Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 19)

Today is the 50th day of 2020; please celebrate responsibly. 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…

► We really can’t be far away from Donald Trump declaring himself King of America. As The Washington Post reports:

On Tuesday, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, circumventing the usual Justice Department process. The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves to punish witnesses in his impeachment trial, publicly intervene in a pending legal case to urge leniency for a friend, attack a federal judge, accuse a juror of bias and threaten to sue his own government for investigating him.

Trump defended his actions, saying he has the right to shape the country’s legal systems as he sees fit. [Pols emphasis]

“I’m allowed to be totally involved,” he told reporters as he left Washington on Tuesday for a trip to California, Nevada and Arizona. “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

Of course, this is NOT true. The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, but when the AG just does whatever the President wants…

The president’s post-impeachment behavior has alarmed Attorney General William P. Barr, who has told people close to the president that he is willing to quit unless Trump stops publicly commenting on ongoing criminal matters, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. It also has appalled several legal experts and former officials, who have said his direct intervention in legal matters risks further politicizing law enforcement at a time of fraying confidence in the Justice Department.

As The Washington Post reports in a separate story, Trump is almost daring Attorney General William Barr to quit his job:

Against the wishes of Attorney General William P. Barr, President Trump continued to tweet Wednesday about the Justice Department, relaying the sentiments of conservative allies that Barr should “clean house” and target those involved in the Russia investigation.

Former Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer is among many current and former Justice Department officials who think Barr should resign

You can thank Senate Republicans for fully unlocking Trump’s dictator mode. Here in Colorado, voters are well aware that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) voted for Trump’s impeachment acquittal purely as political protection.

 

The Democratic candidates for President will debate tonight in Nevada, which will also mark the first on-stage appearance of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Here’s more on how candidates are courting Coloradans leading up to Super Tuesday on March 3:

♦ Jon Murray of The Denver Post breaks down how Bloomberg has been courting politicos in Colorado for decades.

♦ Elizabeth Warren has launched a new ad campaign in Colorado.

 Amy Klobuchar will be in Denver on Thursday. Tulsi Gabbard will be in Colorado Springs and Boulder. Joe Biden will not be appearing anywhere.

♦ President Trump is in Colorado Springs on Thursday with Sen. Cory Gardner. As The Colorado Springs Independent reports, Trump’s expensive visit will be paid for…by local taxpayers.

 

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

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BREAKING: Trump Offered Pardon to Julian Assange

As The Daily Beast reports:

President Trump offered to pardon Julian Assange if he agreed to cover up the involvement of Russia in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee, which were later published by WikiLeaks, a London court was told on Wednesday. [Pols emphasis]

Lawyers acting for Assange have argued that the Australian should not be extradited to the U.S. because the case is political not criminal.

Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer, said on Wednesday that a message had been passed on to Assange by former Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Fitzgerald said a statement produced by Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, showed “Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange… said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.”

This story is being picked up quickly. We’ll update as more information becomes available.

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Brenda Stokes Files for State Senate Race

Brenda Stokes, aka Brenda Valdez-Stokes (or vice-versa)

We wrote last week about the results of a Republican vacancy committee in HD-38 (Arapahoe County) in which some dude with the pun-worthy name of Richard Champion was selected to fill the remainder of the State House term vacated by the resignation of Rep. Susan Beckman. The outcome of that vacancy committee was a surprise to some who had expected right-wing crusader Brenda Stokes to claim Beckman’s crown. At the time, Stokes vowed that she would run a primary challenge against Champion in June, but apparently she has decided on another course of action.

Stokes is now Brenda “Valdez-Stokes” and is running for State Senate in District 26, where Democrat Jeff Bridges will be running for a full-term after winning his own vacancy election last year.

Stokes…or Valdez-Stokes, or whatever her name is now, made some local headlines last May when she promoted the disastrous recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan and accused him of “politicizing” the death of his son, who was killed in the 2012 Aurora Theater Shooting. She is currently the Vice-Chair of the Arapahoe County Republican Party.

At one point last year, Colorado Republicans talked about a recall campaign against Bridges; it’s probably best that they didn’t pursue this strategy after the GOP failed spectacularly at trying to recall a bunch of other Democratic lawmakers. Senate District 26 was primed to be a battleground race in 2016, but Democrat Daniel Kagan ended up beating Republican favorite Nancy Doty by 7 points. Bridges was re-elected in HD-3 in 2018 by a 22-point margin over Toren Mushovic.

Via Colorado TRACER

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Colorado Voters Agree on #CoverUpCory

When Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) voted to acquit President Trump on impeachment charges, he barely bothered to come up with an explanation for how he made that decision. Gardner’s post-impeachment media tour was heavy on his absurd talking point that impeachment was actually a “policy question.”

Colorado media outlets were not impressed with Gardner’s obfuscation. As the editorial board of The Denver Post wrote, “Coloradans deserve better than Cory Gardner.”

As we can see from new polling data from Senate Majority PAC out today, Gardner’s excuses weren’t convincing to the majority of Colorado voters, either:

Large majorities of voters in these states say their GOP incumbent voted to acquit President Trump because they were voting with their party and trying to protect Trump politically, not because they actually believed Trump was innocent of an impeachable offense. The perception that these senators put party politics and Trump’s interests over principle is likely to affect the way voters assess their conduct on other issues.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Colorado:

Via Senate Majority PAC

#CoverUpCory will be appearing with President Trump at a campaign event and fundraiser in Colorado Springs on Thursday.

