Stupid Facts Keep Messing Up O&G Talking Points

The fracking operation shown in this photo does not really exist. Probably.

Facts have a nasty habit of contradicting nonsense.

If you are someone like President Trump, you deal with the intractable fact problem by just ignoring the existence of true, provable information altogether; this approach got Trump a room at the White House, but it hasn’t been as effective since the 2016 election. Trump’s effusive display of non-factual information has nevertheless emboldened a number of politicians and right-wing sycophants eager to use their bullshit currency whenever possible.

During the 2019 Colorado legislative session, many Republicans shook their fists from the mountaintops about Senate Bill 181, an oil and gas regulation bill that opponents claimed would completely destroy the fossil fuel industry in Colorado and turn us all into a bunch of penniless fools destined to stumble around the Eastern Plains with empty gas cans. As it turned out, this was not even sorta true, but the mythology persists: Just last week a large number of fingers were again pointed at SB-181 amid news that energy giant Halliburton was laying off hundreds of workers (including 178 in Grand Junction). Halliburton itself blamed “local market conditions” resulting from low oil prices and a general surplus of oil and gas in the United States, but that didn’t stop right-wing voices in Colorado from yelling about SB-181.

As Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal reported last week, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) directed his ire at SB-181 during a Colorado Chamber of Commerce event in Denver:

On oil and gas regulations, Gardner swerved from federal policy to attack Senate Bill 181 — the Colorado law signed in April allowing local governments more control over drilling and requiring state officials to consider public health and safety above other factors in permitting decisions — saying that it is slowing the number of drilling-permit applications, which will lead to a loss of activity and loss of jobs in the coming years. He said he supports an “all of the above” policy of promoting both traditional and renewable energy; when pressed, he said his focus on renewables includes support for increased funding for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden but will not include any mandated percentage of national energy that should come from renewable sources.

“We should increase the percentage of fuel that is clean energy,” Gardner said. “But we should let the market work.” [Pols emphasis]

We highlighted that last part for reasons that will soon become obvious. As Greg Avery reports this afternoon for the Denver Business Journal, the market appears to be working just fine:

Jagged Peak Energy Inc., a Denver-based oil and gas company, is merging with a larger Texas company in a deal worth nearly $2.3 billion that consolidates operations in Texas’ Delaware Basin.

The deal, if it closes as expected early next year, will leave Denver with one less headquarters of a publicly-traded oil and gas company.

So…a Denver-based oil and gas company is merging with a larger Texas company not because of production problems in Colorado, but in order to consolidate operations in Texas.

We all know what’s happening here: Colorado SB-181 is now destroying the oil and gas industry in other states!


Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for President in 2020?

Who fills this spot in 2020?

What time is it? Poll time!

With the next Democratic Presidential debate coming up on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, it’s time again to ask the wise readers of Colorado Pols to predict the Democratic nominee for President in 2020. When we last asked this question in September, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were neck-and-neck at the top of the poll.

As always, we want to know what you think will happen here — not what you want to happen or who you personally might support. If you had to place a bet — right now — on the outcome of the Democratic Primary, where would you put your money? Who do you predict will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2020?

Click after the jump to cast your completely un-scientific vote…



At Least It’s Not Your Congressman (Ship Spotting Edition)

In Colorado politics, one of the seminal faux pas a candidate can commit is using a scenic photo of a mountain range that turns out to not be located in the state of Colorado. Various locations from Alaska’s Denali to the Canadian Rockies, not to mention a Utah canyonscape or two, have embarrassingly stood in for Colorado locales in ads and other literature–which understandably tends to punch holes in a candidate’s authenticity.

Well folks, here’s the nautical version of getting your mountains wrong, courtesy Florida GOP Rep. Brian Mast:

As the world continues to wrestle with the aftermath of what could be the most successful Russian intelligence operation against our country since the theft of the atomic bomb, it’s hard to imagine a more…tragicomic mistake from a Republican congressman.


Colorado Kurds Ask Their Neighbors (You) To Care

Denver7’s Ivan Rodriguez reports:

Members of Colorado’s Kurdish community gathered outside the state Capitol Sunday afternoon to protest Turkish attacks in Syria.

President Donald Trump ordered U.S. troops in northern Syria to step aside, clearing the way for an attack by Turkey, which regards the Kurds as terrorists…

Kani Murad said aside from being Kurdish, she believes this is a humanitarian issue and not political.

“No matter where you are, you should still care about those people, about those families who have been displaced,” she said. “People have lost family members, lost children, and don’t know what to do.”

