Cory Gardner (Literally) Runs Away from Abortion Question

Republican lawmakers in Alabama this week passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country as part of an effort to ultimately force the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade. For obvious reasons, Alabama’s new law has thus been one of the biggest political topics of the week and will likely continue to dominate conversations for months to come. For equally obvious reasons, political reporters have been asking elected officials at all levels of government for comment.

As The Hill newspaper reports, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) doesn’t want to talk about it:

Other Republicans facing tough reelection races in 2020 dodged questions on the Alabama law.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), when approached, said he was late to a meeting and referred questions to his office. Aides to Gardner did not respond to a request for comment. [Pols emphasis]

A United States Senator refusing to answer a question about one of the most significant political questions of the 2020 election cycle is not normal. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Republican incumbents seeking re-election in 2020. Like Gardner, Collins will be running in a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton carried in 2016; unlike Gardner, Collins is actually willing to provide her opinion when asked. Again, from The Hill:

“I’m very much opposed to the Alabama law,” Collins told The Hill. “I think it’s completely inconsistent with Roe v. Wade and will lead to a virtual ban on abortions in Alabama, even for victims of incest and rape.”

“I can’t imagine that any justice could find that to be consistent with the previous precedence,” she told CNN in a separate interview.

When the Denver Post made its stunning decision in March to un-endorse Gardner in a harsh editorial, it had a lot to do with exactly this kind of behavior from Colorado’s junior Senator. At the time, Gardner had just completed a full 180-degree flip on the subject of President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for border wall funding. None of this is new territory for Gardner — his duplicitous nature has merely become impossible to ignore over the years. This is the same Cory Gardner who told Fox 31’s Eli Stokols prior to the 2014 election that “there is no federal personhood bill,” when, in fact, there absolutely was a federal personhood bill (and Gardner was even a co-sponsor in Congress).

Perhaps the most instructive way to consider Gardner’s non-comment on the Alabama abortion law is to look back at that same Fox 31 News interview from September 2014. Here is how Gardner responded to a question about then-Sen. Mark Udall focusing on Gardner’s ever shifting position on abortion:

“This is a political campaign and he is trying to do everything he can to change the subject, to run away.”

This is Cory Gardner.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 17)

Go forth and make us proud, graduates. It’s time “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 a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Supporters of President Trump would love for you to believe that the investigation into Trump’s campaign and potential collusion/obstruction involving contacts with Russia should be classified “case closed.” The reality is much more complicated, as the Washington Post reports:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election…

…Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.

Chris Cillizza of CNN lays out one big lesson from this news:

At nearly every turn of the probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election, President Donald Trump was working to make sure Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, knew that the White House was on his side — and that the President himself thought Flynn was a good guy.

Now we seem to know why.

Trump was worried — and it turns out, rightly — that Flynn knew things that would be problematic for the President as it related to Russia. And that if Flynn cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — as he eventually did — it would have negative consequences for the administration. Court records released Thursday night revealed previously unknown details of Flynn’s cooperation.

 

Recall fever in Colorado is exposing some significant bad blood between Republicans and the “no compromises” gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is working hard on trying to brand himself as a supporter of LGBTQ rights. The organization “One Colorado” isn’t buying it.

 

Colorado’s outdoor industry is bracing for massive financial hits because of President Trump’s trade war with China; one local retailer says that “people will be shocked” at the extent of necessary price increases. Colorado’s economy in general is not well-positioned to withstand heavy losses from rising tariffs.

Meanwhile, a proposed aid package for American farmers harmed by Trump’s trade war could reach $20 billion.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Sullivan Recall Implosion: Whining About RMGO Is Not Enough

Cory Gardner with Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

The week’s political news in Colorado has been dominated by the approval of petitions to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, a campaign kicked off by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party Kristi Burton Brown with support from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s family political consulting operation. As most of our readers know, Tom Sullivan’s son Alex was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, which led to Tom’s run for office on an unapologetic platform of enacting gun safety legislation.

The announcement of the recall against Sullivan has been met with severe and in some notable cases bipartisan backlash, with Democrats morally outraged by the threat to Sullivan for keeping his most sacred campaign promise and some moderate Republicans fearfully warning that the attempt will backfire with the voting public in HD-37–cementing Democratic control of a winnable swing seat for Republicans, and sideswiping the credibility of attempts to recall lawmakers in other parts of the state.

In a Denver Post column today, conservative writer Krista Kafer sums up the desired frame for Republicans who see the danger of going ahead with the recall of Rep. Sullivan, laying 100% of the blame for the situation at the feet of RMGO–to the exclusion of “Republicans” Kafer calls on to stand up to RMGO as though they are a distinct entity:

It is not enough to condemn behind closed doors RMGO’s depraved behavior, as many do. The GOP needs to openly rebuke these tactics and to act to ensure they fail. I am calling on my fellow Republicans and fellow gun owners to refuse to sign the recall petition against Rep. Tom Sullivan and to vote against the measure should it come to that.

There will be opportunity in the 2020 election to hold this legislature accountable for its actions. The legislature passed several pieces of legislation that are antithetical to economic prosperity, personal freedom, and constitutional rights. Ideas have consequences and the cost of these harmful laws will be evident over time. Republicans can make a strong case that new leadership is warranted. If, however, Republicans do not oppose the morally corrupt tactics of RMGO, we will not deserve to make a comeback.

