Welcome back to your desk. There’s a lot happening with the holiday season in our rear-view mirrors, so 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…
► Former National Security Adviser John Bolton announced today that he would agree to testify in front of the U.S. Senate on matters of impeachment if called as a witness. Aaron Blake of The Washington Post explains why this is such a big development:
Bolton is among the most potentially significant witnesses who have yet to testify about the Ukraine scandal. He was perhaps the highest-profile voice of dissent internally, objecting to the “drug deal” that he said Rudolph W. Giuliani was cooking up, according to testimony from Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser. Bolton’s attorney has also said that, as of early November, Bolton knew about “many relevant meetings” that hadn’t been testified to. Sources tell The Washington Post that the testimony would be damaging to Trump. [Pols emphasis]
It is not clear if the Senate will actually move forward with a true impeachment trial of President Trump that includes high-profile witnesses, but Bolton’s signal that he is open to testifying could open the door for him to be called as a witness in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Chris Cillizza of CNN says that Bolton’s statement today puts new pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
► The U.S. Senate is reconvening today after a couple weeks off, and the topic of an impeachment trial is still at the top of the to-do list. As Justin Wingerter reports for The Denver Post, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) remains as tight-lipped as ever:
Gardner’s every move is being closely watched as calendars flip to 2020, a year that will decide his political future. And in the Senate, where impeachment rules will require a simple majority vote, he can play the role of decider within the narrow Senate Republican majority. But he and his office have not answered questions about his impeachment preferences.
Gardner’s silence dates back months. His public appearances, never numerous in 2019, were rarer still this fall. He has avoided conservative talk radio, once a political safe space, along with most news media. His office agreed to arrange an interview with The Denver Post in Washington, D.C., during the House impeachment process, but later said he was unavailable and instead emailed a statement criticizing that process.
Asked last week whether Gardner believes Trump cabinet members should testify during the trial and whether he agrees with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to work in “total coordination” with the White House, Gardner’s spokeswoman sent the same statement, answering neither question. [Pols emphasis]
President Donald Trump dug in Sunday night on his threat to attack Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top military and intelligence officials.
Speaking aboard Air Force One on his return to Washington on Sunday from a holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump said: “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites. It doesn’t work that way.”
Trump was responding to backlash over the threat he made via Twitter on Saturday to attack 52 targets if Iran retaliates and his claim in a tweet that those targets would be “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” according to a pool report.
Asked about fears Iran might retaliate, the president told reporters: “If it happens, it happens. If they do anything, there will be major retaliation.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to introduce a war powers resolution in Congress intended to make sure that President Trump does not increase military hostilities with Iran without Congressional approval.
Colorado Public Radio queries Colorado’s Congressional delegation on the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Get even more smarter after the jump…
IN CASE YOU ARE STANDING NEAR A WATER COOLER…
► If President Trump wanted to pre-empt impeachment news with last week’s killing of a top Iranian official, it may have worked:
The Iran strike has decreased attention to impeachment in online news headlines: pic.twitter.com/LO3EH1aRtj
— G. Elliott Morris (@gelliottmorris) January 6, 2020
► As NBC News reports, another top military official is heading for the exit:
Eric Chewning, chief of staff to the secretary of defense, will leave the Defense Department at the end of the month, the Pentagon announced Monday. Chewning has worked for the department since October 2017 and been in his current role since January 2019, serving as chief for staff to acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and current Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
Chewning’s departure comes after a series of senior Pentagon officials announced their resignations in recent weeks. Randy Schriver, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs; Kari Bingen, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence; Jimmy Stewart, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness; and the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Steven Walker, all resigned in the final weeks of 2019.
► Democrat James Iacino announced that his campaign for Congress in CO-3 raised $288,896 in the final quarter of 2019. According to a press release, Iacino’s campaign says this is the largest fundraising quarter for any CO-3 Democrat in a non-election year.
► Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley), who moonlights as the State Republican Party Chairman (or vice-versa), says that the impeachment process demonstrates that “there really is a deep state.”
► The Grand Junction Sentinel reports on protests greeting employees of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as it opens its new headquarters in Grand Junction:
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt hit the ground running on the first working day of the new year Thursday.
Bernhardt, who grew up in Garfield County, arranged to have doughnuts and coffee provided to protesters who appeared Thursday morning outside 760 Horizon Drive as the Bureau of Land Management began operating out of its new national headquarters there.
Also that morning, he extended the appointment of the acting director of the BLM, William Perry Pendley, who was one major focus of the ire of the several dozen people who showed up Thursday to wave signs and voice their grievances with the media…
…Pendley was expected to arrive at the Grand Junction headquarters later Thursday and wasn’t available for comment. He has said that his past positions on public lands are irrelevant to his current job, in which he takes his orders from the Trump administration, which among other things opposes wholesale disposal of public lands.
It’s worth a reminder that Pendley himself has no plans to move to Colorado.
► Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is staffing up in Colorado
► The Denver Post previews the upcoming Colorado legislative session, which gets underway this week. Westword looks at the top items on the agenda for Democrats, who control both chambers of the state legislature.
► Denver police filed what is likely the first extreme risk protection order in Colorado since the legislature passed so-called “red flag” laws last spring. The case involved a man in a domestic violence situation who was making “suicidal” statements.
*There are SO many items that qualify for this section that we’re doing an expanded offering today.
► Check out our summary of the Top 10 political stories of 2019.
► The Colorado Sun did its own 2019 reflection and even considered the top political stories of the past decade.
► As The Colorado Independent reports, a search committee passed over more qualified and prominent candidates when seeking out a new President for the University of Colorado. It seems that one of the primary qualifications for the search committee was to find a candidate who was an active Republican.
► Colorado is likely to be the proud owner of a new congressional district in 2022.
► The Department of Interior is totally cool with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
► Democratic Presidential candidate Tom Steyer talked climate change and gun safety in a visit to Colorado.
► Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) has a massive new policy proposal as he continues his long shot bid at the Democratic Presidential nomination.
► Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) reflects on a busy first year in office.
► The Colorado Independent looks at the breakneck pace of judicial appointments coming from the Trump administration.
► Make sure you are familiar with all of the new laws on the books in Colorado.
► Get ready for 2020 with some bold predictions in the last 2019 episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast: