Republicans Flummoxed on Prescription Drug Pricing

Image via AARP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Sky is Still Blue; Up Is Not Down

Yep, still blue

Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune has a great column today that is worth your time. The premise of Huppke’s column is about fighting to preserve important things like truth and facts at a time when they are constantly under attack by right-wing sources:

It can feel, especially lately, as if reality has been bent sideways and backward, like facts are meaningless and, quite frankly, like many of us are losing our minds…

…First, the good: Facts still matter, and truth still exists.

Second, the bad: You can’t feel exhausted. You have to cling to the truth, tighter than ever before, because an entire political party, a massive news network and the leader of the free world are trying to pull it away.

Huppke could point to any number of recent examples in making his point, though this case he uses the release this week of a watchdog report which found that the FBI was justified in opening an investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign (and its ties to foreign governments) and was not influenced by political bias one way or the other. As Huppke summarizes:

Even a cursory review of the report reveals a thorough debunking of many of the president’s favorite conspiracy theories. It clearly states there is no “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced” the decision to launch an investigation into contacts between Russians and Trump campaign members.

The report shows the FBI had an “authorized purpose” for starting the investigation, meaning it was not, as Trump claims ceaselessly, a “witch hunt.” The report even shows that while screams of bias have been leveled ad nauseam at certain investigators who were texting anti-Trump comments, there were also investigators texting pro-Trump comments. There was no evidence either form of bias had bearing on the investigation.

I speak THIS MUCH truth.

Alas, President Trump and his apologists sought their own sort of “facts.” Trump curiously called the report “far worse than I would’ve ever thought possible.” Fox News talking monkey Sean Hannity breathlessly declared it “the biggest abuse of power corruption scandal in the history of the country.”

As Huppke writes:

Up is down. Dogs are cats. The world is flat as a pancake.

Trump, members of his party and propagandists like Hannity failed to note anything debunked by the report. They didn’t just overlook a few things. They flat-out lied.

And they did it as easy as they breathe.

Like most things in life, you can have a different opinion of these developments…but you cannot claim a different set of facts. As The Washington Post reported today, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told lawmakers that a senior prosecutor — appointed directly by Attorney General William Barr — failed to convince him that the FBI’s 2016 investigation was improper.

Trump and Hannity are free to say that they disagree with the report’s findings; what they shouldn’t be able to get away with is declaring that the report reached an entirely different set of conclusions. But it happens because Trumpians are incessant about driving false narratives, and because news outlets often let them get away with it.

Take, for example, this Monday story in The Denver Post recapping a day of impeachment hearings in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

The Denver Post (12/9/19)

The Post headline makes it look like this discussion is a difference of opinion, when in reality it is more about a difference in accepted truth. There is zero evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, yet the headline treats the discussion as though the facts are still to be determined. As the Post’s Justin Wingerter writes later:

“Isn’t it true that President Trump had a legitimate reason to request help from the Ukraine about the 2016 election?” Rep. Ken Buck, a Windsor Republican, asked a House Judiciary Committee lawyer, who was testifying during the impeachment hearing. “And I’m not suggesting for a minute that Russia didn’t interfere. Of course they interfered! But the Ukraine officials tried to influence the election.”

It’s a view asserted by an increasing number of Republicans in recent days despite the intelligence community and even Trump administration officials saying there was no evidence to support it. Democrats reiterated that on several occasions Monday. [Pols emphasis]

Again, Buck is entitled to his opinion. But media outlets should not allow him to present that opinion as fact.

Even media institutions like the New York Times are guilty of permitting this false factual equivalency. New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen was critical of a Times story that reported little more than what different sides had to say about the subject:

9News in Denver reported on different statements from Members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation, offering little in the way of context until reporter/anchor Kyle Clark Tweeted this separately:

Clark’s comments should have been included in the original 9News story, which went on to quote Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) saying this:

“The Democrats don’t have the evidence to support their case.”

This is not true. Not even a little. 9News should have reported that it is Buck’s “opinion” that Democrats don’t have the evidence to support their case. As Huppke of the Chicago Tribune reminds us, Trump supporters are muddying the waters for a very specific purpose:

Disinformation is intended to wear critics down, to make them feel that resistance is futile, that combating nonsense with facts is a waste of time.

You can’t let that happen. You need to keep your mind right.

News outlets seem to be growing increasingly worried about being viewed as presenting “both sides of the story” at a time when what the public really needs is for the media to present “the accurate side of the story.”

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 11)

Happy “Indiana Day.” Please celebrate responsibly. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Abuse, Obstruction: The Case Against President Trump

UPDATE: Statement from Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver:

Public office is a public trust. And those who violate that trust must be held accountable. The evidence is clear: President Trump has abused the power of his office, put our national security at risk and blocked Congress’s attempt to investigate his actions. No one in this country is above the law, not even the president. In order to protect the strength of our democracy, Congress has a duty to act.

—–

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D).

The New York Times reports on today’s announcement that two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, will proceed to a vote in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House:

House Democrats announced on Tuesday that they would move ahead this week with two articles of impeachment charging President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, as they accused him of violating the Constitution by pressuring Ukraine for help in the 2020 election.

Speaking from a wood-paneled reception room just off the floor of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leaders of six key committees said that Mr. Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, and his efforts to block Congress’s attempt to investigate, had left them no choice but to pursue one of the Constitution’s gravest remedies. The move will bring a sitting president to the brink of impeachment for only the fourth time in American history.

“Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution, and to our country, the House Committee on Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment charging the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and misdemeanors,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the panel’s chairman. He stood before four American flags and a portrait of George Washington.

With a nation not only divided politically but unable to reach consensus on a common set of facts from which to argue our respective cases, the heart of the matter with regard to the case against Trump–that American leaders must not use the power of their office to manipulate foreign policy for domestic political advantage–has itself become a partisan political question when it should never have been.

The Republican defense of Trump relies on the idea that Trump’s actions toward Ukraine are not an impeachable offense, or even a problem at all. After the precedent set by Russia’s assistance to Trump in 2016, which Republicans have consistently sought to downplay and deny despite overwhelming evidence, the defense of Trump against articles of impeachment over pressuring Ukraine to help Trump in 2020 boils down to such actions constituting an acceptable “new normal” in American politics–despite being clearly illegal under federal law and troubling to a majority of Americans.

This is why Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who opposed the push to impeach Trump for a controversially long period of time, has now committed the House to impeachment no matter what the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate does. Because there are fundamental nonpartisan principles at stake. Were it not for the political requirement of Republicans to defend a President who has repeatedly proven himself either ignorant of or indifferent to the law, this would not be nearly as divisive a question.

Whatever happens next, Trump is about to join a very small and ignominious club.

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Ken Buck’s Spotty Impeachment Attendance Continues

Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) moonlights as the State Republican Party Chairman (or vice-versa), so he’s probably a busy guy. But it would be nice if Buck would pay a little more attention to his taxpayer-funded position in Congress.

Buck showed up briefly at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week to ask some inane questions of witnesses, but otherwise he’s generally been hard to find on Capitol Hill when it comes to hearings on impeaching the President of the United States. As the Colorado Independent reported earlier this month, Buck missed most of the closed-door impeachment hearings this fall — he has yet to offer an explanation for his truancy — and he was largely absent again at today’s open hearing:

You can see the video yourself from today’s House Judiciary Committee hearings; the C-SPAN camera pans to an empty seat in front of Buck’s name placard during a procedural voice vote. As you can also see for yourself, the overwhelming majority of committee members — on both sides of the political aisle — are in fact sitting in their seats doing their jobs.

As we mentioned earlier, this is not the first time that Buck has wandered off in the middle of testimony. Here’s Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post last Wednesday:

Lawmakers may not want to be spending so much time on impeachment questions, as Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) acknowledged to Wingerter last week, but most of them have the good sense to at least pretend to be engaged in their work.

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Scott Tipton Faces Primary Challenge From Gun-Right

Lauren Boebert.

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reports:

Lauren Boebert, the owner and operator of a Western Slope restaurant where all staffers openly carry guns, announced on Sunday a conservative primary challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Squad and the rest of these left-wing lunatics are taking a wrecking ball to our country while our current representative stays utterly silent,” Boebert said in a statement announcing her candidacy in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District…

“Hard-working, patriotic Americans like you and me don’t want the Green New Deal and socialized medicine,” Boebert said. “Every time AOC and the rest of the Squad pipes up with another crazy idea, I will remind them that our belief in God, country and family are what built the United States of America into the greatest nation the world has ever known.”

Lauren Boebert, the owner of the relatively famous Shooters Grill in Rifle which features wait staff openly carrying loaded handguns so you don’t have to worry about anything in the middle of lunch, gained additional notoriety last September when she vocally weighed in at a town hall in Aurora held by then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. This was right after O’Rourke had called for an Australia-style mandatory buyback of assault weapons, which didn’t boost O’Rourke’s campaign but did make him an especially reviled figure among the gun rights crowd.

Will Boebert’s newfound fame as the “Hell No Beto Mom” give her a competitive advantage taking on the low-charisma but surprisingly durable Republican incumbent in Colorado’s Third District, Rep. Scott Tipton? There’s a lot that has to happen before we can say that with any certainty. But if we were Tipton, we’d be more worried about Boebert than many of his previous small-time primary opponents. If Boebert gains momentum with fiercely conservative Western Slope Republicans, and shovels the red meat the base wants to hear better than Tipton, an upset in the GOP CD-3 primary is not beyond possibility.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (December 6)

Saturday is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day; Gov. Jared Polis has ordered flags to be lowered to half staff from sunrise to sunset tomorrow. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Everybody Does Impeachable Things, Says Ken Buck

You’ll never catch me, logic!

Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley), who moonlights as the Colorado Republican Party Chairman (or vice-versa), has been struggling to come up with a coherent and consistent defense of President Trump in the face of mounting evidence for Trump’s impeachment. While Buck has been critical of the impeachment process and protective of President Trump, he also hasn’t bothered to actually attend most of the impeachment hearings to which he has been invited. After listening to Buck question witnesses on the first day of impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, it’s fair to argue that both he and Trump would have been better served in Buck’s absence.

In recent months Buck has offered various explanations for excusing Trump; he’s even been a public proponent of what has come to be called “The Sideshow Bob Defense,” which tries to excuse President Trump of wrongdoing based on the idea that his attempted bribery of Ukraine’s President didn’t work as intended. This is a particularly absurd defense from Buck; as a former prosecutor, he knows damn well that “attempted” robbery and “attempted” murder are criminal matters regardless of the outcome of the offense.

Buck took a different approach in his Trump defense on Wednesday, arguing that EVERY President — other than William Henry Harrison, who died 32 days into his first term in the White House — has committed what House Democrats would call an impeachable offense.

“The other three witnesses have identified this amorphous standard for impeaching a President,” said Buck in addressing Professor Jonathan Turley, the Republican-called legal/constitutional expert (CLICK HERE for the full clip of Buck’s ranting). Buck then listed off numerous “impeachable” offenses committed by everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama. It was as if to say, Who among us hasn’t committed an impeachable offense?