Since news of the Sullivan recall broke early this week, there’s been a consistent effort by Republicans who don’t support it to insulate the Colorado Republican Party as a whole from the recall effort. The problem with this, of course, is that the recall was filed by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party. With the party making no attempt to distance themselves from the actions of Colorado GOP’s vice chair, no one else should either.

But even that’s not the full picture: over many years and accelerating after the 2013 recall elections, RMGO has worked successfully to install their favored candidates by winning Republican primaries. That reshaping of the Republican caucus is a major reason why close RMGO ally Patrick Neville was able hold on to his minority leadership position even after 2018’s devastating losses and allegations of mismanagement.

Whether it’s a genuine moral objection as is plainly the case from Rep. Sullivan’s Republican predecessor Rep. Cole Wist, who admits now that he was “in denial” of the extent of RMGO’s control of the Colorado Republican Party, or simple lucidity of the destructive political consequences of recalling the father of an Aurora shooting victim over gun safety legislation, the bottom line is the same: the problem is bigger than Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In fact, vilifying RMGO while the party they effectively control carries out RMGO’s agenda makes everyone who engages in that diversion culpable.

And until the “civil” Republican talking heads accept that, Kafer is right: they don’t deserve a comeback.

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Former Rep. Cole Wist Blasts RMGO, Recalls in New Op-Ed

Former Republican State Rep. Cole Wist is fed up with right-wing recall madness.

Earlier this week, former Republican Rep. Cole Wist raised eyebrows with a direct and thorough rebuke of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) and their latest recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora). What makes this particularly noteworthy is that Wist was defeated by Sullivan in the 2018 election cycle, in part because RMGO went after him for his 2018 support of “red flag” legislation.

In an Op-Ed published today by The Colorado Sun, Wist elaborates on his social media comments from earlier in the week and goes into greater detail about the recall grift that we have regularly discussed in this space:

Too many in politics are in it for their own personal gain, not any actual desire to affect policy or make life better for our communities

Take my experience as an example. I sponsored a bill that was opposed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a group whose stated purpose is to advocate for gun rights. They didn’t like my bill, so they raised money to attack me and littered my district with nasty fliers hoping to elect my Democratic opponent, Tom Sullivan, who is an outspoken supporter of sweeping gun control.

Why would a group that says it’s about gun rights help elect a gun control supporter? Well, so they can raise more money. And that’s just what they are doing now. They are trying to recall Tom Sullivan, whom they helped elect, so they can raise more money. [Pols emphasis]

Since the 2018 election, it seems there has been a steady drumbeat for recall elections. What’s behind recall fever? Yes, many voters are frustrated with sweeping legislation passed by the legislature this year on a number of fronts, but for many trying to instigate these recalls, it’s mostly about money and feeding the political election machine.

Wist later makes it clear that while he disagrees with Sullivan’s politics, he doesn’t dispute what happened in November:

I disagree with Rep. Sullivan on a number of policies. And, I am opposed to numerous pieces of legislation that he voted for this last session. However, Rep. Sullivan won the election, and I lost. He ran on gun control and then pursued it.

Recall enthusiasts are still pushing their nonsense rhetoric, of course, as Nic Garcia reports for the Denver Post:

Yet, according to the Republicans behind the recall, Sullivan duped voters.

When I pushed Kristi Brown – the state GOP’s vice chair and leader of the charge to recall Sullivan – on this logic, she acknowledged Sullivan’s track record as a gun control activist. But she added that the legislation he sponsored went further than a previous version of the bill. She added that his votes on sex ed and oil and gas reform were part of the “overreach.”

RMGO leader Dudley Brown

One of the major problems with this, um, logic is that RMGO’s Dudley Brown already blew it up in an interview with RealVail.com last week:

REAL VAIL: Some sheriffs and prosecutors who supported red flag last year, including Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek, switched sides this year and opposed it. Why do you think that is? Did the bill change that much from 2018 to 2019?

BROWN: Nope, I don’t think they were that different, last year and this year’s bill. [Pols emphasis] I don’t think it was different enough to warrant some massive swing. It’s just this year sheriffs are able to read the tea leaves and that their constituents are now understanding what the concept of red flag is. And now they’re realizing that they’re going to face a big backlash from their constituents if they’re forced to carry out these, quote, protection orders. They don’t want to do it.

It’s tough to claim that the Sullivan recall is about “overreach” when one of the recall leaders admits that the “red flag” legislation that so angers them wasn’t much different than a similar bill in 2018. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of the meaning of the word “overreach.”

Efforts to recall Democratic lawmakers in Colorado are about two things, and two things only: 1) Making money for Republican consultants, and 2) trying to find a back door for Republicans to capture seats that they can’t otherwise win in a regular election. Every other rationale is just another way to justify one of the first two reasons.

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James O’Keefe: Back and Promising Fresh Local Shenanigans

We wrote last week about the most recent “Lincoln Day” dinner hosted by the Pueblo County Republicans, featuring newly-minted “CEO” of the Colorado Republican Party Steve House saying too much about the real purpose of threatened recalls against Democratic state lawmakers–a fresh angle from which to combat the GOP’s trend of losses in Colorado elections, which threatens to relegate their party to long-term minority status.

