Today in BS: The “Pueblo Antifa” Brawl That Wasn’t

With imagination and a little Photoshop, “Antifa” can be everywhere!

As KRDO-TV reports, you can’t believe anything everything you read on right-wing media:

According to large online conservative news outlets like The Blaze and Red State, it was a member of Antifa blocking traffic in a political protest that was seen in a viral video being thrown down and punched by an SUV driver last week in Pueblo.

But that’s not what happened, according to the Pueblo Police Department, and Sgt. Frank Ortega says there’s concern about the video being used as “propaganda.” [Pols emphasis]

Here’s how The Blaze, paragon of truth in media Glenn Beck’s disturbingly popular website, described this epic struggle between freedom and leftist thuggery that went down right under our noses in Steel City:

Last week, video surfaced showing an alleged Antifa member attempting to block an SUV in the road and harass someone before getting taught a lesson he won’t forget anytime soon.

The video, originally posted on LiveLeak, shows the agitator wearing the usual black mask getup seen on Antifa members and wielding some sort of weapon reminiscent of a baseball bat. Whatever it is, it ends up being completely useless to him…

Blocking roads, disrupting traffic, and carrying bludgeoning weapons has been the modus operandi of Antifa members over the last several years…[t]his time, the alleged Antifa protester picked on the wrong guy.

Except, back to KRDO’s story, this account has been, shall we say, dramatized:

According to Pueblo police, the driver told officers the altercation started because the masked pedestrian was blocking drivers from turning west onto 4th Street if they weren’t using a turn signal. [Pols emphasis]

So, in a way, the pedestrian was protesting — but the video got picked up by so-called conservative outlets to push a warped narrative…

[I]f the SUV driver’s statement to police is accurate, the only protest taking place was one against bad traffic habits.

So, we’re not going to endorse the practice of individuals upset about drivers not using their turn signal blocking traffic to make a point about safety, since that appears to be a great way to attract more trouble than this particular gentleman bargained for. We’d say there are better ways to express one’s displeasure over turn signal use, like maybe a letter to the editor. We certainly don’t endorse punching people who are only causing a momentary inconvenience either.

But if you’re looking for the latest battle in Antifa’s slap-happy struggle against global capitalist oppression, and the “very fine” Based Stickmen who vest up to brawl with them–the street protest equivalent of a self-licking ice cream cone–you’ll have much better luck in Portland than Pueblo.

And per usual in the outer orbits of conservative media like The Blaze and RedState, the banal truth is a few days behind the fake headline.

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Just Impeachie: Know More Than Your Drunk Uncle

UPDATE: President Trump now insists that he definitely did not do that thing that he already said that he did:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied that he directed his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine and seek out investigations on his behalf, contradicting his own words to the Ukrainian President in the White House released transcript of the July 25 call.

Trump also contradicted sworn testimony from members of his administration and claims from his own White House acting chief of staff.

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There is a LOT of impeachment news to digest these days. If it is hard for us to keep up with all of this impeachment news, it’s probably difficult for our readers as well. So, as a public service, we decided to roundup some of the top impeachment stories floating around the Internet tubes and condense them into one convenient location.

For this chapter of “Just Impeachie,” we’re getting you caught up on all things impeachment-related so that you are fully prepared to argue with your drunk uncle on Thanksgiving (or whatever it’s called now).

 

President Trump knew all about the whistleblower’s complaint when he made the decision to release hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. This report from The New York Times effectively destroys one of Trump’s main impeachment defense arguments:

President Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower’s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Lawyers from the White House counsel’s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said.

The revelation could shed light on Mr. Trump’s thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators: his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to a key ambassador around the same time that there was a “quid pro quo” with Kyiv. Mr. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair.

 

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post explains why Tuesday’s New York Times story is so important to the impeachment case:

First, it refutes the absurd notion that, because Trump ultimately released the aid, this somehow shows the plot to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations to help his reelection was never corrupt. We now know Trump knew it had been exposed before the aid was released…

…But this new revelation also undercuts the “I want nothing — no quid pro quo” defense as well. It sheds light on another key subplot: the manner in which Trump appears to have corruptly directed Sondland to convey the extortion demand to Ukraine, while preserving plausible deniability for doing so…

…The whistleblower conceded he didn’t know for certain that Trump’s freezing of the aid was directly linked to his pressure on Ukraine to launch sham investigations validating the 2016 CrowdStrike conspiracy theory and the invented narrative of Joe Biden’s corruption. But he said officials were alarmed by it.

Sondland, however, did ultimately draw this direct link — and testified that he discussed it with the president himself. And that’s why the revelation that Trump knew of the whistleblower complaint fills in a crucial piece of the puzzle.

