Trump/Putin Summit: As Bad As You Thought. No, It’s Worse.

Politico reports as everyone with even a passing interest in the continued sovereignty of the United States–that’s every American, we sincerely hope–picks their jaws up off the floor:

President Donald Trump on Monday publicly sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies, refusing to condemn the Kremlin for interference in the 2016 election and saying that “I don’t see any reason” to believe that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic computer servers.

Trump’s remarkable statement, during a joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland, after holding a two-hour one-on-one meeting with Putin, came after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russians on Friday over allegations of involvement in the state-ordered election-interference operation…

Trump was directly asked at one point whether he believed the U.S. intelligence agencies, which concluded Russia carried out the hacking of Democratic servers, or Putin, who has said it did not. Trump acknowledged that his own intelligence chiefs “think it’s Russia.”

“I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump went on. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server. But I have confidence in both parties.”

The aghast reaction to this astounding statement from President Donald Trump, defying the mountain of evidence to the contrary and even the indictments last Friday of numerous Russian intelligence agents for their role in subverting the 2016 elections to assist Trump, is at least somewhat bipartisan:

As of this writing, though, there’s no public reaction from Sen. Cory Gardner, but Gardner’s lip service to accountability at a campaign event last Friday left little in the way of wiggle room even for Colorado’s most infamously wiggly Senator:

When President Donald Trump meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Finland, he should hold the foreign leader accountable for his country’s destructive and illegal behavior, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said Friday…

Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea and continuing cyber aggression against the U.S., among other things, should land the country on a list of state sponsors of terror, said Gardner, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The president needs to be very firm,” Gardner said. “If he’s going to meet with (Putin) at all, it’s got to be about our objections to his malign activities.”

Today’s summit, to put it mildly, does not appear to have passed Gardner’s firmness test.

Trump’s shocking rejection in Vladimir Putin’s presence of the conclusion of the entire U.S. intelligence community, whose findings were backed up by the GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee, is the clearest sign yet that Trump has no intention of doing anything to address a foreign government’s successful campaign to subvert an American election–an absolutely unprecedented situation that former CIA director John Brennan calls “nothing short of treasonous.”

Though unprecedented, this cannot be considered unexpected, even by devoted sycophants like Cory Gardner, given that Trump has denied the facts of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections at every step. The real problem for Republicans, the part they can’t acknowledge, is that they too were beneficiaries of the Russians’ operation to boost Trump, and to acknowledge this fact would inevitably weaken Trump’s legitimacy as President–and by extension, the Republican Party’s unchallenged control of the federal government.

Make no mistake, folks. Something very bad is happening to our country. For Republicans, at least the ones with any conscience or even patriotism left, the surprise victory of 2016 is now the worst-case scenario for their party.

Putin’s victory is now total.

Monday Open Thread

“The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.”

–Mark Twain

Please Clap Vigorously While You Caption This Photo

Friday afternoon’s moment of unintended hilarity via the Colorado Republican Party’s Twitter account continues to make Colorado politics chuckle the Sunday after:

The first thing we’re obliged to note is that the photo you see above was voluntarily released into the wild by the official Twitter account of the state Republican Party–not a Democratic tracker, or anyone else looking to damage gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton. During Stapleton’s time as state treasurer and certainly in the limelight now as candidate for governor, the inability of photographers to capture a flattering likeness of Stapleton has become a consistent theme, but this pic is really especially bad. As for the photo’s caption celebrating “vigorous sustained applause” that you’ll have to take their word for, well…

All we can say is, whoever wrote that hackneyed crap had a priapism joke coming.

As for what Stapleton was saying in this picture to elicit all that vigorous sustained applause? Like the Photoshop-ready cutout above (right-click and “save image” to commence the fun), it’s whatever you want it to be.

Gold Dome Sexual Harassment: Only An Election Can Fix This

Senate President Kevin Grantham.

As the Colorado Independent’s John Herrick reports, a few members of the Colorado General Assembly convened yesterday as a “Legislative Workplace Interim Study Committee,” to address an issue that dominated the headlines during the 2018 session of the legislature: what has been exposed to be a pervasive and well-entrenched culture of sexual harassment by lawmakers against lobbyists, legislative staffers, and even fellow elected officials.

Certainly no one can object to a meeting to address this crisis, which resulted in the expulsion of one lawmaker this year and what should have been career-ending allegations against at least one other. Unfortunately, as Herrick explains, there’s little reason to be optimistic that this committee will be able to effectively tackle the problem.