That was significant, but we also wanted to make sure readers were aware of the keynote speaker at this dinner, infamous Republican hidden-camera gotcha artist James O’Keefe. O’Keefe gained fame nearly a decade ago by baiting workers for the social welfare organization ACORN into making politically and morally questionable on-camera statements. Success in that campaign led to Project Veritas, in which O’Keefe himself or well-trained and paid subordinates fan out across the country during election season in search of Democrats they can entrap. In 2014 one such entrapment campaign led to brief notoriety in Colorado–which collapsed once it became clear that the fraud he was goading low-level local organizers into discussing would have been easily busted by county clerks before any fraudulent votes were counted.

With all of this in mind, here’s a rough transcript of a portion of O’Keefe’s remarks to Pueblo Republicans:

JAMES O’KEEFE: Someone asked if I’ve been to CO before and I fumbled the answer because I’m not supposed to say where I go in terms of investigations but I have been here before many times. Sometimes I’m here and nobody knows. [applause] I’m here to talk about Veritas. It’s the Latin word for truth…

Do people recognize me? Sometimes I wear a disguise. Most of time, I’m not doing undercover stuff–it’s a team. Sometimes. They never recognize me. Don’t expect to be recorded. Don’t people know you’re filming? Not really because corruption is everywhere…so what Veritas is doing is equipping brave patriots to wear tiny cameras. Where do they go? Everywhere. Tie, blazer, hat, lapel pin, pimp costume. [Pols emphasis]

James O’Keefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker in 2014.

Although O’Keefe has no real mainstream credibility, his popularity with conservative media outlets ensures wide distribution for all but the most self-immolating of his stunts. O’Keefe’s credibility took a huge hit in 2017 during a botched attempt to “gotcha” Washington Post reporters with a fake informant with planted allegations about Alabama Republican Roy Moore’s sexual misconduct–which ended with the reporters turning the tables on O’Keefe’s mole and writing a very different story.

But if there’s on constant in conservative politics, it’s that their operatives don’t stay discredited for long! A fresh proposal to tap the right’s seemingly limitless reserves of political nonprofit giving, for example sending a wave of hidden camera-equipped GOP activists to infiltrate Colorado Democratic campaigns and liberal groups, is all O’Keefe needs to bounce right back. And it appears he has.

With all of this in mind, here’s another reminder to do what you should be doing anyway–vet your volunteers. The website Veritas Exposed keeps track of O’Keefe’s operatives and methods as much as that’s possible, and it’s a good place to start, but you should be checking the voter file, social media histories, and whatever background check services you can afford or are comfortable with. But above all, it’s critical to inspire a culture of office awareness: that the way O’Keefe gets most of his material is by having a camera rolling during preventable mistakes he can then de-contextualize for maximum political effect.

The best place to stop James O’Keefe and his band of undercover tricksters is at the door. Failing that, if someone you don’t know starts spontaneously “joking” with you about election fraud while subtly angling the lapel of their coat towards your face, please do not laugh along. This may be the only warning you get.

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Jamie Giellis: A Streetcar Named Disaster

FRIDAY UPDATE: This headline in the Denver Post sums up an awful week for Giellis:

Elsewhere, this interview with Kyle Clark of 9News demonstrates that Giellis still has no idea how to deal with her own blunders:

—–

Giellis’ Mayoral campaign is a train wreck streetcar wreck.

This week started out pretty good for Denver Mayoral candidate, streetcar enthusiast, and occasional voter Jamie Giellis, who is campaigning ahead of a June 4 runoff election against incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock. On Monday, Giellis held a rally to announce the support of former Mayoral candidates Lisa Calderon and Penfield Tate in a show of unity against Hancock.

After that, everything went off the rails.

On Tuesday, Giellis participated in a live interview on Brother Jeff Fard’s webcast focused on African-American issues in Denver. Giellis was asked about her knowledge of the “NAACP,” and she made it clear that she didn’t have the slightest idea what the acronym stood for. As the Denver Post reported:

Giellis offered that it could begin with the words “National African American,” laughing as she learned that was incorrect.

Jamie Giellis

GAH! This was indisputably bad for Giellis. Then she made it worse. As 9News reports:

Giellis apologized Wednesday for what she called a “momentary lapse” when she was unable to identify what the initialism NAACP stands for in an interview on the Brother Jeff Fard show.

Within hours, Giellis announced a tacos and lowriders fundraiser at a Mexican restaurant in Denver. 

A tweet announcing the tacos and lowriders campaign event was later deleted from Twitter Wednesday night. [Pols emphasis]

“Tacos and lowriders”? Double GAH!

Soon afterward, Giellis COMPLETELY DELETED her social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram, but not before one particularly terrible Tweet was captured in a screenshot. The Tweet below came from the account of Jamie Licko, which is Giellis’ maiden name:

 

Triple GAH!

The Giellis campaign issued a statement this morning regarding the sudden purge of her social media accounts. It was also not good:

“Our campaign Facebook and Twitter pages remain active and we are working on restoring the campaign Instagram page. I turned off my personal accounts when I felt like personal statements were being taken out of context for the purpose of diverting the conversation from the issues that Denver is facing and voters care about.”

Scrubbing social media accounts for problematic posts is something that a smart campaign would have already done a long time ago. Nobody completely deletes their social media accounts — particularly a candidate who is just weeks out from Election Day — for any other reason than to hide embarrassing and or incriminating information. You can’t talk your way around something like this.