 

President Trump held a campaign rally in Florida on Tuesday that was largely focused on his impeachment defense (or what’s left of it).

 

As Maeve Reston writes for CNN, a key Republican talking point in for defending Trump against impeachment was blown up on Tuesday:

New transcripts of witness testimony and news reports revealing key details on the Ukraine scandal timeline show in vivid detail the way President Donald Trump and top officials maneuvered behind the scenes to block aid to Ukraine as the President sought an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden…

…We now know that White House budget office took its first official action to withhold $250 million in aid to Ukraine on the evening of July 25, according to a House Budget Committee summary of the office’s documents.

That was the very same day that Trump spoke by phone with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, prefacing his request for an investigation of the 2016 election with the now infamous phrase “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” Agencies had been notified at a July 18 meeting that the aid had been frozen by the President, a week before the call.

 

Here’s a brief rundown from a separate CNN story about the big developments from Tuesday’s impeachment testimony. Vox.com also breaks down Tuesday’s revelations.

 

Two officials in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) apparently resigned over concerns about the holdup of military aid to Ukraine.

 

Former White House counsel Don McGahn received a brief respite in his case pitting the Justice Department against House Democrats seeking his testimony on impeachment-related matters.

 

President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was reportedly in talks to represent Ukraine’s former top prosecutor as Yuri Lutsenko attempts to recover assets that he alleges were stolen by the Ukrainian government. Talks surrounding this $200,000 contract were happening at the same time that Giuliani was working with Lutsenko to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden

 

Fox News’ talking monkey, Tucker Carlson, argues that impeachment hearings are actually making President Trump stronger. Like Godzilla, or something.

 

White House lawyers are debating whether or not to accept an invitation from House Democrats to participate in impeachment hearings next week.

 

Polls show that a majority of Americans support President Trump’s impeachment and removal from office; at least one poll indicates that impeachment support among Independent voters is on the rise. Trump is responding by inventing his own poll numbers out of thin air.

 

Listen to this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast for more on how Republicans are turning to “The Chewbacca Defense” as they struggle to figure out a way to defend President Trump against impeachment.

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Angela Williams Drops U.S. Senate Bid

State Sen. Angela Williams (D-Denver)

The day before Thanksgiving is one of the better days of the entire year to announce news that is less-than-flattering. State Sen. Angela Williams took advantage of the slow news week to announce that she is suspending her U.S. Senate bid in order to focus on running for re-election to the State Senate.

As Justin Wingerter reports for The Denver Post, Williams cast blame for her weak U.S. Senate campaign in a rather vague direction:

Williams, a northeast Denver Democrat, was the only current elected official in the Senate race, in which she emphasized her experience in the legislature but failed to gain significant traction in a nine-candidate primary led by John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff.

“Unfortunately, even now, as female candidates enjoy a historic level of support from voters, there are still elements of the Democratic Party seeking to promote male candidates at the expense of talented and smart progressive women,” Williams said in a news release.

“Fighting to give women, people of color and the underserved a voice isn’t always easy, especially when faced with strong headwinds from Washington, D.C.,” she added, a reference to the decision by Democrats in the nation’s capital to recruit and endorse Hickenlooper in the race against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

Was John Hickenlooper recruited by national and local groups to run for the U.S. Senate because he is a man…or because he is a former two-term Governor with the best statewide name recognition of any Colorado politician and a proven ability to raise campaign cash? Hickenlooper no doubt benefits (in general) from being a white dude, but the field of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate already had plenty of those when Hickenlooper joined the fray in August.

We wrote last week that Williams may have gambled and lost by putting a long shot U.S. Senate bid ahead of a favorable re-election scenario in SD-33, which led to the decision by State Rep. James Coleman to announce his candidacy for Williams’ State Senate seat. Williams said at the time that she thought she had until March 2020 to make a decision on U.S. Senate or State Senate, but that was obviously unrealistic.

There are still eight Democrats running for U.S. Senate in 2020.

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Steve Reams Gets His Border Photo-Op On

It’s a rite of passage for Colorado Republicans aspiring to higher office to take a trip to the Mexican border (needless to say, well outside their jurisdiction) for the purpose of demonstrating their commitment to “stopping the invasion.” Back in 2010, a group of Republican state lawmakers made a now-infamous trip to Arizona hosted by SPLC-listed hate group American Border Patrol to study the impact of that state’s anti-immigrant law Senate Bill 1070, which was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court:

From left: 2010 House candidate (now Senate Minority Leader) Chris Holbert, then-Rep. Kent Lambert, Sen. Scott Renfroe, then-Rep. Laura Bradford, 2010 House candidate Janak Joshi, then-Rep. Randy Baumgardner.