In past years, Colorado politicos on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the Kurds well beyond the official American position. In 2014, then Rep.-now Gov. Jared Polis called for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan in a Denver Post op-ed:

In Iraq, the Kurdish people have been an immeasurably valuable ally to the United States, because we share common democratic values and general respect for human rights. For a long time, we shared a common enemy: the repressive dictatorship led by Saddam Hussein. Kurdish soldiers fought alongside American troops and our coalition partners during the first Gulf War, and the Kurds were the most actively pro-America voice in Iraq following our 2003 invasion. They have also been reliable opponents of the violence and extremism of al-Qaeda terrorist groups.

Though the United States has provided half-hearted support for Kurdish autonomy in Iraq, our foreign policy has often treated the Kurds as a political tool to weaken Iraqi groups we oppose, rather than as an ally with whom we have shared interests. After the Gulf War, the United States deliberately encouraged the Iraqi Kurds to rise up against Saddam Hussein in a bid for independence. Kurdish leaders were under the impression that the United States would provide support. We didn’t; the uprising failed; and more than 30,000 civilians were killed.

Although some Colorado Republicans including Sen. Cory Gardner have put out hand-wringing statements of “concern” about President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds in northern Syria and allow a Turkish military offensive to proceed, the situation on the ground is by all accounts rapidly deteriorating after Trump ordered the last of American forces out of the country–a decision announced just yesterday. The Kurds themselves are no strangers to being betrayed by the United States out of political expediency, but the sudden and inexplicable nature of this decision by Trump seems worse than previous episodes.

For members of Trump’s party like Sen. Gardner, his decision to abandon the Kurds to the Turkish Army is a political problem. For Colorado’s Kurdish population, it’s a death sentence for members of their families. It’s difficult for those of us who have lived our lives in peace and prosperity to fully comprehend what it’s like to live in a war zone where civilians are dying indiscriminately.

The message yesterday at the Colorado Capitol was that we Americans are not taking it seriously enough.


Is Cory Gardner Done?

JAMES CARVILLE: That poor guy, I don’t think he is vulnerable, I think he’s done. He ought to just drop out of the race.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

In the past 24 hours, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado has transitioned from merely the nation’s most vulnerable Republican Senator up for re-election in 2020 into a living metaphor for the Republican Party’s inability to hold President Donald Trump accountable as Trump’s chaotic presidency barrels toward catastrophe.

Gardner was not the only vulnerable Republican caught giving completely unsatisfactory answers to reporters about impeachment inquiry dominating national headlines, but Gardner’s evasive and increasingly hostile interaction with FOX 31’s Joe. St. George and 9NEWS’ Anusha Roy seems to have struck a nerve like few other moments in Gardner’s career. This was hardly Gardner’s first go-round trying to manage a bad Trump story, but after these two competing reporters tag-teamed to prevent Gardner from changing the subject his “torture to watch” evasions became the functional equivalent of pleading guilty. The Hill’s Jordain Carney captured the moment well:

When the reporter tried to follow up to ask again if Gardner thought it was appropriate, Gardner said that he had answered the question and turned to another reporter.

After the second reporter asked Gardner if his answer was “yes or no,” the GOP senator pivoted to talking about House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and told reporters they were focusing on politics…

The clip of the back-and-forth between Garner and reporters quickly garnered attention from national media, Gardner’s 2020 rivals and even Trump, who liked a tweet from a Bloomberg reporter weighing in on a video of Gardner’s comments. [Pols emphasis]

Given the extent of the backfire, perhaps Gardner’s performance was worse than pleading guilty.

One of the recurring comments we’ve seen in response to yesterday’s punishing back-and-forth is that it was an “uncharacteristic” reaction from a Senator who has established a reputation for staying composed no matter what he’s confronted with. But yesterday Gardner’s mask slipped, and in addition to getting visibly irritated in the clip now seen by the whole country he had this telling separate exchange with 9NEWS’ Anusha Roy:

Folks, that is not how a happy politician interacts with the press.

In 2014, Gardner powered through scrutiny of his record by audaciously re-inventing himself and successfully turning liabilities into sympathetic backlash against his “overly negative” opponent. Five years later, Gardner can’t count on any of that–and the “message discipline” that helped Gardner eke out his 1.9% win in 2014 is blowing up in Gardner’s face.

Cory Gardner has never faced anything quite like this before. In a way, this problem is worse than Gardner’s underwater poll numbers, since losing credibility with the media makes it much harder to recover lost support. And while we don’t expect Gardner to take James Carville’s advice today…the thought has to have crossed his mind by now.


Alice Madden Dropping Out of Senate Race

Today is Dropout Friday, apparently. Former House Majority Leader Alice Madden is ending her bid for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate:

Madden’s Senate candidacy was really just getting started by the time it became clear that Gov. John Hickenlooper would be entering the race. Hickenlooper’s overwhelming advantage in both name ID and fundraising made it hard for Madden to find a lane for her own campaign.


