BREAKING: Trump Bestie Roger Stone Guilty As Hell

Danny DeVito as The Penguin.

CNN reports, another worst-case scenario outcome for the Trump administration as longtime conservative political nuisance Roger Stone is found guilty of everything the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections on behalf of Donald Trump accused him of:

Stone, a political provocateur, was found guilty of all seven counts brought by the Justice Department, a victory for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Stone was found guilty on five counts of lying to Congress, one of witness tampering, and one of obstructing a Congressional committee proceeding.

The verdict marks a stunning conclusion to one of the highest profile prosecutions to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — a case that began with one of Trump’s most vocal supporters arrested during a pre-dawn raid as the special counsel’s investigation wound down, and that since then has gradually revealed new information about the Trump campaign’s positive reception to foreign interference in the 2016 election.

According to prosecutors, Stone failed to turn over documents to Congress in 2017, showing he had sought to reach WikiLeaks the previous year, and lied about five facts, obscuring his attempt to use intermediaries to get information that could help then-candidate Trump in the election against Hillary Clinton.

Roger Stone’s attempt to contact the Wikileaks organization on behalf of the Trump campaign, who released the hacked emails supplied by Russian intelligence which served to significantly demoralize the Democratic left after the divisive primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton just as the 2016 Democratic National Convention was getting underway, is a belated but still important piece of the story of Trump’s original foreign policy sin. Though Republicans have declared the Mueller investigation to be in the rear view and it’s not the focus of the impeachment inquiry proceeding against Trump in the House over Trump’s politically-motivated extortion of Ukraine, it betrays the same willingness to utilize foreign assistance for personal gain.

And we’ll say it: Stone’s comic-book villain look is something no one in politics should be sad to see go out of style, assuming it ever was which is historically questionable.

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Impeachment Logic with Ken Buck

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley)

Congressional Republicans are scrambling to figure out how to proceed with their full-throated support of President Trump in the wake of Wednesday’s public impeachment hearings, in which Ambassador William B. Taylor, Jr. and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, testified for hours in front of members of the House Intelligence Committee. Taylor’s testimony was particularly damning, and not just because it included new revelations about a phone call between Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland that makes it appear that Trump was really only interested in investigating political rival Joe Biden.

While we have yet to hear from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) on his opinion of Wednesday’s hearings, Congressman/State Republican Party Chairman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) talked to Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post and gave his thoughts on what took place yesterday. We’ll get to Buck’s incredible nonsense in a moment, but first we should present some background information.

Buck had previously been a fan of what has come to be called “The Sideshow Bob Defense,” owing to the nefarious character from the long running TV show “The Simpsons.” In essence, this theory is based on the idea that Trump did not actually commit a crime because his extortion attempt with Ukraine was unsuccessful. This is, of course, completely absurd; attempting to commit a crime is still a crime. Ineptitude is not a defense.

“Convicted of a crime I didn’t even commit. Hah! Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry? Do they?”

As we wrote last month, Buck’s usage of “The Sideshow Bob Defense” was patently ridiculous:

As for whether or not Trump committed a crime even if the quid pro quo is universally acknowledged, that’s not up to Ken Buck to decide. Federal law says clearly that seeking assistance from a foreign government in an American election is a crime. Again, if anyone out there should be expected to know this without being told, it’s a former prosecutor. At the end of September, Buck even said “I don’t think this is necessarily even wrong” in reference to what  federal law clearly defines as a criminal act. Today, Buck sidesteps the question by saying only that it’s not an “impeachable offense,” but his credibility to make that judgment is already spent after he argued that what is clearly a crime is in fact not.

You’ll never catch me, logic!

Buck never misses a chance to remind a reporter that he is a “former prosecutor,” though it appears that the former Weld County District Attorney either didn’t really know what he was doing at the time or forgot everything he once knew about the law…which leads us back to his comments to The Denver Post today:

“Whether it’s appropriate or not, the voters can decide. It’s not impeachable,” the congressman said in a phone interview Thursday morning, a day after public hearings in the impeachment inquiry began…

…Buck compared the allegations against Trump — that he withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine because the Eastern European ally would not investigate the son of Joe Biden, a possible Trump opponent — to conditions the U.S. government routinely places on foreign aid, while reiterating that he does not believe Trump withhold the money in order to force an investigation into the Bidens.

“For example, we put tariffs on Mexico and say to Mexico, ‘Help us stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States’ and Mexico agreed to do that and has been doing that and the president withdrew the tariffs. That’s a quid pro quo. It’s not illegal. In and of itself, a quid pro quo does not violate the law,” Buck said. Over the summer, Trump threatened to place tariffs on all Mexican goods, but backed off after an agreement was reached on immigration enforcement.

This is objectively wrong. Period.

It is irrelevant whether or not Buck thinks President Trump’s request of Ukraine is illegal. We don’t need Buck’s opinion here because the law itself is clear.

Now take a gander at how the Greeley Congressman would raise the bar on Presidential misconduct:

The congressman declined to say whether he believes it’s appropriate for a president to ask such a favor, calling that a hypothetical scenario. A quid pro quo, as Democrats allege Trump engaged in, would only be an impeachable offense if it rises to the level of a crime, said Buck, a former prosecutor.

“In other words, if I’m the president of the United States and I say to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin, ‘If you go and kill these three political opponents of mine, I will give you aid, or I will stop giving Ukraine aid,’ yes, that’s a crime,” the congressman said.