Buck concluded with this perplexing high-horsed statement:

Now isn’t the difference, Professor Turley, that some people live in an ivory tower, and some people live in a swamp, and those of us that are in the swamp are doing our very best for the American people, but it’s not pretty.

Turley responded with an attempted joke about living in an ivory tower within a swamp. Immediately following this exchange, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) began her time at the microphone by saying, “I don’t believe the people’s house is a swamp.”

Social media users were equally perplexed with Buck’s line of questioning:

Fortunately for Buck and Trump, the Greeley Congressman wasn’t quite the disaster that he was when he was questioning Robert Mueller last summer. Instead of countering his own argument — which is what happened last July — Buck followed the script of his own version of a Chewbacca Defense.

To paraphrase the debate moderator character from the movie “Billy Madison,” everyone is now dumber for having listened to Ken Buck.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 4)

Today is “National Cookie Day.” Please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: No Defense? Just Make Stuff Up!

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, ProgressNow Colorado Political Director Alan Franklin joins Jason Bane to talk about a new phase in impeachment proceedings that includes a Colorado connection; legislative plans to push forward on gun safety measures; and how Sen. Cory Gardner’s big BLM deal just keeps looking worse. Later, Alan performs well in “Duke or Donald,” the game that nobody can really win.

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

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Just Impeachie: Know More Than Your Drunk Uncle

UPDATE: President Trump now insists that he definitely did not do that thing that he already said that he did:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied that he directed his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine and seek out investigations on his behalf, contradicting his own words to the Ukrainian President in the White House released transcript of the July 25 call.

Trump also contradicted sworn testimony from members of his administration and claims from his own White House acting chief of staff.

—–
There is a LOT of impeachment news to digest these days. If it is hard for us to keep up with all of this impeachment news, it’s probably difficult for our readers as well. So, as a public service, we decided to roundup some of the top impeachment stories floating around the Internet tubes and condense them into one convenient location.

For this chapter of “Just Impeachie,” we’re getting you caught up on all things impeachment-related so that you are fully prepared to argue with your drunk uncle on Thanksgiving (or whatever it’s called now).

 

President Trump knew all about the whistleblower’s complaint when he made the decision to release hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. This report from The New York Times effectively destroys one of Trump’s main impeachment defense arguments:

President Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower’s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Lawyers from the White House counsel’s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said.

The revelation could shed light on Mr. Trump’s thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators: his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to a key ambassador around the same time that there was a “quid pro quo” with Kyiv. Mr. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair.

 

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post explains why Tuesday’s New York Times story is so important to the impeachment case:

First, it refutes the absurd notion that, because Trump ultimately released the aid, this somehow shows the plot to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations to help his reelection was never corrupt. We now know Trump knew it had been exposed before the aid was released…

…But this new revelation also undercuts the “I want nothing — no quid pro quo” defense as well. It sheds light on another key subplot: the manner in which Trump appears to have corruptly directed Sondland to convey the extortion demand to Ukraine, while preserving plausible deniability for doing so…

…The whistleblower conceded he didn’t know for certain that Trump’s freezing of the aid was directly linked to his pressure on Ukraine to launch sham investigations validating the 2016 CrowdStrike conspiracy theory and the invented narrative of Joe Biden’s corruption. But he said officials were alarmed by it.

Sondland, however, did ultimately draw this direct link — and testified that he discussed it with the president himself. And that’s why the revelation that Trump knew of the whistleblower complaint fills in a crucial piece of the puzzle.

 

President Trump held a campaign rally in Florida on Tuesday that was largely focused on his impeachment defense (or what’s left of it).

 

As Maeve Reston writes for CNN, a key Republican talking point in for defending Trump against impeachment was blown up on Tuesday:

New transcripts of witness testimony and news reports revealing key details on the Ukraine scandal timeline show in vivid detail the way President Donald Trump and top officials maneuvered behind the scenes to block aid to Ukraine as the President sought an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden…

…We now know that White House budget office took its first official action to withhold $250 million in aid to Ukraine on the evening of July 25, according to a House Budget Committee summary of the office’s documents.

That was the very same day that Trump spoke by phone with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, prefacing his request for an investigation of the 2016 election with the now infamous phrase “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” Agencies had been notified at a July 18 meeting that the aid had been frozen by the President, a week before the call.

 

Here’s a brief rundown from a separate CNN story about the big developments from Tuesday’s impeachment testimony. Vox.com also breaks down Tuesday’s revelations.

 

Two officials in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) apparently resigned over concerns about the holdup of military aid to Ukraine.

 

Former White House counsel Don McGahn received a brief respite in his case pitting the Justice Department against House Democrats seeking his testimony on impeachment-related matters.

 

President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was reportedly in talks to represent Ukraine’s former top prosecutor as Yuri Lutsenko attempts to recover assets that he alleges were stolen by the Ukrainian government. Talks surrounding this $200,000 contract were happening at the same time that Giuliani was working with Lutsenko to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden

 

Fox News’ talking monkey, Tucker Carlson, argues that impeachment hearings are actually making President Trump stronger. Like Godzilla, or something.

 

White House lawyers are debating whether or not to accept an invitation from House Democrats to participate in impeachment hearings next week.

 

Polls show that a majority of Americans support President Trump’s impeachment and removal from office; at least one poll indicates that impeachment support among Independent voters is on the rise. Trump is responding by inventing his own poll numbers out of thin air.

 

Listen to this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast for more on how Republicans are turning to “The Chewbacca Defense” as they struggle to figure out a way to defend President Trump against impeachment.