Crisanta Duran Ends Congressional Campaign

Rep. Diana DeGette (left) and Crisanta Duran

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, former State House Speaker Crisanta Duran is ending her bid to unseat Rep. Diana DeGette in Denver’s first congressional district:

Former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran on Friday dropped her Democratic primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, saying she believes she can “be more effective in pursuing transformational change through other means.”

Her withdrawal comes just over two weeks after the Denver attorney underwent emergency surgery for what Duran described in a Facebook post as an imminent ruptured appendix her doctor told her was potentially life-threatening.

As she was recovering, Duran posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed and said that she was “taking time to recover and reflecting on much,” adding that there was “More to come. …”

“I’ve always known that purpose is more important than one’s title,” Duran said in an email to supporters announcing that she was ending her campaign, adding: “Words cannot begin to express my gratitude to those who had the courage to support the campaign and demand bold and innovative leadership for the people of Congressional District 1.”

Health concerns aside, Duran’s exit from the race in CO-1 is not much of a surprise. The former Denver legislator has had trouble attracting much interest in her campaign, which failed to raise more than $100k in each of its first two fundraising periods, and there was no clear path for her heading into 2020. The incumbent DeGette took Duran’s candidacy seriously from the start and worked strategically to cut her off at every corner.

Hopefully Duran can use this time to focus on her health. We wish her well.


Ambassador Will Ignore Trump and Testify Before Congress

UPDATE: CNN reports on some eye-opening statements today from Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

The White House has been refusing to cooperate with Congress regarding impeachment investigations, but it appears that President Trump’s hands are not large enough to corral all of his underlings. As the Washington Post reports:

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a key figure in the Ukraine controversy, bucked the State Department on Friday and announced he would appear before House investigators under subpoena next week.

The State Department blocked Sondland from appearing before three panels last week as the White House informed Democratic leaders they had no intention of cooperating with the impeachment inquiry.

Lawmakers also are hearing closed-door testimony Friday from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from her post in May.

As NBC News reports, Sondland may have realized that he had better speak for himself on this matter:

Fiona Hill, who was until recently President Donald Trump’s top aide on Russia and Europe, plans to tell Congress that Rudy Giuliani and E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and the normal White House process to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine, a person familiar with her expected testimony told NBC News.

Hill’s appearance next week before Congress has stoked fear among people close to the president, said a former senior White House official, given her central role overseeing Russia and Ukraine policy throughout most of the Trump administration…

…Hill plans to say that Giuliani and Sondland side-stepped the proper process for accessing Trump on Ukraine issues, the person familiar with her expected testimony said, including circumventing John Bolton, who was Trump’s national security adviser until September.

It appears that there are plenty of people not named Cory Gardner who have no intention of going quietly under the bus for the Big Orange Guy.


Beginning Of The End? Gardner Implodes on Ukraine Questions

UPDATE #5: AP’s Nick Riccardi reports, Sen. Cory Gardner’s flop sweat is contagious:

On Thursday, two Republican senators — Joni Ernst of Iowa and Cory Gardner of Colorado — repeatedly refused to answer reporters’ questions on whether a president should make such a request of a rival power. “I don’t know that we have that information in front of us,” Ernst said in Iowa, even though the president made the request in front of cameras on the White House lawn.

In Denver, Gardner likewise wouldn’t answer reporters’ variations on the question 12 separate times before an appearance with the Colorado Chamber of Commerce. Like Ernst, he tried to punt to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the circumstances around Trump’s private call with Ukraine. “It’s an answer that you get from a very serious investigation,” Gardner told reporters when asked about the appropriateness of the president’s public comments…

Ernst and Gardner seemed to follow a pattern set by fellow Republican Arizona Sen. Martha McSally — also a top Democratic target next year. On Monday, McSally also wouldn’t answer whether the president can ask for overseas help, instead referring to the Senate Intelligence Committee probe and taking swipes at House Democrats.


UPDATE #4 (4:10 pm): Gentle readers, the loop of the Ouroboros is closed:

It would appear that Sen. Gardner is now well and truly playing to an audience of one.


UPDATE #3 (3:45 pm): The Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on Thursday repeatedly refused to say whether he thinks it’s appropriate for the president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival.

In two sometimes-tense scrums with groups of reporters before and after an event with the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, the normally upbeat Colorado Republican rejected questions, accused a reporter of being biased and then jostled his way out of a downtown Denver hotel. It was an uncharacteristic display of frustration. [Pols emphasis]

The Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter:

“This is a partisan exercise that ought to be about the seriousness of the moment,” he added. “I see that you guys are going to continue to drill this. I’ve given you my answer.”