It’s getting hot in herre

It’s noteworthy in itself that Buck declines to say whether he believes President Trump’s actions to be appropriate, but the real problem here is Buck’s faulty response to Trump’s actions as a “hypothetical scenario.” Trump did talk to the President of Ukraine and he did ask him to “do us a favor, though” and start an investigation into the Bidens. There’s nothing hypothetical about any of this.

Furthermore, according to “Buck logic,” Trump would have to ask another country TO MURDER SOMEONE for this sort of request to rise to an impeachable offense.

WUT?

Most adults understand that this scenario would still include separate crimes — for murder and for bribery. Then again, most adults also don’t believe that people are purchasing AR-15 rifles in order to obliterate raccoons.

You might remember that Buck damn near sunk President Trump during the testimony of former special prosecutor Robert Mueller when he repeatedly asked if Trump could be charged with a crime and kept getting the same affirmative answer. Buck later attempted to defend his blunder by saying that “only very soft people” are worried about Trump’s actions. In other words, it’s not necessarily a good thing for Trump that Ken Buck is trying to publicly defend him.

Buck tells The Denver Post that he will “will go where the evidence takes me in this case.” If Buck was making an honest attempt to understand the evidence, this might be reassuring.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (November 14)

There are 40 shopping days remaining until Christmas. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Unless you’ve been living inside an old Budweiser box, you’re probably aware that Wednesday was the first day of public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill. Ambassador William B. Taylor, Jr. and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, testified for hours in front of members of the House Intelligence Committee and the eyes of the world.

Taylor dropped a bombshell in his opening statement, telling a story about a phone call between President Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland that apparently laid bare that Trump cares only about Ukraine insofar as they might investigate former Vice President Joe Biden for invented transgressions. The rest of the hearing went downhill from there for Republicans.

For more on Wednesday’s proceedings, here’s a quick list of links:

Trump Exposed: A Brutal Day for the President (Politico)

In the big moment, Republicans go small (Washington Post)

♦ New revelations from first public hearings paint damning portrait of Trump (CNN)

♦ How Adam Schiff Avoided a Circus (Washington Post)

♦ Republicans’ Best Defense is a Bad Offense (New York Times)

♦ Impeachment hearing testimony further connects President to Ukraine pressure (CNN)

♦ Pelosi says Trump has admitted to “bribery” with Ukraine (Axios)

Of course, as Philip Bump notes for The Washington Post, your takeaway from Wednesday’s hearings might be quite a bit different if you get your information from the likes of Fox News.

 

► At least one person is dead and several others injured in a school shooting in Santa Clarita, California. This is the 30th school shooting of 2019.

 

► As the Associated Press reports, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) unveiled a new state budget with a heavy focus on education spending:

Polis proposed a $34.5 billion state budget Wednesday for the next fiscal year, once again emphasizing early and higher education investments and seeking to increase rainy-day reserves.

Polis presented his request to the Joint Budget Committee, which will craft a balanced budget during the 2020 legislative session.

Polis noted that the requested funding increase of 2.9% kept with the inflation rate, Colorado Politics reported.

“There’s not a lot of free money” available, he said.

The Denver Post has more on the upcoming budget battle.

 

► Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) is trying to overturn a magazine ban in Colorado as gun stores openly flaunt laws designed to prohibit high-capacity gun magazines.

 

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

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Never-Ending Squabble Over Gun Magazines Turns Sinister

It’s been a big week of political news on the subject of gun control in Colorado, with two related storylines converging into what we expect will be the next big flashpoint in the 2020 session of the Colorado General Assembly–a renewed battle over the state’s 15-round limit on firearm magazine capacity, passed in 2013 in response to mass shootings in Aurora and elsewhere utilizing high capacity magazines to dramatically increase the toll of dead and wounded. In the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting in particular, a 100-round ammunition drum attached to an AR-15 type assault rifle–which only jammed after most of its capacity had been expended–was responsible for the majority of deaths.

Despite this, as the Denver Post reports, yesterday the Colorado Supreme Court heard arguments in Rocky Mountain Gun Owners’ lawsuit to overturn the magazine limit:

In arguments before the state court Wednesday, the groups’ lawyer, Barry Arrington, said that since the U.S. Supreme Court has found that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right, the state has a heavier burden to prove that the magazine limit is needed. He said they cannot meet that standard.

The law was passed in 2013, a year after the Aurora theater shooting, in an effort to limit the number of deaths in mass shootings. While large capacity magazines were used in the Columbine and Aurora shootings, Arrington said that have also been widely used by gun owners, with millions of them in existence when the law was passed.

Aurora shooting memorial, July 2012.

9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger captured a particularly compelling exchange from yesterday’s arguments:

“The odds of you hurting more people is significantly higher than if you had to stop and reload. What’s crazy about that?” [Justice Richard] Gabriel asked.

“The evidence at trial was that two had been abused. Two magazines. Not two million. Two magazines had been abused in the state of Colorado. So, it’s literally the fact that the government is saying if it’s a one-in-a-million chance that one of these firearm components can be abused by a homicidal maniac, we get to ban them all.” Arrington said.