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Steve Reams Gets His Border Photo-Op On

It’s a rite of passage for Colorado Republicans aspiring to higher office to take a trip to the Mexican border (needless to say, well outside their jurisdiction) for the purpose of demonstrating their commitment to “stopping the invasion.” Back in 2010, a group of Republican state lawmakers made a now-infamous trip to Arizona hosted by SPLC-listed hate group American Border Patrol to study the impact of that state’s anti-immigrant law Senate Bill 1070, which was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court:

From left: 2010 House candidate (now Senate Minority Leader) Chris Holbert, then-Rep. Kent Lambert, Sen. Scott Renfroe, then-Rep. Laura Bradford, 2010 House candidate Janak Joshi, then-Rep. Randy Baumgardner.

Senator Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Parker)

The 2010 visit to Arizona in particular raised eyebrows due to the contact by Colorado Republican lawmakers with decidedly non-governmental militia groups and anti-immigrant activists. Lawmakers “toured” the border with the so-called “American Border Patrol” openly carrying weapons and playing with night vision equipment (photo right).

In 2014, Republican lawmakers paid another visit to the Texas border, but this time SB-1070 had been repealed and lawmakers confined their visit to official Border Patrol and other agencies. Ironically there seem to have been fewer trips of this kind to the border by Colorado Republicans since Donald Trump took office, or in any event less publicized. We assume that’s because it’s mostly Democrats heading to the border now documenting a humanitarian crisis.

With that said, Trump’s border wall remains very popular with base conservative Republican voters, the exact segment of the electorate the upwardly mobile Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams hopes to rally to victory in a future election for higher office. Reams is promising a big reveal on his Facebook page from his time on the border last week, and even though Weld County is 700 miles from the nearest Mexican border he’ll no doubt rivet his target audience with tales of intrigue and danger and steel slats.

As the most visible of the state’s elected politician-sheriffs, it’s been clear for some time now that Reams has higher ambitions–whether the legislature, the on-again off-again list to succeed Rep. Ken Buck in CD-4, or another more overtly political role than sheriff. We’re not as confident how he’ll fare once he gets there, but the border photo op checks off a telltale box.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Jim Jordan’s Jibber Jabber

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, Republicans turn to “The Chewbacca Defense” on behalf of President Trump; Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) doesn’t bother to show up to impeachment hearings; Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) still hasn’t said anything about either Korea; Andrew Romanoff weaves a complicated narrative in the U.S. Senate race; and Indivisible leader Katie Farnan plays America’s worst favorite game, “Duke or Donald.”

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

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 26)

Happy Snowmageddon; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

►  A federal judge ruled late Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn cannot be shielded from Congressional testimony by the Trump administration. As The Washington Post explains, Monday’s ruling touches on a broader subject of executive power in the United States:

In her ruling that Don McGahn must comply with a congressional subpoena, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington goes to great lengths to illustrate how far out on a constitutional limb President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have crawled with their absolutist claims of executive power.

Jackson invokes “Animal Farm” as she dismisses the Justice Department’s position that the president alone has the authority to make unilateral determinations regarding whether he and his senior aides, current and former, will respond to, or defy, subpoenas from House committees during investigations of potential wrongdoing by his own administration.

“For a similar vantagepoint, see the circumstances described by George Orwell,” the judge writes in her 118-page decision. “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

House Democrats want the former White House counsel, who left his position in October 2018, to testify about the episodes of possible obstruction of justice that former special counsel Bob Mueller outlined in his report. They are debating whether to proceed with articles of impeachment related to the president’s alleged efforts to undermine that investigation. Jackson said McGahn can assert executive privilege when asked specific questions, but Trump cannot issue a blanket order to stop his former aide from showing up to testify.

“Compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law,” she concludes. [Pols emphasis]

The Justice Department plans to appeal the ruling, because Trump minions clearly do believe that some people are “above the law.”

Chris Cillizza of CNN has more on the significance on Monday’s ruling:

Obviously, if you are McGahn, you have to now prepare yourself for at least the possibility that you will be asked — under oath — about your role in the potential obstruction of justice by Trump in Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe into Russian obstruction in the 2016 election. (McGahn is requesting a week-long stay so he can appeal the ruling.)

But if you are, say Guiliani or Mulvaney, this ruling has to give you pause. Yes, McGahn is a former White House employee while Mulvaney and Giuliani currently work for Trump. (Former national security adviser John Bolton, it’s worth noting, is also a former administration official who has not been subpoenaed, but who House investigators *really* want to talk to.)

Giuliani and Mulvaney could possibly hang their hats on the idea that Trump’s broad claim of executive privilege could well apply to them as active employees in a way that courts have ruled it doesn’t apply to McGahn. Maybe! But that line of reasoning took a hit on Monday — and will force anyone with an outstanding subpoena from Congress to reconsider their position at least somewhat in the coming days.

Predictably, President Trump took to his Twitter machine on Tuesday morning to declare that he actually wants more people to testify. Riiigghht.

 

A majority of Americans believe that President Trump should not only be impeached but removed from office by the U.S. Senate. Compare these numbers to public support for the impeachment and removal of Bill Clinton in 1998, which never even reached 30%.

 

Slade Gorton, a former Republican Senator from Washington, argues in a New York Times Op-Ed that there is more than enough information for the GOP to act on the impeachment of President Trump:

To my fellow Republicans, I give this grave and genuine warning: It’s not enough merely to dismiss the Ukraine investigation as a partisan witch hunt or to hide behind attacks against the “deep state,” or to try to find some reason to denounce every witness who steps forward, from decorated veterans to Trump megadonors.

History demands that we all wrestle with the facts at hand. They are unavoidable. Fifty years from now, history will not accept the position that impeachment was a referendum on the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. It must be a verdict reached on the facts…

…Here’s what I know: Neither the country nor the Constitution is served by a partisan shouting match divorced from the facts, a process boycotted by one side refusing to engage on the merits. John Adams is still right 250 years later: Facts are stubborn things. Facts are what should determine whether a stubborn president stays in office. Republicans, don’t fight the process, follow the facts wherever they lead, and put country above party.