And why, you ask? Because Republicans and Democrats on this committee do not agree on the facts of what happened this year or what to do about it:

Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Republican, mostly dismissed sexual misconduct complaints brought against three members of his party: Baumgardner, Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial and Larry Crowder of Alamosa. In the House, Duran, a Democrat, called on Lebsock to resign before an investigation into allegations of harassment were completed. She also stripped him and Rep. Paul Rosenthal, who was accused of making unwanted sexual advances on another gay man at a political event in 2012, of their committee leadership positions. Duran dismissed the complaint against Rosenthal because the allegations occurred before he was in office.

Hoping to iron out a policy that can be enforced fairly and consistently, leaders from both the House and Senate called for the summer committee to meet over the interim between sessions. From the Senate, they appointed Sens. Bob Gardner, a Republican from Colorado Springs, Beth Martinez Humenik, a Republican from Westminster, and Dominick Moreno, a Democrat from Commerce City. From the House, they named Lori Saine, a Republican from Firestone, and Faith Winter, a Democrat from Westminster. Speaker Duran — a term-limited Democrat from Denver — appointed herself to the committee that she chairs.

The choices made by Republicans to serve on this committee are problematic to say the least. Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik was a steadfast ally of Senate President Kevin Grantham as Grantham deliberately worked to undermine the investigation into Sen. Randy Baumgardner’s repeated confirmed instances of sexual harassment. It was Sen. Humenik who stood with Grantham at the press conference in which Grantham punted responsibility for the actions of his caucus, arguing that a criminal offense should be the minimum standard for intervening in harassment cases unlike every other workplace in Colorado. Worse, Humenik helped Senate Republicans deflect from the credible allegations against Baumgardner by filing an frivolous retaliatory complaint against a Democratic Senator accused of using an unmarked women’s bathroom.

As for Sen. Bob Gardner, as Herrick reports, he helped kill a bill to set new standards for sexual harassment cases on college campuses that even Sen. Humenik supported, in addition to his loquacious defense of Sen. Baumgardner during the unsuccessful hearing to expel Baumgardner from the Senate. Rep. Lori Saine, one of the legislature’s most embarrassment-prone members herself, claimed that Steve Lebsock’s serial harassment of women and retaliation against accusers simply didn’t rise to the level of expulsion–a view that fortunately didn’t prevail with her fellow House Republicans.

For all of these reasons, there is very little hope that this committee will be able to come up with anything like a comprehensive solution to ensure women who work at the state capitol in any capacity are protected from harassment and abuse. The actions of Republicans in the Colorado legislature have made such a mockery of the proper way any responsible employer should respond sexual harassment allegations that to expect them to come up with a solution is simply ludicrous. There’s no solving a problem when half the people tasked with solving the problem don’t think there’s a problem.

But there is one sure-fire way for the voters of Colorado to make this right, and that is to relieve the Republican Party of its one-seat Senate majority in the November elections. In the end, the failure of the Colorado General Assembly to police itself on sexual harassment is the failure of Republican Senate leadership. Every Colorado Senate race is now a battleground for the #MeToo movement.

If that’s not a powerful message to carry into election season, we don’t know what is.

Get More Smarter on Friday (July 13)

“God Save the Queen” — and the rest of us — from President Trump. It’s time to 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… 

► President Trump’s upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin takes on a new wrinkle after a dozen indictments of Russian military leaders by special prosecutor Robert Mueller today. From CNN:

The Justice Department announced indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election against 12 Russian nationals, accusing them of engaging in a “sustained effort” to hack Democrats’ emails and computer networks.

All 12 defendants are members of the GRU, a Russian federation intelligence agency within the main intelligence directorate of the Russian military, who were acting in “their official capacities.”

DOJ says the hacking targeted Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with the intention to “release that information on the internet under the names DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 and through another entity.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the indictment does not name any American citizen.

A 2016 Republican congressional candidate also appears to be caught up in asking for information from the stolen documents.

 

Front page of “The Sun” in Britain.

► President Trump is busy burning bridges in England today. As CBS News reports, Trump is scrambling to undo his own criticism of British Prime Minister Teresa May:

President Trump said U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is “doing a fantastic job” as British prime minister, and even said he apologized to her Friday morning before their meeting, after an interview published Thursday highlighted his criticism of her handling of Brexit.

“I think she’s a terrific woman,” he told reporters at a joint press conference Friday at the country estate of the prime minister, Chequers. The president also called the relationship between the U.S. and U.K. the “highest level of special.” But Mr. Trump still thinks, as he told The Sun tabloid, that May’s Conservative Party rival Boris Johnson would be a great prime minister.