Senator Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Parker)

The 2010 visit to Arizona in particular raised eyebrows due to the contact by Colorado Republican lawmakers with decidedly non-governmental militia groups and anti-immigrant activists. Lawmakers “toured” the border with the so-called “American Border Patrol” openly carrying weapons and playing with night vision equipment (photo right).

In 2014, Republican lawmakers paid another visit to the Texas border, but this time SB-1070 had been repealed and lawmakers confined their visit to official Border Patrol and other agencies. Ironically there seem to have been fewer trips of this kind to the border by Colorado Republicans since Donald Trump took office, or in any event less publicized. We assume that’s because it’s mostly Democrats heading to the border now documenting a humanitarian crisis.

With that said, Trump’s border wall remains very popular with base conservative Republican voters, the exact segment of the electorate the upwardly mobile Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams hopes to rally to victory in a future election for higher office. Reams is promising a big reveal on his Facebook page from his time on the border last week, and even though Weld County is 700 miles from the nearest Mexican border he’ll no doubt rivet his target audience with tales of intrigue and danger and steel slats.

As the most visible of the state’s elected politician-sheriffs, it’s been clear for some time now that Reams has higher ambitions–whether the legislature, the on-again off-again list to succeed Rep. Ken Buck in CD-4, or another more overtly political role than sheriff. We’re not as confident how he’ll fare once he gets there, but the border photo op checks off a telltale box.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Jim Jordan’s Jibber Jabber

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, Republicans turn to “The Chewbacca Defense” on behalf of President Trump; Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) doesn’t bother to show up to impeachment hearings; Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) still hasn’t said anything about either Korea; Andrew Romanoff weaves a complicated narrative in the U.S. Senate race; and Indivisible leader Katie Farnan plays America’s worst favorite game, “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. If you have a question or comment, hit us up at AngryRants@GetMoreSmarter.com.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 26)

Happy Snowmageddon; 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…

►  A federal judge ruled late Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn cannot be shielded from Congressional testimony by the Trump administration. As The Washington Post explains, Monday’s ruling touches on a broader subject of executive power in the United States:

In her ruling that Don McGahn must comply with a congressional subpoena, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington goes to great lengths to illustrate how far out on a constitutional limb President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have crawled with their absolutist claims of executive power.

Jackson invokes “Animal Farm” as she dismisses the Justice Department’s position that the president alone has the authority to make unilateral determinations regarding whether he and his senior aides, current and former, will respond to, or defy, subpoenas from House committees during investigations of potential wrongdoing by his own administration.

“For a similar vantagepoint, see the circumstances described by George Orwell,” the judge writes in her 118-page decision. “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

House Democrats want the former White House counsel, who left his position in October 2018, to testify about the episodes of possible obstruction of justice that former special counsel Bob Mueller outlined in his report. They are debating whether to proceed with articles of impeachment related to the president’s alleged efforts to undermine that investigation. Jackson said McGahn can assert executive privilege when asked specific questions, but Trump cannot issue a blanket order to stop his former aide from showing up to testify.

“Compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law,” she concludes. [Pols emphasis]

The Justice Department plans to appeal the ruling, because Trump minions clearly do believe that some people are “above the law.”

Chris Cillizza of CNN has more on the significance on Monday’s ruling:

Obviously, if you are McGahn, you have to now prepare yourself for at least the possibility that you will be asked — under oath — about your role in the potential obstruction of justice by Trump in Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe into Russian obstruction in the 2016 election. (McGahn is requesting a week-long stay so he can appeal the ruling.)

But if you are, say Guiliani or Mulvaney, this ruling has to give you pause. Yes, McGahn is a former White House employee while Mulvaney and Giuliani currently work for Trump. (Former national security adviser John Bolton, it’s worth noting, is also a former administration official who has not been subpoenaed, but who House investigators *really* want to talk to.)

Giuliani and Mulvaney could possibly hang their hats on the idea that Trump’s broad claim of executive privilege could well apply to them as active employees in a way that courts have ruled it doesn’t apply to McGahn. Maybe! But that line of reasoning took a hit on Monday — and will force anyone with an outstanding subpoena from Congress to reconsider their position at least somewhat in the coming days.

Predictably, President Trump took to his Twitter machine on Tuesday morning to declare that he actually wants more people to testify. Riiigghht.

 

A majority of Americans believe that President Trump should not only be impeached but removed from office by the U.S. Senate. Compare these numbers to public support for the impeachment and removal of Bill Clinton in 1998, which never even reached 30%.