Gardner met with reporters for more than five minutes at the Westin Denver Downtown, at times sounding exasperated by the repeated questions about impeachment. [Pols emphasis] He said more than once that it would be inappropriate for him to weigh in on impeachment before a full investigation has been conducted, even as he criticized the House’s impeachment inquiry.

Mark it down, folks. Today Cory Gardner’s political destiny took a big turn for the worse.


UPDATE #2 (3:40 pm): “Cory Gardner” is trending on Twitter at the moment — at #10 in the entire United States:


UPDATE: Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper twists the knife:


Senator Cory Gardner is going down with the ship.

It was only a matter of time before Sen. Cory Gardner was cornered by a reporter and forced to discuss a subject he’s been doing his level best to avoid–the fast-moving impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump over his manipulation of foreign aid to Ukraine in order to pressure that nation to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Gardner’s longstanding lip service to defending Ukraine against Russian aggression has made Gardner’s silence on the issue problematic to say the least–but if you’re hoping Gardner was finally ready directly to address the situation, KRDO-TV’s report from yesterday evening after Gardner spoke to them in Colorado Springs will disappoint:

Speaking of the President, we also asked Gardner for his thoughts on the impeachment inquiry. He said the probe feels one-sided, “I’m very concerned this has turned into a partisan circus right now.”

He says some Democrats have even admitted they need to impeach Trump now or face losing the 2020 election. “That is taking this into politics and using a constitutional weapon and that type of political circus doesn’t benefit anybody,” Gardner says.

And…that’s it. No acknowledgement of the seriousness of the allegations against President Donald Trump, or the condemnation of Trump from a growing number of fellow Republicans, or how Trump’s actions affect Gardner’s own stated foreign policy priorities. Nothing but evasion and finger-pointing. This morning at a Colorado Chamber of Commerce event in Denver, Gardner tried the same approach–but instead of getting away with it, Gardner was punished with two minutes of video that every Colorado voter needs to see:

The transcript is almost as brutal as watching the video:



Mike Pence is a Blubbering Idiot on Ukraine

You’re not getting away from this one, Mike

Vice President Mike Pence perhaps still holds out hope that something will prevent President Trump from completing his term in office and allow Pence to at least sit behind the Resolute Desk for a few days. Pence has been trying to lay low amid the latest scandals enveloping the White House, but he apparently hasn’t been spending that time practicing his answers to questions about Ukraine.

As the Washington Post reports, Pence needs some new talking points. STAT!:

…when pressed Wednesday on what he knew and when he knew it, Pence was extremely evasive — and conspicuously so.

Pence has previously said that his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in early September included no talk about investigating the Bidens, but that they did discuss the broader concept of “corruption.” A whistleblower has also alleged that Trump canceled Pence’s planned trip to Zelensky’s May inauguration and sent Energy Secretary Rick Perry instead — one of several indications that high-level meetings have been withheld for leverage.

So with that as the backdrop, NBC News’s Vaughn Hillyard did yeoman’s work Wednesday pressing Pence on the matter. But Pence declined to directly answer many of the questions he was asked. Most notably, he repeatedly declined to say whether he we even aware of Trump’s interest in getting Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. [Pols emphasis]

Biden? Hmmm…the name sounds vaguely familiar. No, no, I don’t know anybody named “Biden.”

Pence didn’t limit his gibberish to his NBC News interview. As CNN reports:

Vice President Mike Pence is defending President Donald Trump for asking the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden — even when faced with his past comments on foreign interference in US politics.

In Iowa on Wednesday, CNN’s Randi Kaye asked Pence if he stood by his comments during the 2016 election that foreign governments “cannot participate” in the US political process.

“Well, I do,” Pence replied. “I think that’s why President Trump is so concerned about a foreign interference in our election in Ukraine.” [Pols emphasis]

Speaking of pretending to be concerned about foreign interference in American elections, this is what Pence said back in 2016: “This is basic stuff. Foreign donors, and certainly foreign governments, cannot participate in the American political process.”


CNN political guru Chris Cillizza is baffled by Pence’s double-talk:

…this defense makes zero sense. Like, none. It’s totally clear that Trump was asking Zelensky for help in digging up dirt on the leading Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential race. He was not simply telling Zelensky that “our country had been through a lot, and then had a question about foreign interference in our 2016 election” as Pence described it. That is simply not accurate. [Pols emphasis]

Cillizza suggests that Pence remains a loyal soldier to Trump because he’ll need the Big Orange Guy to support his eventual campaign for President, but that seems like an odd bargain. By the time 2024 rolls around, Trump’s endorsement probably won’t be worth squat.


