

 

► The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations of its intent to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accords. Not one Republican member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation is commenting on the decision. Not. A. Single. One.

 

► House Democrats released a second round of transcripts from recent impeachment hearings; today’s batch includes testimony from US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker.

On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee released transcripts from the testimony of former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and former State Department adviser Michael McKinley. CNN takes a look at some of the key lines in each transcript, as does The Washington Post. It appears that at least one section of McKinley’s testimony contradicts comments made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Sondland, meanwhile, must be taking a lot of Ginko Biloba or something; he apparently now remembers that Trump was seeking a “Quid Pro Quo” type of deal with Ukraine.

 

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Colorado Republicans Stand at Historical Crossroads

Via CNN

On Thursday the House of Representatives voted along party lines to formalize the process for impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

For weeks Republicans have railed against Democrats for not opening a “formal” impeachment inquiry — it was easier for Republicans to attack the process than to defend Trump on the merits of his actions — but on Thursday the GOP demonstrated that this argument was more style than substance. If Republicans can’t assail the process or defend the President’s decisions, then what’s left?

The only obvious step forward is to actually consider the case against President Trump and to vote accordingly. As the editorial board of the Aurora Sentinel wrote on Wednesday:

Credible, compelling, consistent and growing allegations against Trump extorting Ukraine for his own political gain have reached a tipping point…

…Trump himself has now offered honest Republicans a way out of having to defend an indefensible, lying, untrustworthy and incompetent president. Trump has admitted his “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Democrats are documenting them and making the unequivocal case for impeachment. Gardner and others can now finally step out from under the pressure to appease Trump’s misguided base of supporters. But to do that, they must commit to representing the voters in their district, not the delusional, fear-driven scheme of Republican Party leaders.

This is the way out for Gardner and other Republicans of becoming complicit with a duplicitous president. The nation is about to see Trump’s malevolent scandal exposed, and all voters will see which Republicans have the temerity to spurn or defend it.

The nation and history are watching what happens next.

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

History does not yet appear to motivate Republican members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation. Instead, they appear more concerned about the present and how they will be perceived by Trump in 2020. Congressmen Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) are the co-chairs of Trump’s re-election campaign in Colorado; even if you could figure out a simple way to explain this to Lamborn, there’s little chance that he would bother to listen to the arguments. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley)? He moonlights as the Chairman of the State Republican Party (or vice-versa) and has been clear about his loyalty to Trump.

As for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)…well, Quid Pro Cory gave up any pretense of a conscience long ago. Gardner may not have a breaking point when it comes to Trump.

It seems clear that Colorado Republicans aren’t going to be moved by the present, but surely they can comprehend the impact impeachment proceedings may have on their own legacies. David Greenberg, a history professor at Rutgers University, examined this subject for The Washington Post:

Still, people return to this notion for a reason: It acknowledges the potentially high stakes of any political action — how a single vote or decision can loom large in someone’s legacy when the day of reckoning finally comes. It appeals to transcendent ideals that may be obscured by the fervor of the moment; sometimes these coalesce crisply over time, making right and wrong seem obvious and incontestable in retrospect. When, for example, a dying Sen. John McCain went to the well of the Senate to give his thumbs-down on the gutting of Obamacare, he knew this was an act he’d be remembered for…

But the Watergate saga does tell us this much: Those loyalists who abandoned Nixon early, when it mattered — who stood up for principle over party, for integrity over professional advancement, before Nixon was politically doomed — are remembered and praised for their courage. [Pols emphasis]

And what of those who chose to stand with Nixon?

None of these men has been well remembered. All of their obituaries led with the fact that they defended Nixon. That decision became the headline of their entire lives. [Pols emphasis]

Wherever the impeachment inquiry leads, Tipton, Buck, Lamborn, and Gardner have shown no indication that they will do anything but march alongside Trump.

But there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

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Get More Smarter on Halloween (October 31)

Nothing’s scarier than not voting. Visit GoVoteColorado.com to find out where to drop off your ballot before next Tuesday. 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 Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The House of Representatives is voting today on impeachment hearing procedures. As The Washington Post reports:

A divided House approved a resolution Thursday formally authorizing and articulating guidelines for the next phase of its impeachment inquiry, a move that signaled Democrats are on course to bring charges against President Trump later this year.

The 232-to-196 vote, which hewed closely to party lines, was expected to fuel the partisan fighting that has accompanied every stage of the impeachment probe and much of the Trump presidency. Nearly all Democrats backed the resolution, and House Republicans, who spent weeks clamoring for such a vote, opposed it…

…The House’s resolution clears the way for nationally televised hearings as Democrats look to make their case to the American people that Trump should be impeached.

In other words, Republicans are going to need some new talking points.

Colorado Public Radio explains how each member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation has responded to impeachment investigations thus far; you can probably guess who lines up where.

As Joshua C. Huder writes for the New York Times, today’s vote puts the House on a path that will almost certainly end in Trump’s impeachment.

 

► Another witness, another round of damning testimony. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump’s top Russia aide corroborated aspects of a key U.S. diplomat’s testimony connecting the president to a quid pro quo with Ukraine, according to people familiar with the aide’s testimony to House impeachment investigators.

Tim Morrison, the Europe and Russia chief for the National Security Council, was cited more than a dozen times in William Taylor’s opening statement to investigators last week. Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, said he was told that Trump sought to withhold military aid to Ukraine and refuse a White House meeting with the country’s president until it launched investigations into Trump’s political rivals…

…Morrison was set to resign his post imminently, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. He became the second current White House official to testify to impeachment investigators, two days after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine and Russia expert on the NSC, testified he believed Trump’s overtures to Ukraine undermined U.S. national security.

 

Quid Pro Cory: Say it three times fast. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) can’t abandon President Trump because he needs the campaign cash that the Big Orange Guy can provide.

 

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Say One Thing, Do Another: Cory Gardner on Healthcare

With prices so low I must be CRAZY!!!

Senate Democrats today tried to pass a resolution opposing President Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. As Jordain Carney explains for The Hill, Republicans weren’t having it:

The Senate on Wednesday rejected a Democratic effort to roll back a Trump administration rule that allows states to ignore parts of ObamaCare.

Senators voted 43-52 on the resolution, falling short of the simple majority needed to pass the chamber.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote for the resolution.

Democrats wanted to overturn a Trump administration rule that makes it easier for states to opt out of certain ObamaCare requirements and prioritize cheaper, less-inclusive plans than ones offered under ObamaCare.

Members of the party have termed the plans “junk insurance” because companies can refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) surprised no-one by voting against today’s resolution; Gardner has regularly backed efforts by the Trump administration to strangle the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Polls have consistently shown that Americans differ on their opinions about the ACA overall but generally support some of its key tenets, with protections for pre-existing conditions at the top of that list:

Via Kaiser Family Foundation (Oct. 2019)

Elected officials on both sides of the political aisle are well aware of the public support for protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions (57% of Americans say that someone in their household is impacted by a pre-existing condition). In fact, Gardner often says that he backs protections for pre-existing conditions; his votes tell a different story. Gardner’s office did the very same dance today, but how can he do that with a straight face?

Gardner and Republicans are trying to convince Americans that they are not directly removing protections for pre-existing conditions by supporting efforts to rollback the ACA, but there is no question that they are making it possible for this very thing to happen. What Trump and his fellow Republicans are doing is making it easier for companies to sell short-term “junk” insurance plans that do not qualify for pre-existing protection coverages.

Here’s how Bloomberg Businessweek described this cause-and-effect relationship in a story about a Phoenix family that was handed a $250,000 bill for emergency care that they believed was covered by their health insurance:

The Diazes’ plan was nothing like the ones consumers have come to expect under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which bars insurers from capping coverage, canceling it retroactively, or turning away people with preexisting conditions. But the law includes an exemption for short-term plans that serve as a stopgap for people between jobs. The Trump administration, thwarted in its attempts to overturn the ACA, has widened that loophole by stretching the definition of “short-term” from three months to a year, with the option of renewing for as long as three years. [Pols emphasis]

Fewer than 100,000 people had such plans at the end of last year, according to state insurance regulators, but the Trump administration says that number will jump by 600,000 in 2019 as a result of the changes. Some brokers are taking advantage, selling plans so skimpy that they offer no meaningful coverage. And Health Insurance Innovations is at the center of the market. In interviews, lawsuits, and complaints to regulators, dozens of its customers say they were tricked into buying plans they didn’t realize were substandard until they were stuck with surprise bills. The company denies responsibility for any such incidents, saying it’s a technology platform that helps people find affordable policies through reputable agents.

Now, let’s go back to what Gardner said about today’s vote: “Washington Democrats tried to prevent choice and access in health care, because they think the American people aren’t smart enough to buy the health insurance that’s right for them.” It would be more accurate to say that Democrats believe that consumers should be shielded from companies trying to fool them into purchasing baloney insurance plans that don’t provide coverage for pre-existing conditions. 

This is Gardner in full used-car salesman mode. If you’re dumb enough to believe what he says and to buy a car that turns out to be a lemon, well then that’s your fault. Everybody should have the opportunity to buy worthless healthcare policies.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (October 29)

Haven’t voted yet? Visit GoVoteColorado.com to find out where to drop off your ballot before next Tuesday. 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 Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► National Security Council Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is testifying today in impeachment investigations into President Trump. As The Washington Post reports, Vindman’s appearance on Capitol Hill is making for a lot of nervous Republicans:

Vindman is the first witness in the House’s impeachment probe to have not only listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump said he wanted a “favor” after Zelensky brought up the topic of promised American military aid. Vindman was listening in from the Situation Room, he said, along with other NSC officials and members of Vice President Pence’s office, and was so “concerned by the call” — and that the president’s request could be seen as “a partisan play” that could “undermine U.S. national security” — that he reported it to the NSC’s lead counsel.

Vindman’s prepared testimony touched a nerve with Trump, who took to Twitter on Tuesday to deride the Iraq War veteran, who appeared for his testimony in uniform, as a “Never Trumper,” questioning his recollection of events.

Trump and his allies spent Monday evening viciously attacking Vindman and questioning his patriotism as part of a smear campaign that has even upset some Republican lawmakers. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney derided the attacks on Vindman as “shameful.”

Meanwhile, as The Hill reports, Vindman’s testimony could mean big trouble for EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland:

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said late Monday that he believes U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland committed perjury in his congressional testimony to investigators in their impeachment inquiry.

“Based on all the testimony so far, I believe that Ambassador Gordon Sondland committed perjury,” Castro tweeted.

 

► Congressional Republicans privately admit that they are very worried about continuing to defend President Trump from an endless list of misdeeds. Putting their own butts on the line has many in the GOP biting their fingernails; as Axios reports, there are growing fears of a complete electoral wipeout in 2020.

National Journal outlines the big red flags for Senate Republicans. The State of Oregon is losing its one Republican Member of Congress; Rep. Greg Walden announced that he will not seek re-election in 2020, making him the 19th GOP member of the House of Representatives to walk away from his seat.

 

► As The Washington Post reports, new polling numbers explain why Republicans are loathe to discuss President Trump’s requests for foreign governments to get involved in American elections:

“Is it okay with you or not okay for political candidates in the U.S. to ask for assistance from a foreign government to help them win an election?” In response to that question, only 7 percent of U.S. adults say it’s okay. Eighty-one percent say it is not okay…

…The numbers of people who say it’s wrong to seek assistance from a foreign government are remarkably consistent across ages, demographic groups, education levels, income and even party lines. More than 80 percent of self-identified Republicans, evangelicals and rural dwellers say it’s not okay for a president to ask for assistance from a foreign government to help win an election.

 

► This week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast is now available:

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Get More Smarter on Friday (October 25)

Enjoy your Friday afternoon commute; things might really suck on Monday. 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 Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Senate Republicans are listening to President Trump and “toughening up” in opposition to impeachment investigations. We’re skeptical that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will ever extricate himself from Trump’s derriere, but it’s worth noting that Gardner has not yet signed on to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s resolution of opposition to impeachment. As Steve Benen writes for MSNBC:

As of this morning, 44 Senate Republicans have signed on as original co-sponsors of Graham’s non-binding resolution denouncing the House’s impeachment process. There are currently 53 Senate Republicans in total, which means all but eight of the GOP members in the chamber have linked arms with Graham in support of this misguided measure.

(The eight, in case you’re curious, are Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lamar Alexander, Johnny Isakson, Rob Portman, Lisa Murkowski, and Mike Enzi.) [Pols emphasis]

Graham has said he actually has 46 co-sponsors lined up, though it’s not yet clear who the other two supporters are.

Of course, it would surprise nobody if Gardner is among those two other unknown supporters, but the New York Times lists the Yuma Senator among the Senate Republicans who are getting nervous about supporting Trump:

Senate Republicans facing steep re-election races next year know the impeachment inquiry coursing steadily ahead on the other side of the Capitol will determine President Trump’s political fate. Their growing fear is that it will also determine their own….

…Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, known as a talented campaigner, abruptly walked away from a filmed interview last weekend to avoid answering a question about the military assistance Mr. Trump withheld from Ukraine, a central issue in the inquiry into whether the president enlisted a foreign government to smear his political opponents. In brisk dashes back to their offices, Senators Martha McSally of Arizona and Joni Ernst of Iowa, quickly pivoted to other issues such as rising health care costs, border security and the trade deal with Mexico and Canada. And Senator Susan Collins of Maine has rebuffed any effort to get her to weigh in on impeachment, saying that doing so could jeopardize her impartiality as a juror in an increasingly inevitable trial of the president.

The Washington Post has more updates on impeachment proceedings, including House Democrats’ request to hear from two top officials at the Office of Management and Budget.

 

As CNN explains, Tuesday’s testimony from Bill Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat, could be moving some Republicans toward support for impeachment:

A senior Republican source on Capitol Hill told CNN that Taylor’s statement was so detailed, so specific and that he is so respected that it is having an impact.

“It points to quid pro quo,” the GOP source told CNN.

There is an ongoing conversation among GOP members on Capitol Hill about the impact of Taylor’s testimony, but it remains a question whether it will move Republicans closer to considering impeachment…

…While most Republicans have sided publicly with the President, they’ve been privately grumbling that they’re “fed up and tired” of being asked to defend him in the impeachment investigation.

Republican sources on Capitol Hill told CNN there’s a “growing unease that there is no defense” of the President’s actions.

“How do you defend the indefensible?” one source told CNN. “We can’t defend the substance, all we can do is talk about process.”

How do you defend the indefensible? If you’re Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley), you call it “taking the high road.”
 
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GOP Congressmen Storm, Shut Down Impeachment Hearing

UPDATE #4: This publicity stunt has apparently been on the GOP calendar for at least a week, per CNN.

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UPDATE #3: You knew this was coming:

Rep. Doug Lamborn says it’s all the fault of those pesky brown women:

Schiff & Pelosi, who’ve given into the radical leftwing SQUAD, are holding their Faux Impeachment proceedings in secret because they know, if the facts are made public, the American people will see this inquiry for what it is, a sham.

Wherever there is Republican treachery afoot, you’ll find Rep. Lamborn with a bag of Chick-fil-A.

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UPDATE #2: Rep. Ken Buck was reportedly not in the group that stormed the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in the basement of the Capitol today, but he was with them in spirit:

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UPDATE: Today’s Republican stunt is a serious security breach:

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Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz and Steve Scalise.

Politico reports, things got heated this morning on Capitol Hill as impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump continue to deliver a daily stream of damning information that Republicans really, really don’t want you to hear:

Dozens of House Republicans on Wednesday stormed the secure facility inside the Capitol where impeachment investigators have been deposing witnesses, forcing a delay to the proceedings…

According to people familiar with the matter, some GOP lawmakers brought their cell phones into the secure area — a significant violation of House rules. Another person said the room had to be fully swept for potential security breaches.

…The GOP-led stunt, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), comes as President Donald Trump has demanded that Republicans “get tough and fight” for him in the impeachment probe. But Republicans have struggled to defend Trump on the substance of the allegations against him, [Pols emphasis] and have instead focused on hammering Democrats over what they see as an illegitimate impeachment process.

We’re trying to get more information about Colorado members of Congress who may of participated in today’s confrontation (here’s looking at you, Doug Lamborn), but this incident represents a major escalation in the conflict over impeachment–signaling that the parliamentary rules that protect the impeachment process may be disregarded by the GOP. That would, fair to say, be a bad thing for the country.

Headline from Raw Story (10/23/19)

Republicans who serve on the committee concede that Democrats are within their rights to depose witnesses in Congress’ secure basement hearing rooms, but the disruption Republicans successfully pulled off today is what will dominate the evening news–not the witness testimony, which turned explosive yesterday when acting ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor confirmed the damning substance of the case against Trump.

What happens next? We’ll have to wait and see– but the last “Brooks Brothers Riot” didn’t end well.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (October 23)

The Denver Nuggets open the 2019-20 NBA season tonight in Portland. 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 Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

 Congressional Republicans understand that they don’t have much of a substance argument in opposition to impeachment proceedings against President Trump, so they’ve increasingly been focusing their attacks on the “process” aspect of the investigations. On Wednesday, House Republicans — led by members of the so-called “Freedom Caucus” — stormed into a secure committee room and temporarily delayed testimony from Pentagon official Laura Cooper.

These Republicans, led by Trump attack dog and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, are not allowed in the committee hearings BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE. As the New York Times explains:

The lawmakers — most of whom do not sit on the committees conducting the inquiry and are therefore not entitled to attend its hearings — said they were protesting the closed-door nature of the proceedings, which have been open to members of both parties who sit on the committees. The private question-and-answer sessions have produced a stream of compelling testimony from government witnesses, much of it confirming and expanding on the intelligence whistle-blower complaint that touched off the impeachment inquiry.

Republicans are hammering Democrats for limiting attendance at the hearings to members of the Intelligence, Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees. It is common practice for sensitive congressional investigations to be conducted behind closed doors, at least in their preliminary stages. House Republicans did just that when they controlled the chamber and opened an inquiry into the 2012 attack on the United States embassy in Benghazi, Libya. [Pols emphasis]

Democrats have said they plan to hold open hearings after the committees finish deposing witnesses, and that they intend to make public complete transcripts of witness testimony after they have been reviewed to determine whether they contain any classified material. Democrats argue that, lacking any defense of the substance of Mr. Trump’s actions, Republicans are attacking them over process.

The facts do not seem to support the argument of Congressional Republicans, including Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley).

 

► As The Washington Post reports, Republicans may be taking extreme measures in attacking the impeachment “process” because recent testimony looks very ominous for President Trump:

The impeachment inquiry into President Trump took an ominous turn for the president yesterday with the explosive testimony on Capitol Hill of a career civil servant.

William B. Taylor Jr. — a lifelong diplomat under both Republican and Democratic administrations who came out of retirement to take the acting chief diplomatic role in Ukraine — appears to have inflicted grave wounds to Trump’s claims there was no quid pro quo in holding back U.S. military assistance from Ukraine in exchange for help from that government in investigating the president’s political rivals.

“It is no longer a question of whether this happened. It is now a question of how the president explains it and how lawmakers — especially Republicans — choose to respond to it,” as my colleague Dan Balz put it. “Taylor’s prepared testimony documents with precision and clarity what he heard, saw, wrote and was asked to respond to over a period of weeks. In his telling, the squeeze on Ukraine, and Trump’s role in it, goes well beyond a single phone call July 25 between the U.S. president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump’s long-standing characterization that there was no quid pro quo runs smack into evidence to the contrary.”

Politico has more on the Republican realization that they don’t have much left to stand on in the battle against impeachment.

 

► As Colorado Public Radio reports, lawmakers agree that Colorado needs to change how it funds public schools…but they don’t agree on how to get there. 

 

 As the New York Times reports, more than a million lower-income children have been dropped from the rolls of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the last 18 months.

 

 

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Will Tancredo’s Inflammatory Facebook Posts Help Candidates He Endorses?

(Stay classy, Tom Tancredo – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tom Tancredo FB post mocking Rep. Elijah Cummings' death

Just three days after the death of his former congressional colleague U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD7), Tom Tancredo posted an meme mocking the man’s death and calling him a liar.

Tancredo routinely posts inflammatory images and statements on social media, but this meme, attacking a fellow Member of Congress less than 72 hours after his death, was particularly extreme, especially considering that Tancredo and Cummings served together in the House for a decade.

Since his brief gubernatorial run last year, the former congressman has spent much of his time working with fellow immigration hardliners Kris Kobach and Steve Bannon promoting private border wall construction.

It was at one of those “We Build The Wall” events that Kobach announced his candidacy for the 2020 Kansas U.S. Senate election, as well as Tancredo’s endorsement of his campaign. The Kobach campaign did not immediately respond to a emailed request for comment on Tancredo’s Facebook post.

Considering that both Kobach’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign and his current U.S. Senate campaign have come under scrutiny for hiring white nationalists, it’s possible an endorser’s Facebook post may not raise much of a concern.

However, Tancredo’s presence is still impactful here in Colorado, and he’s lending his influence to state political races as well.

