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TOP OF MIND TODAY…
►As Jennifer Rubin writes for The Washington Post, President Trump is turning the Justice Department into his own political hit squad — with little sign that Senate Republicans will do anything to rein him in:
President Trump, empowered by acquittal in his impeachment trial and allowed free rein by his Republican Senate allies, has waged a war of vengeance and retribution against those who declined to enable his impeachable conduct. Now he has taken a club to the Justice Department.
The Post reports on the four prosecutors who refused to go along with their boss’s directive to reduce the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone following Trump’s tweet criticizing the seven- to nine-year sentence recommendation…
…Aside from the Saturday night massacre, we have never seen multiple Justice Department lawyers resign to protest a presidential abuse of power.
Just as Trump tried to engage a foreign government to announce an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and ordered up a probe of Hillary Clinton (which came to nothing), this is an egregious perversion of the rule of law. The president, like a tin-pot dictator, now uses the Justice Department to shield his criminal cronies, putting his finger on the scale in a way no other president has done in the modern era.
Meanwhile, CNN Congressional reporter Manu Raju approached Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) for comment on Wednesday. This was Gardner’s response:
“I’m sorry…miss my vote.”
As such, Rubin finishes her Washington Post column with an appropriate hammer:
Coming on the evening of the New Hampshire primary, the latest crisis should remind us of the stakes in 2020 and the necessity that Democrats nominate someone who can beat Trump and stop our slide into authoritarianism. It should also remind us that without the cowardice of Republican senators including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and others, Trump would not be lighting a fire to the Justice Department and the Constitution. Voters must remember this come November. [Pols emphasis]
► Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will visit Denver this weekend as he campaigns for the Democratic Presidential nomination, but he won’t be the only top candidate coming through our state. From Jon Murray at The Denver Post:
Sanders, the progressive U.S. senator from Vermont who won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, has set a rally for 6 p.m. Sunday in Denver, inside the Colorado Convention Center’s Exhibition Halls C and D. Doors open at 4 p.m., the campaign says, and the event is open to the public but an RSVP is encouraged via Sanders’ website. (The location was changed to a larger venue from the convention center’s Bellco Theatre, which has a seating capacity of 5,000, due to high demand.)
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, placed a close second Tuesday and narrowly beat Sanders in Iowa last week. He will have a town hall in Aurora at 7 p.m. Feb. 22, according to a campaign event page. The location will be revealed closer to that date, but supporters are encouraged to RSVP on his website…
…Sanders has had a small staff in Colorado for months, and Buttigieg’s campaign, hoping to capitalize on its all-volunteer effort here so far, is expected to announce the hiring of its first three staffers in Colorado on Thursday. Buttigieg’s lead staffer here will be Ken Gonzalez, who has shifted from organizing duties in Iowa, a campaign spokesperson said.
Biden, the former vice president, is scheduled to visit Denver on Monday for a private fundraiser hosted by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. He is alone among the major candidates in not having had a large public event in Colorado so far this campaign, though he has been sending surrogates.
► It’s “Hate Week” at the State Capitol. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett explains how that moniker applies to what GOP lawmakers are attempting in the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast:
Get even more smarter after the jump…
IN CASE YOU ARE STANDING NEAR A WATER COOLER…
► Jesse Paul of The Colorado Sun also looks at some of the “Hate Week” legislation being pushed by Republican lawmakers:
None of the bills will advance in the Democratic-led General Assembly, and if anything, the measures are sowing an ideological divide within the Republican Party. They’re also opening an avenue of attack for Democrats, who are using the legislation to angle for votes in November. Progressive lawmakers and groups are planning a rally on Thursday to blast the measures and support the LGBTQ community.
“This slate of hateful, bigoted anti-LGBTQ bills show exactly what the GOP would do if they had a majority: use their power to attack trans youth, loving couples hoping to adopt, and children,” read a tweet this week from the House Democrat caucus, which is led by House Speaker KC Becker of Boulder.
The measures are primarily being run and sponsored by three lawmakers: Republican Reps. Shane Sandridge of Colorado Springs, Dave Williams of Colorado Springs and Steve Humphrey of Severance. The lawmakers defended the legislation. [Pols emphasis]
“I think this is one of many bills about protecting our traditional values,” Sandridge said of House Bill 1272, which limits marriage to being between a man and a woman. “When we look at traditional family or traditional way of life — the way of life that our family was really formed on — this bill is one of many that pushes back and says ‘we’re getting a little too extreme.’”
“Getting a little too extreme” is the right phrase — just in the wrong context.
► Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is being haunted by “stop and frisk” comments he made at the Aspen Institute in Colorado in 2015.