 

► The Denver City Council has approved a minimum wage increase, as Conrad Swanson reports for The Denver Post:

The new law requires employers to bump hourly employees to at least $12.85 on Jan. 1, with a second raise to $14.77 following at the start of 2021, and a third to $15.87 in 2022. After that, the new law mandates that it will then be adjusted annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index.

Public comment was overwhelmingly, if not entirely, in favor of the law, which places Denver as the first Colorado city to raise the local minimum wage. Ultimately, the council voted 11-0…

…Initially, the ordinance proposed to mandate the raises in two tiers, reaching $15.87 by 2021, though that plan was mellowed after some criticized it as too aggressive or quick. Mayor Michael Hancock’s office later announced the three-tiered approach and the bill was introduced by Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who called it history in the making Monday night.

 

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

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Schiff: Impeachment Report Coming After Thanksgiving

As The Washington Post explains, impeachment hearings against President Trump will soon be moving from the House Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee:

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said Monday that House investigators will transmit a report on Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine controversy to the Judiciary Committee shortly after Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess next week.

In a letter to colleagues, Schiff underscored that stonewalling by the White House could form the basis for a separate article of impeachment.

Meanwhile, a federal judge has said she will rule by the end of the day on whether former White House counsel Donald McGahn must testify before Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee includes two Colorado Congressional Members: Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley). We have no doubt that Rep. Neguse will be in attendance for the next phase of impeachment hearings; whether or not Rep. Buck will bother to show up is a different question, but he’s (probably) not going to skip out on public testimony.

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“Post-9/11 Recovery Funds?” You Mean the “Bush Tax Cuts?”

The ethics complaint filed by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty against former Gov. John Hickenlooper has been generally discounted by knowledgeable observers looking at what appear to be the innocuous facts of some travel Hickenlooper took as governor–including in large part by Hickenlooper’s primary opponents. Despite this, the process of such a complaint against either a sitting or a former elected official provides political opponents numerous opportunities to pitch negative stories along the way to reporters, sometimes with success and sometimes not.

One of those fairly predictable negative pitches involves the fact that the legal defense for public officials in ethics proceedings in Colorado is paid for by the state. Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, for example, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars unsuccessfully defending himself against an ethics complaint stemming from his use of discretionary funds for partisan political event travel. In the case of the complaint against Hickenlooper, the Denver Post and 9NEWS both reported yesterday that the public has picked up a little north of $40,000 of the tab for defending Hickenlooper from McNulty.

There’s nothing unusual in reporting on a detail like this, and we’re happy to recount news reports of Gessler’s legal tab for that particular case. But the Denver Post led its story with a bizarre detail that we’ve been puzzling about all day:

John Hickenlooper’s attorney has been paid $43,390 — at a rate of $525 per hour — in taxpayer money to defend him before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission as part of an arrangement that dates back to the former governor’s time in office.

It’s common for Colorado elected officials to be represented by government lawyers, or by private attorneys enlisted by the government, but in this case, the recipient of the money was hidden and the money came from a federal fund meant to help the state after 9/11. [Pols emphasis]

Wait, what? Post 9/11 economic recovery fund? What in the hell is that?

Here’s what the Post’s Justin Wingerter writes to back up his sensational allegation:

According to the transparency database, money paid by the state to Grueskin comes from the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, a bundle of federal dollars allocated as part of a President George W. Bush-era plan to jump-start the post-9/11 economy. [Pols emphasis]

You haven’t heard of this “post-9/11 recovery fund” because nobody ever called it that. What Wingerter is referring to is the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, otherwise known as the “Bush Tax Cuts.”

Of course, the 2003 Bush Tax Cuts did pass through Congress “post-9/11.” In that regard, every piece of legislation that has been approved since September 11, 2001 could also be called “post-9/11.” This executive order from Gov. Bill Owens in 2003 — which is linked in the Post story — makes no mention whatsoever of “9/11.” The money allocated in the Bush Tax Cuts went to all sorts of purposes, including immunization programs and charter school construction. Nobody would characterize the 2003 Bush tax cuts as “9/11 relief” because that’s not how they were sold even at the time.

The group that filed this ethics complaint in the first place, which is run by former State House Speaker Frank McNulty, is trying to re-name decades-old legislation in order to give their flailing argument a boost. Today, two Republican lawmakers are speaking out in an effort to boost this “9/11 relief” nonsense. As Marianne Goodland writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, R-Watkins, sent a letter to chair and vice-chair of the Legislative Audit Committee on Thursday, seeking an investigation into “the inappropriate, perhaps illegal” use of federal dollars for Hickenlooper’s legal bills. Bockenfeld and Lundeen are both members of the audit committee…

…That letter, which was obtained by Colorado Politics, said those federal dollars were intended to “jump start” Colorado’s post-9/11 economy. According to an executive order from then-Gov. Bill Owens, the dollars were to provide “essential government services or to cover the costs of certain unfunded federal mandates.”

The letter said the executive order does not say anything about being used to cover legal bills for Hickenlooper’s private lawyers. Since it does not allow for those kinds of expenses, no argument can be made that paying Hickenlooper’s legal bills “is an essential government service or unfunded federal mandate,” the letter said. [Pols emphasis]

Great work, detectives. It would be very odd indeed if the 2003 executive order said something about the money being used to cover Governor Hickenlooper’s legal bills, since Hickenlooper was at that point in time beginning his first term as MAYOR OF DENVER. 

