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TOP OF MIND TODAY…
► President Trump is making his swamp…swampier. Still basking in the orange glow of a Republican Senate cover-up for his impeachment crimes, Trump is taking out his anger on administration officials and staffers who dared speak the truth. As The Atlantic explains in a story titled, “The Crime of Doing the Right Thing“:
Trump managed to wait two days after his Senate acquittal before taking care of family business, as Michael Corleone would put it, with respect to those who had upset him in the Ukraine affair.
[On Friday] he removed from the National Security Council staff Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman—along with Vindman’s twin brother, who served as an NSC attorney, for good measure. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman had had the temerity to object to Trump’s “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and then committed the unforgivable sin of telling the truth about the matter when the House impeachment investigation sought his testimony. The brothers were, according to reports, escorted out of the White House complex…
…Trump also fired Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who had tried to play both sides—testifying in a fashion that upset Trump while being cagey at first and thus raising questions to House members about his candor. Sondland had managed to please nobody, and his presence on the scene at all was, in any event, a function of his large donation to the presidential inaugural committee. He had bought his way into service at the pleasure of the president and, having done so, proceeded to displease the president.
► After spending the end of last week bumbling and fumbling for a coherent message on why he voted to acquit President Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) threw some red meat around in an interview with “Fox & Friends.” Gardner needs these softball interviews, because he keeps bombing with local news reporters asking relevant questions.
► Voters in New Hampshire cast their ballots in Presidential Primary race on Tuesday; on the Democratic side of the ledger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders looks like the frontrunner.
Meanwhile, we finally found out who won the Iowa caucuses and associated delegates — well, mostly. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg won the most delegates, while Sanders appears to have won the popular vote. The Sanders campaign is indicating that it will ask for a remcanvass of votes in at least some districts; the current results would assign 14 delegates to Buttigieg and 12 delegates to Sanders. The New York Times breaks down how the Iowa caucuses went so awry for Democrats.
Here in Colorado, mail ballots for the Presidential Primary races will start going out this week; Jesse Paul of The Colorado Sun has more on what to expect in your mailbox.
► The Trump administration budget is rolling out its new budget proposal, which seeks to cut domestic spending on the backs of Americans relying on Medicaid and food stamps, while also slashing foreign aid by a considerable amount. Via Politico:
As with his previous budget proposals, Trump is once again seeking deep and unrealistic cuts to most federal agency budgets, according to the budget summary tables. The cuts are unlikely to be embraced by Congress.
For example, the administration is seeking an 8 percent cut to USDA’s budget over current funding levels. Trump’s plan would cut the Commerce Department by 37 percent, the Education Department by 8 percent, the Energy Department by 8 percent, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 15 percent, and the Department of Health and Human Services by 9 percent.
The administration is also seeking a 13 percent cut to the Interior Department, a 2 percent cut to the Justice Department, an 11 percent cut to the Labor Department, a nearly 21 percent cut to the State Department and a 13 percent cut to the Department of Transportation. The EPA’s budget would see a nearly 27 percent chop, the Army Corps of Engineers would see a 22 percent reduction and the Small Business Administration would see an 11 percent decrease.
As Greg Sargent writes for The Washington Post, this seems like an odd election-year strategy for Trump:
This new budget is being widely described as a blueprint for Trump’s argument for a second term. It’s actually a very good argument against a second term.
Get even more smarter after the jump…
IN CASE YOU ARE STANDING NEAR A WATER COOLER…
► Most of the Democratic Presidential candidates participated in a debate on Friday night in New Hampshire. Chris Cillizza of CNN doles out his “Winners and Losers” from the New Hampshire debate; here’s a different takeaway from The Washington Post.
Or, you could just watch the “cold open” from “Saturday Night Live”:
► Republicans in House District 38 (Arapahoe County) have their new “Champion”: His name is Richard.
► The editorial board of The Denver Post just wants everybody to get along.
► As Aaron Blake writes for The Washington Post, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham seems to be distancing himself from Trump (somewhat) now that impeachment is over:
Over the course of a lengthy conversation with “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan, Graham left open the possibility that Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, was being “played by the Russians.” He was also asked whether Trump knows that information from Ukraine could be Russian propaganda, and he could muster only, “I hope so.” And he indicated he is increasingly skeptical about allegations that originated in Ukraine and said the Judiciary Committee he chairs may not pursue them, after all.
The totality of it suggests that an influential senator has undergone a rather conveniently timed shift when it comes to Trump’s conspiracy theories about Ukraine. Now that the theories don’t need to be vouched for in the name of defending Trump, Graham appears to be distancing himself from them.
But don’t think Graham is trying to turn over an entirely new leaf: He also made sure to defend President Trump’s vengeful dismissal of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council.
► There’s new reason to believe that an ethics complaint targeting former Gov. John Hickenlooper is little more than a political hit being pushed from a national group hoping to hurt Hick’s chances in the 2020 U.S. Senate race.
► The Denver Post looks at how things have changed one year after Denver teachers went on strike:
The three-day strike also brought educators raises — an average of $9,000 a year, funded in part through job cuts in Denver Public Schools’ central office — that district officials credit for a noticeable uptick in teacher retention. Teachers attribute momentum from the strike for November’s changing of the guard on the Denver school board, shifting control from members backed by pro-reform organizations to candidates supported by the teachers union.
Now, one year after Denver’s first teacher strike in a quarter-century, many educators say the walkout was a step in the right direction for a district long criticized for its top-heavy administration and a convoluted pay system. Teachers watched their activism burgeon into change — the kind of change that impacts bank accounts and instills goodwill among colleagues and the community.
► Colorado Public Radio looks at the failed history of efforts to get rid of Daylight Saving Time.
► Governor Jared Polis seems to be more involved in the details of bills moving in the state legislature this year. Not all Democratic lawmakers are happy about this.
► Meg Wingerter of The Denver Post looks at a new “health care purchasing alliance” in Colorado.
Your Daily Dose Of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
► Wait, what?
As he waits for the State of the State to begin, Rep. Kent Calfee takes a swig of from his Hershey’s chocolate syrup bottle, as he often does during #tnleg session. Photo by @Tennessean’s @GeorgeWalkerIV. pic.twitter.com/TWPZ8yxbM9
— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) February 3, 2020
► More than 100 U.S. military personnel have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries in the aftermath of an Iranian missile strike in Iraq in January that President Trump continues to insist caused no injuries.