According to Mr. Trump, he also did not criticize May and that reports to the contrary were “fake news.”…

…On the day before the news conference, the British tabloid The Sun published an interview with Mr. Trump in he said Johnson would make a great prime minister, and Britain’s trade relationship with the U.S. could face turbulence if May follows through with what’s known as the so-called “soft” Brexit blueprint. The president made the comments ahead of meetings with May and Queen Elizabeth.

 

As Aaron Blake writes for the Washington Post, Trump is denying comments that anyone can hear for themselves:

At a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Britain on Friday, Trump claimed that a newspaper interview that quoted him criticizing May’s Brexit and trade strategies was “fake news.” “I didn’t criticize the prime minister,” he said. He went on to suggest a recording would vindicate him.

The recording exists. And it completely and utterly contradicts Trump’s claim.

 

A total of 35 “Unaffiliated” candidates filed signatures to make the November ballot in Colorado.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

The Get More Smarter Show: July 12, 2018

Today on the Get More Smarter Show: your host Jason Bane talks with Jeff Weaver, campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, in-depth about Bernie’s past and future, the current state of Democratic and presidential politics, and his new book, How Bernie Won: Inside the Revolution That’s Taking Back Our Country–and Where We Go from Here.

Catch up on previous episodes of the Get More Smarter Show here! And thanks for watching.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (July 12)

Here’s reason #9,437 why former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin should have never been anywhere close to the levers of power in this country. It’s time to 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… 

► President Trump is currently rampaging through Europe, but he may be coming to Colorado sometime soon to stump for Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton. In the meantime, back to that Europe trip, as the Washington Post reports:

President Trump reaffirmed U.S. support for NATO on Thursday, after he upended a summit here to admonish leaders and demand they quickly increase their defense spending.

Trump’s ambush jolted the transatlantic alliance, and some diplomats perceived his comments as threatening a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. But Trump later declared in a news conference, “I believe in NATO,” and, as he prepared to depart Brussels, he reiterated that the United States is committed to its Western allies.

“I told people that I’d be very unhappy if they did not up their commitments very substantially,” Trump told reporters after the meeting. “Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They are going to up it at levels never thought of before.”

NATO member nations committed in 2014 to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024, though only eight countries will reach that goal this year. It was not immediately clear what specific new commitments were made here. Trump said that leaders responded to his demands by agreeing to reach the 2 percent goal soon.

Well, at least the United States (probably) isn’t withdrawing from NATO.

 

President Trump has arrived in England after wrapping up his NATO rants, and he claims to be fine with the large protests being planned for his visit. As BBC News reports:

Mr Trump and his wife Melania landed at Stansted on Air Force One at 13:50 BST before a helicopter took them to the US ambassador’s residence in London.

He is due to meet Theresa May, who is seeking a post-Brexit trade deal – days after he said the UK was in “turmoil”.

Extra security is in place to police a number of protests but Mr Trump said he thought Britons “like me a lot”.

Yes, Britons love Trump. Why, that giant balloon of a baby Trump is merely a sign of admiration!

The Guardian newspaper has more on Trump’s U.K. visit:

Sandwiched between the psychodrama of his confrontation with his Nato allies, and the amour of his summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, there was a chance that Donald Trump, a president who thrives on controversy, might treat his interlude in England and Scotland with indifference.

At one level, a visit bordering on the normal would be mission accomplished for Downing Street, but at another, this visit matters far more to the UK than to the president. Britain needs to register with a president so inattentive to America’s historic ties, and above all hope the instincts of a self-confessed “stable genius” do not lead him to trash the Brexit deal that Theresa May is struggling to sell to her party.

Judging by the inferences behind his remarks at his freewheeling press conference in Brussels, Trump is going to struggle to constrain himself. Saying he had been reading a lot about Brexit in recent days, he repeatedly hinted that he thought May was not delivering what the people had voted for in the referendum. He also drew parallels between his own election and Brexit, saying they were both born out of a revolt against migration. The clear implication was that he was the standard bearer for a global populist revolt.

Downing Street can only hope that by the time he holds a joint press conference with Theresa May on Friday they can find a way to instil some discipline into the Great Disruptor.

Yes. SO much love.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is making a slobbering fool of himself as he works overtime on trying to parse the words coming out of the mouth of President Trump.

 

► Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton selected Rep. Lang Sias as his Lieutenant Governor running mate on Wednesday, capping off a wild couple of weeks in which Stapleton’s campaign apparently didn’t understand that they were supposed to select a running mate within seven days of the June 26 Primary Election. Stapleton’s selection of Sias marks the first time that a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Colorado has failed to select a woman as a running mate. 