There will inevitably be negative stories that present themselves in the process of an ethics complaint. Whether it’s Scott Gessler or John Hickenlooper, nobody enjoys reading about taxpayer dollars spent on legal defense. But taxpayer money is often used for the legal defense of elected officials who were serving in publicly-funded jobs at the time. The real absurdity here is the “9/11 relief funds” angle on the original Post story, which no doubt helped generate clicks to the Post website but has nothing to do with the rest of the story.

If there’s something we’re missing here, the comment section is open.

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Nunes, Republicans Get Smacked for Silly Questions

Fiona Hill isn’t playing around.

Fiona Hill, a former member of President Trump’s national security team and an advisor on Russia, is testifying publicly today as part of impeachment hearings into Trump’s bribery scandal with Ukraine. Hill also took her opportunity in front of the cameras to push back against Republican conspiracy theories that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections — ideas that are being promoted by the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes.

As The Washington Post explains:

“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services,” Hill said in her opening statement.

The statement amounted to a rebuke of President Trump; Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee; and others who have advanced claims that it was Ukraine — and not Russia — that waged information warfare against the United States in 2016.

“Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country,” she said.

Hill’s testimony sets the stage for an extraordinary development in the impeachment hearings, with Trump’s former top adviser on Russia essentially telling the public under oath that his refusal to accept the reality of Moscow’s intervention in 2016 is wrong.

“The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions,” Hill said. “It is beyond dispute.” [Pols emphasis]

Nunes and other Republicans have continually sought to sow Ukrainian conspiracy theories into impeachment testimony. On Wednesday, Nunes said point-blank that Democrats “got campaign dirt from Ukrainians in the 2016 election” and “were heavily involved, working with Ukrainians, to dirty up the Trump campaign.”

Via CNN (11/21/19)

Hill’s statements today are another black eye for Nunes, a staunch Trump ally who has played the role of a bumbling fool for much of the impeachment process. As Salon.com reports, Nunes’ opening statement on Wednesday — prior to the explosive testimony of EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland — indicated that he was completely unprepared for the day’s testimony:

Nunes began by comparing the Democrats’ impeachment push to former special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe, listing off numerous charges that although he dismissed at false were actually proven true.

“Trump had a diabolical plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow,” he said. (True.) “Trump changed the Republican National Committee platform to hurt Ukraine and benefit Russia,” he added. (True.) “Trump’s son-in-law lied about his Russian contacts while obtaining his security clearance,” he continued. (True.)

“It’s a long list of false charges, and that’s merely a partial list,” Nunes declared after reading the largely corroborated list.

Nunes then went on to claim that Democrats were again pushing false charges in the Ukraine case.

“When the Democrats can’t get any traction for their allegations of a quid pro quo, they move the goalposts and accuse the president of extortion, then bribery, and as a last resort, obstructing justice,” Nunes said, moments before Sondland explicitly described a “quid pro quo.” [Pols emphasis]

Nunes has, in fact, turned into something of a Trump clone. He has devoted much of his time during impeachment hearings to floating miscellaneous conspiracy theories and attacking the media. As CNN’s Chris Cillizza notes, Nunes appears to be concerned only with how he appears to President Trump.

Via The Atlantic (11/20/19)

Is all of this obfuscation and verbal nonsense from Nunes actually working in Trump’s favor and weakening the case for impeachment? As The Hill explains, pictures tell the story better than anything Nunes can say. This brief montage from The Daily Show works even better:

 

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: The Sideshow Bob Defense

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, Congressmen Ken Buck (R-Greeley) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) test out some odd impeachment defense strategies; Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) celebrates two years without a town hall event; Colorado Republicans promote a pointless new ballot measure; and the “fairy godmother” of the #resistance, Jessica Zender, plays America’s worst favorite game show, “Duke or Donald.”

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

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 19)

Happy World Toilet Day; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

The Washington Post catches us up on the latest news on today’s public impeachment hearings:

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official, testified Tuesday that he spoke to an intelligence community official, whom he declined to name, about President Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Vindman also testified in the impeachment proceedings that he was concerned about Trump’s statements about domestic politics on the call, which he characterized as “improper.”

Vindman is one of four key witnesses testifying at the House Intelligence Committee hearing Tuesday. The others are: Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Pence, Tim Morrison, another senior NSC official, and Kurt Volker, a former envoy to Ukraine.

President Trump is claiming that he doesn’t know any of the witnesses testifying in impeachment proceedings, which would probably be irrelevant even if it were true; this strategy is about as effective as claiming that everyone involved is a “Never Trumper.

Meanwhile, Trump says that he would consider testifying on impeachment matters “in writing,” a claim the President made as news was breaking that House Democrats may also be looking into allegations that Trump lied to special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Chris Cillizza of CNN has more on Tuesday’s impeachment hearings.

 

► Today’s revelations could be just the appetizer to Wednesday’s main course, when EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland sits down in front of the House Intelligence Committee. Will Sondland have trouble “remembering” his July 26th telephone conversation with President Trump regarding efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden?

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asia and calls himself the “leader in the Senate” on issues relating to North Korea. Yet Gardner still hasn’t said a public word about President Trump’s recent decisions to weaken U.S. alliances with South Korea and Japan.

 

► Check out this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast for more on how Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) tries using the “Sideshow Bob” defense on impeachment.

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

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Lamborn Tosses Giuliani Under the Bus

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) as a fictional character.

Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) isn’t a member of the House Intelligence Committee (in any sense of the phrase) that is currently overseeing public impeachment hearings against President Trump, but that doesn’t mean he can’t try to advance his own ridiculous theory on the matter.