Halliburt-Oh No! Big Oil BS Explodes In Local GOP Faces

The last 24 hours have witnessed a remarkable turn of events that has played out mostly on social media, and resulted in considerable embarrassment for local Republicans and the fossil fuel energy industry PR people who they work closely with. The long battle this year over Senate Bill 19-181, landmark legislation reforming the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that passed this year, has been a story of hyperbole and engineered backlash slowly giving way to the reality of a law that, while reforming regulatory oversight of oil and gas drilling to prioritize public safety over “fostering” more oil and gas drilling, does not represent anything like the disaster for the industry Republicans and industry flacks like the Colorado Oil and Gas Association warned it would be.

Closing the gap between propaganda and reality over SB-181 was part of the reason why the spate of recall attempts mounted by the Colorado GOP in 2019 against various state legislators and Gov. Jared Polis fizzled–in marked contrast to the infamous 2013 recalls over gun safety legislation. As energy companies assured their investors that they were still able to operate under the new regulations and the swift destruction of the industry in Colorado failed to materialize, the outrage evaporated–and unlike the social wedge issues that have kept the far right frothing at the mouth, it’s the energy industry that has the money to actually retaliate if they wished to. And they don’t.

But despite all the news in recent weeks about the energy industry’s success adapting and prospering in the new regulatory environment of SB-181, energy services giant Halliburton announced this week the layoff of 650 employees in four states, including 178 in Grand Junction. The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb:

Company spokesperson Emily Mir said in an email Tuesday that the company “made reductions to its employee workforce in Grand Junction due to local market conditions. Making this decision was not easy, nor taken lightly, but unfortunately it was necessary as we work to align our operations to reduced customer activity.”

She said that across Halliburton’s Rockies region, which includes Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and North Dakota, about 650 employees were affected…

In July, the Houston Chronicle reported that Halliburton cut 8% of its North American workforce as it took fleets of hydraulic fracturing equipment out of the field due to a continued slump in demand for frack services due to low oil prices.

The extremely close relationship between the Colorado GOP and the oil and gas industry means that they regularly coordinate to achieve common goals. Sure enough, Colorado Republicans and energy PR flacks leapt on this story with a ferocity and quickness that strongly suggests they were coordinated. And of course, the acrimony was laid entirely at the feet of Gov. Polis and SB-181:

The hard push from local Republicans and their comms operatives to hype this story against the prevailing narrative on SB-181 shows how desperate they are to inflict political damage on Democrats ahead of the 2020 elections. 2019 is coming to a close for the Colorado GOP as a “lost year” of further weakness after their devastating losses in 2018, and they’re scrambling for any political leverage they can find in the wreckage.

But a funny thing happened after yesterday’s coordinated message offensive against SB-181: notwithstanding FOX 31’s Joe St. George who got duped again, local reporters pushed back just as hard on the GOP’s spin.



Squirrel! Gardner Tries (Poorly) to Draw Attention Elsewhere

Another gold star for Cory.

Earlier this week we wrote about Sen. Cory Gardner’s attempt to appear as though he is taking a very important position on a very obvious policy question regarding President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Gardner voiced his opposition to Trump’s move but hasn’t done much else of note; Turkey has since attacked U.S.-aligned Kurdish forces in Northern Syria, which means that U.S. allies that had been focused on fighting against ISIS are now instead worried about protecting their own families from the Turkish military.

Gardner’s comments about Syria were interesting mostly because he has said virtually nothing about other recent foreign policy problems created by President Trump’s distressing discussions with Ukraine and China. This is a pretty standard practice by Gardner when faced with pressure to comment on a distasteful situation involving his own political party; it is the equivalent of yelling “SQUIRREL!” and pointing behind someone so that you can run away when they turn their head.

Ol’ Cory is suddenly very excitable about how the National Basketball Association (NBA) may be dealing with free speech issues related to protests in Hong Kong (we’ll get to the hypocrisy of this response in a moment). He’s a bit mixed up about the facts, but Gardner nevertheless Tweeted about the issue yesterday and then followed up again this morning:

Surprise! Gardner’s manufactured angst isn’t supported by recent developments. As Jerry Brewer writes for the Washington Post, the NBA actually did the right thing in this situation, albeit belatedly:

In less than a week, the NBA has been stunned, soft, clumsy and redemptive in addressing a tweet sent by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey that supported pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

After the league initially expressed regret about Morey’s actions and left the impression of an apology, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has clarified the league’s position and refused to back down amid increased pressure from the Chinese government and businesses to make an example of Morey.

On Tuesday, Silver made it very clear that the NBA will not restrict the speech of its employees even if that decision may harm its economic interests in China:

It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues.  It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.