“If you’re going to look at statistics and you’re going to say the odds are so low that no one has ever used this for a mass shooting, then the odds are also low that anyone needs 15 rounds to defend oneself,” Gabriel said. [Pols emphasis]

A ruling in this case from from the state supreme court isn’t expected this year, but legal experts we’ve talked to do not expect the magazine limit to be overturned in the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected numerous challenges to state and local gun laws in the last 10 years. The 2008 DC vs. Heller Supreme Court decision clearly dictates that reasonable regulations on guns are compatible with the Second Amendment.

So, that’s where the issue stands legally. But 9NEWS’ Zelinger also released this week and in-depth investigative report, Overloaded, which revealed a much more essential and troubling problem: Republicans in Colorado, from the General Assembly to the elected county sheriffs RMGO has helped put in power all over the state, have created a lawless environment where gun stores and gun owners are breaking the law with impunity.

(more…)

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Republicans Slink to Gutter on First Day of Public Hearings

Ambassador Bill Taylor (left) and House GOP counsel Steve Castor

If you read just one summary of Wednesday’s first day of public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill, make it this piece from Dana Milbank of The Washington Post:

Of all the excuses, defenses, distractions and outright non sequiturs President Trump’s defenders deployed at Wednesday’s first public impeachment hearing — the whistleblower is biased! Hunter Biden is corrupt! Adam Schiff wanted nude photos of Trump! — the most telling came from Steve Castor, the Republicans’ chief counsel, as he questioned Bill Taylor, America’s man in Kyiv.

Describing the “irregular channel” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his team of “amigos” used to coerce Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents, Castor asked Taylor: “In fairness, this irregular channel of diplomacy, it’s not as outlandish as it could be — is that correct?”

Taylor seemed to think Castor was telling a joke. “It’s not as outlandish as it could be,” he said with a laugh. “I agree.”

True! Giuliani could have conducted the entire scheme in drag. Or they could have threatened the Ukrainian president with a Nerf gun instead of merely withholding military aid. But Castor wasn’t kidding. He defended his point at length, then asked again: “It may be irregular, but it’s certainly not outlandish?”

Taylor smiled, shook his head and nodded, as if to convey: Whatever you say.

As the website Law & Crime notes, Wednesday’s performance by Republican attorney Steve Castor was a “trainwreck” worthy of the intense derision it received on social media. As John Harris writes for Politico, the first day of public hearings was a “brutal day for the President.”

And this is only the beginning.

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Thursday Open Thread

“Ignorance of all things is an evil neither terrible nor excessive, nor yet the greatest of all; but great cleverness and much learning, if they be accompanied by a bad training, are a much greater misfortune.”

–Plato

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Tell Us How You Really Feel, Chaffee County GOP

Continuing our occasional look at content appearing on official Colorado Republican Party social media landing pages, here’s the Chaffee County GOP voicing what appears to be their displeasure over white people not having enough wives, which results through straightforward means in…well, fewer white babies. It’s true that you might be a little confused hearing from an official Republican Party mouthpiece how “Europeans disappeared,” past tense, since it’s our understanding that people of European descent both in Europe and elsewhere–including 85% non-Hispanic lily-white Chaffee County–are still very much with us.

Outside a few places we’ve read about in southern Utah where the gene pool is problematically shallow, there’s not much we can offer to help Chaffee County Republicans in their quest for more wives! More babies is something they could work on at least to some degree, as long as their spouses are willing, but the reality is that birthrates decline as a natural product of economic development–and that includes the developed Muslim world, too.

But again, that’s a conversation for well-adjusted adults to have.

Well-adjusted adults are not in charge of the Chaffee County Republican Party.

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Selling Air: GOP Defends Pointless “Citizen Voter” Initiative

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

In the 24 hours since petitions were submitted in support of Initiative 76, a constitutional amendment to duplicatively restate that voting rights in Colorado are restricted to U.S. citizens only–which the constitution already prescribes and is already followed in practice throughout the state with zero exceptions we are aware of–proponents have faced a barrage of questions from reporters, trying to figure out what the point of the measure is beyond the superficial objective of turning out a particular segment of low-information, high-prejudice voters.

The answers? Mostly crazy stuff, with a wink and nod to the desperate realpolitik. Colorado Public Radio:

The Colorado effort has collected more than 200,000 signatures ahead of a Tuesday deadline, likely ensuring they’ll have more than enough ruled valid to qualify for the election, according to Joe Stengel, registered agent for the initiative…

Stengel claimed, without providing any evidence, that noncitizens already are voting in Colorado, despite the existing laws.

“They are voting now, and I think that they’ll probably continue to vote if we don’t ensure the integrity of our elections,” he said. He could not point to any specific examples, he said.

Grand Junction Sentinel:

Stengel, who served as minority leader in the Colorado House before leaving office in 2006, denied that the effort has anything to do with politics.

“It’s a non-partisan issue,” he said. “Democrats, Republicans, independents should all be concerned about voter integrity. Opponents can say whatever they want, but who would not be in favor of voter integrity?”

CBS4:

“This is a great opportunity so that we can get in front of the voters first hand,” said Rep. Patrick Neville (R – District 45), the House Minority Leader. “They are going to get a chance to vote on it.” [Pols emphasis]

Denver Post:

“In my mind, this simply clears up some ambiguous language,” Neville said during a press conference late Tuesday morning, “and ensures we take the first steps to ensure we have election integrity in the state of Colorado.”

