Where’s Cory? Right Next to Team Trump

As multiple news outlets have reported, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is widely expected to follow along with the wishes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump’s scurrilous legal team on all issues related to Trump’s impeachment trial underway in the U.S. Senate.

Lest there be any doubt, check out where Gardner has been seated today: He literally could not be any closer in proximity to Trump’s legal team. Gardner’s typical seat in the Senate chambers is at the back of the room; Gardner is instead squatting in the seat reserved for Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe.

U.S. Senate chambers, January 21, 2020

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The Hits Keep Coming For Cory Gardner

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

Keeping track of the bad national press for Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado these days requires a lot of attention–hard on the heels of a damaging New York Times story about Gardner’s lack of accessibility to constituents back home over the holiday weekend, the Washington Post’s Griff Witte writes today:

[Sen. Cory] Gardner is perhaps the most vulnerable Republican of all this year, seeking a second term in a state Trump lost by nearly five points in 2016. Colorado has only shifted further left in the time since as younger, more liberal voters have flooded in and Democrats have tipped a registration deficit in their favor.

But rather than run away from Trump as the evidence mounts of an abuse of power, Gardner has drawn nearer…

While a significant majority of Coloradans disapprove of Trump’s performance, Gardner will need Republicans, who are nearly unanimous in their support of the president, if he has any hope of keeping his seat.

“…Cory’s got a tough race. The odds are 50-50 — at best,” said Dick Wadhams, a veteran Republican strategist in Colorado and a friend of Gardner’s. “There’s no doubt about it: Trump is a liability.” [Pols emphasis]

This story, which should be read in its entirety, is as fair as possible to Gardner in recounting Gardner’s condemnation of Donald Trump in October of 2016. Gardner’s journey from denouncing Trump as a man who boasts about committing sexual assault in 2016 to one of Trump’s fiercest defenders and a Trump campaign fundraising star in 2019, especially while representing a state which has only become more hostile to Trump in the time since Gardner called for Trump to pull out of the presidential race, is baffling to many taking their initial election-year look at our state and this race.

The problem is simple, and we’ve said it countless times in this space: without the loyal Trump GOP base, Cory Gardner has no base. Gardner is therefore powerless to change course and carry out the clear wishes of a majority of Colorado voters–to dump Trump like Gardner called for in October of 2016, and voting to remove Trump from office.

One thing’s for sure: an assessment this bleak from Gardner’s Republican friends who know him best will not help Gardner convince the makers of tough calls in DC that his re-election is salvageable.

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McConnell Backs Down as Impeachment Trial Begins

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

As Politico reports, there are some significant happenings already as the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump gets underway:

Senate Republicans backed down from an aggressive timetable and new restrictions on evidence in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, changing course after protests from senators like Republican Susan Collins of Maine.

Instead of crammingas many as 48 hours of opening arguments from House impeachment managers and the White House counsel into just four days this week, McConnell’s resolution will now give each side 24 hours to speak over three days. That could ultimately extend the trial by two days. And a controversial provision in the plan that would not have automatically included the House’s evidence was also scuttled from a previous draft.

McConnell’s rule changes — which include the admission of evidence from the House impeachment process — were so last-minute that they were actually written out by hand, as NBC News reports. As the New York Times confirms, McConnell made the adjustments due to pushback from his own caucus:

Mr. McConnell made the change after key Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, argued that the rules for Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial should not deviate from the rules used during the only modern precedent, the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999.

Ms. Collins, a moderate Republican who is likely to face a tough re-election bid later this year, has significant sway with Mr. McConnell, as her votes could change the outcome of the trial.

We will update this post as more information becomes available.

 

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Marianne Williamson: Romanoff For Senate

Yesterday, former Democratic minor presidential candidate Marianne Williamson offered her glowing endorsement to Andrew Romanoff, who is running an underdog primary bid against the generally presumed Democratic nominee in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race former Gov. John Hickenlooper. Romanoff responded later yesterday evening that he is “deeply grateful” for Williamson’s support.

Marianne Williamson was generally regarded as a curiosity in the early stages of the Democratic presidential primary, mostly due to the fact that she was never considered a serious contender in the race. But had Williamson managed to gain more than fringe traction in the primary, there was a long list of problematic past statements on very serious issues she would have had to answer for–as CNN reported last August:

Democratic presidential candidate and author Marianne Williamson once gave a platform to the unfounded theory that vaccines are linked to autism and called on her audience to “be awake” and “do your due diligence” before making the decision to vaccinate their children. [Pols emphasis]

In a January 2012 episode of her radio show, “Living Miracuously,” reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Williamson said she “agonized” as a mother over the decision to vaccinate her children and that she could see “both sides” of the issue. Her guest, author Gwen Olsen, said on the program that she knew a number of people who were vaccinated and were later diagnosed with autism, to which Williamson responded, “Yes, absolutely.”

And Vox’s Zack Beauchamp explored substantially more troubling comments from Williamson last July on the particular subject of mental health. Apropos, Romanoff is the immediate past President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado:

Williamson has repeatedly cast doubt on the idea that clinical depression is real, calling the idea “such a scam” in an interview with actor Russell Brand and labeled antidepressants harmful, a cause of suicide rather than a cure for it. [Pols emphasis]

Williamson has apologized for the “scam” comment and tried to walk back some of the more heated tweets. She also argued that her issue is not with using antidepressants per se, which she claims to at times support, but rather with their overprescription of them.