► Make bullying great again! From The Washington Post:
Since Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as 6 mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them. [Pols emphasis]
Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black or Muslim, according to the analysis. Students have also been victimized because they support the president — more than 45 times during the same period.
Although many hateful episodes garnered coverage just after the election, The Post found that Trump-connected persecution of children has never stopped. Even without the huge total from November 2016, an average of nearly two incidents per school week have been publicly reported over the past four years. Still, because so much of the bullying never appears in the news, The Post’s figure represents a small fraction of the actual total. It also doesn’t include the thousands of slurs, swastikas and racial epithets that aren’t directly linked to Trump but that the president’s detractors argue his behavior has exacerbated.
► State Senate District 19 (Arvada/Westminster) has been perhaps the most competitive State Senate seat in Colorado over the last decade. But as Republican polling firm Magellan Strategies explains, Democrats may own this district now.
► Republicans in Georgia are worried about a nasty Primary campaign in the battle for a key U.S. Senate seat. From CNN:
Republican Rep. Doug Collins’ Senate campaign in Georgia has prompted a raging intraparty fight leading to the departure of some of his top political advisers and recriminations with the Senate GOP’s main campaign arm.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is accusing Collins of running against Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican incumbent appointed by the governor, out of his own “selfish” interests — while raising alarms that the bid has jeopardized the party’s chances to hold onto two GOP seats and made it harder for President Donald Trump to carry the Peach State in the fall.
The spat has squeezed Trump between Senate GOP leaders who have closed ranks behind Loeffler and Collins’ allies who argue that the Georgia congressman helped lead the fight against the President’s impeachment in the House and would be a loyal warrior for Trump in the Senate…
…The internecine warfare has GOP leaders increasingly worried that the Georgia race is one of their two biggest vulnerabilities as they seek to hang onto the Senate majority in the fall, according to multiple officials. The other is a Republican primary for a US Senate seat in Kansas featuring the divisive conservative Kris Kobach.
► Former Gov. John Hickenlooper picked up a huge endorsement as he campaigns for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in Colorado:
.@Hickenlooper has fought tirelessly on behalf of all Coloradans. Now we need him in the Senate to continue working for policies to better the lives of women and families throughout the country. #COSen pic.twitter.com/Pqq9dpwvwj
— NARAL (@NARAL) February 13, 2020
► The Colorado Independent reports on a massive new wilderness bill that made it through the U.S. House of Representatives despite Republican opposition:
U.S. House Democrats approved legislation Wednesday that would place permanent wilderness protections on more than 660,000 acres of land in Colorado.
The bill would be the largest wilderness designation in Colorado in a generation, according to its champion, Rep. Diana DeGette (D). The House voted 231-183 to approve the “Protecting America’s Wilderness Act,” which combines the Colorado wilderness designations with five other bills covering lands in California and Washington.
Altogether, the legislation would add 1.3 million acres of wilderness across the West and more than 1,000 river miles into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. In Colorado, the designated area covers 36 unique locations that combined are more than twice the size of Rocky Mountain National Park. They include land in the Handies Peak, Dolores River Canyon and Little Book Cliffs.
All three Republicans in Colorado’s Congressional delegation voted “NO” on the legislation.
► Colorado Republican lawmakers are opposing a bill that would make it easier for girls in public schools to get access to menstrual hygiene products because…um…well…
► As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel, Colorado lawmakers are working on several bills aimed at reducing the high cost of prescription drugs:
One, House Bill 1050, would allow certain medical operations, such as hospices and ambulatory surgical centers, to sell unused drugs to each other, much as pharmacies and hospitals are already allowed to do…
…Another measure that cleared the House last week and awaits Senate action targets certain fees that pharmacies must pay to remain in insurance networks. Those fees are assessed by pharmacy benefit managers, known as PBMs, that insurers hire to negotiate what they will pay for specific medications. The fees are designed to help them recoup savings from drug discounts that manufacturers sometimes offer.
But pharmacies, particularly independent ones that operate in rural areas, don’t know what those fees will be until months later. They can amount to thousands of dollars, putting their businesses at risk.
Two more bills aimed at reducing prescription drug costs are being introduced in a Senate committee this week.
Your Daily Dose Of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
► Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is backing away from a prior pledge to make his medical records available to the media.
► Antarctica saw record high temperatures — for the second time this week. The high temperature in one region of Antartica almost hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
► If history is any guide, former Vice President Joe Biden is in deep trouble in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
► As the Colorado Independent explains, three companies are responsible for the vast majority of missing oil and gas production reports in Colorado — which in turn reduces the amount of severance taxes that should be paid to the state. Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore LP, Noble Energy Inc., and Bonanza Creek Energy Operating Company, LLC are the three biggest culprits.