9News has more on Stapleton’s LG announcement.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Stapleton Says He’s Bringing Trump To Stump!

UPDATE: File this under “effusive praise.”

—–

A Tweet from conservative radio host Stefan Tubbs that got our attention yesterday:

The decision to welcome President Donald Trump’s help on the campaign trail this fall is significant in a number of ways, many of which have nothing to do with any boost Walker Stapleton might receive from a Trump visit to Colorado. Setting aside whether Trump would be helpful for Stapleton’s own campaign, which is certainly debatable, other Colorado Republicans like Rep. Mike Coffman would face a perilous choice–to be seen on the same stage as Trump with all the baggage that comes with, or anger the Republican faithful whose support Coffman still requires to keep his seat by dissing the President.

As of this writing, we’d say Democrats should be helping Stapleton book the event! Preferably with a large space out front for the welcoming committee.

Thursday Open Thread

“Investors are sometimes too busy looking for profits to notice where the truth ends and the deception begins.”

–Andrew Ross Sorkin

Lang Sias Move Could Change Top Senate Race

Christine Jensen.

Walker Stapleton’s decision to tap Arvada Rep. Lang Sias to be his running mate at the top of the Republican ticket in 2018 may lead to a significant domino effect that could change the makeup of at least one big legislative race in Jefferson County.

Sias was running for re-election in HD-27, where he would almost certainly have won in November in what has proven to be a reliably-conservative district in recent years. But now that he is running for Lieutenant Governor, Sias can’t still be on the ballot in HD-27. Republicans will need a new candidate for that House seat.

Sias’ departure from the race in HD-27 only makes this seat marginally more competitive for Democrats, but the bigger impact could be in nearby Senate District 20. State Rep. Jessie Danielson is the Democratic candidate in SD-20 who is running to succeed term-limited Democrat “Unaffiliated” Sen. Cheri Jahn; Democrats have generally fared well in this Wheat Ridge/Golden/Arvada district, but SD-20 is always among the most competitive State Senate races in the state because of its voter registration makeup, and it is again a top target for both parties in 2018. The Republican candidate here is Christine Jensen, a longtime resident who lost out to…wait for it…Lang Sias when a Republican vacancy committee needed to replace Rep. Libby Szabo in 2015.

It makes plenty of sense for Jensen to seek the HD-27 Republican vacancy once again, where she would be the favorite to waltz into office in November instead of running as a slight underdog in SD-20. Jensen would also be a better ideological fit in HD-27; she is probably a bit too conservative for the Senate district. This is similar to how Sias managed to salvage his political career after multiple losses in successive elections (Sias lost a GOP Primary in CD-7 before dropping successive State Senate bids, first to Democrat Evie Hudak and later in a Republican Primary for the same seat by Laura Woods; Democrat Rachel Zenzinger unseated Woods in 2016). Had Sias not made it through that 2015 GOP vacancy committee, he would not be in a position today to be Stapleton’s running mate, so there’s no shame in Jensen following a similar path.

If Jensen seeks the vacancy in HD-27, Republicans would have to scramble to find a new candidate in SD-20. This probably isn’t an ideal scenario for Senate Republicans, but it’s a pretty easy call for Jensen.

 

Gardner’s Trump Apologetics Are Now Just Plain Ridiculous

Donald Trump, Cory Gardner.

ThinkProgress–you knew this would happen eventually:

During a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) was asked to respond to controversial comments President Trump made earlier in the day about his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gardner responded by flatly denying Trump actually meant what he said.

Just before boarding Air Force One, Trump, who repeatedly attacked the NATO alliance on Twitter on Tuesday, told reporters that his meeting with Putin “may be the easiest” he has during his trip to Europe.

“So I have NATO; I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil; and I have Putin,” Trump said, referring to meetings he has during his trip to Europe. “Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?” [Pols emphasis]

President Donald Trump’s repeated statements that he prefers to meet with adversaries as opposed to allies of the United States helps feed the perception that his foreign policy is entirely capricious and personality-driven, with no respect for the long-term relationships with close Western allies that have given American power the consensus needed for global leadership. Obviously, when the President is doing better cultivating relationships with with the nation’s enemies than our allies, something is amiss.

Also, the Russians helped him become President. So this is all, fair to say, very troubling.