But her rhetoric has for some time gone way beyond such reasonable concerns in a way that makes her walkbacks ring hollow. She has argued that antidepressants are often actively harmful, suggested that they caused Robin Williams and Kate Spade to kill themselves (there’s no evidence for either claim), and has insinuated that Big Pharma is pushing antidepressants on Americans who don’t need them.

There is of course debate over the widespread prescription of antidepressant drugs in this country, but responsible participants in that debate agree it’s very bad to make these kinds of sweeping statements about such a complex subject. It’s even worse to make statements with an air of authority that have no factual basis whatsoever, like false claims about high-profile tragedies, and it’s worst of all when people suffering from mental illness hear these misguided statements and take them to heart.

If by this point you have realized that Romanoff just made a big mistake in celebrating Marianne Williamson’s endorsement–assuming charitably that Romanoff didn’t ask for it–we can only agree. For a campaign already struggling for legitimacy against the growing nationwide presumption that there is no meaningful Democratic primary in the Colorado U.S. Senate race, this backfire of an endorsement only pushes Romanoff closer to his own minor candidate status.

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New York Times Can’t Find Cory Gardner, Either

Invisible Cory GardnerOver the weekend, the New York Times published a long, comprehensive story about the curious inaccessibility and general invisibility of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

They keep expecting to see Senator Cory Gardner everywhere — on the local Fox affiliates in Colorado, on Facebook, on literature crammed inside their mailboxes. They are voters who wear tasteful crepe blouses and carry structured Kate Spade totes, who like how their 401(k)’s are performing but say they could do without President Trump’s “temperament.”

They are members of one of the most coveted groups in electoral politics: suburban women. But in their field of vision, Mr. Gardner, Colorado’s top Republican officeholder, is almost nowhere to be found…

… Unlike most Republican senators, Mr. Gardner has been largely mum on the articles of impeachment against the president and the Senate trial starting Tuesday. Early in the process, he called the impeachment inquiry a “total circus,” but notably refused to answer questions about whether the president’s conduct with Ukraine had been appropriate.

Mr. Gardner hasn’t indicated one way or the other whether he’d vote to subpoena witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, even as some other senators facing tough re-election fights, like Senator Susan Collins of Maine, have expressed an openness to doing so. Last week on Capitol Hill, he evaded reporters eager to pin down his thoughts, his handler hurrying him into the nearest elevator. On Thursday evening, when a local Colorado reporter caught him at the Denver airport, a smiling Mr. Gardner offered still no clarity. “We have a trial,” he said. “That’s where we’re at right now.”…

… “I’m confused as to why he’s not out on the stump more, because that’s what he was so good at in 2014,” said Colorado Republican operative Tyler Sandberg.

We took note last week about Gardner’s embarrassing run-in with 9News, in which he repeatedly said “We have a trial” in response to questions seeking much more substantial responses from a United States Senator about the most important political issue of the day. What the Times story also found, however, is that Gardner’s fellow Republicans are as mystified as everyone else by the Yuma Senator’s current political strategy:

Dick Wadhams, a veteran Colorado Republican operative, was not bashful about calling out Mr. Gardner’s fear of public exposure. “If I had one criticism of him,” Mr. Wadhams said, “it’s that his team keeps him locked up in a fortress.” (Mr. Gardner and his aides did not return multiple requests for comment.) [Pols emphasis]

Impeachment has served only to highlight Mr. Gardner’s silence, whether on his own record or the national issues du jour, according to other Colorado Republicans. His caginess has frustrated some Trump supporters in Colorado, whose votes Mr. Gardner will almost certainly need to prevail in November, when Democrats are likely to come out in force in the presidential election.

Sen. Cory Gardner waves as he exits Air Force One behind President Trump in Oct. 2018.

Gardner’s attempts at invisibility might not be paying off in the manner in which he might hope, as this closing paragraph from the Times elaborates:

Amy Conklin [a former Littleton City Council member who has supported Gardner in the past] conceded that Mr. Gardner had done some good work in the Senate. But what looms largest in her mind, what she says she’d be hardest pressed to forget, are a handful of photographs she’s seen of Mr. Gardner, including one from last winter, in which she described him as “smiling and waving, following Trump out of Air Force One.” [Pols emphasis]

The Senate impeachment trial against President Trump gets underway today. Gardner will hide as much as he can and is not expected to be anything but a loyal soldier for Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell and the White House (as Politico made clear in an impeachment preview today).

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Cancelled: Jon Caldara

Jon Caldara.

Friday evening, local right-wing subcultural institution Jon Caldara, director of the “libertarian” Independence Institute, announced that the Denver Post has pulled the plug on Caldara’s frequently controversial opinion column. Westword’s Michael Roberts reports:

Jon Caldara, president of the libertarian Independence Institute think tank, has never pretended to be politically correct. And he says his disinterest in hewing to such standards — most recently by insisting that there are only two sexes in the context of discussions about transgender topics — resulted in the Denver Post killing the column he’s written for the broadsheet since 2016…

In retrospect, Caldara thinks the seeds for his sacking were sown by a January 3 offering in which he argued that the AP Stylebook — the Associated Press guide used by many media outlets to determine which words and phrases are appropriate or to be avoided — promotes a progressive bias.

To wit, as Caldara wrote on January 3:

The AP has updated its style to say that gender is no longer binary and thus declared a winner in this divisive debate. They ruled that, “Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex and gender.”

