Gardner Sets “High” Bar For Releasing Justice Nominees

Learning about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind the Obama-era protections at the Justice Department that allowed individual states to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, Sen. Cory Gardner flew into a rage from the well of the U.S. Senate last week–threatening in explicit terms to hold up every nominee for the Department of Justice unless the Cole Memorandum is reinstated as the operative guidance for U.S. Attorneys on marijuana prosecutions.

We think.

The specifics of what Gardner are said are very important, since he is reportedly meeting with Sessions tomorrow to discuss the situation. After which, depending on how that meeting goes, Gardner will either lift his hold on Justice Department nominees or allow them to stand pending Sessions reconsidering his position.


GARDNER: I agree with President Trump, that this decision should be left up to the people of Colorado and othere states. And I call on Attorney General Sessions to explain to me why President Trump was wrong in 2016 and what changed their minds. And that they reverse their decision to withdraw and rescind the Cole memorandum. And that they reimplement and reinstate the Cole memorandum. [Pols emphasis] And until that happens, I think I am obligated by the people of Colorado to take all steps necessary to protect the state of Colorado. And their rights.

And that’s why I will be putting today a hold on every single nomination from the Department of Justice. Until Attorney General Jeff Sessions lives up to the commitment that he made to me in my confirmation–my pre-confirmation meeting with him, the conversation we had that was specifically about this issue of state’s rights and Colorado. Until he lives up to that commitment, I will be holding all nominations to the Department of Justice. The people of Colorado deserve answers. The people of Colorado deserve their will to be respected.

Madam chair–Madam President–I yield the floor and not the absence of a quorum.

Now, you can read this statement as Gardner laying out very precisely what Sessions needs to do to see Gardner’s nominee holds released: reinstating the Cole memo. The only problem is that Gardner, being an infamously crafty crafter of weaselly statements, separated his specific comments about the Cole memo from his announcement that he will hold up Justice Department nominees. You could, in a strained but literal reading, see Gardner only promising to maintain the holds until Sessions lives up to some unspecified “commitment.” Was that commitment specifically to preserve the Cole memo?

It all gets kind of, you know, weaselly.

The reason we’re asking these specific questions is simple: the chances that Sessions will actually reverse course and reimplement the Cole memo after meeting with Gardner seem very slim, but the odds that Gardner will come out of his meeting with Sessions tomorrow with those holds intact are even slimmer. Much like Rep. Mike Coffman’s abortive threat to force a vote on protections for undocumented students last summer, the most likely outcome here is, after receiving lavish praise for “standing up” to the Trump administration, Gardner folds without actually accomplishing anything.

And if that’s what happens, those who issued said lavish praise should do a follow-up.

4 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Zappatero says:

    He’ll easily win re-election if he holds to this. 

    • ajb says:

      For the toothless act of not-really-punishing an office the President hates? I don't think so. 

      The only act that Gardner should be talking about is introducing legislation to reclass or legalize weed. 

  2. allyncooper says:

    The only act that Gardner should be talking about is introducing legislation to reclass or legalize weed. 


    Rising above the controversy of verbal assurances given or memorandums, the final disposition of this issue must be rooted in the rule of law. Federal and State of Colorado law (as well as an increasingly number of other states) are in conflict.  The arbitrary and capricious application of policy dependent on whoever is in a position of authority and personal opinion is not acceptable. I addition the uncertain legal status creates problems for a business that commits capital and other resources to develop that business.

    As the anti-war activist William Sloan Coffin once said, you cannot put the freeze on history. Reclassification and repeal of prohibition on the Federal level is necessary to resolve this issue under the rule of law.

  3. JohnInDenver says:

    Well, I hope there was good coffee and snacks, at least. Southern hospitality should have been honored.

    Denver Post / Denver7 report says

    “I think the meeting kind of went as I expected it to,” Gardner, R-Colo., told Denver7. “I shared my states’ rights position with Attorney General Sessions, and he shared his concern about the Cole Memorandum and why he rescinded it.”

    Because Sessions isn’t backing down, Gardner said, he plans to pursue a legislative fix, either through a stand-alone measure or an amendment to bigger bill."

    Various legislative approaches are being considered. If Gardner truly signs on and uses any influence he may still have, there could be a bi-partisan semi-solution in the relatively near future.

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