However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues.  We simply could not operate that way. [Pols emphasis]

Now, here’s where Gardner’s faux outrage gets particularly disgusting. As CNN reported last week, “President Trump promised Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US would remain quiet on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong while trade talks continued.” In other words, Trump did EXACTLY what Gardner is mistakenly berating the NBA for doing. From CNN:

The remarkable pledge to the Chinese leader is a dramatic departure from decades of US support for human rights in China and shows just how eager Trump is to strike a deal with Beijing as the trade war weighs on the US economy. [Pols emphasis]

And like other calls with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia and Saudi Arabia, records of Trump’s call with Xi were moved to a highly-classified, codeword-protected system, greatly limiting the number of administration officials who were aware of the conversation.

Trump’s commitment to China had immediate and far-reaching effects throughout the US government as the President’s message was sent far and wide.

And what was Gardner’s response about President Trump’s direct promise to China to not talk about protests in Hong Kong?

That’s right, Sen. Cory Gardner hasn’t said a damn thing about President Trump’s pledge to prevent U.S. officials from commenting on Hong Kong protests in order to curry favor with China.

“This is what communist dictators do, not the U.S.,” said Gardner in his Tweet today about the NBA — conveniently ignoring the fact that this is exactly what President Trump did just a few months ago. Gardner even traveled to New York City last weekend to headline a Trump re-election fundraiser, knowing full well what Trump had said to China’s President.

Unbelievable? Not if you know anything about Cory Gardner.


Get More Smarter on Wednesday (October 9)

The hashtag #RepublicanCampaignSlogans is trending on Twitter today. 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 Facebook and Twitter.


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is scaling back his Presidential campaign as he continues to recover from a heart attack suffered last week.


Turkey has begun a military offensive against American-allied Kurds in Syria, just days after President Trump announced a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region.


► Former Gov. John Hickenlooper announced on Tuesday that his campaign for U.S. Senate raised an astonishing $2.1 million in just five weeks.


► If you’re having trouble keeping up with the rapidly-changing news on impeachment proceedings against President Trump, we’ve got you covered with a new feature we’re calling “Just Impeachie.”


► Check out the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast and play the game that everybody is talking about (probably): “Duke or Donald?”

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


The NRA Comes Back To Bite Mike Coffman

A press release from national pro-gun safety Giffords PAC announces an unusual foray by the organization into a municipal race–that is, the mayoral race in Aurora, Colorado:

Giffords PAC announced a new $50,000 ad campaign supporting gun safety champion Omar Montgomery in the Aurora mayoral race against Mike Coffman, long in the pocket of the gun lobby. Launched today, “Mike Coffman: NRA’s Yes Man” contrasts the voting record of former National Rifle Association (NRA) A-rated Congressman Mike Coffman with Omar Montgomery, a gun violence survivor who is prepared to address this public safety threat.

“When the candidates for mayor of Aurora include a gun violence survivor with a strong commitment to his community and an NRA ally trying to claw his way back into power, voters must know the stakes,” said Joanna Belanger, political director at Giffords. “Coloradans kicked Mike Coffman out of Washington in 2018, yet he’s resurfaced to try a comeback in Aurora. We won’t stand for it, and we’re proud to support a strong leader like Omar Montgomery. As Election Day nears, these ads will send a clear message to voters that the choice for mayor is simple: a committed public servant who cares about the safety of his community, or a failed politician with NRA cash in the bank.”

…Former Congressman Mike Coffman is a longtime NRA ally who has staunchly refused to take any action to stop America’s gun violence epidemic. While in Congress, Coffman enthusiastically backed NRA-supported bills like concealed carry reciprocity, loosening restrictions on interstate gun sales, and a bill legitimizing hunting and shooting on federal lands. In 2018, Giffords PAC spent nearly $1.5 million in opposition to Coffman’s reelection.

Former Rep. Mike Coffman’s campaign for mayor of Aurora is built on his long, long record as an elected official going all the way back to his election to the Colorado House in 1988. Unfortunately for Coffman, his longstanding support for (and support from) the National Rifle Association (NRA) now works against Coffman in a city whose name has become synonymous with mass gun violence after the July 2012 shooting at the Aurora Town Center’s Century Theater. Coffman’s “A” rating from the NRA was more of a liability for Coffman in 2018 than ever before as opponent Jason Crow prosecuted the issue hard on the campaign trail–and contributed to the breakdown of ticket-splitting in Democratic-leaning CD-6 that had saved Coffman in previous years.

Coffman is considered a favorite to win the election for Mayor of Aurora, based heavily on his very high name ID. Given that Coffman has been in elected office for just about all of the past three decades, drawing a political paycheck is how he pays the bills. But if the mayoral race becomes a referendum on the larger national debate over gun safety, the same vulnerability that helped end Coffman’s congressional career could keep him from winning this race, too.