And as the conservative Washington Times reported this weekend, Caldara circled back for another round of distasteful transphobia Friday:

“What seemed to be the last straw for my column was my insistence that there are only two sexes and my frustration that to be inclusive of the transgendered (even that word isn’t allowed) we must lose our right to free speech,” Mr. Caldara said in a Facebook post…

He referred to his final Friday column criticizing the comprehensive sex-education bill signed last year by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, which requires school districts that offer “human sexuality instruction” to include the “health needs” of LGBT individuals.

“Democrats don’t want transparency in hospital billing and they certainly don’t want education transparency when it comes to their mandate to convince your kid that there are more than two sexes, even if it’s against your wishes,” he said in the column.

Once upon a time, Caldara and his putatively “libertarian” advocacy group prided themselves on keeping clear of the kinds of social wedge issues that limited the ability of many conservative groups to make inroads with swing voters. At its peak, the Independence Institute instead hosted a multitude of issue-specific conservative organizations in their large Uptown office known as the “Freedom Embassy.”

But for several years now, Caldara’s influence has been in decline as establishment Republicans grew tired of his antics, which frequently resulted in negative press coverage. In 2013, Caldara was nearly prosecuted for vote fraud after registering to vote in Colorado Springs despite living in Boulder. That stunt fell apart in disgrace when Caldara blamed the deadly flooding in the fall of 2013 for not moving, as he (never) intended, in order to avoid criminal charges. During the 2015 school board recall in Jefferson County, Caldara was universally slammed for ads which exploited a disabled student for misplaced sympathy.

As a columnist for the Post, Caldara was known for a particularly tasteless analogy which outraged women readers and advocates: defending the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) by likening the law to “consent” in a sexual context–suggesting that Democrats were committing something comparable to sexual assault by opposing TABOR.

But in the end, it appears that old-fashioned transphobia was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Denver Post’s editorial team. For a guy like Caldara, who has made a living out of pushing the bounds of decency in pursuit of what turned out to be an old-school wedge issue conservative agenda, this is not injustice so much as an inevitable occupational hazard.

On the bright side, once cancelled by the mainstream media there’s always InfoWars.

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MLK Day 2020 Open Thread

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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A Few More Words On The Romanoff/NRSC Alliance


NRSC Political Director Betsy Ankney celebrates Andrew Romanoff.

Beware Republicans bearing gifts.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Ernest Luning reports:

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff wants the state to audit a federal fund tapped by primary rival John Hickenlooper’s administration to defend the former Colorado governor against an ethics complaint.

Republicans have been demanding for more than a month that the state scrutinize use of the 16-year-old federal account by Hickenlooper, the front-runner for the nomination to challenge GOP Sen. Cory Gardner…

“Ideas are not responsible for the people who come up with them,” he said. “There might be no doubt partisan motivation if the NRSC is pushing for this, but that doesn’t mean the audit is a bad idea. [Pols emphasis] I think we all have an interest in making government as transparent and accountable as possible.”

We’ve written a few times now in this space about an ethics complaint filed by Republicans, alleging violations of Colorado’s constitutional ban on state officials receiving gifts by former Gov. John Hickenlooper. The complaint itself is relatively small potatoes, consisting of a few instances of travel that appear to either be related to his official duties as governor or exempted as coming from “a personal friend and on a special occasion.” The next hearing in the case isn’t until March, giving Republicans valuable speculative mud-slinging opportunities before the process concludes.

The weak allegations contained in the ethics complaint against Hickenlooper itself, objectively much lesser alleged violations of the state’s ethics laws than the case involving former Secretary of State Scott Gessler spending office discretionary funds on partisan political events, has given rise to a secondary “meta” line of attack. Like Gessler and other state officials who have come under investigation by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission (IEC), the state pays for legal representation for the official subject to the complaint–in Gessler’s case, well over $500,000. Hickenlooper’s defense in the present case has cost less than a tenth of that amount.

But for reasons we’re still not completely clear on, the funds used to pay for Hickenlooper’s legal defense wrongly became identified as “post-9/11 relief funds” in several media stories. We assume this was a characterization planted by Republicans pitching the story for dramatic effect. In truth, the funds were originally disbursed to states by the federal government as part of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, otherwise known as the “Bush Tax Cuts.” Given that then-President George W. Bush ran for office on a platform of tax cuts, and signed into law his first round of promised tax cuts well before 9/11–not to mention that the 2001 recession was long over by 2003–this toxic characterization of money that was mostly spent by Republican Gov. Bill Owens before Owens left office in 2007 is not just wrong but absurd.

We are regularly accused of bias in the Democratic Senate primary, much like we were in 2010 when Romanoff lost the last U.S. Senate primary to now-Sen. Michael Bennet. In reality, it’s a simple question of capacity. The 2020 U.S. Senate race in Colorado is expected to be one of the most, if not the most competitive race in the nation. The last three Senate races in the state have been decided by unexpectedly narrow margins–Bennet winning narrowly over Ken Buck in 2010 and Darryl Glenn in 2016, and Cory Gardner defeating Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall by less than two points in 2014. So far, Andrew Romanoff has only managed to raise about a quarter of the money Hickenlooper has in the time both have been in the race. Polling instantly showed that Hickenlooper would dominate the primary and go on to bury Gardner. The Democratic Senate primary before Hickenlooper’s entry was a pack of mostly (sorry, this is going to sting) unprepared, unserious candidates–which is why the door was open for his run.