(more…)

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Trump Calls Impeachment a “Lynching,” Gets GOP Support


President Trump spent a good chunk of his morning raging about impeachment investigations underway in the House of Representatives, turning the rhetoric up to full “WTF” levels of victimhood:

Yes, that’s the President of the United States of America comparing impeachment proceedings to “a lynching.” As The Washington Post reports, Trump’s comments were met with swift indignation…mostly:

President Trump’s comparison of the House impeachment inquiry to a “lynching” elicited immediate rebukes Tuesday from Democrats and several Republicans, who condemned Trump’s use of a term most associated with the barbaric hanging of African American men. Yet other GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), endorsed Trump’s characterization.

“You are comparing a constitutional process to the PREVALENT and SYSTEMATIC brutal torture of people in THIS COUNTRY that looked like me?” tweeted Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus….

…most Republicans have said little about Trump’s “lynching” comment, dodging questions by saying they didn’t see the president’s latest tweet. 

But some of Trump’s fiercest allies on Capitol Hill defended the president.

“This is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters at the Capitol, calling the impeachment process “a sham” and a “joke.” [Pols emphasis]

Impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States are most certainly not a “lynching” in any sense of the word, but that didn’t stop GOP elected officials such as Sen. Graham, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) from DEFENDING Trump’s use of a term meant to describe the illegal killing of someone (usually by hanging) by an angry mob with or without a legal trial.

 

We’ll update this post if and when Republican members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation — including Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and State GOP Party Chair/Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) — respond to Trump’s “lynching” comments.

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James Iacino Joins the Fray in CO-3


James Iacino

As Justin Wingerter reports for the Denver Post:

With a campaign kickoff video touting his family’s attainment of the American dream, the former CEO of Seattle Fish Co. announced Thursday that he is running for Congress in Colorado’s expansive 3rd District.

“While working on loading docks and driving trucks, I learned that upward mobility for workers is key to a whole community’s success,” said James Iacino, a grandson of the century-old Colorado company’s founder.

Here’s more from SeafoodSource.com, mostly because we can’t pass up an opportunity to cite a Seafood news website as a resource for something political:

Seattle Fish Company is a major seafood distributor in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S.. The company, founded in 1918 in Denver, Colorado, has 170 employees and counts more than 1,400 restaurants and retailers as customers.

As a candidate, Iacino said he will campaign on a platform of advocating for economic mobility, environmental conservation and sustainability initiatives, and the importance of social justice.

Iacino is not a well-known name in Colorado politics, but he has both the local roots and the personal wealth to be a very interesting candidate in CO-3. Iacino slots into The Big Line just below 2018 candidate Diane Mitsch Bush and well ahead of State Rep. Don Valdez (you can stick a fork in Valdez’s candidacy after a miserable $25k third quarter fundraising period).

Incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) is still the presumptive favorite here because of the general conservative makeup of the district, but his ties to President Trump — Tipton is a co-chair of Trump’s Colorado re-election campaign — could come back to bite him.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Congressman Jason Crow


This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, Congressman Jason Crow sits down with hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii to talk about a recent trip to Afghanistan and Turkey, advancing impeachment proceedings, and the best place to find his roommate, Rep. Joe Neguse, on a weekday evening. Your hosts also discuss Sen. Cory Gardner’s career implosion and play another round of American’s favorite game, “Duke or Donald?” 

Click after the jump below for a brief transcript of a great story Crow tells about an unforgettable moment when he took the oath of office in January.

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. Thanks for listening!

(more…)

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At Least It’s Not Your Congressman (Ship Spotting Edition)


In Colorado politics, one of the seminal faux pas a candidate can commit is using a scenic photo of a mountain range that turns out to not be located in the state of Colorado. Various locations from Alaska’s Denali to the Canadian Rockies, not to mention a Utah canyonscape or two, have embarrassingly stood in for Colorado locales in ads and other literature–which understandably tends to punch holes in a candidate’s authenticity.

Well folks, here’s the nautical version of getting your mountains wrong, courtesy Florida GOP Rep. Brian Mast:

As the world continues to wrestle with the aftermath of what could be the most successful Russian intelligence operation against our country since the theft of the atomic bomb, it’s hard to imagine a more…tragicomic mistake from a Republican congressman.

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JBS USA in Colorado … Trump-aided international corruption comes home


JBS USA has this to say on their webpage: “Headquartered in beautiful Greeley, Colorado, JBS® USA processes, prepares, packages and delivers fresh, further-processed and value-added beef, pork, and poultry products for sale to customers in more than 105 countries on six continents.” “Through determination, discipline, simplicity, years of hard work and a few acquisitions along the way, JBS has grown from a small, family-owned business into the world’s leading provider of quality meat protein, leather and sustainable co-products.”

You’ll no doubt notice there is nothing in their list of characteristics to hint of developing the corporation within the laws. Now, their activities have triggered some questions. According to several news sources, including New York Daily News, Colorado business JBS USA Food Company Holdings (and its corporate kin) may be getting a new level of attention.

Rubio, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee’s panel on transnational crime, urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a letter to have his department begin a formal review of how JBS SA has been able to become one of the biggest players in the U.S. food industry, even though its notoriously corrupt owners have admitted to bribing thousands of Brazilian officials, done business with Venezuela and relied on financing tied to China’s authoritarian government.

Rubio’s letter, which was co-signed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), stressed that Mnuchin should use his authority to look into whether JBS’s American foray was illegal, since it has admitted to using illicit funds to establish its main U.S. subsidiary, Colorado’s JBS USA….

JBS, which is already under Justice Department investigation for potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, has been able to expand in the U.S. with help from President Trump’s Agriculture Department,

Seems as if there are questions about the initial investments AND the $62 million in tariff bail-out subsidies. If the Treasury Department is not too busy, perhaps we’ll find out a bit more about the expansion and the character of one of our corporate citizens.

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The Impenetrable Trump Base Might Be a Myth


TUESDAY UPDATE: As the Washington Post reports, another new batch of polling numbers look grim for President Trump:

A new Washington Post-Schar School poll shows support for an impeachment inquiry rising to a new high after Democrats formally launched one. The 58 percent who support the inquiry is higher than in any other poll; the 38 percent who oppose it suggests only Trump’s most devoted base is now opposed.

But even that isn’t quite accurate — because it shows some of Trump’s base does support the inquiry and even his removal.

In fact, 28 percent of Republicans support the impeachment inquiry, and 18 percent say they support removing Trump from office, according to the poll. [Pols emphasis] The rise in GOP support for the impeachment inquiry in the poll is commensurate with the rise in support among other groups, according to The Post’s Dan Balz and Scott Clement.

—–

Somewhat realistic

Elected Republicans won’t abandon President Trump because they are afraid of his base of voter support.

This has long been the rationale behind the (largely) unwavering support Trump enjoys from Republican elected officials such as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). It is a statement that we all “know” to be true primarily because everybody — including President Trump — repeats it so often.