In less than a week, Giellis destroyed her chances of becoming Denver’s next Mayor and made political casualties out of prominent supporters like Calderon and Tate. The incumbent Hancock has been working hard on his final re-election campaign, but at this point, all he really needs to do is just get out of the way of Giellis’ runaway streetcar.

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Jamie Giellis, Walking Facepalm

Jamie Giellis points to her biggest problem in the Denver Mayoral runoff.

Denver’s June 4th runoff election is just around the corner. It can’t come soon enough for Mayoral candidate Jamie Giellis, who is trying to oust incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock.

We noted in April that Giellis barely manages to vote at a 50% clip — she didn’t even vote in the 2018 Primary Election — which she explained by eloquently saying, “It’s my bad for not doing that [voting].” On Tuesday, Giellis managed to trip over her own feet once again.

As the Denver Post reports, this mistake is gonna sting:

Denver mayoral challenger Jamie Giellis failed to identify what the acronym “NAACP” stood for in a live interview on an African American-focused show Tuesday afternoon, renewing debate among minority voters about whether she’s a promising new ally or too far removed from communities of color.

Host Shay Johnson told Giellis on Brother Jeff Fard’s webcast Tuesday that the show had received several questions about her knowledge of the NAACP. Giellis offered that it could begin with the words “National African American,” laughing as she learned that was incorrect. [Pols emphasis]…

…“They do advocacy for the African American community, they talk about policy, they talk about issues, they stand up for civil rights, they do a number of things,” Giellis said.

Yes, really.

The acronym “NAACP” stands for “National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.”

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Colorado Public Radio is Saving Political Journalism

According to Corey Hutchins of Colorado College and the Colorado Independent, there is a new political journalist on the scene whose calls to Sen. Cory Gardner will soon go unreturned:

Colorado media outlets haven’t had a regular presence in Washington D.C. since Mark Matthews left the Denver Post last summer. Both the Post and the long-deceased Rocky Mountain News used to employ Beltway-based reporters who covered Colorado political and policy angles; with increasing cutbacks in newsrooms, that luxury has slowly dissolved over time.

Colorado Public Radio (CPR) has made a number of new hires to beef up its reporting on Colorado politics recently, perhaps most notably the move of Bente Birkeland from KUNC radio last fall. The increase in coverage of political and policy news is a welcome change in a state where the trend in recent years had been for news outlets to continually cut back on political reporting.

So, let us welcome Caitlyn Kim to the ranks of Colorado political journalists. May Sen. Gardner’s voicemail treat you well.

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Trump Trade War Threatens Colorado’s Export-Heavy Economy

As the Denver Post’s Judith Kohler reports, escalating tensions over trade with China as the Trump administration carries out threats to impose protectionist tariffs in order to “get a better deal” are resulting in a direct threat to Colorado businesses of all sizes, as the flip side of “getting tough on trade” starts to take on local names and faces:

Colorado farmers, ranchers and some retailers were hit by tariffs on imports and retaliatory tariffs by China during the trade battle last year. The Trump administration’s abrupt decision to boost those tariffs to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of products last week and threats to add another $300 billion worth of items have rattled the business community.

“These tariffs are just having a huge effect on everything,” said Gail Ross, the chief operating officer of Boulder-based Krimson Klover…

“It’s kind of late for us to say to our customers who’ve already given us an order, ‘Hey, we’re going to bump your prices up 25 percent,’ ” Ross said. “On the other other hand, we’re a little company that can’t absorb a 25 percent increase.

“It’s a fallacy that China is paying for the tariffs,” Ross added. “Let’s be clear. It’s like Mexico paying for the wall; that’s not happening.” [Pols emphasis]

As with many issues of global trade, there are both ideological and regional complexities that make sorting out one’s personal stand on the issue more difficult. In areas of the country hit hard by the erosion of domestic manufacturing in favor of offshoring production to China, President Donald Trump “getting tough” sounds great–enough so that it’s troubling for Democrats to see a Republican winning Rust Belt voter loyalty this way.

Here in Colorado, though, the situation is very different. The state’s large agricultural export business has been effectively robbed of one of the world’s biggest markets, and Colorado companies who design products manufactured in China are in danger of having their supply chains disrupted. Short of benefits that may occur over the horizon, there’s no upside to the present trade war with China for Colorado and a great deal to lose.

No matter where you stand on the issue of trade policy and protection of American jobs,  and we know this isn’t an issue on which either side is unanimous, in the end a standoff that shrinks the economy of both sides hurts everybody. This is why, more than drama in either direction, what’s needed in such negotiations is maturity.

And with that, Donald Trump can show himself out.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 15)

May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day. It’s time “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 a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

A memorial service will be held today for Kendrick Castillo, the 18-year-old STEM school student who likely saved the lives of many of his classmates when he intervened during a shooting at the Highlands Ranch school last week.

 

► The Republican-controlled state legislature in Alabama on Tuesday passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Chris Cillizza of CNN explains where this is all headed:

The state’s Republican governor — Kay Ivey — is expected to sign it. When she does, two things will happen: 1) Alabama will become the state with the country’s most restrictive abortion law and 2) the law will immediately become fodder for the swirling debate over if (and when) the Supreme Court might consider overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

That two-pronged goal was clearly the intent of the bill’s sponsor — state Rep. Terry Collins (R), who said after the vote: “This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn, because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection.”…

…The point here is two-fold. First, there’s no doubt that legislation like the abortion ban in Alabama is aimed at the larger goal of prohibiting abortion nationwide. Second, the court has been mysterious enough on the issue to make it very difficult to predict with certainty how it might rule — and when — on these challenges to Roe.

 

► Allies of the United States are voicing their skepticism over an aggressive military shift against Iran. From the New York Times:

As the Trump administration draws up war plans against Iran over what it says are threats to American troops and interests, a senior British military official told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that he saw no increased risk from Iran or allied militias in Iraq or Syria.

A few hours later, the United States Central Command issued an unusual rebuke: The remarks from the British official — Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, who is also the deputy commander of the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State — run “counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.”…

…“We are aware of their presence clearly and we monitor them along with a whole range of others because of the environment we are in,” General Ghika said.

But he said, “No, there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria.”

As Politico reports, Trump administration officials will brief Congressional leaders on Thursday about their latest saber-rattling (or sabre-rattling, if you prefer) over Iran.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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WTF: Bizarre Sullivan Recall Launch Confounds Colorado Politics

UPDATE #2: The Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter:

The Republican who lost his seat last year to Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan said Tuesday that he does not support efforts to recall Sullivan over the recently passed red-flag bill.

Cole Wist’s remarks came a day after paperwork was filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office that allows Sullivan’s critics to begin collecting signatures. Sullivan, of Centennial, has been a vocal gun control proponent since his son, Alex, died in the Aurora theater shooting.

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UPDATE: Former GOP Rep. Cole Wist, who lost in 2018 to Rep. Tom Sullivan after Rocky Mountain Gun Owners turned on him, denounces the recall attempt:

This is truly a remarkable moment in Colorado politics.

—–

GOP operative Tyler Sandberg slams RMGO.

We’re less than 24 hours into the attempted recall of freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial by Kristi Burton Brown, the vice-chair of the Colorado Republican Party and longtime ally of the Neville family of politicians and operatives–who are in turn closely linked with the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, the hard-right single-issue advocacy group with a reputation for bloodying fellow Republicans in pursuit of caucus unity.

But by far most notable about yesterday’s oddly low-key launch is the highly visible and public lack of Republican consensus on initiating this recall attempt–with the substantial wing of the party not aligned with RMGO denouncing the group, the Nevilles, and the hit on Rep. Sullivan. Colorado Public Radio:

“Recalls can identify people, but it also can strengthen elected officials that survive them. The long-term strategy has to be to win November elections,” said Republican political consultant Michael Fields, who heads Colorado Rising Action.

Former GOP chairman Ryan Call said initiating recalls is “a dramatic departure from the historic role and practice of the Republican party in Colorado.” He added that the party historically gets behind recall efforts if there’s malfeasance or if someone in public office is acting in a way that doesn’t align with campaign pledges, which he doesn’t see as the case here.

“We have seen a pretty significant shift in public policy under single-party control of state government, but Democrats are pretty much governing how they promised they would,” [Pols emphasis] Call said. “Voters may have hoped for a more balanced and bipartisan approach, but what we saw during the legislative session is consistent with what most Democratic candidates said they would do while they were running.”

Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette confirmed RMGO’s eager involvement in his story today, which anyone with knowledge of Kristi Burton Brown’s ties with the Neville political machine could already have surmised:

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a hard-line Second Amendment advocacy group, is committed to help Kristi Brown oust Sullivan, said Dudley Brown, executive director of RMGO.

“I welcome any group that wants to jump in on it,” Kristi Brown said. “A lot of Colorado parents in my district are upset with Rep. Sullivan and the way he voted.”

The response to yesterday’s news that Rep. Sullivan would be the next Democrat targeted for recall, especially the unenthusiastic response from fellow Republicans, underscores a longstanding divide between the Neville/RMGO axis anchored by Minority Leader Patrick Neville and the rest of the Republican establishment in the state. The recent exposure of highly questionable management of the 2018 House campaigns managed by the Nevilles, which resulted in the smallest GOP House minority in decades, has put the once-formidable political dynasty on the defensive–enough so that they were given a dubious welcome at best when they arrived to “help” with the now-defunct recall campaign against Rochelle Galindo.

But more importantly, going after Tom Sullivan, whose powerful backstory inspires both personal sympathy and support for his agenda of reducing gun violence, is politically hazardous to the point of being totally inexplicable. We’ve talked to a number of smart people on both sides of the aisle, and literally no one can understand why RMGO would start with Rep. Sullivan, kick off the campaign against Sullivan without other targets among which to distribute the backlash–and above all let the news break with no attempt to control the message. To say this is not how you’re supposed to do things is an understatement, and we’re left wondering if they simply didn’t care how it looks to the outside world.

Either way, there is a bipartisan consensus following yesterday’s news that a recall of Rep. Sullivan would be a grave mistake–both objectively for our state’s politics, and politically for Republicans. And that is something we did not expect to see, at least not so quickly and so openly. After years of struggling for dominance within the GOP, the overreach of this recall attempt could represent the beginning of the end for the Nevilles and RMGO.

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President Trump Channels His Inner Ernie

There is a classic Sesame Street story featuring Bert & Ernie (also explored in the vaguely titled children’s book “The Ernie & Bert Book“), in which Ernie explains to Bert that he must wear a pot on his head because Bert’s cowboy hat is now home to Ernie’s pet fish. This problem began when Ernie accidentally broke a cookie jar; Ernie placed the now-homeless cookies in the sugar bowl, which meant that he had to move the sugar to a flowerpot, which forced him to put the flower in a milk bottle, and so on and so forth.

 

What does this have to do with politics, you might ask? This is basically what President Trump is doing as a result of his obsession with placing massive tariffs on Chinese exports. As the Washington Post reports, Trump is bending to pressure to create economic bailouts for farmers that are only necessary because of the very policies the White House enacted in the first place:

President Trump on Tuesday rushed to placate furious farmers and Senate Republicans about his escalating trade war with China, with lawmakers now considering a package of fresh bailout funds to quell a rebellion in agricultural states.

The fresh uproar came as farmers, lawmakers, business executives, and global investors are looking to Trump for clues on how far he intends to take the trade showdown with China. On Monday, Trump suggested the standoff could last years and lead to structural changes in the global economy…

China has responded in two ways, both by trying to negotiate with him to stop the tariffs and by imposing import penalties on U.S. exports like soybeans and other items. This has led U.S. farmers to complain they are being caught in the middle of the standoff, putting pressure on lawmakers to intervene.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday were frenetically trying to deal with complaints from powerful farm groups. [Pols emphasis]

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner

Farmers in Colorado and across the country have been struggling during the Trump administration. The big Trump tax cut of late 2017 actually raised taxes for many farm families, and small and midsize farms are having trouble gaining access to credit from banks. Thus far in 2019, the Trump administration response to these financial pressures has been to pressure economists at the Agricultural Department to stop producing data and reports showing that farmers are getting crushed.

Unsurprisingly, messing around with spreadsheets has not made farmers feel any better. As this story from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel explains, farmers are reporting a rise in suicides as a direct result of the economic harm being inflicted upon them by Trump’s tariffs.

Here in Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is talking more about mythical socialism threats than the very real harm being inflicted on farmers. Gardner has said publicly that he doesn’t support Trump’s tariffs, but he won’t do anything to challenge the President beyond issuing the occasional statement of disapproval (after all, Gardner was one of the first big Republican names to officially endorse Trump’s re-election campaign).

As Paul Krugman recently opined for the New York Times, “Trump’s biggest supporters are his biggest victims.” That sentence works just as well if you replace “Trump” with “Gardner.”

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And Now They’re Trying to Recall Tom Sullivan

UPDATE #2: Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland confirms that the recall against Rep. Tom Sullivan was initiated by none other than Colorado GOP vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown:

A campaign to try to recall Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial from office is official. The effort is directly linked to the Colorado Republican Party — which historically has stayed out of many recall efforts and not initiated them.

“Rep. Tom Sullivan needs to be recalled because, like the rest of the Democrats in the legislature this session, he did not represent the families of Colorado,” said Kristi Burton Brown, an attorney and the vice-chair of the Colorado Republican Party. She filed the request with the secretary of state.

Kristi Burton Brown has a long association with the Neville political machine, serving as the filing agent for the Values First “independent expenditure” group that (mis)managed the 2018 House GOP’s defeats. The vigorous pushback this attempt seems to be getting from within the Republican Party is indicative of a serious intraparty divide–in addition to what’s expected to be overwhelming public distaste for recalling the father of an Aurora shooting victim for passing popular gun safety legislation.

What happens next? We’ll all find out together. But it’s not going to be pretty.

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UPDATE: The problems here are obvious…

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State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) speaks about his support for “Red Flag” legislation earlier this year.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which bills itself as “Colorado’s only no-compromise gun rights organization,” has been teasing out some sort of announcement that would appear to be related to another recall attempt of a sitting lawmaker. It’s probably no coincidence that a recall petition was filed this afternoon against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora), who has been on the receiving end of mean words from RMGO head honcho Dudley Brown because of Sullivan’s strong support for a “red flag” bill that passed through the Colorado legislature this year.

For anyone who follows Colorado politics and the current state of right-wing recall fever, this is a predictable turn of events — particularly considering Brown’s considerable hubris and his need to raise money to support his militant organization. The irony is nevertheless impossible to ignore given the circumstances of the 2018 election.

Last year, Sullivan defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Cole Wist in HD-37 by an 8-point margin. In the run-up to the November election, Wist was attacked by RMGO over his support of “red flag” legislation. Brown has since claimed Wist as a political scalp, though Sullivan’s 8-point margin of victory makes that assertion fairly ridiculous. Here’s Brown in a new interview published today by David O. Williams of RealVail.com:

REAL VAIL: Red flag had Republican sponsorship last year from former state Rep. Cole Wist and even the National Rifle Association said it was open to some forms of the law. Why not RMGO?

Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners

BROWN: Cole Wist, he lied to me last year when I called him and said, ‘I heard you were working on red flag. Oh no, I’m not.’ And then we filed a [Colorado Open Records Act request] and found out, yes, he was. And he had been lying to me all along. And so we went out and lit-dropped his district and mailed and we put a little bit of effort into ruining his life. And he paid the price. [Wist lost to primary red flag sponsor Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Democrat who lost his son in the Aurora theater shooting.] [Pols emphasis]

RV: Is that why not a single Republican backed red flag this year, out of fear of RMGO?