Wednesday Open Thread

“People like to say that the conflict is between good and evil. The real conflict is between truth and lies.”

–Don Miguel Ruiz


Just Impeachie: White House Puts Up Roadblocks

UPDATE: Here’s the letter sent to Congress by the White House in which the Trump administration explains that it will not cooperate with impeachment investigations.

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 in one location.

We’re tentatively calling this roundup “Just Impeachie.” Enjoy…


“The White House all but declared war on the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday,” writes the New York Times. President Trump is blocking Congressional testimony from a key witness, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland. As the Washington Post reports, Democrats will subpoena Sondland.


As the Washington Post reports, President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said Tuesday that he “can’t imagine” anyone from the Trump administration would appear before a Congressional panel looking into impeachment.


A new poll from NBC News/Wall Street Journal shows support for impeachment continues to rise. “Most Americans – including one in five Republicans – now back an impeachment inquiry or already believe Congress should remove President Donald Trump from office.” The Hill rounds up similar poll findings.


“Crazy,” “frightening,” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security.” That’s how a whistleblower described a phone call between President Trump and the President of Ukraine in late July. (New York Times)


As Politico reports, network news anchors are growing increasingly open with viewers about their trouble finding elected Republicans to come on their show as guests to discuss impeachment news.


Rep. Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, vows that Democrats will “get to the bottom” of Trump’s corruption and misconduct, “no matter how hard the president fights us.” (Washington Post)


As explains, some Congressional Democrats think White House stonewalling on impeachment proceedings will backfire and end up helping the House of Representatives in making its case for Trump’s removal from office.


Axios reports that President Trump is privately telling confidants that he is concerned that impeachment will stain his legacy. Up to this point, Trump has been doing a pretty good job staining his legacy all by himself.


The Get More Smarter Podcast: “Duke or Donald?”

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii discuss attempts to find Sen. Cory Gardner at a Trump fundraiser in New York City; the latest news in Impeachment-a-lago; whether or not Denver should elect its sheriff; and a look at the two initiatives on this November’s ballot.

More importantly, we introduce what is certain to become America’s favorite new game, “Duke or Donald?” (skip ahead to the 39:44 mark to play the game).

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. Thanks for listening!


Ben Engen Cashes In On Moribund Garcia Recall

GOP operative Ben Engen.

As readers know, all of the recall attempts initiated by Colorado Republicans in retaliation for last year’s landslide victories for Democrats in this state have fizzled except one: the recall petition due later this month against Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo, the immediate successor to ex-Sen. Angela Giron who was successfully recalled in the fall of 2013.

By all accounts, that ain’t happening again in 2019. Everything we’ve heard from Pueblo is that the signature drive against Garcia has flatlined much like the failed campaigns against Sens. Brittany Pettersen and Pete Lee, Gov. Jared Polis, and the particularly ill-fated recall attempt against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan–whose advocacy for gun safety legislation after his son was killed in the Aurora shooting made him an audacious but in the end self-injurious target for Colorado Republicans.

But as we learned with the failed but financially lucrative Recall Polis drive, success isn’t the only objective! Not when there’s cold hard cash to be made along the way by all those friendly and super “helpful” for-profit political consultants–consultants who get paid win or lose. And sure enough, in the Committee to Recall Leroy Garcia’s latest fundraising report, you’ll find big line-items for consultants:

Recall Garcia started the reporting period with $2,378 on hand, and reported $4,429 raised, $4,844 spent, with $1,962 cash remaining on hand. Given the pitiful amount of money we’re talking about here, it’s fascinating to see that the biggest expenditure, over $1,700, is for “fundraising consultants!” That suggests to us that the return on investment was…rather poor.

But at least as interesting to us is the $1,200 paid to Ben Engen of Constellation Political Strategies, the young Republican operative who became infamous as the “Johnny Appleseed of recalls” after a video surfaced of Engen very frankly admitting to a GOP audience that recalls were about a “re-weighting of the electorate”–giving Republicans the chance to sneak otherwise unobtainable wins via a recall “that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides” Democrats.

In the end, it’s Republicans who got burned by “recall season.” But for the for-profit side of Republican politics, the checks still cashed. And that’s all that matters.


Hickenlooper Raises $2.1 Million…In Five Weeks

Hickenlooper raised WHAT???

Democrat John Hickenlooper announced today that his campaign for U.S. Senate raised $2.1 million in just five weeks since first entering the race in late August, a ridiculous sum of money that cements his place as the Democratic frontrunner in 2020.

As the Colorado Sun reports:

The Hickenlooper campaign told The Colorado Sun that 95% of the contributions from his announcement Aug. 22 through the Sept. 30 deadline were $200 or less and spanned 59 of Colorado’s 64 counties. He ended the quarter with $1.7 million in the bank.