But what if this isn’t true? Much like the Yeti, perhaps Trump’s base is both mostly white and largely fictional. This is the argument made by E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post over the weekend, and it’s a compelling proposition:

Polls conducted throughout Trump’s presidency show that his critics feel far more strongly about their opposition to him than his defenders feel about their support. [Pols emphasis] The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, found that only 24 percent of registered voters strongly approved of Trump’s performance, while 44 percent strongly disapproved. Significantly, 74 percent of Democratic registered voters strongly disapproved of Trump, but only 50 percent of Republican registered voters strongly approved of him. Which base would you rather have going into this fight — and into 2020?

The 24 percent are the folks you see at the Trump rallies. Trump’s more tepid approvers (17 percent of registered voters in this survey) tend to stay home, take in the news and ask questions about what’s going on.

The big gap between strong approvers and strong disapprovers was very predictive of the 2018 election turnout that gave Democrats control of the House. Those elections showed that many who voted for Trump in 2016 were prepared to vote for Democrats two years later. This was a telling sign that a sizable share of Trump’s voters are not lockstep apologists.

Dionne notes further polling data in recent months showing that Trump’s approval ratings, which are generally not very good, are not accompanied by the unbreakable levels of support that the President believes to exist. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last month before the “transcript” of Trump’s Ukraine call was released, “only 30 percent said they had “very positive” feelings toward him, and only 25 percent said they both liked Trump personally and approved of most of his policies.”

We can see some of this disconnect in Colorado in the repeated failure by Republicans to recall Democratic elected officials in 2019. There is no question that there are a number of Colorado Republicans who are very unhappy with Democrats and more than willing to voice that disapproval whenever possible (mostly on Facebook and in the comments section of the Denver Post). It also appears that there are not nearly enough of these right-wing diehards to enact a successful recall campaign anywhere in the state. This is similar to the voter intensity argument that Dionne makes in the Washington Post:

In fact, a lot of Trump’s one-time supporters do not believe everything they hear from him or Fox News. A fair number of them don’t like him very much…

…Those advancing the case for impeachment believe that, whether the Senate removes Trump from office or not, it’s important to make clear how corrupt and dangerous his behavior has been. More Trump voters are listening to these arguments than their pretend-friends want us to believe. [Pols emphasis]

Republican Senators are indeed beginning to back away from President Trump. It’s too late for sycophants like Gardner to find an exit now — not when Gardner has pushed all of his chips over to Trump — but the door is still ajar for the likes of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and others who haven’t completely sold out to the Big Orange Guy.

If we see elected Republicans leaping off of the Trump bandwagon in the coming weeks, it won’t be out of any sort of moral concern. It will instead be a reflection of a massive miscalculation by Republicans about the foundation of Trump’s support.

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Blame Trump, But Don’t Forget His Republican Enablers


Republicans don’t seem to sweat President Trump’s dangerous behavior.

According to the website VeryWell Family, these are the top warning signs for children with a “serious behavior problem”: 1) Difficulty managing emotional outbursts, 2) Difficulty managing impulses, and 3) Behavior that does not respond to discipline.

You don’t need to be an expert or a parent to recognize reckless behavior in children. We’ve all seen out-of-control children at grocery stores, shopping malls, and airplanes. Our first reaction in this situation is usually to glance around in search of a parent or guardian, shaking our head in bewilderment that such behavior could go unchecked. We might be dismayed at the child’s actions, but our ire is generally reserved for the oblivious or indifferent parent nearby.

President Trump is the man-child in this analogy, and the Republican Party — particularly top GOP elected officials such as Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) — are the parental guardians. While the world collectively shakes its head at Trump’s ridiculous behavior, it is Trump’s Republican enablers who deserve an equal amount of scorn. When Trump throws a tantrum, he doesn’t get rebuked by fellow Republicans; instead, he gets a cookie. Trump can all but beg to be impeached, as he did on Thursday, and Republicans like Gardner will still headline a big fundraiser for him days later.

Chris Cillizza of CNN has a great outline today of this phenomenon, which he calls “the real issue” regarding President Trump’s scandalous behavior:

And yet, even as his actions in office grow more and more erratic and without historical precedent, the party stays united behind him.

Why? Simple! Fear.

“What is surprising, or shocking might be the better word for it, is the fact that Republican elected officials seem willing to not just condone this sort of behavior but even defend it.”

Every GOP elected official lives in fear of becoming the next Jeff Flake or Justin Amash — conservative Republicans in good standing with the party until they decided to publicly criticize Trump for something or other. The President pounced, his base attacked and both men found themselves in deeply precarious political predicaments.

Fear of being “Flaked” explains, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) absolute and total about-face on Trump. Ditto Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. And dozens and dozens of other Republican elected officials who voiced deep concern about the idea of Trump even being their party’s nominee in 2016 — much less the President of the United States.

If political survival is your only goal, then what Republicans are doing vis a vis Trump is not only fine, but right. Of course, leadership is a very different thing than what we are seeing out of Republican elected officials at the moment.

And there is the very real possibility that the damage Trump is doing to the party (let alone the country) will have impacts that last well after he is gone from office — and come back to haunt those Republicans who stood silently by. [Pols emphasis]

Republicans like Gardner have always valued political survival above the interests of anything else, but it’s still hard to fathom the idea that there is no line Trump can cross that will be a line too far for the GOP.

Sen. Cory Gardner always stands behind President Trump

Gardner has made it abundantly clear, in fact, that he won’t be backing away from Trump for any reason. As Ian Silverii writes today in the Denver Post:

That Gardner would participate in this fundraiser with the full knowledge of the whistleblower scandal probably tells us that he understands that there will be no political exit for him. If new facts emerge from the impeachment inquiry or if public opinion continues to move against him, calling for Trump’s resignation will also be an indictment against Gardner for supporting him this far. Afterward, if Gardner tries to pull the ripcord, Trump-brand forks and knives will come out of the bag instead of his parachute.

The 2020 election will be a referendum on President Trump. It should also be a referendum on his Republican enablers. History will not be kind to the likes of Gardner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but Americans won’t have to wait for those books to be written in order to take action.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (October 3)


It’s finally time to celebrate Fullmetal Alchemist day. 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 Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump is now publicly calling on China to investigate various Bidens for some sort of invented transgression. As NBC News reports:

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump told reporters outside the White House.

While Trump said he hasn’t requested Chinese President Xi Jinping investigate the Bidens, the public call mirrors the private behavior on which Democrats are partially basing their impeachment inquiry— using the office of the presidency to press a foreign leader to investigate a political rival.

It is “certainly something we can start thinking about, because I’m sure that President Xi does not like being on that kind of scrutiny, where billions of dollars is taken out of his country by a guy that just got kicked out of the Navy,” Trump said Thursday of asking China to probe the Bidens. “He got kicked out of the Navy, all of the sudden he’s getting billions of dollars. You know what they call that? They call that a payoff.”

Now it’s “billions” of dollars. By this time next week, Trump will be alleging that the Bidens pocketed trillions.

In a related story, CNN’s Chris Cillizza takes us through the transcript of Trump’s bananas press conference on Wednesday alongside the President of Finland.