DB: I know a lot of RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] all bellyached about, ‘RMGO didn’t play on the team.’ We’re not owned by the Republican Party and when Republicans don’t play on the pro-gun team, we will piss in their ice bowl. We don’t care. [Pols emphasis]

Brown is now taking time away from pissing in the ice bowl of Republicans (whatever the hell that means) to go after Sullivan. Some Colorado Republicans are less than amused by RMGO’s recall quest:

To recap, RMGO is trying to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora Theater shootings, because of his support of “red flag” legislation that polling shows has the support of 80% of Colorado voters. This comes less than a week after the deadly shooting at a STEM school in Highlands Ranch, and a month after hundreds of schools in the Metro Denver area were locked down because of a threat from a Florida woman who flew to Denver and immediately bought a shotgun and ammunition at a gun store near Columbine High School.

No, this doesn’t make any sense. But somebody’s got to pay the bills for Dudley Brown.

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Conservative Majority on Supreme Court Sharpens its Eraser

Neil Gorsuch and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in 2017

The Supreme Court issued a ruling today that is a clear red alert about the potential for a later ruling that could overturn Roe v. Wade. From Slate.com:

On Monday, in a 5–4 ruling, the Supreme Court overturned a 40-year-old precedent for the simple reason that five conservative justices didn’t like it. The decision itself is unfortunate, allowing states to duck lawsuits filed against them in other states’ courts at the expense of wronged plaintiffs. But the most significant aspect of the ruling may be its cavalier treatment of precedent, which—as the dissenting justices noted in a not-so-veiled warning—signals how the majority seems to be laying the groundwork for the reversal of Roe v. Wade…

…Throwing 40 years of precedent out the window, [Justice Clarence] Thomas wrote that states have sovereign immunity from private lawsuits brought in courts of other states. Nevada courts thus have no authority to try the California board, a state agency, or impose penalties for its abuses. Hyatt is out of luck.

Thomas’ opinion is remarkable for two reasons. First, it fails to identify a specific provision in the Constitution to support this sweeping new grant of sovereign immunity. That’s because there is none. This new rule may please supporters of states’ rights—but as Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted at oral arguments, the Framers “didn’t put it in the Constitution.”

Brett Kavanaugh

As the Washington Post reports, Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer is pretty direct about his concerns about how this decision could affect other pending cases:

It is “dangerous to overrule a decision only because five members of a later court come to agree with earlier dissenters on a difficult legal question,” Breyer wrote, adding: “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next.” [Pols emphasis]

As Mark Joseph Stern notes for Slate.com, now-Justice Mark Kavanaugh touted the importance of legal precedent during his confirmation hearings last year; on Monday, Kavanaugh demonstrated that his beliefs about “precedence” were little more than words.

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“Stand For Colorado” Rallies–The Power Of Dozens

UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio reports from Grand Junction’s sleeper of a “Stand for Colorado” rally:

When 89-year-old Tom Foster saw only a few people mulling around, he thought he had the wrong time.

“You know, at my age, I’m accused of that every once in a while,” he said with a smile.

Foster was intent on staying, however, and said he was “disappointed” in people. He believes their “apathy” is helping erode the Constitution and the U.S. as a whole.

Clearly, revolution is at hand.

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Stand for Colorado rally in Grand Junction.

Last week we took note of conservative rallies scheduled for Friday evening across the state, organized by a Denver AM radio host in protest of Democratic control of the state government and the results of this year’s action-packed legislative session. Featuring a variety of speakers representing the Republican political coalition from the oil and gas industry to religious activists protesting “the hypersexualization of our children,” these rallies received a considerable amount of pre-event publicity from local media–enough that a large turnout wasn’t an unreasonable expectation.

Except, as the Denver Post reports and you can see from the photo above, not so much!

Late Friday afternoon, about 200 conservatives stood at the west steps of the Capitol for 90 minutes and cheered while activist speakers denounced nearly every major Democratic bill of the 2019 session as byproducts of socialism, corruption, sexual promiscuity or government overreach.

“We are wild, we are crazy and we’re going to force local control right down their throats, the way they forced (Senate Bill) 181 down our throats,” said Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, referring to an oil and gas regulation bill…

Organizers reiterated repeatedly that their theme was “Freedom versus force.” California was said to be controlling Colorado’s votes and its policies. Planned Parenthood was said to be grooming future abortion customers by teaching sex education. Public school students were said to be “marinating in ideas like capitalism is evil and socialism is not that bad.”

Headline from the Grand Junction Sentinel (5/11/19)

Two hundred protesters was the very generous estimate given for the biggest of the “Stand for Colorado” rallies at the state capitol in Denver by the Post, which may have been more like half that depending on your camera angle. In other cities it was more like a handful of local conservative usual suspects–the Grand Junction Sentinel’s glass-half-full count of the rally there was “more than 50.” Which leads to the next question: objectively speaking, was this turnout a failure? A show of weakness for bellicose conservatives where they put so much effort into demonstrating grassroots power?