We’ll start with the most important point, which is there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that noncitizens are voting in Colorado elections. Repeated false claims of this kind from former Secretary of State Scott Gessler during his term from 2011-14 fell apart under scrutiny, and it became obvious that Gessler and friends were intentionally omitting the naturalization of new citizens in the state–which completely accounts for these alleged instances of “noncitizen voters” with room to spare.

It’s been necessary for us to revisit this question over and over as the false claims get recycled to new audiences. And every time, whether it’s Gessler or Donald Trump making the allegation, it has always turned out the same way.

Once you get past the easily disproven claims of “noncitizens voting,” proponents seem to acknowledge that Initiative 76 is nothing more than a get-out-the-vote vehicle for beat-down Colorado Republicans in the 2020 elections. Along with the ballot measure to overturn the legislature’s passage of the National Popular Vote Compact, these measures are unapologetically described (at least in private) as a way of giving demoralized Colorado Republicans demotivated by the top of the ticket and the near-inevitability of another impending defeat in our state some reason to return their ballot.

Bottom line: Initiative 76 almost surgically targets a segment of the electorate that Republicans need desperately to vote, namely conservatives in possession of more rage than facts. That’s its entire reason for existence. Like so many other storylines in today’s politics, when the pitch man tells you you’re being too cynical…the reality is that you’re not being cynical enough.

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Gardner Breaks Silence On First Day Of Impeachment Hearings

Technically speaking, anyway, from today’s Get More Smarter:

As the nation sits riveted to their televisions and other screens following updates to the impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump, Sen. Cory Gardner is indefatigably on script–talking about any available subject besides the eight hundred pound gorilla dominating the headlines. Unfortunately for Gardner, we’re at the stage where talking about something else–anything else–is worse than saying nothing at all.

Gardner tried that first, of course, and it did not end well.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (November 13)

Happy first day of public impeachment hearings…day. Please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The headline and subhead in every media outlet in the country is all about public impeachment hearings beginning today on Capitol Hill. William B. Taylor Jr., acting ambassador to Ukraine, dropped a bombshell piece of news in his testimony this morning when he revealed that an aide overheard a damning phone call between President Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland that took place on July 26, one day after Trump’s infamous “perfect” phone call with the Ukrainian President.

You can get live updates of today’s impeachment hearings via The Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times, and just about anywhere else on the Internet. Heck, you could probably find live updates on PornHub, but we’re not going to check that one for ourselves. For more information, go to The Washington Post for initial reactions to today’s testimony and for fact-checking on the spin machine.

We’ll end this section with some advice for Republicans from the editorial board at The Washington Post:

 

► Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) writes an Op-Ed for The Hill newspaper about honoring the service of those who are testifying on impeachment hearings:

The American people will soon hear the testimony of veterans, career foreign service officers, and dedicated public servants. As both a combat veteran and member of Congress, I have one request of my colleagues: do not question the patriotism of these decorated veterans and public servants.

We can and will debate the merits of the testimony, but baseless smears against those who have dedicated their lives to our country are beneath our nation’s dignity. Unfortunately, we have seen these attacks before.

► It’s been one week since the polls closed on the 2019 Election, and Aurora still doesn’t know who will be the city’s mayor. As The Denver Post reports:

The votes cast in the five-way race, which appeared to be in former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s favor Nov. 5, ended up being too close to call when the three counties involved finished their main ballot counts Thursday.

Coffman was leading Omar Montgomery, the NAACP chapter president, by fewer than 300 votes.

And there were still about 2,300 votes out in Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties combined — all counties that can claim part of Aurora — that needed signature and identification verification before they could be counted. There were also additional military and overseas ballots that needed to be counted as well as ballots that were transferred from various county offices. However, many of the uncounted ballots are probably not from Aurora.

So Montgomery volunteers started knocking on doors again, trying to cure, or correct, signature and identification discrepancies, on hundreds of ballots that weren’t counted.

 

DACA recipients in Denver are anxiously awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court as to whether or not President Trump can lawfully cancel the Obama-era program. As NBC News reports, observers expect the court to side with Trump on ending DACA, but as the New York Times explains, a ruling favorable to President Trump might actually be the worse outcome for the White House.

 

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

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Bombshell on First Day of Public Impeachment Hearings

UPDATE: So, what happens when EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland testifies publicly, which could come as soon as next week?

—–

William Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine, during the swearing-in process prior to House testimony.

William B. Taylor Jr., acting ambassador to Ukraine, opened up the first day of public impeachment hearings in front of the House Intelligence Committee today with a bombshell bit of new information. As The Washington Post explains:

Taylor added new information to his opening statement Wednesday, describing a July phone call between Trump and U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland overheard by a member of Taylor’s staff in which Trump purportedly asked about “the investigations.”

Taylor said one of his aides told him that Sondland called Trump from a Kyiv restaurant on July 26 to update him on meetings he was having in the city.

The aide heard Trump through the phone asking about “the investigations” and Sondland said the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, according to Taylor.

The phone call purportedly took place after Sondland met with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, and one day after Trump asked Zelensky to pursue investigations into his political opponents in a controversial phone call.

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden.”

  — Ambassador Bill Taylor

As CNN notes, “Bill Taylor’s opening statement is a wow.”

George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, joined Taylor in testifying this morning.

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Alex Cranberg Steps In Oily Foreign Policy Scandal (Again)

Alex Cranberg.