 

► Welcome to the shitshow, Vice President Mike Pence. From the Washington Post:

President Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information that he hoped would be damaging to a Democratic rival, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump instructed Pence not to attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in May — an event White House officials had pushed to put on the vice president’s calendar — at a time when Ukraine’s new leader was seeking recognition and support from Washington, the officials said.]]
Months later, the president used Pence to tell Zelensky that U.S. aid was still being withheld while demanding more aggressive action on corruption, officials said. At that time — following Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenksy — the Ukrainians probably understood action on corruption to include the investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Pence is trying to claim ignorance about the whole Ukraine scandal, but as the Post reports, officials say that “one of Pence’s top advisers was on the July 25 call and the vice president should have had access to the transcript within hours.”

Have fun with this one, Mr. Vice President.

 

 The battle has been joined! The “YES” on Proposition CC campaign kicked off on Wednesday with the support of Gov. Jared Polis (D-Boulderish).

 

► Check out the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast, featuring an interview with Los Angeles Times White House reporter Eli Stokols.

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

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Colorado Republicans Might Impeach Ken Buck


With President Trump dominating the news cycle this week in extraordinary fashion, there have been a couple of important Colorado political stories that have flown under the ol’ radar. One story we wanted to be sure to rewind involves Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ken Buck, whose leadership seat is getting warmer despite the fact that he’s rarely ever sitting in the chair himself.

As the Colorado Sun reported via its newsletter “The Unaffiliated” earlier this week, there is a brewing discomfort with the GOP’s absentee chairman:

Headline from Colorado Sun political newsletter “The Unaffiliated” (9/24/19)

A Republican activist began collecting signatures Saturday at the Colorado Republican Party’s organizational meeting to oust new Chairman Ken Buck.

Peg Cage, the immediate past chairwoman of the Boulder County Republican Party, told The Sun that Buck is spending too much time in Washington as a congressman and not doing his job as chairman to fundraise, recruit candidates or serve as the GOP’s public voice.

“He’s demonstrated no leadership toward that objective goal of taking back the state,” she said. “He’s not doing the job.” [Pols emphasis]

At the party’s central committee meeting, Cage distributed forms seeking written consent from members of the governing body to force his removal. She needs to collect a majority of the roughly 450 members to force the issue. She declined to say how many she’s received, but added: “We have a long way to go, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Buck won the party’s leadership post in a close vote in April. Cage supported Buck’s opponent in the chairman’s race, state Rep. Susan Beckman. A party spokesman said he was not aware of any such effort and Buck did not return a call seeking comment. [Pols emphasis]

Ken Buck races to his side hustle.

Chairman Buck, you may recall, spends most of his week masquerading as the Congressman from CO-4. Buck’s plan to split his time in Congress with overseeing the State Republican Party from afar has not endeared him to GOP activists and doesn’t appear to be providing much benefit to Colorado Republicans.

Congressman Buck will occasionally take to Twitter to stick his foot in his mouth or blurt out something stupid in a House committee meeting. Chairman Buck, meanwhile, has been relatively quiet about the GOP’s summer of failed recall attempts after infamously promising to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” In fact, Chairman Buck can be difficult to run down altogether:

Congresschairman Buck’s “Jekyl and Hyde” routine is already wearing thin with reporters and GOP activists alike. When Buck was elected Party Chair in late March, the plan was that former State Party Chairman Steve House would serve as the “CEO” of the party when Buck was off playing Congressman in Washington D.C. Even though Buck was elected Chairman, this proposal was not particularly popular. As Ernest Luning reported in March:

Veteran Republican strategist Dick Wadhams, who served two terms as state chairman last decade, said he was stunned after reviewing Buck’s proposal, calling it “unworkable” and “absolutely nonsensical.”

“If Steve House wants to be state chairman, he ought to run for it, and if Ken Buck doesn’t want to be state chairman, he ought to get out of the race,” Wadhams said… [Pols emphasis]

…He also slammed Buck’s plans to run the party from Washington, D.C., saying he was “baffled” by the proposition.

Last month House stepped down as Republican Party “CEO” so that he could pursue the GOP nomination for Congress in CO-6. House was quickly replaced by former vice-chairman and congressional candidate Don Ytterberg, but as reporting from the Colorado Sun and 9News indicates, the case of the missing GOP Chairman continues to be a problem.

Congressman Buck will be running for re-election a year from now, where he is still favored to keep his seat because CO-4 is a heavily-Republican district. The odds of Buck holding onto his other title are considerably worse.

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Let’s Not Pretend Republicans Care About Public Opinion Now


FRIDAY UPDATE: The Washington Post reports on the Trump administration’s anti-impeachment strategy, which includes a pretty significant hole:

Trump’s advisers said they envision a “split screen” strategy in the coming weeks. The president is considering stepping up his fall schedule of campaign rallies at arenas across the country to galvanize his supporters outside of Washington and portray House Democrats as liberal insiders who are focused on impeachment instead of governing. [Pols emphasis]

If the House is skirting its governing responsibilities to focus on impeachment, then what is the Senate’s excuse? Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell and friends haven’t been governing for most of 2019.

—–

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner yuck it up on the Senate floor.

Senate Republicans are responding to questions about President Trump’s Ukraine scandal — and associated impeachment proceedings — with what you might call “skeptical irritation.” Trump defenders have tried to brush aside questions of impropriety while simultaneously putting on a show about how the Senate should be focused on policy work instead of political squabbles — a particularly absurd position to take considering the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has famously refused to even allow discussions on dozens of pieces of legislation passed by the House of Representatives (McConnell refers to himself as the “Grim Reaper” for progressive policies).

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is taking a typical mealy-mouthed approach in response to mounting questions about the Trump administration, but he has largely settled on the idea that the Senate should be focused on other issues. Gardner was initially noncommittal about his reaction to reports of a whistleblower report, as Politico reported on Tuesday:

Gardner said Trump’s conversations with the president of Ukraine about Joe Biden and his family as well as a whistleblower complaint about the president’s conversations with a world leader are a “serious issue.” Asked if he still supported Trump’s reelection, Gardner declined to address the question: “Let’s find out what’s happening. Let’s get to the bottom of this.” 

“I’m not going to get in front of the facts that I simply don’t have right now,” he added. [Pols emphasis]

Later on Tuesday, Gardner issued a statement calling impeachment a step too far:

Today the Senate unanimously voiced its support for the full release of the whistleblower report and the Senate Intelligence Committee will be conducting a formal inquiry, which I support. Starting an impeachment inquiry to appease the far-left is something the majority of Americans do not support and will sharply divide the country. [Pols emphasis] Instead, we should focus our efforts on finding real, bipartisan solutions to lower health care costs, solve our broken immigration system, and protect our public lands.

If this statement doesn’t raise your blood pressure a bit, then you really haven’t been paying much attention to Congress in the last year. Gardner is saying that Congress should not pursue impeachment proceedings against President Trump because it does not align with public opinion in the United States. Available public polling has generally shown a lack of support for the idea of impeachment, but those numbers are changing as more information comes out about Trump’s Ukrainian shakedown (the latest numbers indicate that voters are split on the topic, which is an increase in support from recent months). Regardless, it is absolutely absurd for any Republican Senator to attempt to paint impeachment as folly because of public opinion polls.