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Trump Springs Colorado’s Most Infamous Political Inmate

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

NBC News reports:

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he’d commuted the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached and removed from office in 2009 on corruption charges, and pardoned former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik…

“He served eight years in jail, a long time,” Trump told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base. “I don’t know him very well. I met him a couple of times. He was on for a short while on the Apprentice some years ago. He seems like a very nice person, I don’t know him.”

Trump said “many people” thought the sentence was unfair. “He’ll be able to go back home to his family,” he added.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, has been serving his term at the low-security Federal Correctional Institute in Englewood, Colorado. He’d been a contestant on Trump’s reality TV show “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010.

It’s almost too perfect–just a couple of weeks out from under his own presidency-jeopardizing corruption scandal, a period which has been dominated by President Donald Trump’s score-settling against those who testified or otherwise worked against him, Trump has freed the Illinois governor accused of “selling” former President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat! The best theory we’ve heard as to why this commutation was important to Trump is that Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence after being found guilty of official corruption was making all similarly “transactional” politicos look bad. Graded on Blago’s curve, Trump himself could in all fairness find himself looking at his own stint in the “Club Fed” of FCI Englewood.

This was Sen. Cory Gardner’s takeaway from impeachment, wasn’t it? A little corruption never hurt anybody?

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Warren’s Goal Line Stand Comes To Colorado

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

As the Denver Post’s Sam Tabachnik reports, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is coming next Sunday to Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium ahead of a do-or-die Super Tuesday, where if Warren does not manage to stage a significant comeback her presidential campaign is likely to end:

Warren, the progressive senator once a front-runner in the presidential race, is looking for a shot in the arm after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Colorado, however, remains tough to read because of a lack of public polling. The last publicly released poll in the state came in August, showing a tight race between Sanders, Biden and Warren nearly all within the margin of error. The dynamics of the race have shifted considerably since then.

The New York Times ran an insightful story today about the sobered but still hopeful Warren campaign, eyeing a path to victory despite the caucus disaster in Iowa clouding a respectable showing there, and then a tough fade in New Hampshire leaving Warren’s campaign battling to stay relevant:

Supporters and allies are doing their part to generate excitement, New Hampshire be damned. Organizations that are supporting Ms. Warren have blasted out emails with subject lines like “Warren the Warrior Wonk Returns — and people LOVE it,” sent after Ms. Warren criticized one of her favorite targets, Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and a presidential rival. On Monday, which was Presidents’ Day, Ms. Warren’s supporters helped make #PresidentWarren a national trending topic on Twitter.

“Elizabeth is third in delegates, has over a million grass-roots donors, and is drawing thousands of people to her events,” said Kristen Orthman, Ms. Warren’s communications director. “The pundits have consistently been wrong about this primary and that’s why it’s important for people to organize for and support the candidate they believe in rather than the candidate the coverage says is on top.”

Polling in Nevada shows Warren battling for third place against Pete Buttigieg ahead of that state’s caucuses next Saturday. In South Carolina, The Joe Biden “firewall” is dominating the narrative–which means Super Tuesday is the day Warren’s campaign rockets back from the abyss or gets put to bed. The flip side of the coin is that Warren is arguably the only non-billionaire contender outside the Bernie Sanders/Biden/Buttigieg “boy’s club” troika who still has a shot.

Like everything else Sen. Warren “has a plan for that,” and it involves Colorado.

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Tuesday Open Thread

“A man can believe a considerable deal of rubbish, and yet go about his daily work in a rational and cheerful manner.”

–Norman Douglas

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Happy Anniversary: The Stimulus Did Not “Fail”

UPDATE: Who else pushed the fictional “failed stimulus” while running for Congress in the “Tea Party” wave year of 2010? Why that would be Sen. Cory Gardner, of course! Years before Cory Gardner was making stuff up about the Affordable Care Act, the “failed stimulus” was a go-to subject for Gardner on the campaign trail for Congress. Remember how Rep. Mike Coffman said President Barack Obama ‘promoted fear’ to get the stimulus bill passed (below), and it’s time to get back to “inspiring confidence in the economy?”

Cory Gardner never got the memo. From August of 2010:

State Representative Cory Gardner was troubled by the Labor Department’s findings. “These numbers confirm what Coloradans have known for a long time now – the stimulus did fail, [Pols emphasis] the recession is not over and the situation is actually getting worse. It is time to rein in government spending and make it certain to businesses and families that the government will not raise their taxes. Without cost certainty in the marketplace, employers will not add jobs,” Gardner said.

And while attacking his opponent, then-Rep. Betsy Markey:

Democrat Betsy Markey has chosen to side with the liberal leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi on issue after issue. She voted for the failed stimulus, [Pols emphasis] the job-killing cap-and-trade bill, and the recently passed government takeover of health care. All of these policies will lead to a future of crushing debt and fewer jobs for Coloradans…

And later, talking energy with Westword in 2012:

Make no mistake, high gas prices are a symptom of [Obama’s] failed “stimulus” [Pols emphasis] policies.

If there’s one thing we know about Cory Gardner a decade later, it’s that he stays on message.

These days it’s more of a liability.