AP reported yesterday via the Colorado Sun and a host of other news outlets on a sweetheart deal apparently obtained by Energy Secretary Rick Perry on behalf of American oil speculators including Alex Cranberg, a former Colorado Republican megadonor with a long and dubious history of turning up where fossil fuel and foreign policy intrigue meet:

Perry’s efforts to influence Ukraine’s energy policy came earlier this year, just as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s new government was seeking military aid from the United States to defend against Russian aggression and allies of President Donald Trump were ramping up efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry’s supporters little more than a month after the U.S. energy secretary attended Zelenskiy’s May inauguration. In a meeting during that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers. One of the four names was his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.

A week later, Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas at a sprawling government-controlled site called Varvynska. They offered millions of dollars less to the Ukrainian government than their only competitor for the drilling rights, according to internal Ukrainian government documents obtained by The Associated Press. But their newly created joint venture, Ukrainian Energy, was awarded the 50-year contract because a government-appointed commission determined they had greater technical expertise and stronger financial backing, the documents show.

The Texas Observer recaps some of the details about the close ties between former Gov. Perry and Cranberg since Cranberg relocated to Texas, after several years of Cranberg trying unsuccessfully to beat back the growing tide of Democratic political victories in our state. Among other mutual showings of affection, Cranberg supplied Perry with a private plane for Perry’s ill-fated 2012 presidential run:

Perry appointed Cranberg to the UT Board of Regents shortly after the man registered to vote in Texas following a move from Colorado. Cranberg served from 2011 to 2017 and was a controversial figure on the system’s governing board…

Democrats on three U.S. House committees last month subpoenaed documents from Perry as part of their impeachment inquiry into allegations that President Donald Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son.

…An attorney for Aspect Holdings, Cranberg’s company, told the AP that American officials supported “a fair, competitive process.”

Back in 2008, as some long-time readers may remember, Cranberg’s Aspect Energy became a significant liability to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer–among many other scandals such as Schaffer’s involvment with now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a scheme to cover up labor abuses in the Northern Mariana Islands–after a deal Schaffer had helped broker to produce oil in northern Iraqi Kurdish-controlled territory ran afoul of the U.S. State Department. U.S. occupation policy required such deals to be approved by the Iraqi national government in the in-retrospect well-founded interest of not provoking sectarian conflict in Iraq.

Schaffer and Cranberg, on the other hand, were in it for the money–not American interests.

With all of this in mind, we’ll have to wait and see what shakes out from this lucrative deal between Ukraine and Cranberg’s energy company, brokered by the now-outgoing U.S. Secretary of Energy who resigned in no small part so he wouldn’t have to talk about Ukraine. This is a bigger deal than anything Republicans have accused Joe Biden’s son of involvement in, and if Cranberg’s below-market winning bid wasn’t above board there is actual wrongdoing in this case which doesn’t credibly exist in Biden’s.

And that’s not going to help the Republicans Cranberg supports win in 2020.

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Steve House Gets a Little Silly on Veterans Day

Military adviser for Steve House campaign for Congress

Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is a former Army Ranger who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded a Bronze Star. Crow honored American service members on Veterans Day on Monday by thanking them for their service and attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the Colorado Fallen Heroes Memorial in Denver.

Steve House is one of three Republicans looking to challenge Crow in CO-6 next November. The former State Republican Party Chairman (and later State Party “CEO”)  can’t match Crow’s military record, but he does know people who do things with the word “veteran” in their job description. As Ernest Luning explains for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

House marked Veterans Day by announcing he’s been endorsed by five Coloradans with records of military service and four Republican state lawmakers with more tenuous connections to veterans.

The endorsements listed in a release issued Monday by House’s campaign include an oral surgeon who serves in the Army National Guard, a prosecutor who serves in the Marine Reserves, a Marine Corps veteran who chaired the El Paso County Republicans, and a retired Army officer who lost a primary for Elbert County commissioner last year by just two votes.

There’s also a state lawmaker from Colorado Springs who went to the Air Force Academy and two Republicans who sit on their chamber’s respective State, Veterans and Military Affairs committees — known as the “kill committees,” where legislation of all sorts routinely goes to die — and two GOP lawmakers from Western Colorado who look out for veterans while they’re at the Capitol, according to the House campaign. [Pols emphasis]

House does have a couple of endorsements from honest-to-goodness military veterans, but his announcement on Monday was watered down quite a bit by the inclusion of people who have nothing to do with the armed services of the United States.

Two of these endorsements (State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and state Rep. Janice Rich) are apparently related to “Veterans Day” because they are state lawmakers who sit on the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committees. This is sort of like claiming the support of South Americans because you are endorsed by someone who delivers packages for Amazon.com. But these endorsements almost make sense compared to state Sen. Ray Scott and state Rep. Matt Soper, both of whom are included on House’s “Veterans Day” list because they…appreciate veterans?

Scott honors the servicemen and women of Colorado and fights to ensure they are treated with honor and dignity by the State of Colorado’s highest legislative body…

…Soper has fought tirelessly for veterans and their families since he was first elected in 2018.

The House campaign must have forgotten to mention that Sen. Scott also likes to watch movies about Americans who are in the military when he is supposed to be paying attention on the Senate floor.

Via press release (11/11/19)

Perhaps on Valentine’s Day, House can wrangle the endorsement of former Utah Congresswoman Mia Love.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: What Happened on Tuesday?