The chart below shows just how much Senate Republicans care about public opinion:

On Wednesday, Sen. Gardner voted for the second time this year to support Trump’s “emergency declaration” for border wall funding, even though only 39% of Americans agree with the idea. Gardner cast this vote the day after issuing a statement opposing impeachment because of a lack of public support.

Senate Republicans who support President Trump are free to oppose the idea of impeachment, but they don’t get to hide behind “public opinion” as a rationale.

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Same Vote, Different Day


Right behind you, Mr. President!

As Roll Call reports, the Senate today voted once again to reject President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for border wall money, though it is a largely symbolic move since there aren’t enough votes in the Senate to override a promised Presidential veto:

Eleven Republicans joined 43 Democrats in support of ending the emergency declaration, which allowed the administration to repurpose $3.6 billion in funds appropriated for military construction projects. That money has been diverted to border wall construction…

…Both chambers previously voted to end the Feb. 15 emergency declaration, but without sufficient majorities to override Trump’s veto, which immediately followed the Senate’s passage in March. By law, Congress has the ability to reconsider ending national emergencies every six months, which enabled Wednesday’s vote.

The resolution passed with the support of 11 Republican Senators — none of who are named Cory Gardner. For the second time this year, Sen. Gardner voted in support of President Trump’s emergency declaration for stealing money from other projects, and he’s not done yet:

Senator Gardner will apparently also support the backfill of money stolen from shovel-ready military projects, putting the proverbial cherry on the top of a pretty amazing policy waffle; you may recall that Gardner claimed he was opposed to building a border wall until literally hours before Trump made his “emergency declaration,” and now he’s ready to endorse a giant check for that exact purpose. As the Denver Post wrote earlier this month:

“It’s unfortunate Gardner can’t defend Colorado and the U.S. Constitution at the same time, or even one at a time, or just one or the other.”

Gardner voted “NO” on a similar resolution of opposition back in March, which led directly to the Denver Post’s stunning un-endorsement of the Yuma Republican. When news of this second vote on Trump’s declaration was breaking a few weeks ago, Gardner again pretended that he was undecided, which was transparently silly. In a pitch-perfect response to Gardner’s second vote, ProgressNow Colorado sent out a statement that was basically a cut-and-paste from their reaction last March:

Two can play that game.

 

As Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll said in a statement after the vote: “Senator Cory Gardner had a very clear choice with today’s vote: double down on his support for Trump’s unconstitutional power grab, or prevent Peterson Air Force Base from losing $8 million in funding. Gardner chose Trump over doing what’s right for Colorado.”

Senator Cory Gardner may hail from Colorado, but he’s always going to choose Trump over his home state.

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“Transcript” of Ukraine Call is Bad News for Trump, GOP


UPDATE #4: Senate Republicans are apparently baffled that the White House would release a “transcript” that undermines their own claims of innocence.

—–

UPDATE #3: Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) reacts in a very Lambornesque manner:

You know that old expression about “missing the forest for the trees”? Lamborn isn’t aware of the existence of a forest or trees. No conscious politician ever wants to echo Lamborn’s thoughts on anything.

—–

UPDATE #2: CNN’s Chris Cillizza:

“It ended up being a nothing call,” Trump said in the wake of the release of the transcript on Wednesday morning.

But what is documented, very clearly, in this kind-of, sort-of transcript is this: The American President pressuring a foreign leader to look into the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. And doing it by reminding the Ukrainian President of all the US has done for his country.

The transcript is truly stunning stuff — even from a President who has moved the goalposts on “stunning” a long time ago. If Trump thought releasing this transcript would somehow make Democrats look like fools for beginning an impeachment inquiry against him, he was wrong. Very, very wrong. [Pols emphasis]

—–

UPDATE: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is not projecting a lot of confidence:

“Shut up moron. Shut up. Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about, idiot.”

That was Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, shouting down a guest on Fox News who disagreed with him about the whistleblower complaint filed against the President regarding a conversation he had in July with the President of Ukraine.

—–

President Trump has been promising for days that we would all see that he is totally innocent when a “transcript” was released of a phone call he held on July 25 with Ukraine’s President. That phone call is part of a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump withheld foreign aid to Ukraine until he could ask that country’s President to investigate some sort of made-up scandal involving former Vice President Joe Biden.

On Wednesday, the White House released a “transcript” (we use quotes here because the “transcript” is not an exact word-by-word account of the July discussion) of the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that absolutely does not exonerate Trump:

Front page of The Washington Post (9/25/19).

As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate the conduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and offered to meet with the foreign leader at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly-released transcript of the call.

Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law…

…The call begins with Trump congratulating Zelensky on his election victory, but quickly devolves into the president pressing for an investigation of his political rivals and endorsing an apparent conspiracy theory. He seems to suggest Hillary Clinton’s private email server is in Ukraine and asserts that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation started with that country. He repeatedly says Zelensky should work with Attorney General William P. Barr or his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Giuliani had separately pressed Ukrainian officials for a Biden inquiry. [Pols emphasis]

The biggest new development from the “transcript” is the degree to which Trump goes out of his way to push for Zelensky to talk further with Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

The “transcript” of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian President is just a piece of what is thought to be a more detailed allegation from a whistleblower. Congress is pushing for the full whistleblower report — the White House is offering only a redacted version — and the person making the accusations may soon testify on Capitol Hill behind closed doors.

Front page of CNN.com (9/25/19)

The uncertainty surrounding the whistleblower report has many Senate Republicans treading carefully in their pre-emptive defense of Trump, as Amber Phillips writes for the Washington Post:

Maybe Trump has nothing to hide. Maybe we already known the worst of the story, and at the very least, it’s spinnable for Republicans. (We wish he didn’t bring up his reelection on a diplomatic call, but the president should have the prerogative to talk to foreign leaders how he wants, or something like that.) That seems to be the pattern for most of Trump’s scandals. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) even defended Trump after he tweeted that four minority members of Congress, all U.S. citizens, should “go back.”

But there’s also the possibility Trump did something indefensible, and that it eventually comes out. That’s the gamble most Senate Republicans are taking right now. [Pols emphasis]

That’s not a wager we’d be willing to make.

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Impeachment: It’s On


UPDATE #2: Colorado Public Radio looks at how Colorado’s congressional delegation is responding on the question of impeachment and the Ukraine controversy.

—–

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports–the dam has officially burst:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to announce a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, a dramatic turnaround by the Democratic leader that sets up a constitutional and political clash pitting the Congress against the nation’s chief executive.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) is slated to make her announcement later on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting with her caucus, according to Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe private deliberations.

Impeachment is a rare and extraordinary step that would overturn the decision of U.S. voters in 2016 to elect Trump. Pelosi’s decision foreshadows an intensely partisan fall, triggering pushback from Trump allies with repercussions for the 2020 campaign.

—–

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora)

Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is one of seven freshman Democrats — all with military or defense/intelligence backgrounds — signing on to an editorial published in today’s Washington Post that makes a strong case for investigating what they call “impeachable offenses”:

The president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it. He allegedly sought to use the very security assistance dollars appropriated by Congress to create stability in the world, to help root out corruption and to protect our national security interests, for his own personal gain. These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent. We also know that on Sept. 9, the inspector general for the intelligence community notified Congress of a “credible” and “urgent” whistleblower complaint related to national security and potentially involving these allegations. Despite federal law requiring the disclosure of this complaint to Congress, the administration has blocked its release to Congress.