—–

President Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as Vice President Biden watches in Denver, Colo. on Feb. 17, 2009.
(White House photo by Pete Souza)

Eleven years ago today, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law in a ceremony held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. As the Denver Post reported:

Characterizing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as the “most sweeping economic recovery package in our history,” Obama said the bill’s mix of tax cuts, infrastructure projects, energy and education investments, and aid to the unemployed and poor would create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, including roughly 60,000 in Colorado.

“We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time,” Obama said just before signing the bill at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in front of about 250 people.

“I don’t want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems. Nor does it constitute all of what we have to do to turn our economy around. But today does mark the beginning of the end, the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs.”

The Denver Business Journal noted the near-complete lack of Republican support for ARRA, an ominous sign of the direction American politics would take in coming years:

Obama called the stimulus legislation — which was approved by Congress Friday with almost no Republican support — the most sweeping economic recovery package in the nation’s history.

Many GOP officials have complained that the package is too big, too unfocused and overloaded with “pork” projects that will have little immediate effect on the economy.

“Now that the stimulus bill has passed, my hope is that the president will now focus on inspiring confidence in the economy instead of the fear he promoted in order to get it passed,” U.S. Rep Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, who voted against the measure, said Tuesday in a statement.

(more…)

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Wow Man That Was A Huge Bernie Rally

Sen. Bernie Sanders.

As the Denver Post’s Alex Burness reports, but from the look of it plenty of our readers were there:

Sen. Bernie Sanders took the stage in Denver on Sunday evening to a deafening roar from a crowd of many thousands of people who rarely let up…

Sanders spent only a fraction of his roughly 35-minute speech criticizing President Donald Trump. That segment of the speech was concise and forceful, with Sanders calling Trump “a pathological liar who is running a corrupt administration, who has no clue what the Constitution of the United States is about, who is a bully, who is vindictive, who is a racist, who is a sexist, who is a homophobe, who is a xenophobe, who is a religious bigot.”

These and many other lines drew ear-shattering applause. A significant portion of the crowd arrived hours early, and some waited in hour-long lines to buy campaign stickers and shirts. The campaign claimed more than 11,000 people attended, a total confirmed by a fire department official.

Colorado Public Radio’s Sam Brasch:

“Don’t tell anybody, but I think we’re gonna win here in Colorado!” he told supporters on Sunday.

The massive crowd packed into adjoining exhibition halls at the Colorado Convention Center responded with deafening cheers.

After narrowly winning in New Hampshire, Sanders has taken the lead in most national polls for the Democratic nomination. The state of the race in Colorado is much harder to nail down…

Westword’s Chase Woodruff:

“If we are going to bring about the fundamental change that we need in this country, we have got to address the incredible power of the corporate elite,” Sanders said. “What this campaign is about is not just beating Trump — it’s taking on the greed and corruption of Wall Street, the insurance industry, the drug companies, the fossil-fuel industry, the military-industrial complex. It’s taking on the entire one percent, the corporate establishment, the political establishment, and telling them: This country belongs to all of us.”

It will take a powerful grassroots movement, Sanders told the crowd, to enact a sweeping political agenda that includes new taxes on corporations and the rich, the cancellation of student debt, federal legalization of marijuana, and a climate-change plan that he called the most ambitious ever proposed. But this uncompromising vision is what helped draw thousands of supporters to the Denver rally, where they cheered transformative ideas like Sanders’s Medicare for All proposal, which would abolish private health insurance and replace it with a universal, government-run program.

For those keeping score, the estimated 11,000 people who turned out to see Sen. Bernie Sanders last night at the Colorado Convention Center would not physically fit inside the 8,000-seat Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, where President Donald Trump is set to hold his own campaign rally later this week. So, there’s that. Of course, those 11,000 attendees are only good for a single vote each, and with 1.1 million Democrats and 1.5 million unaffiliated voters in Colorado in receipt of Democratic primary ballots no crowd short of a Broncos Super Bowl victory parade can predict much. We do expect to see polling soon that will give us a clearer picture of the race in Colorado.

In the meantime, it was a compelling night for those so inclined to “Feel The Bern.”

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Ethics Complaint Against Hickenlooper Falls Apart

We’ve been following the silly saga of an ethics complaint filed against former Gov. John Hickenlooper by a partisan “watchdog” organization ever since allegations against the now-U.S. Senate candidate first appeared in late 2018. These charges always looked flimsy, and they are now completely dissolving as we get closer to a conclusive hearing by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission in March.

“The Public Trust Institute…acknowledged that it had no evidence…”

— The Colorado Sun (via “The Unaffiliated” newsletter, 2/14/20)

This “ethics complaint” was filed in October 2018 by an organization called The Public Trust Institute, a right-wing group headed up by the shady former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty. Hickenlooper and allies have long argued that the complaint was nothing but a politically-motivated hit job, and it’s always been tough to disagree; The Public Trust Institute, after all, was created literally two days before it filed the Hickenlooper allegations. Subsequent reports have revealed that the information provided in the ethics complaint came from America Rising PAC, a well-known Republican opposition research firm.