With all of this in mind, we’re not actually going to conclude with the wholesale condemnation of Romanoff’s campaign we easily could. We want to put the question to our readers: is Romanoff joining forces with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) to attack the prohibitive favorite Democratic candidate acceptable to you? If your ultimate goal as a Democratic voter is to ensure that Cory Gardner does not get another term, does validating the Republican campaign organization set to attack whoever wins this primary serve that purpose?

If this wasn’t such a lopsided competition, it might be different. But without a viable path to victory for Romanoff, his supporters need to think about what the end game of this campaign looks like. The NRSC wants only one thing: to save Cory Gardner’s skin. And they know one of the only chances they have to slow the oncoming train is in this Democratic primary.

With that, we’ll turn it over to you and your conscience.

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Weekend Open Thread

“There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.”

–Ulysses S. Grant

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Forget “Recall Polis,” Let’s “Make CO Red Again”–With Nazis!

After the failure of last year’s half-baked recall attempt against Gov. Jared Polis, which limped across the finish line with at most half the required number of signatures need even without factoring for error, one of the two groups nominally dedicated to the recall effort became a headline-making controversy after doling out thousands of dollars in unspent donations to a few original organizers and “friends.” This was particularly offensive to donors since the committee in question, the “Official” Recall Polis committee, publicly disparaged the petition campaign to recall Polis and spent no money on the effort.

When we last heard from the registered agent for the “Official” Recall Polis committee Juli-Andra Feuntes, she was facing potential legal action from the Donald Trump presidential campaign after renaming the committee “Colorado For Trump”–to which Fuentes responded by making an acronym of T-R-U-M-P, which now stands for “Truth will Restore the republic and Unbiased Media gives Power to the people.”

That bizarre report from last October was the last word we’ve had about the “Official” Recall Polis campaign and the recipients of that moribund committee’s loose change, until this week when a budding conflict on a new-ish conservative Facebook group named “Make CO Red Again” was brought to our attention:

Readers will recall that Renee McGill, the Weld County lead organizer for the “Official” Recall Polis Committee, pulled down a $3,000 check from the unspent donations to the committee. McGill is now the administrator of the Make CO Red Again Facebook group. Obviously, given the failure of the Polis recall and the controversy over the money McGill was “gifted,” she should expect to have hurdles to overcome in future political organizing roles.

And she’s not the only one!

The moderator of the Make CO Red Again Facebook is a man our longtime readers know very well: Nate Marshall, a one-time Republican state house candidate whose 2014 run for office against Democratic Rep. Max Tyler imploded after Marshall’s not-so secret online life as an unabashed neo-Nazi became public. Marshall had been allegedly recruited to run against Rep. Tyler by former state Sen. Tim Neville, and was backed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) at the party assembly. When it came out in remarkably similar fashion to the recent outing of a neo-Nazi working at local AM radio station 710 KNUS that Marshall was steeling himself for an “Aryan Revolution” that “begins in just over 40 hours,” the chair of the Jefferson County GOP demanded Marshall pull out of the race.

So if by this point you’re thinking that this is not a Facebook group respectable Republicans should ever want to be a member of, we’d say that’s an astute observation. It is therefore a bit perplexing to understand why…so many…Colorado Republicans…are members of Nate Marshall’s Facebook group:

(more…)

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A Political Circus is Coming to Weld County

(Clockwise from bottom left): Lori Saine, Barbara Kirkmeyer, Perry Buck, and Vicki Marble

We noted last summer that Weld County voters were in for a wild game of musical chairs in 2020. It looks like the fun is going to get started a bit earlier than anticipated.

Term-limited Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway is resigning his position effective Jan. 31, which means a short-term replacement must be selected within the next couple of weeks. State Representative Perry Buck – who is also term-limited in HD-49 — was already running to succeed Conway in November and will presumably want to be appointed to the Weld County vacancy. Republican leadership in the House Minority Office appears to be aware of this; Buck has been removed from all committee assignments except for one (Education), which is the required minimum for a sitting lawmaker, after previously serving on two other committees (Rural Affairs & Agriculture, and Transportation & Local Government); this is often a pretty good indication that a lawmaker has one foot out the door of the State Capitol.

Now…if Buck is appointed Weld County Commissioner, she will need to resign her position in the State House, which is where things start to get weird. State Senator Vicki MarbleCub Scout debater, fried chicken critic, and all-around crazy person — is term-limited and has already filed to run for Buck’s State House seat in November. Marble probably would like to finish her second term in the State Senate, but not pursuing a vacancy in HD-49 would open her up to a difficult primary challenge from another Republican (unless the GOP is able to find someone for the vacancy who promises not to run for a full term in November).

If Marble does successfully pursue a vacancy in the State House, then a GOP vacancy committee will need to fill her State Senate seat sometime in February. This creates a couple of problems for Republicans. For one thing, the Senate GOP really can’t afford to lose a reliable right-wing vote given their minority status – even if it’s just for a couple of weeks. But a vacancy in SD-23 also widens a Republican rift involving a Primary fight to succeed Marble.