 

Slade Gorton, a former Republican Senator from Washington, argues in a New York Times Op-Ed that there is more than enough information for the GOP to act on the impeachment of President Trump:

To my fellow Republicans, I give this grave and genuine warning: It’s not enough merely to dismiss the Ukraine investigation as a partisan witch hunt or to hide behind attacks against the “deep state,” or to try to find some reason to denounce every witness who steps forward, from decorated veterans to Trump megadonors.

History demands that we all wrestle with the facts at hand. They are unavoidable. Fifty years from now, history will not accept the position that impeachment was a referendum on the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. It must be a verdict reached on the facts…

…Here’s what I know: Neither the country nor the Constitution is served by a partisan shouting match divorced from the facts, a process boycotted by one side refusing to engage on the merits. John Adams is still right 250 years later: Facts are stubborn things. Facts are what should determine whether a stubborn president stays in office. Republicans, don’t fight the process, follow the facts wherever they lead, and put country above party.

 

► The Denver City Council has approved a minimum wage increase, as Conrad Swanson reports for The Denver Post:

The new law requires employers to bump hourly employees to at least $12.85 on Jan. 1, with a second raise to $14.77 following at the start of 2021, and a third to $15.87 in 2022. After that, the new law mandates that it will then be adjusted annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index.

Public comment was overwhelmingly, if not entirely, in favor of the law, which places Denver as the first Colorado city to raise the local minimum wage. Ultimately, the council voted 11-0…

…Initially, the ordinance proposed to mandate the raises in two tiers, reaching $15.87 by 2021, though that plan was mellowed after some criticized it as too aggressive or quick. Mayor Michael Hancock’s office later announced the three-tiered approach and the bill was introduced by Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who called it history in the making Monday night.

 

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

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Rick Perry Accuses God of Election Tampering

Outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry is likely complicit in President Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate one of his political opponents (which, of course, has led us to Congressional impeachment hearings), and at the very least appears to have used his Cabinet position to enrich his friends. If you’ve been wondering how Perry and other Trump acolytes can justify their pious devotion to the Great Big Orange Man in the White House, here’s part of your answer…

Perry says that Donald Trump is the “chosen one” who was “ordained” by God to become President of the United States, which is a polite way of suggesting that God interfered in the 2016 election. As Perry told Ed Henry of Fox News:

“I said, Mr. President, I know there are people that say you said you were the chosen one and I said, ‘You were.’ I said, ‘If you’re a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet and our government.’”

Trump has referred to himself as “The Chosen One” — as recently as late August — and supports the suggestion that he might be the “King of Israel,” so this kind of butt-kissing is right on target. Perry is the former Governor of Texas and a onetime contestant on “Dancing With the Stars,” but he’s not a complete dummy; he didn’t get to become Secretary of Energy without being skilled at buttering up President Trump. As National Public Radio reminds us, Perry was singing a different tune four years ago:

At first, it might have seemed absurd that what Perry wanted was to join the Trump administration.

After all, in 2015, during his second presidential run, Perry scorched Trump in a speech, calling his Republican opponent’s candidacy a “cancer on conservatism” and “a barking carnival act.” Trumpism, Perry warned, was “a toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.”

It’s also worth noting that Perry is the leaving the same Department of Energy that he wanted to eliminate altogether when he was seeking the GOP nomination for President in 2015. In other words, the outgoing head of a department he doesn’t think should exist — who was appointed to the job by a man he didn’t think should be President — would now have you believe that Donald Trump was chosen by God to lead the United States of America.

And that, dear friends, is as good an explanation as any for the current state of American politics and the Republican Party in general.

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Schiff: Impeachment Report Coming After Thanksgiving

As The Washington Post explains, impeachment hearings against President Trump will soon be moving from the House Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee:

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said Monday that House investigators will transmit a report on Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine controversy to the Judiciary Committee shortly after Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess next week.

In a letter to colleagues, Schiff underscored that stonewalling by the White House could form the basis for a separate article of impeachment.

Meanwhile, a federal judge has said she will rule by the end of the day on whether former White House counsel Donald McGahn must testify before Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee includes two Colorado Congressional Members: Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley). We have no doubt that Rep. Neguse will be in attendance for the next phase of impeachment hearings; whether or not Rep. Buck will bother to show up is a different question, but he’s (probably) not going to skip out on public testimony.

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Andrew Romanoff’s Troubled Immigration Record Revisited

Andrew Romanoff.