Frank McNulty

Unfortunately for PTI and America Rising PAC, no amount of research can dig up facts that don’t exist. Check out this paragraph from “The Unaffiliated,” a political newsletter published by The Colorado Sun (no link available):

This week, in a little-noticed move, the commission dismissed elements of key claims made in the complaint regarding the airfare and hotel for Hickenlooper’s trip to the Bilderberg conference in Italy, the cost of a hotel during a trip to Connecticut and the use of a private airline terminal in New Jersey. The Public Trust Institute, the dark-money funded conservative political group that filed the complaint in 2018, acknowledged that it had no evidence to show those travel arrangements amounted to an inappropriate gift to the governor and the state’s Independent Ethics Commission dismissed those matters. [Pols emphasis]

From the beginning, the entire purpose of this “ethics complaint” was to generate some negative headlines for Hickenlooper that could be exploited by Republicans in 2020 — whether Hickenlooper was a candidate for President or for U.S. Senate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) eventually ended up spending less than $1,000 on a half-assed digital advertising campaign that was abandoned just days later.

It is absurd that an “ethics complaint” supported with zero evidence could generate media coverage of any kind, but McNulty and friends worked Colorado reporters hard to squeeze out a tiny bit of hysteria by insisting that ignoring the Hickenlooper allegations was an example of liberal media bias. McNulty’s biggest success was to get The Denver Post to start referring to money allocated to Colorado through “The Bush Tax Cuts” as a “Post-9/11 Recovery Fund,” which then emboldened them to allege that Hickenlooper’s legal defense was coming from a fund meant for 9/11 survivors. This was nonsense, but it generated a few news clips nonetheless.

The editorial board of The Denver Post was correct in November 2019 when it wrote, “the most sensational accusations [in this complaint] are easy to dismiss.” Common sense should have prevailed among journalists by then, even as McNulty and pals like Suzanne Staiert furiously tried to keep the fires burning, but the hint of potential scandal in an otherwise boring U.S. Senate primary helped the story to limp along for a bit longer.

Anybody can file an “ethics complaint” with the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission — you can do it yourself right now by just downloading the complaint form. The moral of this story is simple: A mere complaint doth not a scandal make.

Also, stop taking calls from Frank McNulty.

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“Law and Order,” Colorado Republican Style

“We probably won’t see any relief in these kinds of robberies until these businesses aren’t forced to deal only in cash”

As Westword’s Thomas Mitchell reports, two Republican members of Congress from Colorado, Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn, have signed on to a letter to the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Sen. Mike Crapo, asking Senate Republicans to reject the SAFE Banking Act, legislation which would allow banking institutions to serve the presently cash only multibillion-dollar retail marijuana industry:

Two Colorado members of the U.S. House of Representatives, along with ten other members of the House, have once again announced their opposition to federal banking reform for state-legal marijuana businesses. But since they’ve already cast their votes on the matter in the House, they’re looking to the Senate for help.

Less than a month after a group of representatives led by Congressman Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado, sent a letter to Senate Banking Committee chairman Mike Crapo, urging him to advance Perlmutter’s successful House legislation that would protect banks serving marijuana businesses, another group of House members sent Crapo a letter with a starkly different stance on the bill, the SAFE Banking Act…

“The SAFE Banking Act jeopardizes public safety by legitimizing banking access for a Schedule I drug. It is important that we continue to tread lightly and consider public health concerns that surround the marijuana industry,” Buck says. “That’s why I opposed the SAFE Banking Act when it came to a vote in the House of Representatives and urge Senator Crapo to weigh these concerns when considering this legislation in the Senate.”

From the letter signed by Buck and Lamborn:

We write as Republican Members of Congress who voted against the SAFE Banking Act in the House of Representatives. Thank you for introducing a public health perspective to the question of banking for marijuana enterprises, including recreational stores that are advertising products that are appealing to children. We understand you have received significant pushback from these businesses for raising public health questions related to their business practices, and we urge you to stand strong…

We thank you again for your examination and consideration of these important public health topics. We remain opposed to liberalizing drug laws (including around banking), and we see these as some of our areas of greatest concern. We must protect our youth by preventing investment into companies that would prey upon them.

It’s important to understand that Buck and Lamborn’s objection to the SAFE Banking Act are not based in an easily-resolved technicality, but rather wholesale opposition to the legalization of marijuana. Even though they both represent a state that was the vanguard of legalization back in 2012, and has been joined by ten other states including major population centers like California and Illinois with more on the way, Buck and Lamborn refuse to allow the businesses raking in billions of dollars every year to use banking services every other legal business takes for granted.

For the cannabis industry in Colorado, the results have been needlessly tragic. Forced to operate as cash-only businesses, marijuana shops in Colorado have become lucrative targets for armed robberies–including in Aurora in 2016 in which a security guard for the dispensary was murdered execution-style. Dispensary owners have been forced to invest heavily in security and safe handling of large amounts of cash as a result.

With all of this in mind, it’s fair to ask the majority of Colorado voters who voted to legalize marijuana in 2012–what’s the bigger public safety risk here? Legal marijuana, or criminals targeting businesses forced to operate on cash? What public safety benefit is there in making an already legal industry needlessly dangerous? And where the hell is Sen. Cory Gardner, supposed best GOP friend of Colorado’s weed business? Once again, Gardner’s lip service to supporting the industry is being undercut by his fellow Republicans.

Politically, this is the sort of thing one can only get away with while holding a very safe seat–not just a safe Republican seat. It’s hard to imagine a position more opposed to the interests of the state Buck and Lamborn represent, actually supporting a status quo that invites crime against law-abiding Coloradans. Two out of three of Colorado’s GOP members of Congress were under no real pressure to sign a letter only ten other members from across the country were willing to put their name on.