Rupert Parchment II

Outgoing Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer (see how this all comes full circle?) is running against Rupert Parchment II for the GOP nomination in SD-23. Kirkmeyer is a darling of the oil and gas industry, while Parchment has the backing of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), the Dudley Brown-run gun group with close ties to House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. Kirkmeyer’s campaign has raised significantly more money thus far – she has about $45k in the bank compared to less than $4k for Parchment – but with RMGO’s help, Parchment would have a decent chance to win a vacancy committee appointment. Parchment could really raise his name ID and profile among GOP voters in that scenario, which would go a long way toward evening out Kirkmeyer’s monetary advantage in the June Primary.

The last thing Colorado Republicans need right now is another bloody legislative primary race, but that might be exactly where things are headed in the coming months.

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“We Have a Trial,” Says Ridiculous Cory Gardner

Colorado Pols readers are well aware that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has taken extreme measures to avoid talking publicly about President Trump’s actions and the looming impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. Gardner regularly flees from reporters at the U.S. Capitol building by ducking out back doors and sliding into little-used elevators; journalists in Colorado just flat don’t get a response from Gardner or his staff — on any questions, really.

Gardner has given no reason to indicate that he will be anything but a loyal soldier for Trump and Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, but media outlets keep trying to press him for information about how he’ll approach impeachment discussions. And sometimes, Gardner actually gets cornered.

On Thursday, 9News had no luck (again) getting a real response from Gardner’s office on impeachment issues, but later reporter Marshall Zelinger serendipitously found himself on the same flight from Washington D.C. to Denver. That’s how 9News reporter Steve Staeger ended up waiting for Gardner at Denver International Airport and chasing him through the concourse:

We’d encourage readers to watch the entire exchange, but here’s the gist of it:

STAEGER: Are you open to hearing from more witnesses in a Senate trial?

GARDNER: We have a trial, and that’s where we’re at right now.

“We have a trial.”

Staeger later asks Gardner about Thursday’s bombshell news that the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) believes Trump “broke the law” by withholding foreign aid from Ukraine in order to coerce an investigation into a potential political opponent.

STAEGER: There was a report released today from the nonpartisan GAO that the President broke the law in withholding aid to the Ukraine. Where do you stand on that?

GARDNER: We have a trial, and I’m sure that will be part of the discussion.

“We have a trial.”

Gardner’s absurd non-response to Staeger is being picked up nationally, and rightfully so. As we’ve said before in this space, Colorado voters should be embarrassed by their junior Senator.

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Susan Beckman Gets Last Laugh On Ken Buck

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Alex Burness:

[Beckman] did not specify what her new job will be, nor did she immediately respond to a call from The Denver Post. The White House has not yet responded to a question about Beckman, and a spokesperson for the state GOP declined to comment…

In late March, Beckman narrowly lost the election for the next Colorado Republican Party chair, a role that would have led to her resignation from the legislature. Promising to “shine a light on the backpack consultants that are getting millions and millions of dollars on the backs of Republican losses,” [Pols emphasis] Beckman grabbed a plurality of votes on the first ballot but couldn’t capture the majority needed.

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The subject du jour at the Colorado Capitol today is the announcement this morning that Republican Rep. Susan Beckman of Arapahoe County will resign, effective immediately, to take a job in the Trump administration. She’s the third GOP state lawmaker from Colorado to take this particular route out of electoral harm’s way:

Rep. Beckman’s last election in 2018 was one of the night’s big nailbiters, with Beckman only narrowly prevailing over her Democratic challenger Chris Kolker by 374 votes. It’s possible that this brush with defeat inspired Beckman to start looking elsewhere for career advancement, but Beckman failed–again by a narrow margin, and this time fraught with controversy–to defeat Congressman Ken Buck in the race to lead the Colorado Republican Party.

Since then, of course, Buck’s absentee mismanagement of the party has given Beckman plenty of grounds to feel vindicated. And with Arapahoe County leading the state’s blueward shift that accelerated in 2018, we may look back in a year and observe that Beckman bailed out at exactly the right time.

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Yes Virginia, Colorado’s “Red Flag” Law Is Working

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Semiautomatic guns for sale.

As the Denver Post’s Elise Schmelzer reports:

In the first 15 days Colorado’s red-flag law has been active, residents and law enforcement have used the controversial statute in five cases to request that guns be removed from a wide range of people: an abusive boyfriend, a suicidal man, the father of a grandchild, a suspect who threatened a mass shooting and a police officer…

The red-flag law, which went into effect Jan. 1, allows family members, household members and law enforcement to request that a judge order the removal of person’s guns if they are a threat to themselves or others. The law caused intense debate in the legislature, including prompting some sheriffs to say they wouldn’t uphold the law because they believe it violates a person’s Second Amendment rights.

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on the first successful use of the extreme risk protection order (ERPO) law in Denver, in which a man who made threats to hurt himself and his wife has relinquished his guns for a 364-day period:

A Denver probate court on Tuesday approved a 364-day extreme risk protection order for a Denver man who gave up two guns to Denver police in late December after he allegedly threatened himself and his wife with a handgun during and after a dispute.

A Denver police sergeant filed a petition on Jan. 2 for a 14-day temporary extreme risk protection order (ERPO) against the 26-year-old man, whom Denver7 is not naming because prosecutors declined to press charges against him. A hearing had been set for Jan. 16 to determine if a longer ERPO would be put in place for the man.

But the man and his attorney came to an agreement on a permanent order, which was filed Tuesday in Denver Probate Court, that the man will allow police to keep custody of his two semi-automatic handguns for a 364-day period that started Tuesday.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith.