The 2020 Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Colorado has been spun as a two-way battle between political veterans, former Gov. John Hickenlooper versus former Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, but also between two competing ideologies: Hickenlooper being characterized (pejoratively) as a “moderate” Democrat, while Romanoff has fashioned himself in this race as the “progressive champion” campaigning on progressive policy planks such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

The reality beneath the spin of this race is very different from popular perceptions, as we have pointed out in this space to some consternation from Romanoff’s supporters. Hickenlooper’s record as governor was more progressive than even his own presidential candidacy cared to admit, strongly supporting gun safety measures, the Affordable Care Act, and LGBT rights among many other causes. And the hard truth is that Andrew Romanoff has taken both sides on most of his signature issues like universal health care and oil and gas drilling throughout his long career, often in response to the perceived needs of the race he was running.

This is not a conclusion we come to based on any bias or preference in this race. Like Romanoff’s fundraising, managing only a small fraction of Hickenlooper’s number in a race considered the nation’s most competitive, this is reality–and observers on all sides ignore it at their peril.

Today, the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul dived into another issue Romanoff has a long record on, immigration–and it’s a story that every Democratic primary voters who thinks they know Andrew Romanoff needs to read.

As Colorado’s House speaker from 2005 to 2009, he oversaw the passage of what at the time were considered among the most restrictive policies in the nation when it comes to people living in the U.S. illegally…

“What is extraordinarily frustrating is that he’s never acknowledged the actual harm he helped create for the immigrant community –– legislation that’s still impacting those communities,” said state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat and longtime immigrant advocate. “I want to work alongside people to build the world that we all want to see. It’s hard to believe them when they were actively involved in building policies that harmed members of our community but who now say, ‘Trust me.’’’

Romanoff says the measures were a “serious mistake” that produced unintended consequences that he deeply regrets. But at the time he maintained that the measures didn’t compromise his beliefs and told The Los Angeles Times that at least some of the policies were “tough, effective, enforceable and practical.” [Pols emphasis]

This isn’t the first time that Romanoff’s compromised record on immigration has back to bite him. During Romanoff’s 2014 run for Congress against Mike Coffman, Romanoff’s votes on immigration in 2006 became a critical liability as Coffman used it to shame Romanoff before the district’s Latino voters while hypocritically burnishing Coffman’s own “pro-immigrant” credentials. Likewise during Romanoff’s losing 2010 U.S. Senate primary bid, when the 2006 immigration bills undermined Romanoff’s then run to the left against Michael Bennet.

At the time, the 2006 immigration bills were praised by pundits and moderates as a way of flanking hard-line Republicans like Tom Tancredo on the issue, who had proposed a ballot measure with even harsher sanctions against undocumented people in Colorado. That year Bob Beauprez relied heavily on lowbrow anti-immigrant demagoguery to attack Bill Ritter, an attack that backfired and contributed to Beauprez’s crushing defeat. In retrospect it has become obvious that the 2006 immigration bills did far more harm than good to the Democratic coalition in Colorado, at best an opportunistic betrayal of Latino voters and at worst evidence of enmity against immigrants on both sides of the aisle.

In 2013 the worst of 2006 immigration legislation, Senate Bill 90, was repealed. By Gov. Hickenlooper. The facts of this history are simple and incontrovertible. Hickenlooper literally was the governor who undid Speaker Romanoff’s cardinal error.

It is telling that Romanoff never apologized for the 2006 immigration special session publicly until just days after Hickenlooper entered the race. But in 2014 in particular, Romanoff ran a very different campaign against Mike Coffman, casting himself as a balanced-budget championing moderate instead of the “progressive champion” he’s running as today. In the 2020 primary, on the other hand, the only way that Romanoff can possibly overcome Hickenlooper’s lopsided support in polls and overmatched fundraising performance is to essentially run as the second coming of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Romanoff’s record, and immigration won’t be the last issue for which it’s the case, does not back that up. 

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Michael Bloomberg Fills Nonexistent Prez Race Niche

Michael Bloomberg. Because he can afford it, that’s why.

CNN reports and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it:

Michael Bloomberg officially announced his late-entry Democratic presidential bid on Sunday, unveiling a campaign that the former New York mayor said will be squarely aimed at defeating President Donald Trump.

Bloomberg, in a letter explaining his candidacy on his campaign website, lays out a more moderate vision for the country and casts himself as “a doer and a problem solver — not a talker.”

“I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America. We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions,” Bloomberg wrote.