It is not a principled stand. It is a slap in the face to the folks at home.

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Iacino Picks Up Big Endorsement in CO-3

Gail Schwartz

Businessman James Iacino, who is running against Diane Mitsch Bush for the Democratic nomination in CO-3 (Western/Southern Colorado) announced a significant endorsement today. From a press release:

Today, former State Senator, and former candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, Gail Schwartz announced her endorsement of James Iacino ahead of the June 2020 Democratic Primary.

From 2007 until 2015 Gail Schwartz represented large areas of the district in the Colorado Senate. from Eagle to Gunnison, and as far south the San Luis Valley and New Mexico border. Expressing her support Schwartz stated:

“I’m proud to endorse James Iacino, Democrat for Congress in Colorado’s 3rd district. A proven leader on sustainability, James also has the track record and solid business experience to help build an economy that works for everyone,” said Fmr. State Senator Gail Schwartz. “Having worked his way from the loading docks to running one of Colorado’s most successful businesses, we can trust James to look out for the hardworking families of Western and Southern Colorado. It is time for a strong voice in Washington who will stand up for the values of rural Colorado. I know James Iacino, and he has what it takes to beat Scott Tipton in 2020.”

Schwartz has long been a visible figure in Democratic politics, even aside from the time she spent in the legislature and as a Congressional candidate (her husband, prominent attorney Alan Schwartz, is also a well-known fundraiser). Gail Schwartz wasn’t able to defeat Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in 2016, but she raised a ton of money and her strong campaign put in play a seat that would otherwise have been largely ignored.

Iacino finished 2019 with impressive fundraising numbers, pulling in $295k compared to just $182k for Tipton. The Schwartz endorsement is a tangible sign of real momentum for Iacino as we move closer to caucus season.

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Friday Open Thread

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

–Maya Angelou

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Cory Gardner Gives Trump “Unity” He Denied Barack Obama

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Right-wing agit-prop site Breitbart News ran a notable short piece today, celebrating Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado’s earlier appearance this morning on Fox News to explain his opposition to any measure to restrict President Donald Trump’s war powers concerning action against Iran:

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom,” Gardner called on his fellow senators to consider how less likely a terrorist would want to attack a country that appears united rather than a divided one.

“I think every senator taking this vote needs to ask a simple question: wilt a terrorist be more likely to strike the United States if they believe we are weak and divided, or will they be less likely to strike the United States if they believe we are strong and united?” advised Gardner. “Today’s resolution will make the United States appear weak and divided should it succeed. That is not a recipe for defending the American people from terrorism.” [Pols emphasis]

He later warned, “Any sign that the United States is weak, any sign that the Congress is divided or trying to fight his ability to take on the terrorists will ultimately lead to greater attacks and vulnerability when it comes to the United States.”

Now, if you’re reading this with no knowledge about Sen. Cory Gardner’s record, you might think that this is how Gardner has consistently felt about the need for “unity” in support of the nation’s vital foreign policy interests: that “politics ends at the water’s edge.” Gardner similarly voted against reeling in American support for the bloody civil war in Yemen through aid to proxy combatant Saudi Arabia, saying “any move to cut off this assistance without a national security rationale will only serve to embolden our enemies.”

But as it turns out, that’s just what Gardner says when a Republican is President:

That’s the very same Cory Gardner, showing the world how “strong and united” the United States was in 2013–after an attack by Syrian government forces using nerve gas-tipped ballistic missiles against civilians near Damascus killed upwards of a thousand people. Gardner claimed that military action in response to this chemical weapons attack “without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.” This came after President Barack Obama told the Syrian government a year prior that use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” obliging an American military response. Ultimately, despite Gardner’s (and the GOP-controlled Congress’) very public display of disunity a deal was brokered that resulted in the removal of most of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

This is far from the only example of Gardner taking a polar-opposite approach to similar actions taken by the two administrations he has served under in Congress. Gardner condemned and voted against President Obama taking military action in Libya in 2011, and Gardner’s helpless sycophancy in response to Trump’s misadventures in diplomacy with North Korea are by this point legendary–and credibility-shredding in contrast to what Gardner said about Obama’s handling of the same issue.

Nobody made Gardner do any of this. Hypocrisy of this magnitude can’t be ignored.

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Trump Unleashed: Acquittal Has “Emboldened” President

Really, really great.

When Senate Republicans acquitted President Trump on two impeachment charges on February 5, some foolhardy souls — like Maine Sen. Susan Collinstried to argue that the impeachment process itself would make Trump more introspective and less authoritarian. That message remained digestible about as long as a container of cottage cheese left out on the kitchen counter.

As Salon.com reports today, Collins can’t run fast enough away from that narrative:

Collins, R-Maine, dodged questions from a reporter Wednesday who pressed her on whether she still believed her claim that President Donald Trump has learned a “lesson” by being impeached.

Collins, along with several other Republicans, defended her vote to acquit Trump in his Senate impeachment trial by arguing that though his actions were “wrong,” he had learned a “pretty big lesson” from being impeached.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) never pretended that Trump would be chastened by his near-impeachment experience (though his acquittal explanation was equally ridiculous), but like Collins, Gardner wants nothing to do with questions about Trump’s behavior since he was officially let off the hook for obstruction of Congress and the extortion of a foreign country for personal gain. That’s because Trump has been an absolute menace in the last 10 days, laying waste to government norms and institutions because he is convinced that he can.

