Cory Gardner’s Latest Hit: What Consumer Financial Protection?

President Trump (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

NPR reported last week on the vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm Kathy Kraninger as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency that has suffered from severe and very deliberate neglect under President Donald Trump:

The Senate voted 50-49 Thursday to back Kraninger as head of the consumer protection watchdog agency. She has worked for the Office of Management and Budget since March 2017.

She will succeed her OMB boss Mick Mulvaney, who has been the CFPB’s acting director, for a five-year term. An associate director for general government at the OMB, Kraninger, 43, held prior jobs at the departments of Homeland Security and Transportation.

Kraninger’s appointment is another slight by the Trump administration against the CFPB, an agency Mulvaney has worked to weaken from within.

Vox provides a little more background on the years-long partisan fight over the CFPB, and how the leadership of the bureau turned downright hostile to its mission under Trump:

The CFPB was created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform and formed in 2011. Its mission is to protect consumers who are dealing with banks and taking on debt, including mortgages, student loans, and credit cards. Under its first director, Cordray, who was confirmed in 2013, the bureau by its own tally handled more than 1.2 million consumer complaints and brought about nearly $12 billion in relief for harmed consumers…

Under Mulvaney, who once called the bureau as “sick, sad” joke, the CFPB took a sharp turn in its activities. Mulvaney reportedly scaled back an investigation into the Equifax data breach, relaxed restrictions on often predatory payday lenders, and recommended Congress pursue sweeping changes to the CFPB’s powers.

Kraninger doesn’t have much of a track record for Senators to have evaluated during her confirmation, but by all accounts she is expected to continue Trump multipurpose henchman Mick Mulvaney’s willful mismanagement of the CFPB to relax oversight over lenders and credit reporting agencies. Affirmatively speaking, Kraninger had nothing to offer in this position–her confirmation was strictly based on the administration’s desire for her to have the job, and the unifying Republican contempt for this agency and the legislation that created it told Republican Senators all they needed to know.

For Sen. Cory Gardner, whose vote to confirm Kraninger was decisive like every other GOP Senator, this was a continuation of an already dismal record on consumer finance issues that he’ll be made to answer for in 2020. For Gardner in particular, consistently voting to protect loan sharks over consumers puts him in direct conflict with Colorado voters, who just approved Proposition 111 to cap interest rates on predatory payday loans by over 77% of the vote.

It may not have the drama of an issue like abortion, but this could easily be another big liability for Gardner in 2020 if it becomes a major point of debate–for example, in the event longtime CFPB proponent Elizabeth Warren is on the 2020 ticket for Democrats.

And if there’s one thing Cory Gardner doesn’t need, it’s more liabilities.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 12)

We have reached the teens! There are only 19 days remaining in 2018. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump tried to film an episode of “The Apprentice” in the Oval Office on Tuesday, and it did not go well at all. As the Washington Post explains, Trump got his first taste of divided government on Tuesday:

In his first two years in office, President Trump operated without a clear check on his power. With his party controlling both houses of Congress, he issued demands from his bedroom in the form of early-morning tweets, and legislative leaders got in line. He rarely was personally confronted about his untruths and misstatements. And he mostly ignored congressional Democrats, choosing to spar instead with journalists.

That all came to a crashing halt Tuesday. In an extraordinarily heated public fight with the nation’s top two Democratic leaders, the combustible president confronted for the first time the enormity of the challenge he will face over the next two years: divided government…

…With Democrats sweeping into power in the House in January, Trump for the first time will be forced to work with the opposition party to govern. And if Tuesday’s spectacle is any indication, Pelosi and Schumer intend to be tough adversaries. They showed an eagerness to challenge the president by using some of his own tactics against him. They tried not only to debate him on policy, but also to hold him accountable for his fact-challenged bluster and to paint him as weak and inept.

 

► President Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison today as a result of illegal activities he allegedly performed at the behest of Trump.

 

Another poll, another bad set of numbers for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). According to a survey conducted this month by Change Research, Gardner is wildly unpopular heading into the last two years of his Senate term:

The poll also found that 50% have unfavorable feelings towards Senator Gardner compared with 38% who are favorable and if the election were held today, he would lose to ‘the Democratic candidate’ 47% to 41%.

Given their size in the state, independent voters who do not identify with one of the two major political parties are particularly important. Senator Gardner’s net unfavorables are 14 points higher than his favorables among this group and he loses them by 13 points in a head-to-head with a generic Democrat.