Into this latest morass steps Sen. Cory Gardner, Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee–with the unenviable task of making Trump’s brashness comport with the grownup world:

After being played a video clip of Trump’s remarks and being asked whether what he said is “true,” Gardner uttered an uncomfortable chuckle and said, “No. I think the president knows that’s not true as well.” [Pols emphasis]

“I think he’s simply trying to say to our great NATO allies and friends, ‘let’s make sure that we’re all rowing in the same direction, so to speak. Let’s make sure that we’re living up to our expectations and obligations,’” Gardner said. “I think the president knows the challenges he has with Vladimir Putin, we all know that, and I hope that when he meets with our NATO allies he will talk about the violations of international law that Russia has created, and indeed, it sounds like he may have an opportunity at some point to even address that very same concern with Vladimir Putin himself.”

So we are now at the point of hearing the verbatim words of the President of the United States, and Cory Gardner is reduced to simply denying the President meant what he plainly said. Gardner has sometimes been able to redirect the President’s outlandish pronouncements back into a coherent framework that doesn’t do huge damage to the nation’s stated policy objectives, but there’s just nothing to work with here.

Even Con Man Cory can’t spin it anymore. It’s as bad as it looks.

Jason Crow Reports Massive Fundraising Haul

Democrat Jason Crow and family

Democrat Jason Crow continues to put up impressive fundraising numbers in his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) in CD-6.

According to a press release from Crow’s campaign, the candidate pulled down more than $1 million in donations in just the second quarter of 2018:

Today, Jason Crow, a decorated former Army Ranger, father, veterans’ advocate and candidate for Congress in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, announced that he raised $1,003,588 in the second quarter – including over $630,000 in this reporting period. The total represents the most contributions any candidate in CD-6 has ever received in the second quarter. [Pols emphasis] Crow, who has pledged to not accept a dime of corporate PAC money, raised 95% of those funds from individual donors.

Crow will end the quarter with $1,295,458 cash on hand. He has raised $2,263,140 to date from nearly 7200 unique individual donors.

“We’re going to win this race because the grassroots energy in this district is ready for a new generation of servant leadership,” said Crow. “Coloradans are ready to tell Mike Coffman that you don’t need corporate Super PAC dollars to win a campaign. You just need the better ideas and the willingness to put people first.”

To put these numbers in perspective, consider that Coffman’s campaign has raised just more than $2 million for the entire 2018 cycle.

Stapleton Taps Sias for LG, Confirms Screwing Up Process Entirely

UPDATE: The jokes write themselves:


—–

As Brian Eason first reported for the Associated Press this morning, Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton has selected Arvada Rep. Lang Sias as his running mate and candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

What Sias may or may not bring to the Republican ticket is really a secondary conversation at this point, because this news confirms speculation that Stapleton’s campaign absolutely botched this entire process.

As we recapped earlier this week, Stapleton’s campaign opened the month of July by criticizing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jared Polis for “rushing” the announcement of his own LG pick — former state Rep. Dianne Primavera. Stapleton’s campaign manager, Michael Fortney, tried desperately to spin this narrative in the face of what seemed to be a fairly obvious reality: That Stapleton’s team apparently didn’t realize that the law requires a gubernatorial nominee to choose a Lieutenant Governor within seven days of the June 26 Primary Election.

Fortney claimed on July 3 that Stapleton had indeed selected a running mate but would not make the announcement for several weeks under the theory that the law gives LG candidates 30 days to officially register their campaigns with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. This story was immediately questioned by several reporters, including longtime political journalist Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Sentinel. With Stapleton’s spin unraveling, Fortney then told reporters that the campaign was likely going to announce its running mate sometime around July 26 in order to theoretically generate more publicity for the decision.

 

If Stapleton did not, in fact, select a running mate within seven days of the Primary Election, then he appears to have broken the law. We know that Stapleton’s initial choice for Lieutenant Governor was CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, but Ganahl turned down the offer to be his running mate. Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese was believed to be Stapleton’s second choice, though that has not been confirmed, and the rumor mill on Monday seemed to indicate that Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo was at the top of Stapleton’s list. The point of all this speculation leads in the same direction: If Stapleton had actually selected a running mate as his campaign has claimed, there would not have been this insistent chatter about potential candidates to run alongside him.

 

Stapleton is apparently going to officially announce Sias at an event today — notice the totally-not-rushed signage in the photo above — and the campaign will cross its fingers that nobody asks for proof that Sias was indeed offered the job and agreed to said offer within the seven-day time limit. This is another terrible look for a bumbling Stapleton campaign that is constantly defending concerns that its candidate for Governor pays no attention to details and couldn’t manage a Taco Bell restaurant.