As the Associated Press reports in a frightening story today, Gardner and his fellow Senate Republicans have absolutely made Trump more dangerous — to everyone:

In the week since his acquittal on impeachment charges, a fully emboldened President Donald Trump is demonstrating his determination to assert an iron grip on government, pushing his Justice Department to ease up on a longtime friend while using the levers of presidential powers to exact payback on real and perceived foes.

Trump has told confidants in recent days that he felt both vindicated and strengthened by his acquittal in the Senate, believing Republicans have rallied around him in unprecedented fashion while voters were turned off by the political process,[Pols emphasis] according to four White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

Since then, Trump and his aides have moved with haste to clear his administration of those he sees as insufficiently loyal, reaching all the way back to the time of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Or as Jennifer Rubin writes today for The Washington Post:


Trump isn’t just pushing on Justice Department lawyers — he’s going after the judges, too:

“He’s trying to delegitimize anyone appointed by someone other than him and say that the only people who can be trusted are Trump judges,” said retired federal judge Nancy Gertner in a recent interview.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

Some of Trump’s rage-vengeance, like the firing of White House aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, has been widely covered in the media. Other pieces have not. Again, from the AP:

In recent days, the White House has yanked a senior Treasury Department nomination away from a former Justice Department official who supervised the prosecutions of several of Trump advisers. The administration also fired an EPA official who claims he was ousted because he was deemed too friendly with Democrats. [Pols emphasis]

If you don’t train your dog to go to the bathroom outside, then you sure as hell can’t yell at him every time he pisses on the carpet. Senate Republicans taught President Trump that there were no consequences to his actions. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer noted on Wednesday, Senate Republicans fully own The Orange Scare:

We’ll give the last word to Rubin in The Washington Post:

…without the cowardice of Republican senators including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and others, Trump would not be lighting a fire to the Justice Department and the Constitution. Voters must remember this come November.

There aren’t enough reporters on earth for Cory Gardner to blame for this one. For Gardner and Senate Republicans, President Trump is both their leader and their charge.

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Republicans Who Don’t Like Anti-LGBT Bills: Whatcha Gonna Do?

Rep. Shane Sandridge (R-Your Bedroom).

As Jesse Paul at the Colorado Sun reports, at least some Republican state lawmakers in the General Assembly are…uncomfortable, we guess you could say, with a slate of starkly anti-LGBT bills set to be debated and killed in the Colorado House State Affairs Committee later today after the usual several hours of lurid testimony:

None of the bills will advance in the Democratic-led General Assembly, and if anything, the measures are sowing an ideological divide within the Republican Party. They’re also opening an avenue of attack for Democrats, who are using the legislation to angle for votes in November. Progressive lawmakers and groups are planning a rally on Thursday to blast the measures and support the LGBTQ community.

“This slate of hateful, bigoted anti-LGBTQ bills show exactly what the GOP would do if they had a majority: use their power to attack trans youth, loving couples hoping to adopt, and children,” read a tweet this week from the House Democrat caucus, which is led by House Speaker KC Becker of Boulder.

The measures are primarily being run and sponsored by three lawmakers: Republican Reps. Shane Sandridge of Colorado Springs, Dave Williams of Colorado Springs and Steve Humphrey of Severance. The lawmakers defended the legislation.

The Sun reports that a large number of Republican lawmakers didn’t want to discuss these bills at all. A few others like Sen. Don Coram, who has previously discouraged legislative attacks on LGBT people, were willing to tell a reporter–after being asked of course, not on their own–that these bills are neither politically helpful nor morally appropriate.

Today’s hearing at 1:30PM gives all Republicans who have ever argued that their party’s fixation on persecuting LGBT Americans is wrong one of the best chances they may ever have to enter those convictions into the permanent record. For years now while Republicans pulled out all the stops to kill even modest concessions to LGBT Americans’ right to exist–like civil unions in 2012–and paid dearly for their wedge issue fixation at the polls, there has always been a faction of generally younger and urban Republicans who have vocalized dismay and warned that the next generation will not accept the bigotry baby-boomer Republicans were steeped in.

If we’re to believe any of that regret was legitimate as opposed to simply the political sidestep of the moment, we expect to see an army of well-known Republicans in elected office and polite society lining up at today’s hearing to state clearly that the GOP lawmakers behind these bills do not speak for them.

Short of that, we have no reason to believe it was ever true.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 13)

Happy “World Radio Day.” Please celebrate responsibly. 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…

►As Jennifer Rubin writes for The Washington Post, President Trump is turning the Justice Department into his own political hit squad — with little sign that Senate Republicans will do anything to rein him in:

President Trump, empowered by acquittal in his impeachment trial and allowed free rein by his Republican Senate allies, has waged a war of vengeance and retribution against those who declined to enable his impeachable conduct. Now he has taken a club to the Justice Department.

The Post reports on the four prosecutors who refused to go along with their boss’s directive to reduce the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone following Trump’s tweet criticizing the seven- to nine-year sentence recommendation…

…Aside from the Saturday night massacre, we have never seen multiple Justice Department lawyers resign to protest a presidential abuse of power.

Just as Trump tried to engage a foreign government to announce an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and ordered up a probe of Hillary Clinton (which came to nothing), this is an egregious perversion of the rule of law. The president, like a tin-pot dictator, now uses the Justice Department to shield his criminal cronies, putting his finger on the scale in a way no other president has done in the modern era.