Seriously, how the hell is it not? Rally crowd size isn’t the sole indicator of support, of course, but if throw one you need to not embarrass yourself. After the high bar set in recent years by (clockwise from top) Women’s Marches, public school teacher walk-outs, Jeffco students rallying to save AP History, and one of numerous protests in support of abortion rights outside Sen. Cory Gardner’s offices in 2017, the same couple hundred protesters showing up to listen to the same intemperate speeches they’ve been hearing since the birth of the “Tea Party” movement just doesn’t pack the intimidating punch it’s supposed to.

We’ve said it before–if you can’t compete, don’t try.

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BREAKING: Rep. Rochelle Galindo Will Resign

UPDATE: Denver Post:

[P]olice would not specify the nature of the complaint against Rep. Rochelle Galindo, a first-term House Democrat representing Greeley, saying it is “sealed,” though not by a judge.

Police last week received a complaint naming Galindo, Greeley police Sgt. Kyle Peltz said Sunday night — after Galindo announced her resignation.

“It is currently being investigated,” Peltz said. “It has been sealed due to the ongoing investigation.”

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Rochelle Galindo (D).

News breaking this Sunday afternoon we’ll be working through all week, freshman Democratic Rep. Rochelle Galindo of Greeley, who was facing a recall campaign against her presently in the signature gathering phase, will resign following an as-yet unspecified allegation Galindo denies but accepts will end her term in office:

It has been the honor of my life to serve as the Representative for State House District 50. I have served my community to the best of my ability have given a voice for the underrepresented. With that, it is with great sadness that I announce that I will be resigning my seat as the Representative for State House District 50 effective immediately.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Rep. Rochelle Galindo Announces Resignation

(May 12) – Rep. Rochelle Galindo, of House District 50 announces resigation.

“The allegations against me are false. That said, they will make my fight against the pending recall effort untenable. I will not put my constituents through what will surely be a recall campaign based on political smear tactics and false allegations. Instead, I will resign my seat as the elected representative of House District 50, effective immediately,” said Rep. Rochelle Galindo.

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd reports that Democratic House leadership agree with Galindo’s decision:

House Speaker KC Becker and House Majority Leader Alec Garnett issued a response to Galindo’s resignation.

“Today Rep. Galindo submitted a letter of resignation. We agree with Rep. Galindo’s decision to step down at this time and allow someone else to serve the people of House District 50.”

Galindo’s resignation effectively ends the recall campaign underway against her, which despite voluminous bluster from Republicans was the only such campaign to have advanced beyond the rhetorical phase. It remains to be seen how this development may affect those other efforts, which seem based on early fundraising reports to have much more bark than bite. It’s worth remembering that the overwhelming majority of financial support for Galindo’s recall came from a single local donor whose interests may or may not extend beyond his home turf.

With that all necessarily explained, we’re very sad to see Rep. Galindo’s career end this way. At this point, what we don’t know about this situation dramatically exceeds what we do–but we’ll update as that information becomes available.

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Johnston Busts Down Gardner’s “Thoughts And Prayers”

No matter where you land in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, there’s no question that former state Sen. Michael Johnston has been a forceful advocate on the issue of gun control ever since the 2013 legislative session–and he’s getting a lot of views in a NowThis News video calling out Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner’s NRA millions:

Worth the watch and share.

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Weekend Open Thread

“All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”

–Friedrich Nietzsche

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Giuliani Pressuring Ukraine to Assist in Trump Re-Election

Rudy Giuliani and President Trump

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post breaks down some stunning new reporting about President Trump’s re-election campaign:

There are some news stories so jaw-dropping that you have to read them two or three times to make sure you’re not hallucinating. So it is with a story in the New York Times in which Rudolph W. Giuliani announces to the world that he is going to Ukraine to pressure that country’s government to use its official resources to assist in President Trump’s reelection effort — by mounting an investigation he hopes will produce dirt on Joe Biden. [Pols emphasis]

Yes, Trump is trying to collude with a foreign government in an attempt to aid his campaign by creating negative stories about a potential opponent. Again.

“Oh come on,” you’re saying. “You’ve got to be exaggerating.” I’m not. The Trump team is apparently streamlining its previous pattern, which was to try to secretly work with a foreign government on its campaign, angrily deny it when it’s revealed and then, when caught by incontrovertible evidence, insist that there was never anything wrong with doing it in the first place.

They’re now skipping over the secrecy and denial parts, and just doing it openly.

Allow us to repeat this in case you thought you were, in fact, hallucinating the first time. As initially reported by the New York Times on Thursday, President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giulianifreely admits that he is trying to get Ukraine to launch investigations to discredit the Mueller investigation and to politically damage Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden:

There’s nothing illegal about it,” he said. “Somebody could say it’s improper. [Pols emphasis] And this isn’t foreign policy — I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”

Mr. Giuliani’s planned trip, which has not been previously reported, is part of a monthslong effort by the former New York mayor and a small group of Trump allies working to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their motivation is to try to discredit the special counsel’s investigation; undermine the case against Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman; and potentially to damage Mr. Biden, the early front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination…

…Giuliani said his efforts in Ukraine have the full support of Mr. Trump. He declined to say specifically whether he had briefed him on the planned meeting with Mr. Zelensky, but added, “He basically knows what I’m doing, sure, as his lawyer.”

“Somebody could say it’s improper,” says Giuliani.

Somebody could say it’s improper.

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