You see, gentle readers, former New York Mayor, Republican, Democrat, and always gazillionaire Michael Bloomberg has convinced himself that none of the dozen-plus Democratic candidates running for President can “beat Donald Trump!” It’s not a nice thing to say about your own party’s slate of nominees–not nice when you say it either, Michael Bennet–but much like Colorado’s dogged 1% campaigner, it’s less clear how Bloomberg offers anything to differentiate himself from the current pack. Moderates already have Joe Biden, liberals who don’t want Bernie Sanders‘ “socialist” calling card troubling their conscience have Elizabeth Warren–hell, even the pro-billionaire wing of the Democratic Party, presuming the existence of such a thing, has Tom Steyer with much stronger progressive bonafides.

Whether born of vanity or cluelessness, we don’t expect Bloomberg’s late entry into the Democratic primary to factor meaningfully. It’s just another lesson in how many smart, wealthy, well-connected people are out there who have absolutely zero political sense in or around them. Even worse, such figures invariably attract sycophantic yes men to their orbit who are willing to sign up for any fool’s errand if it means a reality-insulated paycheck. The end result is a noisy, expensive distraction. Bloomberg should aspire to a prouder legacy.

Hopefully he’ll at least acknowledge on a campaign stop that Colorado Springs has roads.

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Ken Buck Blew Off Almost All The Impeachment Hearings

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

Late last month as readers will recall, several dozen Republican members of Congress charged into a secure facility in the basement of the U.S. Capitol to “protest” the so-called “secret closed-door hearings” then underway in the early phase of the House’s impeachment inquiry–a process that has now moved on to explosive public hearings that have reconfirmed the worst of the allegations against President Donald Trump.

Rep. Ken Buck supported the “raid” by the House GOP of the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in the basement of the Capitol, even though that support quickly backfired on Buck since as a member of the House Judiciary Committee Buck was allowed to participate in the very hearings he complained were inaccessible. With that Buck became more of a hypocritical figure than a sympathetic one, doing his best to help de-legitimize the House GOP’s unsteady defense of Trump against the impeachment process.

And as the Colorado Independent reports, Buck’s ditching of impeachment hearings he could have participated in was no isolated incident:

Congressman Ken Buck has railed against the closed-door impeachment proceedings led by U.S. House Democrats in recent months. The process is “occurring outside of the full view of the American people,” he wrote in an October op-ed in Fox News, before the public impeachment hearings began.

But the Colorado Republican — the only member of the state’s congressional delegation with access to those closed-door briefings — appears to have skipped the vast majority of them.

An analysis of transcripts from the 15 closed-door depositions that have been released by House lawmakers shows that Buck was present at just one, the testimony of William Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, on Oct. 22. [Pols emphasis]

As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the congressman from Weld County was among the 47 Republicans who had access to the depositions.

Ironically, it was the highly damaging testimony from acting ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor on October 22nd that prompted Minority Whip Steve Scalise to lead the charge of Republican members into the SCIF the following day, hoping to create a diversion from Taylor’s testimony. Rep. Buck himself appears to have not wanted to risk his own security clearance by joining in an unsanctioned “occupation” of a secure facility he already had access to, but promulgating the fiction that these hearings were any less open to Republicans in Congress than Democrats is an inexcusable deception Ken Buck has knowingly engaged in.

In this deception Rep. Buck is far from alone, but he’s our local case in point.

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Clock Ticks Down To “Red Flag” Law Taking Effect

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams (R-MGO).

Reporter Alex Zorn via the Grand Junction Sentinel:

With a little more than a month to go before new gun laws take effect in Colorado, law enforcement agencies locally and across the state are finalizing their approaches to enforcing legislation that some of them opposed as it was being drafted.

The extreme risk protection order (ERPO), also known as red flag laws, passed in this year’s Democrat-controlled Legislature. The measure, HB1177, allows law enforcement or family members of troubled gun owners to petition a judge to have those weapons removed under extreme circumstances, but only if the gun owner is deemed a risk to themselves or others.

Several county officials across the state, including some on the Western Slope, spoke against the bill as it was being debated. Some counties went so far as declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” such as Weld County.

Zorn reports that Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis, who joined with most of Colorado’s elected county sheriffs (with a notable exception in Douglas County) in opposing the state’s new “red flag” law, is still planning on enforcing the law when it takes effect with the new year. All law enforcement agencies in Colorado are required to have procedures in place to handle ERPO cases by December 31st.

As we’ve discussed a few times in this space since the passage of House Bill 19-1177, a long wait for the first ERPO case in Colorado is not expected. Intervention in impending firearm suicides is expected to be a more common occurrence than threats to the public, and in both types of cases family and household members petitioning the courts for an ERPO will start showing up quickly.