Gardner’s numbers in Colorado have been positively brutal for more than two years now.

 

► Britain’s Conservative Party has called for a vote to oust Prime Minister Theresa May, which could be a precursor to a sea-change election in Old England.

 

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BREAKING: Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

President Trump and former personal attorney Michael Cohen

From CBS News:

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen has been sentenced by a federal judge in Manhattan to three years in federal prison.

Prosecutors had recommended a “substantial term of imprisonment” for Cohen, who pleaded guilty to both lying to Congress over a possible Trump Tower Moscow project, and to campaign finance violations for paying women who alleged affairs with Donald Trump. Cohen’s lawyers had asked that he serve no prison time.

Cohen, according to the Associated Press, said in his defense that “blind loyalty” to Mr. Trump “led me to take a path of darkness instead of light.”

Prosecutors say they believe Cohen committed illegal acts at the direction of Mr. Trump, named “Individual 1” in court filings. Mr. Trump has disowned Cohen, calling him “not very smart.”

We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.

Worst Source Scenario, Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives

Yesterday evening, the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives posted a link to their Facebook page that immediately raised eyebrows–not so much because of the subject matter, but rather the source:

That’s not a misprint: the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives posted to Facebook linking to the Daily Stormer, one of the nation’s–perhaps one of the world’s–most scurrilously white supremacist websites, which fought a running battle against internet service providers in the last couple of years to remain accessible outside the “dark web.”

Not long after this link was posted, somebody let them know:

The problem is that these two links are not to the same story whatsoever. “BizPacReview” is a fringe-right internet property that has long been regarded as a source of fake news, but the Daily Stormer piece includes extremely provocative anti-Semitic statements that we have real trouble imagining could be overlooked while reading it. Readers are free to hunt either down if they choose, we won’t be linking to them.

But this means either the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives member who posted this link didn’t read the story, or they did–and weren’t troubled by the words “smashing k—-s.”

Needless to say, we hope it’s the former.

Trump Threatens Shutdown in Oval Office Shouting Match

Fun times all around today in the Oval Office

As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer clashed Tuesday over funding for the border wall, an explosive Oval Office encounter that ended with Trump declaring he’d be proud to shut down the government to get what he wants.

The stunning public spat, during which Schumer accused the president of throwing a “temper tantrum,” ended with no resolution and appeared to increase the chances of a partial government shutdown at the end of next week.

The three leaders pointed fingers, raised their voices and interrupted each other repeatedly as they fought over policy and politics.

Schumer lectured Trump that “Elections have consequences, Mr. President.”

Trump claimed that, because she is working to nail down the votes to become speaker, “Nancy’s in a siutation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.”

Pelosi answered: “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”

“I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”

— President Trump (12/11/18)

The Washington Post has the full annotated conversation. The entire exchange is fascinating, but it’s hard not to laugh at Trump’s ridiculous rhetoric about building a border wall with Mexico:

One thing that I do have to say is tremendous amounts of wall have already been built, and a lot of wall when you include the renovation of existing fences and walls renovated a tremendous amount, and we’ve done a lot of work. In San Diego we’re building new walls right now. And we’ve — right next to San Diego, we’ve completed a major section of wall, and it’s really worked well. So a lot of wall has been built. We don’t talk about that, but we might as well start because it’s being built right now. Big sections of wall. And we will continue that. And one way or the other it’s going to get built.

So much wall!

Earlier today, Trump also “threatened” that the U.S. military would “build the remaining sections of the wall” with all of the extra billions of dollars they have (not to mention the extra time):

So, yeah. The President of the United States of America, ladies and gentlemen.

Complaint Filed In HD-54 Residency Shenanigans

Rep.-elect Matt Soper (R).

Charles Ashby at the Grand Junction Sentinel reports, the controversy over a bizarre case of a legislative candidate allegedly faking their residency in the district in question, compounded by allegations of intimidation, is complicating GOP Rep.-elect Matt Soper’s ascension to House District 54:

The complaint, filed by Palisade resident David Edwards, claims Soper may not have actually lived in House District 54 for the required 12 months prior to being elected to the seat last month.

“Soper’s only other voting registration address was also in Orchard City, Colorado, in House District 61,” Edwards writes in the complaint. “It is easy to assume that, in fact, Soper’s domicile continued to be in Austin, CO, in House District 61, throughout the 12 months prior to the November 2018 election. If that is the case, Soper utterly failed to fulfill the residency requirements for the position to which he has just been elected.”