That’s an undeniably successful outcome, with a gun owner who threatened to kill himself and his wife voluntarily surrendering his guns in advance of the hearing. The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports on another “red flag” case that seems like a model utilization of the law out of Larimer County:

A Fort Collins man accused of sending texts threatening a “master plan” to eventually commit two school campus shootings is likely the first case of Colorado’s new “red flag” law being used in Larimer County.

In texts to his adoptive father in January and March last year, David Gatton, a 31-year-old military veteran, threatened to commit mass shootings, investigators say…

In the texts — which Gatton admitted to sending — he said he was struggling to find work and that if his adoptive parents didn’t stop asking him to pay back money he owed them, he would enact his plan to “kill a lot of people.”

Of the ERPO request cases filed since the law took effect at the beginning of the year, we know of two that have been denied. The first was a request made in conservative Lincoln County, where the sheriff and county government are hostile to the law–as we’ve discussed, a potential flashpoint if a refused request for an ERPO precipitates tragedy. The second case, which has received considerable attention in the last few days, concerns the mother of a young man who was killed by CSU police officers in Fort Collins, in what was determined to be a case of “suicide by cop” and a justified use of force. This ERPO case was dismissed earlier today for lack of standing, since the request falsely claimed that the petitioner and the police officer “shared a child.” The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement that the court ruled properly in denying Holmes’ petition.

“What the hearing today demonstrated is that there are protections in the ERPO law to prevent people from abusing it,” Weiser said. [Pols emphasis] “Abuse of this important law undermines the very fabric of its critical purpose, which is to protect public safety.”

During the initial confusion over Susan Holmes’ ERPO petition, which was apparently filed without a request for a temporary order making today the first opportunity for a judge to rule, local gun nuts seized on the as-yet unanswered questions about the case to spread misinformation and general discontent about the new “red flag” law. But in reality, early test cases like this one are necessary to establish precedents that determine how the law will function. The outcome of this particular case, which may include criminal charges for Holmes’ lying under oath, should inspire confidence that the checks and balances in the process to prevent abuse actually do work.

Unfortunately, the true moment to dread–the first improperly denied ERPO that results in preventable loss of life–is still out there waiting to happen. We expect that inevitability, but we do not relish it.

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Finally Time To Hang Up And Drive, Colorado?

This guy.

The Denver Post’s Linnea Lipson reports:

Colorado may soon follow 20 other states in prohibiting hand-held phone use while driving.

The proposed legislation would make it illegal for adults to use a mobile device while driving, except through the use of hands-free equipment. It also would bar drivers under 18 years old from using any mobile devices. Colorado already bans texting while driving.

“It’s a pretty common-sense measure to make our roads safer,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, who is sponsoring the bill. He said his constituents want legislators to act on this issue to cut down on crashes.

This is by our count at least the fourth time that legislation to outlaw use of a handheld cell phone while driving. In previous years, a combination of efficacy and civil liberties concerns pulled together a majority to defeat the bill. Supporters argue that the near-ubiquity of built-in speakerphone technology in cars built in the past few years makes it easier than ever for drivers to comply–an argument met with rightful concern about the impact of the law on less affluent drivers with older cars.

What say you, gentle readers? Is it time to hang up and drive, or do you have a sacred right to multitask?

Don’t worry, your answer will not be reported to your insurance company.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 16)

Happy “National Nothing Day.” We’re not sure if you are supposed to celebrate or not. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► And so it begins. From The Washington Post:

The historic impeachment trial of President Trump got underway Thursday with the arrival in the Senate of the seven House managers to formally present the two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States, is headed to the Senate later Thursday, where he is expected to be sworn in to preside over the trial focused on the president’s conduct toward Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the trial will get underway “in earnest” next week.

Fallout also continued Thursday from new allegations by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Trump knew of his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine that could benefit Trump politically. The impeachment charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — center on the allegation that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former vice president Joe Biden.

The Washington Post has more on the latest allegations from Lev Parnas that do not look good for President Trump.

 

► The Government Accountability Office says the Trump administration broke the law in attempting to restrict foreign aid to Ukraine. From the New York Times:

The Trump administration violated the law in withholding security assistance aid to Ukraine, a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency said on Thursday, weighing in on a decision by President Trump that is at the heart of the impeachment case against him.

The Government Accountability Office said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld nearly $400 million for “a policy reason,” even though the funds had been allocated by Congress. The decision was directed by the president himself, and during the House impeachment inquiry, administration officials testified that they had raised concerns about its legality to no avail.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the G.A.O. wrote. “The withholding was not a programmatic delay.”

“Trump did nothing wrong” was never a sustainable argument, but it has become downright silly now.

 

► Ahead of the Senate impeachment trial, all 100 U.S. Senators will take an “oath of impartiality” given by Chief Justice John Roberts that will go something like this:

Getty Images

 

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to run in terror from reporter questions about impeachment and President Trump, though late Wednesday he veered away from pretending to have not seen the articles of impeachment so that he could pay lip service to the idea of being “an impartial juror.” Meanwhile, it seems even some of the more unflappable Republican Senators are starting to snap under the pressure of trying to support a corrupt President:

 

► Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is getting lots of attention as one of the seven House impeachment “managers” appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday. You can read more from The Denver Post, The Colorado Sun/CBS4, Denver7, and Colorado Public Radio.

Elsewhere, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) played a part in the historic decision to transmit articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate.

 

 

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

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Time To Stop Claiming Trump “Did Nothing Wrong”

Donald Trump.