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, the latest effort to save the state from TABOR’s claws goes down, the 2019 election gets messy in a top swing county, washed up old politicians trying to be relevant get smacked down by the Denver Post Editorial Board, Impeachment-a-lago gets; and our Producer Ethan Black goes head to head with Ian Silverii in America’s best/worst game show, Duke or Donald.

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

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 12)

Happy World Pneumonia Day; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today about whether or not President Trump can legally end the Obama-era DACA program. From The New York Times:

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Tuesday appeared ready to side with the Trump administration in its efforts to shut down a program protecting about 700,000 young immigrants known as “Dreamers.”

The court’s liberal justices probed the administration’s justifications for ending the program, expressing skepticism about its rationales for doing so. But other justices indicated that they would not second-guess the administration’s reasoning and, in any event, considered its explanations sufficient.

Still, there was agreement among the justices that the young people who signed up for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, were sympathetic and that they and their families, schools and employers had relied on it in good faith.

The arguments in the case, one of the most important of the term, addressed presidential power over immigration, a signature issue for President Trump and a divisive one, especially as it has played out in the debate over DACA, a program that has broad, bipartisan support.

Coloradans who back DREAMERs are rallying in Washington D.C. today, as CBS4 Denver reports. Closer to home, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is leading a DACA rally on the campus of Metro State University.

 

Colorado gun shops are using a loophole in state law to continue selling equipment that is supposed to be banned. As Marshall Zelinger reports for 9News:

A state law banning the sale and transfer of large-capacity gun magazines has not stopped the sale and transfer of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition.

An undercover investigation by 9Wants to Know found examples of gun stores in Colorado either ignoring the law altogether or finding a loophole to get around the law…

…Our undercover investigation found gun stores selling these “parts kits” in Arapahoe, Douglas, El Paso and Larimer counties. The kits are large-capacity magazines sold in pieces, ready to be assembled after they are purchased.

“This is a 30-round mag; we have to sell it as parts,” said the employee at Iron Horse Armory. “That’s one of Colorado’s retarded laws.”

 

Public impeachment hearings begin Wednesday on Capitol Hill. As Politico explains:

The hearings alone are a historic moment; only three presidents have been subject to an impeachment inquiry before. And though the probe was launched by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in September, this is the week when it all becomes real…

…Democrats plan to hold two weeks of hearings in the House Intelligence Committee and will later hold hearings in the Judiciary Committee, which will draft any articles of impeachment.

Three key witnesses will testify before the committee this week. On Wednesday, William Taylor and George Kent are expected to appear; on Friday, it’s Marie Yovanovitch.

As the Colorado Independent notes, two Colorado Congressmen — Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) — will play an important role in upcoming impeachment hearings. 

 

Axios got hold of the plan Congressional Republicans have put together for defending President Trump against impeachment. If you were hoping the GOP had prepared a bold new strategy…you’re going to be disappointed. The big problem of this approach, as Greg Sargent writes for The Washington Post, is that President Trump himself keeps kicking sand into the gears.

 

► Check out this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast for more post-election analysis and other political jabberings:

 

 

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

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Dumbest Solution In Search Of Problem Ever Heads For Ballot

“Herbie the Hate Bug” collects signatures for the so-called Citizen Voter initiative.

Colorado Public Radio’s Andrew Kenney reports, here’s an exciting new way Republicans have found to make differing groups of people who live in America dislike one another–which history has shown has a measurable effect on how Americans vote!

The national group Citizen Voters has poured more than $1 million into an attempt to change a few words in Colorado’s state constitution.

It’s part of a well-funded, multi-state campaign to explicitly ban anyone without U.S. citizenship from voting in elections, which critics say is already part of Colorado’s existing law. Organizers say they’re on track to get on the ballot for the 2020 election.

The Colorado effort has collected more than 200,000 signatures ahead of a Tuesday deadline, likely ensuring they’ll have more than enough ruled valid to qualify for the election, according to Joe Stengel, registered agent for the initiative.

“Only people eligible to vote by virtue of being a citizen should be allowed to vote. This will ensure that will take place,” said Stengel, a former Republican state legislator from Littleton.

Let’s start with the most important thing people need to know about the so-called “Citizen Voter” initiative, which assuming the petition drive in support of placing this measure on the November 2020 ballot was carried out professionally–no guarantee of course with the shady characters involved in paid signature collection efforts–we’ll be voting on.

It’s already the law that only U.S. citizens can vote in Colorado elections. It’s the law two ways, in fact, via federal law pertinent to every federal office as well as the state constitution which explicitly makes citizenship a requirement to vote.

The state constitution says that “every citizen” may vote, and Initiative 76 would change it to say that “only citizens” may vote. [Pols emphasis]

In terms of practical effect in any Colorado election, this change would be completely meaningless. Although some local governments in other states have allowed for noncitizens to participate in low-level elections like school boards where federal election laws do not apply, that can’t happen in Colorado under the state constitution.

So why spend the money and man-hours to pass a constitutional amendment that changes nothing? That’s simple: it motivates conservative voters, who believe against all available evidence that election fraud in general and noncitizen voting in particular is rampant throughout the country. Here in Colorado, former GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler tried for years to persuade the public that “tens of thousands of illegal voters” were swinging our elections. Gessler’s initial claims of tens of thousands dwindled down to something around a half dozen cases, since Gessler omitted basic considerations like the thousands of people who became citizens during the same period–more than accounting for Gessler’s fictional discrepancy.