Once that happens, the law enforcement agencies who have declared that they will not enforce the ERPO law, most prominently Weld County under Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-owned Sheriff Steve Reams, are going to face a crisis. Attorney General Phil Weiser has stated that sheriffs who refuse to enforce the law face contempt of court proceedings and potentially being jailed. We believe that the moral crisis that would arise from such a refusal to enforce the law resulting in preventable death is a much more proximal concern politically, which is a nice way of saying that an elected county sheriff who lets someone die rather than enforce this law will face strong pressure to resign in disgrace and never run for public office again.

Unfortunately, it’s a question of how many preventable deaths will be necessary to convince our state’s elected politician-sheriffs to do their jobs.

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“Post-9/11 Recovery Funds?” You Mean the “Bush Tax Cuts?”

The ethics complaint filed by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty against former Gov. John Hickenlooper has been generally discounted by knowledgeable observers looking at what appear to be the innocuous facts of some travel Hickenlooper took as governor–including in large part by Hickenlooper’s primary opponents. Despite this, the process of such a complaint against either a sitting or a former elected official provides political opponents numerous opportunities to pitch negative stories along the way to reporters, sometimes with success and sometimes not.

One of those fairly predictable negative pitches involves the fact that the legal defense for public officials in ethics proceedings in Colorado is paid for by the state. Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, for example, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars unsuccessfully defending himself against an ethics complaint stemming from his use of discretionary funds for partisan political event travel. In the case of the complaint against Hickenlooper, the Denver Post and 9NEWS both reported yesterday that the public has picked up a little north of $40,000 of the tab for defending Hickenlooper from McNulty.

There’s nothing unusual in reporting on a detail like this, and we’re happy to recount news reports of Gessler’s legal tab for that particular case. But the Denver Post led its story with a bizarre detail that we’ve been puzzling about all day:

John Hickenlooper’s attorney has been paid $43,390 — at a rate of $525 per hour — in taxpayer money to defend him before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission as part of an arrangement that dates back to the former governor’s time in office.

It’s common for Colorado elected officials to be represented by government lawyers, or by private attorneys enlisted by the government, but in this case, the recipient of the money was hidden and the money came from a federal fund meant to help the state after 9/11. [Pols emphasis]

Wait, what? Post 9/11 economic recovery fund? What in the hell is that?

Here’s what the Post’s Justin Wingerter writes to back up his sensational allegation:

According to the transparency database, money paid by the state to Grueskin comes from the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, a bundle of federal dollars allocated as part of a President George W. Bush-era plan to jump-start the post-9/11 economy. [Pols emphasis]

You haven’t heard of this “post-9/11 recovery fund” because nobody ever called it that. What Wingerter is referring to is the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, otherwise known as the “Bush Tax Cuts.”

Of course, the 2003 Bush Tax Cuts did pass through Congress “post-9/11.” In that regard, every piece of legislation that has been approved since September 11, 2001 could also be called “post-9/11.” This executive order from Gov. Bill Owens in 2003 — which is linked in the Post story — makes no mention whatsoever of “9/11.” The money allocated in the Bush Tax Cuts went to all sorts of purposes, including immunization programs and charter school construction. Nobody would characterize the 2003 Bush tax cuts as “9/11 relief” because that’s not how they were sold even at the time.

The group that filed this ethics complaint in the first place, which is run by former State House Speaker Frank McNulty, is trying to re-name decades-old legislation in order to give their flailing argument a boost. Today, two Republican lawmakers are speaking out in an effort to boost this “9/11 relief” nonsense. As Marianne Goodland writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, R-Watkins, sent a letter to chair and vice-chair of the Legislative Audit Committee on Thursday, seeking an investigation into “the inappropriate, perhaps illegal” use of federal dollars for Hickenlooper’s legal bills. Bockenfeld and Lundeen are both members of the audit committee…

…That letter, which was obtained by Colorado Politics, said those federal dollars were intended to “jump start” Colorado’s post-9/11 economy. According to an executive order from then-Gov. Bill Owens, the dollars were to provide “essential government services or to cover the costs of certain unfunded federal mandates.”

The letter said the executive order does not say anything about being used to cover legal bills for Hickenlooper’s private lawyers. Since it does not allow for those kinds of expenses, no argument can be made that paying Hickenlooper’s legal bills “is an essential government service or unfunded federal mandate,” the letter said. [Pols emphasis]

Great work, detectives. It would be very odd indeed if the 2003 executive order said something about the money being used to cover Governor Hickenlooper’s legal bills, since Hickenlooper was at that point in time beginning his first term as MAYOR OF DENVER. 