“Each and every person who chipped in recognizes that Colorado needs a new independent voice, a senator who reflects our values and will work to bring people together and get things done on issues that matter to Coloradans — like expanding access and controlling costs for health care, and tackling climate change head on,” Hickenlooper said in a campaign statement.

The Sun reports that Hickenlooper’s total “falls short” of the $2.45 million raised by incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in Q3, but Gardner had seven more weeks in which to collect checks for his campaign. Hickenlooper’s hot start is a record haul for a non-incumbent Senate candidate in Colorado (see chart below).

Hickenlooper’s campaign has more cash on hand ($1.7 million) than the rest of the field of Democratic Senate candidates in Colorado combined. That total does not include any leftover funds from Hickenlooper’s campaign for President.


The Impenetrable Trump Base Might Be a Myth

TUESDAY UPDATE: As the Washington Post reports, another new batch of polling numbers look grim for President Trump:

A new Washington Post-Schar School poll shows support for an impeachment inquiry rising to a new high after Democrats formally launched one. The 58 percent who support the inquiry is higher than in any other poll; the 38 percent who oppose it suggests only Trump’s most devoted base is now opposed.

But even that isn’t quite accurate — because it shows some of Trump’s base does support the inquiry and even his removal.

In fact, 28 percent of Republicans support the impeachment inquiry, and 18 percent say they support removing Trump from office, according to the poll. [Pols emphasis] The rise in GOP support for the impeachment inquiry in the poll is commensurate with the rise in support among other groups, according to The Post’s Dan Balz and Scott Clement.


Somewhat realistic

Elected Republicans won’t abandon President Trump because they are afraid of his base of voter support.

This has long been the rationale behind the (largely) unwavering support Trump enjoys from Republican elected officials such as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). It is a statement that we all “know” to be true primarily because everybody — including President Trump — repeats it so often.

But what if this isn’t true? Much like the Yeti, perhaps Trump’s base is both mostly white and largely fictional. This is the argument made by E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post over the weekend, and it’s a compelling proposition:

Polls conducted throughout Trump’s presidency show that his critics feel far more strongly about their opposition to him than his defenders feel about their support. [Pols emphasis] The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, found that only 24 percent of registered voters strongly approved of Trump’s performance, while 44 percent strongly disapproved. Significantly, 74 percent of Democratic registered voters strongly disapproved of Trump, but only 50 percent of Republican registered voters strongly approved of him. Which base would you rather have going into this fight — and into 2020?

The 24 percent are the folks you see at the Trump rallies. Trump’s more tepid approvers (17 percent of registered voters in this survey) tend to stay home, take in the news and ask questions about what’s going on.

The big gap between strong approvers and strong disapprovers was very predictive of the 2018 election turnout that gave Democrats control of the House. Those elections showed that many who voted for Trump in 2016 were prepared to vote for Democrats two years later. This was a telling sign that a sizable share of Trump’s voters are not lockstep apologists.

Dionne notes further polling data in recent months showing that Trump’s approval ratings, which are generally not very good, are not accompanied by the unbreakable levels of support that the President believes to exist. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last month before the “transcript” of Trump’s Ukraine call was released, “only 30 percent said they had “very positive” feelings toward him, and only 25 percent said they both liked Trump personally and approved of most of his policies.”

We can see some of this disconnect in Colorado in the repeated failure by Republicans to recall Democratic elected officials in 2019. There is no question that there are a number of Colorado Republicans who are very unhappy with Democrats and more than willing to voice that disapproval whenever possible (mostly on Facebook and in the comments section of the Denver Post). It also appears that there are not nearly enough of these right-wing diehards to enact a successful recall campaign anywhere in the state. This is similar to the voter intensity argument that Dionne makes in the Washington Post:

In fact, a lot of Trump’s one-time supporters do not believe everything they hear from him or Fox News. A fair number of them don’t like him very much…

…Those advancing the case for impeachment believe that, whether the Senate removes Trump from office or not, it’s important to make clear how corrupt and dangerous his behavior has been. More Trump voters are listening to these arguments than their pretend-friends want us to believe. [Pols emphasis]

Republican Senators are indeed beginning to back away from President Trump. It’s too late for sycophants like Gardner to find an exit now — not when Gardner has pushed all of his chips over to Trump — but the door is still ajar for the likes of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and others who haven’t completely sold out to the Big Orange Guy.

If we see elected Republicans leaping off of the Trump bandwagon in the coming weeks, it won’t be out of any sort of moral concern. It will instead be a reflection of a massive miscalculation by Republicans about the foundation of Trump’s support.