In October, The Daily Sentinel reported that while Soper had repeatedly said he was living at 10 Hartig Drive in Delta, which is inside HD54, the people who were renting that home insisted he wasn’t.

And that’s not all:

[Tenant Omar] Carreon, whose brother and parents are all disabled, said after he spoke to the Sentinel in October but before any article published, he was threatened with eviction if he spoke to the newspaper again. [Pols emphasis]

There are two separate scandals interplaying in this story: Soper’s alleged falsification of his residence, which the filed complaint focuses on, but more importantly the apparent intimidation of the renters of a house owned by the Soper family in an attempt to get them to shut up about the deception. Back in October, Mr. Carreon explained that he had agreed to collect mail for Matt Soper on Soper’s mother’s request, who owns the home. But Soper did not have a room in the home as claimed and did not reside there.

Soper’s main defense here seems to be that Mr. Carreon is a Democrat who is throwing him under the bus for partisan purposes–but given the fact that Soper didn’t even have a Democratic opponent in 2018, the motive is lacking. Not to mention that it takes guts to stand up to your landlord when they’re threatening to evict you.

We’ll be watching to see how this turns out, but it’s not the way we’d want to begin our legislative career.

Tuesday Open Thread

“As long as inequality and other social problems plague us, populists will try to exploit them.”

–Kofi Annan

ADAPT Crashes Gardner Fundraiser–And Gets A Photo-Op

Back in June of 2017, a group of protesters with disabilities from the group ADAPT, which has pushed for better conditions for the disabled in public accommodation and transportation for decades, occupied Sen. Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver offices to call attention to cuts to vital Medicaid programs threatened under the repeal of the Affordable Care Act then being considered.

Embed from Getty Images

The photos you can see in the Getty Images slideshow above are of Dawn Russell, a member of ADAPT who was forcibly removed from Sen. Gardner’s Denver office by Denver Police during ADAPT’s June 2017 protest. These images of wheelchair-bound protesters being cuffed and physically hauled away from Gardner’s office shocked the conscience, and made global news at the time of the arrests–and contributed to nationwide outrage that helped end the Republican drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Fast-forward to last Friday’s fundraiser, hosted by Gardner at the Brown Palace in Denver:

And there in the center of this photo is the same Dawn Russell, looking a hell of a lot happier! We don’t yet know all the details, but this group of ADAPT activists appears to have made it past the Brown Palace’s famously tight security for VIP events Friday evening–and instead of being met by police, Gardner himself came out to smile for a photo.

If Gardner or his staff had had the presence of mind to respond to ADAPT with compassion last year, none of those politically nightmarish photos of wheelchair-bound protesters being hauled out of his office by police would have ever been taken. There’s nothing Gardner can do to undo the damage to his reputation from the long failed fight to “repeal Obamacare,” but he can rest easy in the knowledge that at least he didn’t make it any worse by having more protesters in wheelchairs arrested.

As for ADAPT, you’ve got to call these before-and-after photos a win. These folks were making waves when Cory Gardner was a kid, and they’ll be around when Gardner is long gone.

Get More Smarter on Monday (December 10)

There are 15 shopping days left until Christmas. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump needs a new Chief of Staff after it was revealed that John Kelly is will depart the White House at the end of the year. The problem, it seems, is that nobody really wants the gig.

Trump and Kelly reportedly aren’t even talking to each other, one of many reasons Kelly has no obvious successor. As Stephen Collinson writes for CNN, this job sucks (at least under this President):

The next chief will walk into a White House engulfed in scandal, in the sights of special counsel Robert Mueller and newly empowered Democrats, at what is shaping up as one of the most grave constitutional moments in US history…

…Nick Ayers, a rising political star in the GOP — who had long been considered Kelly’s likely replacement after serving as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff — announced Sunday he would not take the position after talks with Trump.

That left the President without an obvious frontrunner for the toughest job in politics as the White House is being battered by multiple crises, including a trade war with China, turmoil in the markets and a revolt by Senate Republicans over Saudi Arabia policy. And as it braces for a punishing new era of Democratic oversight, Trump’s team is also gearing up for the imminent escalation in the President’s re-election campaign.

If that was not enough, the new chief of staff will also be faced with the likely hopeless task of trying to tame a President who appears to be deeply rattled by Mueller’s strides in recent days, despite his insistence that everything is sunny in the White House.

How unappetizing is the job of Chief of Staff under Trump? Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is even being mentioned as a real candidate. Chris Cillizza of CNN breaks down the list of potential hires for a President who is definitely beginning to freak out about his political future.