We’ve always assumed that Gessler knew he was being dishonest. Likewise it’s reasonable to assume that the proponents of this initiative are fully aware that it would make no practical difference in the law. This is about showing token support for President Donald Trump’s virulently anti-immigrant agenda, and stoking the ugly anti-immigrant animus Trump has capitalized on since the moment he entered the presidential race in 2015. For this to be happening at the same time as the U.S. Supreme Court’s battle over “DREAMer” immigrant children makes for a compelling backdrop, and not in any way that makes the measure’s proponents look good.

One can only hope that the same Colorado voters who rejected Trump’s demagoguery will see through this as well.

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Tuesday Open Thread

“About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.”

–Will Rogers

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The Next Abortion Ban: Telemedicine

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R).

A report from medical industry publication mHealth Intelligence discusses a new monkeywrench being thrown by Republicans into the gears of women’s reproductive rights–a ban on “telemedicine” physician appointments to prescribe abortion medications:

A Congressman from Texas is seeking to make telemedicine abortions all but illegal in the US.

Rep. Ron Wright’s new bill, HR 4395, would prohibit care providers from using telehealth to prescribe abortion drugs unless they have physically examined the patient, are physically present when the patient takes the medications, and schedule a follow-up visit…

Roughly 25 percent of the abortions performed in the U.S. are non-surgical, or medical abortions. The process can be paired with a telemedicine platform in two ways: a physician can examine a patient via telemedicine, then issue a prescription for mifepristone and misoprostol to the patient to terminate the pregnancy; or a remote physician can examine a patient who’s at a clinic, then issue instructions to clinic personnel to dispense the drugs from a locked cabinet that is remotely opened by the doctor.

As states have moved in recent to impose all manner of incremental restrictions and medically dubious regulations on access to abortion, telemedicine has emerged as a novel way for women to circumvent so-called “TRAP” legislation and get the care they need. It’s only natural that a ban on the practice would emerge as soon as anti-abortion Republicans became aware of it, and we fully expect to see a state-level version of this ban introduced in the Colorado legislature next January–where it will die, of course, after giving the issue’s diehards another chance to sound off in futility. This federal version was filed in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House for similar reasons.

The bill, which was filed on October 30, has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for further action. It has 12 co-sponsors: Reps. John Joyce (R-PA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Randy Weber Sr. (R-TX), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), John Rutherford (R-FL), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), [Pols emphasis] Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jody Hice (R-GA), Jim Banks (R-IN), Andy Harris (R-MD) and Bob Gibbs (R-OH).

And no surprise, Colorado’s Rep. Doug Lamborn is an original cosponsor! One of the ways Colorado’s least inspiring member of Congress defends his safe GOP seat from perennial primary challengers is by never missing the chance to jump all over sticky wedge issues the base can’t resist. Opposition to telemedicine appointments for reproductive care is difficult to oppose on the merits–if you oppose it, it’s probably because you oppose all abortion and recognize telemedicine as a way of circumventing other arbitrary restrictions.

Par for the course for Doug Lamborn, Colorado’s premiere “gynotician.”

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New Polling in New Hampshire Shows Same Four at Top

Last week we took note of a new poll from Quinnipiac University showing that the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination in Iowa appears to be centering on four candidates: Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg. According to new polling results out today from Quinnipiac, the battle for New Hampshire looks much the same:

Biden receives support from 20 percent of New Hampshire likely Democratic primary voters, with Senator Elizabeth Warren getting 16 percent, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg getting 15 percent, and Sen. Bernie Sanders at 14 percent.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard gets 6 percent, businessman Andrew Yang gets 4 percent, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer are each at 3 percent. No other candidate tops 1 percent, and 14 percent of likely voters are undecided.

Just as with last week’s Quinnipiac polling from Iowa, the top four Democratic candidates are essentially tied when you consider the margin of error. There’s still time for other candidates to move up (keep hope alive, Sen. Michael Bennet!), but it’s looking more and more like a four-candidate race at the moment.

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What Does This Even Mean? DougCo GOP Edition

We get forwarded all kinds of bizarre social media postings from both official and decidedly unofficial Republican Party mouthpieces (here’s looking at you, Tom Tancredo) some of which are straightforwardly offensive in any of the customary ways individuals on the fringes of the American political right offend the socially well-adjusted. Others, however, just leave us scratching our heads as to what exactly they’re trying to say at all:

Folks, where are the Douglas County Republicans going with this? In Colorado, it’s the law that students must have the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance–though they also have the freedom to not recite it. Is somebody forcing kids to pray to Mecca, which would be the only way we can think of this makes any sense?

The problem must be that we expect it to make sense.

But again, this is “official” Republican Party content. You can’t just ignore it.

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Mike Coffman’s “Comeback” Marred By Frazier Lifeline

Ex-Rep. Mike Coffman.

CBS4 Denver reports, as of this moment we still don’t technically know the winner of the extremely close race to be the next Mayor of the city of Aurora, coming down to just a few hundred votes with lots of procedural finger-pointing–and enough ballots waiting to be “cured” to at least hypothetically swing a race in which former GOP Congressman Mike Coffman holds the narrowest of leads:

People living in Aurora still don’t know who will be their next mayor. Even though Tuesday was Election Day, there is still some confusion with the ballots…

The difference is 281 votes. On Friday, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold tweeted about 828 replacement ballots that remain in question. Griswold blamed the U.S. Postal Service.