Politico has more on the shockwaves of Trump’s Justice Department meddling, while Vox.com takes a deeper dive into overall problems under Attorney General William Barr.

Meanwhile, CNN Congressional reporter Manu Raju approached Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) for comment on Wednesday. This was Gardner’s response:

“I’m sorry…miss my vote.”

As such, Rubin finishes her Washington Post column with an appropriate hammer:

Coming on the evening of the New Hampshire primary, the latest crisis should remind us of the stakes in 2020 and the necessity that Democrats nominate someone who can beat Trump and stop our slide into authoritarianism. It should also remind us that without the cowardice of Republican senators including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and others, Trump would not be lighting a fire to the Justice Department and the Constitution. Voters must remember this come November. [Pols emphasis]

 

► Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will visit Denver this weekend as he campaigns for the Democratic Presidential nomination, but he won’t be the only top candidate coming through our state. From Jon Murray at The Denver Post:

Sanders, the progressive U.S. senator from Vermont who won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, has set a rally for 6 p.m. Sunday in Denver, inside the Colorado Convention Center’s Exhibition Halls C and D. Doors open at 4 p.m., the campaign says, and the event is open to the public but an RSVP is encouraged via Sanders’ website. (The location was changed to a larger venue from the convention center’s Bellco Theatre, which has a seating capacity of 5,000, due to high demand.)

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, placed a close second Tuesday and narrowly beat Sanders in Iowa last week. He will have a town hall in Aurora at 7 p.m. Feb. 22, according to a campaign event page. The location will be revealed closer to that date, but supporters are encouraged to RSVP on his website…

…Sanders has had a small staff in Colorado for months, and Buttigieg’s campaign, hoping to capitalize on its all-volunteer effort here so far, is expected to announce the hiring of its first three staffers in Colorado on Thursday. Buttigieg’s lead staffer here will be Ken Gonzalez, who has shifted from organizing duties in Iowa, a campaign spokesperson said.

Biden, the former vice president, is scheduled to visit Denver on Monday for a private fundraiser hosted by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. He is alone among the major candidates in not having had a large public event in Colorado so far this campaign, though he has been sending surrogates.

 

► It’s “Hate Week” at the State Capitol. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett explains how that moniker applies to what GOP lawmakers are attempting in the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast:

 

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

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Thursday Open Thread

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”

–Maya Angelou

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Bloomberg’s Aspen “Stop And Frisk” Defense Deals Damage

Michael Bloomberg.

NPR reports and Coloradans are obliged to take note of newly unearthed audio of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, speaking in 2015 at the Aspen Institute in defense of arguably his most controversial legacy: the “stop and frisk” policy employed by New York City police that greatly expanded under then-Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, and from which Bloomberg has backed away and apologized as he runs for president today.

Back in 2015, however, Bloomberg sang a very different tune about “stop and frisk,” at least within the glitzy and cozy confines of Aspen, Colorado:

Bloomberg made the remarks at the Aspen Institute on Feb. 5, 2015. In the audio, he can be heard saying: “95% of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 15 to 25.” [Pols emphasis]

He continues: “That’s true in New York. That’s true in virtually every city in America. And that’s where the real crime is. You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed.”

Bloomberg’s idea of a solution? Flooding minority neighborhoods with law enforcement.

“People say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana who are all minorities.’ Yes, that’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why’d we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you should get the guns out of the kids’ hands is throw them against the wall and frisk them,” Bloomberg says.

It’s not like the “stop and frisk” policy is unknown to Democratic primary voters, but Bloomberg’s factually challenged defense of the policy you can read above–the percentage of murders and murderers in America who are “male minorities” is nowhere near 95%–runs starkly counter to the distancing from “stop and frisk” Bloomberg has attempted since entering the presidential race. Today, Bloomberg claims credit for reducing the use of the policy, even though it was during his administration that “stop and frisk” grew to hundreds of thousands of incidents each year, dwarfing its use during his predecessor Rudy Giuliani’s administration. The numbers we’ve seen on the effectiveness on the policy indicate that between 70-90% of the persons who were stopped and frisked were found to be entirely innocent.

Although Bloomberg’s staff reportedly prevailed upon the Aspen Institute to withhold release of the video of these remarks, the conservative Daily Caller posted audio shortly after the event in February of 2015. The Aspen Times also reported on the controversy at that time, but it wasn’t until these publicly Googleable stories were recirculated by a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders in the last few days that it’s blown up into a controversy.

Regardless of how these remarks came back into circulation it’s definitely a problem for Bloomberg, since it both contradicts Bloomberg’s newfound contrition over “stop and frisk” and paints Bloomberg as exactly the kind of rich white elitist he needs to convince Democratic primary voters he is not. We’re not sure what Bloomberg could have done to blunt the inevitable re-upping of this easily-located material, but it’s pretty clear the “that was the old me” line isn’t going to work now.

Money can buy you love, but it can’t make your own words go away.

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Think Cory Gardner Wants To Talk Roger Stone? Fat Chance!

Embed from Getty Images

CNN’s Manu Raju reports on the fresh controversy brewing in Washington after the Department of Justice dubiously intervened in the sentencing recommendation for convicted Donald Trump compatriot Roger Stone, prompting the resignation of several prosecutors working the case. We’ll give you three guesses whether Sen. Cory Gardner wanted to talk about Stone’s case, and the first two guesses don’t count:

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a vulnerable Republican up for reelection in 2020, avoided questions from CNN today about Roger Stone.