David Corn of Mother Jones and MSNBC apparently found Lamborn talking to reporters in Washington D.C. today on the second day of public impeachment hearings. Lamborn’s take on the Ukraine scandal is that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani acted as some sort of rogue actor:

LAMBORN: I have some questions about what Mr. Giuliani was doing. But that’s a side issue. That…that’s got really nothing to do with the President.

Lamborn’s comment is justifiably met with credulity from Corn, who tries unsuccessfully to get the Colorado Springs Republican to explain how 2+2 = 5.

REPORTER: But doesn’t it have everything to do with the President when the President is telling officials, ‘Talk to Rudy. Talk to Rudy.’

LAMBORN: Unless he [Giuliani] was off on his own mission doing things that people didn’t know about, kind of like a loose cannon. Then, that’s a Rudy Giuliani problem, not a President Trump one.

REPORTER: But, this is what I don’t get: The President told [Ukrainian President] Zelinsky, ‘I want you to talk to Rudy.’ The President told top diplomats when they came in to see him, ‘Talk to Rudy. Talk to Rudy.’ So the President is empowering Rudy Giuliani, so isn’t he responsible for Rudy Giuliani’s involvement in all of this? If he’s telling people, ‘Rudy’s my man.’

LAMBORN: He may have been wrong to trust Rudy Giuliani if Giuliani was doing things on his own that were improper. So maybe he was trusting him too much.

The reporter tries once more to get Lamborn to explain his incongruent logic, but Lamborn begs off by saying that he has to go vote on something.

You can watch the entire exchange below:

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Witness Alleges Intimidation, So Trump Responds with Threats

If Trump believed in Climate Change, he’d have something else to blame for all of this heat.

The second day of public testimony on impeachment hearings against President Trump took a very Trumpian direction today. As the Associated Press reports:

Former U.S. Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch provided chilling detail Friday in Trump impeachment hearings of being suddenly ousted from her post and feeling threatened upon learning President Donald Trump had denounced her in a July phone call with Ukraine’s president. In that call, Trump assailed her as “bad news” and said she was “going to go through some things.”

In an extraordinary moment, even in an administration filled with them, Trump himself went after her again as she spoke, tweeting from the White House that everywhere she served had “turned bad.” He emphasized that as president he had the “absolute right” to appoint his own ambassadors…[Pols emphasis]

…After Trump’s tweet on Friday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee swiftly intervened, halting the questioning to read the president’s comments out loud to the witness — and Americans following the hearing — during a live broadcast across the country.

“Ambassador Yovanovitch, as we sit here testifying, the president is attacking you on Twitter,” said Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California. “What effect do you think that has on other witnesses’ willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?”

“Well, it’s very intimidating,” she said.

But don’t worry about any of this; the White House issued a statement saying that President Trump’s Tweets are “not witness intimidation.” Trump himself later defended his Tweets by saying, “I have freedom of speech, just like other people do.”

It’s hard to think that a person could be handling this any worse, but if anybody can find a way…

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Impeachment Logic with Ken Buck

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley)

Congressional Republicans are scrambling to figure out how to proceed with their full-throated support of President Trump in the wake of Wednesday’s public impeachment hearings, in which Ambassador William B. Taylor, Jr. and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, testified for hours in front of members of the House Intelligence Committee. Taylor’s testimony was particularly damning, and not just because it included new revelations about a phone call between Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland that makes it appear that Trump was really only interested in investigating political rival Joe Biden.

While we have yet to hear from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) on his opinion of Wednesday’s hearings, Congressman/State Republican Party Chairman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) talked to Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post and gave his thoughts on what took place yesterday. We’ll get to Buck’s incredible nonsense in a moment, but first we should present some background information.

Buck had previously been a fan of what has come to be called “The Sideshow Bob Defense,” owing to the nefarious character from the long running TV show “The Simpsons.” In essence, this theory is based on the idea that Trump did not actually commit a crime because his extortion attempt with Ukraine was unsuccessful. This is, of course, completely absurd; attempting to commit a crime is still a crime. Ineptitude is not a defense.

“Convicted of a crime I didn’t even commit. Hah! Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry? Do they?”

As we wrote last month, Buck’s usage of “The Sideshow Bob Defense” was patently ridiculous:

As for whether or not Trump committed a crime even if the quid pro quo is universally acknowledged, that’s not up to Ken Buck to decide. Federal law says clearly that seeking assistance from a foreign government in an American election is a crime. Again, if anyone out there should be expected to know this without being told, it’s a former prosecutor. At the end of September, Buck even said “I don’t think this is necessarily even wrong” in reference to what  federal law clearly defines as a criminal act. Today, Buck sidesteps the question by saying only that it’s not an “impeachable offense,” but his credibility to make that judgment is already spent after he argued that what is clearly a crime is in fact not.

You’ll never catch me, logic!

Buck never misses a chance to remind a reporter that he is a “former prosecutor,” though it appears that the former Weld County District Attorney either didn’t really know what he was doing at the time or forgot everything he once knew about the law…which leads us back to his comments to The Denver Post today:

“Whether it’s appropriate or not, the voters can decide. It’s not impeachable,” the congressman said in a phone interview Thursday morning, a day after public hearings in the impeachment inquiry began…

…Buck compared the allegations against Trump — that he withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine because the Eastern European ally would not investigate the son of Joe Biden, a possible Trump opponent — to conditions the U.S. government routinely places on foreign aid, while reiterating that he does not believe Trump withhold the money in order to force an investigation into the Bidens.

“For example, we put tariffs on Mexico and say to Mexico, ‘Help us stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States’ and Mexico agreed to do that and has been doing that and the president withdrew the tariffs. That’s a quid pro quo. It’s not illegal. In and of itself, a quid pro quo does not violate the law,” Buck said. Over the summer, Trump threatened to place tariffs on all Mexican goods, but backed off after an agreement was reached on immigration enforcement.