“The bottom line is that the Post Office understood that they had a problem on Election Day. They called all their carriers to come back for an emergency, pickup these ballots and send them out, but they failed to notify us,” said Griswold.

The race between Coffman and progressive challenger Omar Montgomery became a national proxy fight over gun violence after national gun-safety groups weighed in against Coffman, casting his longstanding support from the National Rifle Association as out of step with a city trying to heal from tragedies including the July 2012 mass shooting at Aurora’s Century Theater. Despite Coffman’s double-digit drubbing at the polls in 2018 when he lost the congressional seat that represents the city after years of splitting tickets in a Democratic-leaning district, most political observers have considered Coffman to be the favorite in the Aurora mayoral race based on sheer name recognition.

But the razor-thin margin between Coffman and Montgomery in this race doesn’t tell the whole story. Ryan Frazier, the former Republican congressional and U.S. Senate candidate among other failed runs for office, who (not that anyone really cares) changed his affiliation to independent earlier this year, and received nearly 12,000 votes in the mayoral race, appears to have played a decisive role in spoiling what would have otherwise have been a comfortable win for Omar Montgomery. Frazier served on the Aurora City Council until 2011, but had in fact moved away from the state eschewing politics before coming back to launch this longshot bid to be Mayor.

Given the results, some more conspiracy-minded readers might even suspect that Coffman and Frazier were working together to ensure the opposition to Coffman was fractured. We ourselves try not to attribute to treachery what can be explained by incompetence, as the saying goes, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary we’re willing to go along with the more likely scenario that Mike Coffman is simply the beneficiary of Ryan Frazier’s endless supply of hubris.

Depending on the final count and the available ballots left to “cure,” Coffman may get lucky. But anyone hoping for a “Coffman Comeback” narrative coming out of this election should be aware that luck is not synonymous with strength–and whatever the result, the real story of the 2019 Aurora mayoral election is that Coffman is weaker than conventional wisdom held.

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Hick Ethics Complaint Careens Toward Nothingburger

SUNDAY UPDATE: Frank McNulty’s not going to like the Denver Post’s editorial bottom line:

As Scott Gessler can tell you, all “scandals” are not created equal.

—–

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission has released a fact-finding report on allegations in an ethics complaint against former Gov. John Hickenlooper regarding trips Hickenlooper took while governor — filed by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty:

Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission released a report Thursday into former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s travel, including interview notes that show a private jet trip to Connecticut last year was paid for by a billionaire friend’s company.

The report, which drew no conclusions, will be used by the ethics commission as it conducts a hearing into Hickenlooper’s travel and whether it violated the Colorado Constitution. The report is primarily made up of interview summations, along with documentation such as checks and travel itineraries.

According to interviews with Hickenlooper and an attorney for MDC Holdings, a company that builds single-family homes and is owned by billionaire Larry Mizel, MDC paid to fly Hickenlooper to Connecticut, where he spoke at a USS Colorado commissioning.

The ethics commission’s report discusses the circumstances of a number of trips that Hickenlooper took as governor in 2018. Wingerter cites Hickenlooper’s trip to New London, Connecticut for the commissioning ceremony of the USS Colorado attack submarine–which seems difficult to cast aspersions on, since it’s very much within the scope of the governor’s duties. Other trips cited in the report include a trip to the conspiracy theorists’ favorite Bilderberg conference in Italy that Hicklenlooper says he paid for entirely on his own, and a trip to Texas to preside over the wedding of Boulder restauranteur Kimbal Musk, brother of Elon Musk of SpaceX fame. Hickenlooper’s attorneys say the trip to Texas for the Musk wedding falls under an exemption in the state’s ethics law allowing trips paid for “by a personal friend and on a special occasion.”

With that said, this report is not intended to be conclusive, and any ethics violations determined from the report will be made by the IEC. But it’s pretty clear from these long-awaited details that the facts underlying this complaint do not come close to, for example, the IEC’s determination that former Secretary of State Scott Gessler abused the public trust by spending taxpayer dollars on trips to partisan political events. Some of our readers may find the idea of Hickenlooper flying with Larry Mizel, a kingpin Republican donor to be politically intriguing, but the trip itself to speak at the USS Colorado’s commissioning seems perfectly appropriate–and it’s hard to see the political advantage in ensnaring one of the GOP’s own top donors in an ethics complaint.

Wingerter reports that former Speaker McNulty’s “ethics group,” known as the The Public Trust Institute (PTI), was created only two days before the complaint was filed in October of 2018 against Hickenlooper, and shares an address with a principal GOP “dark money” group known as Defend Colorado which has played heavily in attacks on Gov. Jared Polis over the oil and gas regulation bill SB19-181 as well as the factually-challenged but successful campaign against Referendum CC. All told, this is about Republican political operatives checking a task box they would have checked against Hickenlooper regardless of what office he’s running for.

So we’ll all have to wait for the ethics commission’s conclusions now, but it’s evident from this report that there isn’t a whole lot of “there” there–not enough, anyway, to justify more than a year of faux-outraged chestbeating from Republicans.

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