This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand. To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.

If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense. We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly, and we call on our colleagues in Congress to consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of “inherent contempt” and impeachment hearings, to address these new allegations, find the truth and protect our national security. [Pols emphasis]

Crow is a former Army Ranger who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

House Democrats appear to be moving closer to initiating impeachment hearings in the wake of an alleged whistleblower complaint regarding threats by President Trump to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it investigates former Vice President Joe Biden for some sort of invented transgression.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 24)


Today is National Voter Registration 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 Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump’s latest scandal, involving withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for that country potentially investigating one of Trump’s political opponents, looks to have tipped the scales on impeachment proceedings. From the New York Times:

House Democrats hurtled on Tuesday toward a consequential set of decisions about the potential impeachment of President Trump, weighing a course that could reshape his presidency amid startling allegations that he sought to enlist a foreign power to aid him politically.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, who has stubbornly resisted a rush to impeachment, appeared to be rapidly changing course, as lawmakers from every corner of her caucus lined up in favor of filing formal charges against Mr. Trump if the allegations are proven true, or if his administration continues to stonewall attempts by Congress to investigate them.

“We will be making announcements later,” she told reporters in the Capitol, declining to discuss her views on impeachment.

One possibility was the formation of a special committee — reminiscent of the one created in 1973 to investigate the Watergate scandal — to look into the president’s dealings with Ukraine and potentially lay the groundwork for articles of impeachment based on the findings.

Colorado Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is among seven freshman Democrats who penned an Op-Ed for the Washington Post making the case for proceeding with impeachment proceedings.

President Trump today confirmed that he made a decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine, though he claims it is totally unrelated to his requests to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

 

 If you’re waiting for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) to weigh in on President Trump’s Ukraine scandal…well, you might want to get comfortable.

 

 Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is supporting an effort to require federal background checks for ammunition purchases.

 

► Make sure to check out the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast. Hosts Jason Bane and Alan Franklin have Ukraine on the Membrane!

 

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

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This is What Elected Officials Are Supposed to Do


Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) held his 100th “Government in the Grocery” event last weekend.

We all get tired of negative news, even if we recognize that the negative aspect of a story might be what makes that story relevant in the first place. Media outlets report on airplane crashes but never list out every flight that landed safely in a given day. “Dog Bites Man” is not a newsworthy headline because it’s not unique, but “Man Bites Dog” will get your attention every time.

It is for similar reasons that we often discuss the inexplicable inaccessibility of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who can be easily located in cardboard form but can be almost impossible to find in real life. It is not normal — nor should it be — for an elected official to be so completely disconnected from his or her constituents. To quote Kyle Clark of 9News:”Citizens shouldn’t have to be detectives to meet with their representatives.”

Or, to put it another way, Sen. Gardner is the “Bizarro” version of Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County).

Perlmutter was first elected in CO-7 in 2006 and hasn’t lost a re-election contest ever since. In fact, Perlmutter has won every one of his re-election bids by at least a double-digit margin. There are many reasons for Perlmutter’s success, but at the top of the list is a very simple explanation: Constituent services. Perlmutter makes it easy for his constituents to find him and goes out of his way to provide assistance — which is exactly what you should expect from your elected official.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter holds a “Government in the Grocery” event in 2007.

Over the weekend, Perlmutter reached a milestone by holding his 100th “Government in the Grocery” event, in which he sets up a table at a grocery store in the district so that constituents can talk to their Congressman directly. From a press release:

Perlmutter started the Government in the Grocery program when he first took office in 2007 in order to better hear from constituents and meet them in their local community. The first Government in the Grocery was held on January 27, 2007 in Wheat Ridge. Perlmutter holds these events on a regular basis at different grocery stores in cities across the 7th Congressional District and meets with constituents one-on-one about whatever is on their mind.

“I believe being accessible and engaging often with constituents is essential to the fabric of our democracy,” said Perlmutter. “The Government in the Grocery program is an easy and convenient way for constituents to share their concerns, ideas and questions and, in turn, makes me a better representative.”

Congratulations, and kudos, to Congressman Perlmutter.

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DeGette Nabs Notable Endorsement


Rep. Diana DeGette (left) and Crisanta Duran

Politics is often compared to chess, and for good reason. A successful political campaign requires sound strategy and foresight to cut off your opponent at the most opportune moments.

This analogy is particularly apt in light of a notable endorsement today in the Democratic Primary race for CO-1. Incumbent Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) picked up the endorsement of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), one of the largest labor unions in Colorado. From a press release:

Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 Union announced their endorsement of Congresswoman Diana DeGette as she seeks re-election in 2020. UFCW Local 7 President, Kim Cordova, announced the endorsement at their union hall alongside Congresswoman DeGette and Local 7 members.

“United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 is proud to announce our Endorsement of Diana DeGette, a proven workers champion for another term. Diana shares our core values through her advocacy for affordable and quality healthcare, gender equity, raising the minimum wage and workers’ rights. Colorado needs her continued strong leadership in Congress to fight for workers and to ensure Labor has a voice.” – UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova…

…UFCW Local 7 is Colorado’s largest labor union representing Supermarkets, Packing Houses, Food Processing Plants, Barbers and Cosmetologists and Healthcare facilities. Large employers in Congressional District One include Mission Tortillas, King Soopers, and Safeway.

The significance of this endorsement will be obvious to longtime political observers. It was nearly 10 years ago to the day that Ernie Duran, Jr. — UFCW’s longest-standing President — was voted out of office after charges of nepotism. As the Denver Post reported on September 22, 2009:

During the contentious battle over the “right to work” ballot measure last year, reports surfaced about nepotism within the union under Duran’s leadership.

In 2007, Crisanta Duran was paid $133,410 and Ernie Duran’s son, Ernie Duran III, was paid $134,378 as an executive staff member, according to Labor Department filings. The elder Duran earned $162,368 that year.

“The nepotism was a big issue with the workers — Ernie hiring his family and putting them into high-paid positions,” Cordova said.

Allegations surfaced this year about misspent union funds.

Duran’s daughter is Crisanta Duran, who picked up the job as UFCW’s staff attorney not long after she graduated from law school. Duran would later earn a seat in the State House of Representatives, where she served as the first Latina Speaker of the House in Colorado (2017-19). Earlier this year Duran announced that she was mounting a Primary challenge against DeGette, the longest-serving member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation.

Duran kicked off her CO-1 campaign with much fanfare but has failed to gain any momentum against DeGette; Duran has posted a couple of miserable fundraising quarters and lost out on the endorsement of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which backed DeGette in July.

Given the controversy that surrounded the elder Duran’s departure from UFCW, it was probably unlikely that Crisanta Duran was ever going to earn the support of the grocery workers’ union — but it’s not insignificant that the UFCW decided to publicly back DeGette. In every political campaign, some endorsements mean more than others. For Denver politicos — the sort of voters that DeGette and Duran will be fighting over next spring — this is one of those endorsements.

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