“I’m sorry … miss my vote,” Gardner responded when asked if he is concerned about political interference.

Gardner walked away and didn’t respond to a follow up question asking if he’s concerned about Roger Stone.

Sen. Cory Gardner’s pertinacious refusal to answer questions about scandals involving Donald Trump, long past the point where any such refusal is believable or even at all helpful to Gardner and Republicans politically, has made him a symbol of GOP complicity with Trump’s misdeeds across the nation–from late-night TV to cable news. Here’s another clip to add to a devastating highlight reel you’ll be seeing in the fall in TV ads.

If anything, it’s perhaps noteworthy that Gardner isn’t even using complete sentences now.

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Another State Senate Seat May be Off the Board for Republicans

In 2014, voters in Senate District 19 (Arvada/Westminster) elected Republican Laura Woods by a margin of fewer than 700 votes. Woods replaced Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, who had been appointed to the seat vacated by Sen. Evie Hudak in the wake of the 2013 Republican recall efforts. Woods instantly became one of the most hard-right members of the Republican caucus.

Some Republicans were correctly skeptical about Woods’ ability to hold on to her seat; two years later, Zenzinger unseated Woods in the rematch despite a barrage of negative (and demonstrably false) attacks from Republicans.

Election History in SD-19

Zenzinger is running for re-election in 2020. The district’s electoral history would suggest that SD-19 will be among the top targeted races for Republicans hoping to claw back into a Senate majority, but voter registration and turnout numbers paint a bleaker picture. According to a new analysis of voter information from Colorado-based Republican polling firm Magellan Strategies, Senate District 19 may no longer be competitive for the GOP:

…back in 2014 Republicans actually had a turnout advantage with a plurality of 35% of the vote, largely due to lower Unaffiliated turnout.

And while it’s not a perfect apples to apples comparison since there wasn’t actually a Senate race in SD 19 in 2018, come 2018 that advantage is completely gone. Even with about 12,000 more voters compared to 2014, there were actually 700 fewer votes cast by Republicans. Compare that to 4,755 more votes cast by Democratic voters and 7,863 more votes cast by Unaffiliated/Other Party voters.

While that suggests a turnout problem with a fairly simple solution (get more Republicans to vote), in reality, the problem is not quite that easy to overcome. That’s because turnout in 2018 wasn’t even especially low for Republicans – 84% of active Republicans in the district voted, which matched the percentage for Democratic voters. For a midterm, it is hard to expect much better than that. No, the real problem can be seen looking back at voter registration: The numbers simply aren’t there anymore. It’s basic math. A comparative advantage for Republicans in SD 19 has been completely wiped away by increased Unaffiliated registration and increased voter turnout among both Democratic voters and Unaffiliated voters. [Pols emphasis]

Via Magellan Strategies

As you can see from the Magellan Strategies chart at right, Republican voter turnout in SD-19 has plummeted over the last two election cycles. Those trends seem to fit with what we saw in Colorado in 2018 in general, when Democrats gained a “trifecta” in state government — control of the State House, State Senate, and Governor’s office. When all of the votes were counted in 2018, Democrats had flipped multiple Republican-held seats for a 41-24 majority in the State House and a 19-16 majority in the State Senate.

The numbers in SD-19 are going to be pretty disheartening for Republicans, who need to net at least two seats in order to regain majority control in the State Senate (the House is almost certainly unwinnable for the GOP this year). Heading into this election cycle, SD-19 was among four State Senate districts widely thought to be the most competitive races in 2020 — along with SD-8 (Carbondale-ish), SD-25 (Adams County), and SD-27 (Arapahoe County). But SD-19 is the only one of these four districts with a Democratic incumbent; Republicans can’t gain ground in the Senate merely by holding onto the other three seats.

State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger

In 2016, Republican Kevin Priola barely managed to eke out a victory in SD-25, a seat previously held by Democrats, by a margin of about four points. That same year, incumbent Republican Sen. Jack Tate won in SD-27 by a nearly seven-point margin. Both Senate districts have moved closer toward Democrats in recent years. Republicans only maintain a healthy historical advantage in SD-8, where Bob Rankin is seeking election to a full term after replacing Randy Baumgardner in 2019.

Now, back to SD-19: Zenzinger entered 2020 with about $56,000 in the bank, and she has strong name ID in the district after essentially campaigning non-stop since 2013. Republican Matthew Lantz formally entered the race about 10 days ago, but he was not recruited into the race by top Republican officials and it’s unclear whether he will be able to run a strong campaign without a GOP Primary challenger. Either way, persistent polling problems for both President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner suggest that there won’t be much in the way of coattails for any down-ballot Republicans in 2020.

Colorado Republicans will have a hard time regaining control of the State Senate unless they can win in SD-19…which doesn’t seem likely at the moment. The GOP’s next best hope for flipping a seat might be in SD-26, but that’s also a tough sell; Democrats have never lost in the current iteration of this Arapahoe County seat, and they have a strong incumbent candidate in Sen. Jeff Bridges.

It’s entirely possible that the best-case scenario for Colorado Republicans in 2020 is to just not lose any more ground in the State Senate. That’s a hard slogan to fit onto a bumper sticker.

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