Politico with today’s major development in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump–a clear determination by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that Trump’s withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine was in violation of federal law:

President Donald Trump ordered the hold on the critical security assistance in July, a slew of senior White House officials testified to House impeachment investigators late last year. It was a move that coincided with an effort by the president and his allies to pressure Ukraine to investigate Trump’s Democratic rivals.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the GAO wrote in an eight-page report released on Thursday.

Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid, which he reversed in September after House investigators began probing the move, is at the heart of the articles of impeachment the House passed last month, and it will be a central focus in the Senate’s impeachment trial that begins later Thursday.

The report undercuts an oft-stated defense of Trump’s decision to hold the aid back: that it was a lawful exercise of the president’s authority. [Pols emphasis]

The defense that Trump’s actions were not a violation of federal law has been the go-to talking point for Rep. Ken Buck, Colorado’s Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, from the beginning of the impeachment process–along with his bizarre contention that every President commits impeachable offenses so why bother impeaching them at all. That’s obviously difficult to say with any credibility now, though we expect plenty of Republicans will respond by simply disparaging the GAO. At the very least it seems like it will be necessary for Republicans to fall back to the next logical defensive position, “okay you win, it’s a crime but it’s not an impeachable offense.”

As for Sen. Cory Gardner? He’s still telling reporters he hasn’t seen the articles of impeachment. Now that the articles have been formally delivered to the Senate, Gardner will need obviously to ditch that excuse–but what will he say about the GAO’s unambiguous conclusion that Trump’s actions against Ukraine were criminal?

It’s true you’ll have to catch him first. But Gardner is quickly running out of rhetorical cover.

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Reporters Still Looking for Cory Gardner’s Spine

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was busy today firing off Tweets about trade agreements and speaking in front of an empty Senate chamber about the four corners of Colorado and…something.

What Gardner was NOT doing today is the same thing has has NOT been doing for months: Commenting in any way, shape or form on the pending impeachment trial against President Trump.

Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post has noted Gardner’s refusal to talk about the most important political subject in the entire country, but he’s not alone in trying to track down the elusive junior Senator from Colorado. As The New York Times reported today:

For Republicans in difficult re-election races — with the possible exception of Ms. Collins, who is her own brand in Maine — the political calculations are complex. Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Martha McSally of Arizona and Mr. Gardner all face tough contests in states that are not nearly as conservative as they used to be…

…The pressure on Mr. Gardner mounted on Monday when the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans that describes itself as “dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism,” targeted him in a brutal advertisement that described the Colorado senator as “just another Trump servant — weak, frightened, impotent — a small man, terrified of a political bully.”

“Colorado voters want a fair trial in the Senate and honest leadership,” the ad said. “Either do your job, or Colorado will find someone who will.”

In the Capitol on Tuesday, Mr. Gardner was making himself scarce. When Republicans wrapped up a luncheon featuring a discussion of trial procedure, he zipped out a back door and headed for a little-used elevator, avoiding a throng of waiting reporters. 

“I’m sorry, he’s got to get going,” an aide to Mr. Gardner told a reporter who followed him, as the elevator doors opened and the senator slipped inside. Then Mr. Gardner jumped in, begging off any discussion of whether he could be the elusive fourth vote who could upend hopes of a quick acquittal of Mr. Trump. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner’s, um, “spinal problem” is quite a contrast with another prominent member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation. This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) was among seven Representatives chosen to prosecute the House impeachment case in the upcoming Senate trial.

One man is standing up to fulfill the Congressional duties set forth in his oath of office. The other is hiding from reporters in elevators. If you’re embarrassed by the ridiculous charades of Sen. Cory Gardner in this critical moment in American history…well, you absolutely should be.

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) at far right of image.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 15)

Happy “Korean Alphabet Day.” Please celebrate responsibly, or whatever. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The House of Representatives will vote today to send articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the announcement today and introduced the seven House Members who will serve as “impeachment managers.” One of them is Colorado’s own Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora).

The Washington Post breaks down how Crow ended up being among Pelosi’s chosen few:

The Democrat from Colorado is in his first term as Congress. Before Congress, he served as an Army Ranger, leading combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also partner in a law firm in Colorado. According to the Almanac of American Politics, he wasn’t a prosecutor, but he “conducted internal investigations nationwide, responded to emergency events and handled a wide-range of government inquiries.” He also represents the kind of district — a suburban one in a swing state — that Democrats will need to hold onto in November to keep their majorities.

He is the only manager who does not sit on any of the impeachment inquiry committees, but he had a role in swaying Pelosi to authorize the impeachment inquiry. He was one of seven House freshmen with national security backgrounds who co-authored a Washington Post op-ed calling Trump’s actions on Ukraine impeachable, a move that signaled a significant momentum shift within the Democratic caucus. Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry a day after that published.

Crow’s selection provides a stark contrast to the impeachment involvement of another key Colorado elected official: Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). As Justin Wingerter writes for The Denver Post, Gardner just keeps ducking questions about President Trump:

Gardner’s office declined again Tuesday to answer questions from The Denver Post about whether he would support a motion to dismiss the two charges against Trump or vote to allow witnesses in a Senate trial that’s expected to begin next week. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah have said they want to keep open the option of hearing from witnesses after opening arguments.