This is objectively wrong. Period.

It is irrelevant whether or not Buck thinks President Trump’s request of Ukraine is illegal. We don’t need Buck’s opinion here because the law itself is clear.

Now take a gander at how the Greeley Congressman would raise the bar on Presidential misconduct:

The congressman declined to say whether he believes it’s appropriate for a president to ask such a favor, calling that a hypothetical scenario. A quid pro quo, as Democrats allege Trump engaged in, would only be an impeachable offense if it rises to the level of a crime, said Buck, a former prosecutor.

“In other words, if I’m the president of the United States and I say to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin, ‘If you go and kill these three political opponents of mine, I will give you aid, or I will stop giving Ukraine aid,’ yes, that’s a crime,” the congressman said.

It’s getting hot in herre

It’s noteworthy in itself that Buck declines to say whether he believes President Trump’s actions to be appropriate, but the real problem here is Buck’s faulty response to Trump’s actions as a “hypothetical scenario.” Trump did talk to the President of Ukraine and he did ask him to “do us a favor, though” and start an investigation into the Bidens. There’s nothing hypothetical about any of this.

Furthermore, according to “Buck logic,” Trump would have to ask another country TO MURDER SOMEONE for this sort of request to rise to an impeachable offense.

WUT?

Most adults understand that this scenario would still include separate crimes — for murder and for bribery. Then again, most adults also don’t believe that people are purchasing AR-15 rifles in order to obliterate raccoons.

You might remember that Buck damn near sunk President Trump during the testimony of former special prosecutor Robert Mueller when he repeatedly asked if Trump could be charged with a crime and kept getting the same affirmative answer. Buck later attempted to defend his blunder by saying that “only very soft people” are worried about Trump’s actions. In other words, it’s not necessarily a good thing for Trump that Ken Buck is trying to publicly defend him.

Buck tells The Denver Post that he will “will go where the evidence takes me in this case.” If Buck was making an honest attempt to understand the evidence, this might be reassuring.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (November 14)

There are 40 shopping days remaining until Christmas. 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…

► Unless you’ve been living inside an old Budweiser box, you’re probably aware that Wednesday was the first day of public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill. Ambassador William B. Taylor, Jr. and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, testified for hours in front of members of the House Intelligence Committee and the eyes of the world.

Taylor dropped a bombshell in his opening statement, telling a story about a phone call between President Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland that apparently laid bare that Trump cares only about Ukraine insofar as they might investigate former Vice President Joe Biden for invented transgressions. The rest of the hearing went downhill from there for Republicans.

For more on Wednesday’s proceedings, here’s a quick list of links:

Trump Exposed: A Brutal Day for the President (Politico)

In the big moment, Republicans go small (Washington Post)

♦ New revelations from first public hearings paint damning portrait of Trump (CNN)

♦ How Adam Schiff Avoided a Circus (Washington Post)

♦ Republicans’ Best Defense is a Bad Offense (New York Times)

♦ Impeachment hearing testimony further connects President to Ukraine pressure (CNN)

♦ Pelosi says Trump has admitted to “bribery” with Ukraine (Axios)

Of course, as Philip Bump notes for The Washington Post, your takeaway from Wednesday’s hearings might be quite a bit different if you get your information from the likes of Fox News.

 

► At least one person is dead and several others injured in a school shooting in Santa Clarita, California. This is the 30th school shooting of 2019.

 

► As the Associated Press reports, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) unveiled a new state budget with a heavy focus on education spending:

Polis proposed a $34.5 billion state budget Wednesday for the next fiscal year, once again emphasizing early and higher education investments and seeking to increase rainy-day reserves.

Polis presented his request to the Joint Budget Committee, which will craft a balanced budget during the 2020 legislative session.

Polis noted that the requested funding increase of 2.9% kept with the inflation rate, Colorado Politics reported.

“There’s not a lot of free money” available, he said.

The Denver Post has more on the upcoming budget battle.

 

► Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) is trying to overturn a magazine ban in Colorado as gun stores openly flaunt laws designed to prohibit high-capacity gun magazines.

 

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

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Republicans Slink to Gutter on First Day of Public Hearings

Ambassador Bill Taylor (left) and House GOP counsel Steve Castor

If you read just one summary of Wednesday’s first day of public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill, make it this piece from Dana Milbank of The Washington Post:

Of all the excuses, defenses, distractions and outright non sequiturs President Trump’s defenders deployed at Wednesday’s first public impeachment hearing — the whistleblower is biased! Hunter Biden is corrupt! Adam Schiff wanted nude photos of Trump! — the most telling came from Steve Castor, the Republicans’ chief counsel, as he questioned Bill Taylor, America’s man in Kyiv.

Describing the “irregular channel” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his team of “amigos” used to coerce Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents, Castor asked Taylor: “In fairness, this irregular channel of diplomacy, it’s not as outlandish as it could be — is that correct?”

Taylor seemed to think Castor was telling a joke. “It’s not as outlandish as it could be,” he said with a laugh. “I agree.”

True! Giuliani could have conducted the entire scheme in drag. Or they could have threatened the Ukrainian president with a Nerf gun instead of merely withholding military aid. But Castor wasn’t kidding. He defended his point at length, then asked again: “It may be irregular, but it’s certainly not outlandish?”

Taylor smiled, shook his head and nodded, as if to convey: Whatever you say.

As the website Law & Crime notes, Wednesday’s performance by Republican attorney Steve Castor was a “trainwreck” worthy of the intense derision it received on social media. As John Harris writes for Politico, the first day of public hearings was a “brutal day for the President.”

And this is only the beginning.

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