As for Kelly’s legacy, 

Based on Trump’s hiring track record, we can expect he’ll hire someone terrible. But the Kelly bar is exceptionally low, so America may be in for a stroke of luck. But we owe it to ourselves to remember how bad Kelly was.

 

► Colorado Senate Republicans announced new committee assignments late Friday afternoon as they struggle to deal with their newfound minority status. Of particular note: Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner isn’t on a committee. At all.

 

► The Denver Post runs a fawning profile of Rep-elect Joe Neguse (D-Boulderish):

He’s now the first African-American to represent Colorado in Congress and an early leader in his freshman class.

And friends say he’s nowhere close to done.

“Joe has this uncanny ability to bring people together and to really help manage personality differences,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “People are attracted to him for it, and in that way he is unstoppable.”

 

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The Loneliest Mustache In Colorado

Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, Friday’s announcement of Colorado Senate Republican minority committee members left one telling name off the list–Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs, whose copiously-documented and repeatedly confirmed record of sexual harassment at the Colorado Capitol erupted in scandal in the 2018 legislative session:

Sen. Randy Baumgardner, the northwest Colorado Republican who was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal during this year’s session, won’t have a lot of things to do when he returns to the Colorado Legislature next month.

That’s because the Hot Sulphur Springs lawmaker, who faced a failed expulsion attempt because of those complaints and is expected to face it again next session, wasn’t named to any of the Legislature’s 10 main standing committees…

“I’ve talked with (Baumgardner), and he is comfortable with (the decision),” [Senate Minority Leader Chris] Holbert said. “This is a continuance of where we’ve been. There’s been no change.”

While that’s technically true, it’s a considerable oversimplification of events from this year’s legislative session. The allegations against Baumgardner were investigated more than once, with the first investigation being disparaged by GOP Senate leadership who ordered a second probe. But before that second investigation’s findings could be disclosed, GOP leaders rushed a vote on the resolution to expel Baumgardner ahead of that report’s release. It was only after that second investigation was released, and some delay following even that, when Senate President Kevin Grantham finally took the step at the very end of the session of removing Baumgardner from his remaining committees.

Although Republicans were in control of the chamber, it remains possible that the further validation of the accusations against Baumgardner via this second investigation could have resulted in a different outcome for the motion to expel Baumgardner had it been disclosed before the vote. Any way you slice it, Republicans including the new Minority Leader helped protect Baumgardner from being expelled, and that is why he is still in the Senate.

We’ll give Chris Holbert a measure of credit for keeping still-Sen. Baumgardner at arm’s length from the women who work at the Colorado Capitol in the 2019 session, ostracism that could and probably should motivate Baumgardner to take his tired act back home to Hot Sulphur Springs.

But not very much credit, and we hope Holbert understands this is a big reason he’ll never be Senate President.

Profiles in Cowardice: Cory Gardner and MBS’s Mastercard

President Trump (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

In a story yesterday afternoon, the Denver Post’s Anna Staver finally got Sen. Cory Gardner on the record regarding the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in particular attempting to bridge the gap between Gardner’s highly contradictory statements in the space of just over a week about whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder:

“This is a prime example of a human rights violation,” Gardner said.

Gardner’s critics in the Colorado Democratic Party, however, say that’s a reversal from what he told KDMT radio host Jimmy Sengenberger on Nov. 29.

“Well, I would be careful of what the CIA is being accused of saying,” Gardner told Sengenberger then. “And I think that was clear in a briefing yesterday. I can’t get into the details of it, but I would just be very careful about what the CIA does and doesn’t believe.”

Gardner has never been briefed by the CIA about Khashoggi’s murder, and he told The Denver Post that’s what he tried to say when he talked with Sengenberger. There’s no text message, email or “smoking gun” that directly links the prince to the crime, but Gardner said all the evidence he’s seen points to Mohammed bin Salman.

As you can see, Gardner claims now under questioning by the Post that he was only trying to say he himself didn’t have the answers, not trying to cast overall doubt on MBS’s culpability the way that President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet have. In order to understand just how misleading this answer is, it’s necessary to go back to the original transcript of Gardner’s interview with B-list local right-wing AM radio host Jimmy Sengenberger–an interview that is now tripping Gardner up on a much bigger stage than KDMT’s tiny audience.

Again, here’s are Gardner’s verbatim words in the friendly confines of conservative talk radio:

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