CBS reported Monday that the White House expects at least four Republicans will vote to call witnesses in the Senate trial. That “possibly” includes Gardner, according to the report, though he has said nothing to indicate that he will. There are 53 Senate Republicans, and a simple majority of 51 votes will be needed to pass trial rules.

Silence has become the norm for Gardner on the topic of impeachment. His office previously declined to say whether witnesses should be called and whether he agrees with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “total coordination” with the White House.

The New York Times apparently wasn’t able to corner the squirrelly Senator, either:

In the Capitol on Tuesday, Mr. Gardner was making himself scarce. When Republicans wrapped up a luncheon featuring a discussion of trial procedure, he zipped out a back door and headed for a little-used elevator, avoiding a throng of waiting reporters.

“I’m sorry, he’s got to get going,” an aide to Mr. Gardner told a reporter who followed him, as the elevator doors opened and the senator slipped inside. Then Mr. Gardner jumped in, begging off any discussion of whether he could be the elusive fourth vote who could upend hopes of a quick acquittal of Mr. Trump.

 

► Evidence continues to mount against President Trump ahead of a Senate impeachment trial. As Jennifer Rubin writes for The Washington Post:

One can only imagine what evidence we have yet to see during the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. With each new tranche of evidence — including emails regarding the hold on military aid to Ukraine and now documents from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s — the conclusion that Trump abused power and obstructed the investigation becomes incontrovertible…

…Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me the new evidence is ” jaw-dropping” and “highly incriminating of both Giuliani and Trump.”

 

► Candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination met for another debate on Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa — just three weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Who won and who lost the big debate? Here are a few takes from The Washington Post, CNN, Politico, The New York Times, and The Des Moines Register.

 

► Today is the deadline for open enrollment for health care coverage through Connect for Health Colorado.

 

 

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

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Happening: A Bipartisan End To The Death Penalty

Lethal injection chamber.

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports:

Colorado lawmakers on Tuesday introduced their much-anticipated bill to repeal the state’s death penalty – the sixth time such a bill has been introduced in recent years.

SB20-100 , if passed as introduced , would take the death penalty off the table as an option for prosecutors when they take a class 1 felony case to trial – but that would only apply to suspected criminals charged by prosecutors after July 1, 2020…

…[T]his year’s measure also has Republican sponsors and cosponsors, which could help push it over the edge in the Senate, where Democrats hold a 19-16 majority but are expected to see one senator go on maternity leave soon and another seat have to be filled in the wake of the retirement of Sen. Lois Court. The measure is almost certain to pass the Democrat-heavy House.

Democrats looking to repeal Colorado’s death penalty have long had a friend in Sen. Kevin Priola, a Catholic whose opposition to the death penalty for years was the lone exception to a wall of Republican support. This year, two additional Republicans, Sens. Jack Tate and Owen Hill, have padded the margin needed to get the bill out of the Senate and on to Gov. Jared Polis’ waiting desk.

Previous attempts to legislative repeal the capital punishment in Colorado have failed for different reasons. In 2013, an historic progressive legislative session encountered fierce Republican backlash which ultimately led to recalls against Democratic Senators, and at least partly because Democrats had achieved so much that year, it was determined politically necessary to hold off. In 2019, the dissent of one Democrat, Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora, resulted in a standoff in the upper chamber that ended when sponsors pulled the bill late in the session.

Although repeal of the death penalty for future cases seems assured this year with this new infusion of bipartisan support, a word of respect for Sen. Fields is called for as this long struggle heads for its inevitable conclusion. Two the three men currently on death row in this state are there for the murder of Sen. Fields’ son in 2005. We of course have not been party to every discussion about this legislation, but it’s been suggested that Sen. Fields has been treated insensitively by some of her colleagues over the years for her difference of opinion on the issue–a difference that no one can fault Sen. Fields for having after her own tragic experience.

The decline of capital punishment is nevertheless a global trend, and increasingly the choice of Americans in recent years as the cost, process, and stigma of judicially sanctioned killing has combined to make it basically unworkable. Colorado’s move to end capital punishment is mostly symbolic given the extreme rarity of its application, but it’s also consistent with the growing consensus that it’s not appropriate as a society to kill people.

And it looks like 2020 is the year it’s going to happen.

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Jason Crow Among House Impeachment Managers

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this morning the names of seven Democrats who will help prosecute the House impeachment case in a U.S. Senate trial as soon as next week. Colorado Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) was among the names selected.

As Politico reports:

The seven lawmakers will be tasked with prosecuting the case against President Donald Trump in the Senate’s trial, giving them a high-profile role and a chance to be at least a footnote in history.

The long-awaited announcement comes as the House is scheduled to vote later Wednesday to send the managers and the two impeachment articles over to the Senate — a formality that triggers the start of the trial.

Pelosi’s list reflects her desire for geographic, racial and gender diversity among the impeachment managers, and it draws from the Democratic Caucus’ wide swath of legal and national security-related experience.

Here’s Politico’s rundown of Crow’s selection:

Crow, 40, was a surprise choice, but Pelosi has leaned heavily on the so-called “national security freshmen” in the Democratic Caucus during her deliberations for the impeachment process. [Pols emphasis] Crow, serving in his first term, doesn’t sit on any of the committees charged with investigating Trump. But he is a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he received his law degree at the University of Denver. He was one of seven national security-oriented freshman lawmakers who wrote an op-ed in September calling for an impeachment inquiry after the Ukraine scandal came to light. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

This is a very big deal for Crow and for Colorado in general.

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