There will inevitably be negative stories that present themselves in the process of an ethics complaint. Whether it’s Scott Gessler or John Hickenlooper, nobody enjoys reading about taxpayer dollars spent on legal defense. But taxpayer money is often used for the legal defense of elected officials who were serving in publicly-funded jobs at the time. The real absurdity here is the “9/11 relief funds” angle on the original Post story, which no doubt helped generate clicks to the Post website but has nothing to do with the rest of the story.

If there’s something we’re missing here, the comment section is open.

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Nunes, Republicans Get Smacked for Silly Questions

Fiona Hill isn’t playing around.

Fiona Hill, a former member of President Trump’s national security team and an advisor on Russia, is testifying publicly today as part of impeachment hearings into Trump’s bribery scandal with Ukraine. Hill also took her opportunity in front of the cameras to push back against Republican conspiracy theories that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections — ideas that are being promoted by the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes.

As The Washington Post explains:

“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services,” Hill said in her opening statement.

The statement amounted to a rebuke of President Trump; Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee; and others who have advanced claims that it was Ukraine — and not Russia — that waged information warfare against the United States in 2016.

“Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country,” she said.

Hill’s testimony sets the stage for an extraordinary development in the impeachment hearings, with Trump’s former top adviser on Russia essentially telling the public under oath that his refusal to accept the reality of Moscow’s intervention in 2016 is wrong.

“The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions,” Hill said. “It is beyond dispute.” [Pols emphasis]

Nunes and other Republicans have continually sought to sow Ukrainian conspiracy theories into impeachment testimony. On Wednesday, Nunes said point-blank that Democrats “got campaign dirt from Ukrainians in the 2016 election” and “were heavily involved, working with Ukrainians, to dirty up the Trump campaign.”

Via CNN (11/21/19)

Hill’s statements today are another black eye for Nunes, a staunch Trump ally who has played the role of a bumbling fool for much of the impeachment process. As Salon.com reports, Nunes’ opening statement on Wednesday — prior to the explosive testimony of EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland — indicated that he was completely unprepared for the day’s testimony:

Nunes began by comparing the Democrats’ impeachment push to former special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe, listing off numerous charges that although he dismissed at false were actually proven true.

“Trump had a diabolical plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow,” he said. (True.) “Trump changed the Republican National Committee platform to hurt Ukraine and benefit Russia,” he added. (True.) “Trump’s son-in-law lied about his Russian contacts while obtaining his security clearance,” he continued. (True.)

“It’s a long list of false charges, and that’s merely a partial list,” Nunes declared after reading the largely corroborated list.

Nunes then went on to claim that Democrats were again pushing false charges in the Ukraine case.

“When the Democrats can’t get any traction for their allegations of a quid pro quo, they move the goalposts and accuse the president of extortion, then bribery, and as a last resort, obstructing justice,” Nunes said, moments before Sondland explicitly described a “quid pro quo.” [Pols emphasis]

Nunes has, in fact, turned into something of a Trump clone. He has devoted much of his time during impeachment hearings to floating miscellaneous conspiracy theories and attacking the media. As CNN’s Chris Cillizza notes, Nunes appears to be concerned only with how he appears to President Trump.

Via The Atlantic (11/20/19)

Is all of this obfuscation and verbal nonsense from Nunes actually working in Trump’s favor and weakening the case for impeachment? As The Hill explains, pictures tell the story better than anything Nunes can say. This brief montage from The Daily Show works even better:

 

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DeGette, Perlmutter Call For Firing Of Stephen Miller

Stephen Miller.

The Hill:

More than 100 Democratic lawmakers on Thursday signed on to a letter calling for President Trump to fire senior adviser Stephen Miller as a civil rights group details hundreds of controversial emails he sent prior to his time in the administration…

Democrats and civil rights groups have hammered Miller over the past week as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) publishes summaries of emails the White House aide sent in 2015 and 2016 prior to working in the White House.

The emails, roughly two dozen of which have been reviewed by The Hill, contain links and references to publications associated with white nationalism and show how Miller coordinated with Breitbart News to shape coverage around immigration and the 2016 GOP primary.

From today’s letter, whose signers include Reps. Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado:

Last week, numerous emails sent by Mr. Miller were made public that clearly establish that he is an avid white nationalist and conspiracy theorist. These emails included material exposing Miller’s support of white supremacist ideology and literature, xenophobic conspiracy theories, as well as his promotion of white supremacist websites. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog, which obtained the emails, 80 percent of the more than 900 emails directly referenced race or immigration, and none contained “examples of Miller writing sympathetically or even in neutral tones about any person who is non-white or foreign-born.” Given Mr. Miller’s role in shaping immigration policy for your administration, his documented dedication to extremist, anti-immigrant ideology and conspiracy-mongering is disqualifying.

Beyond the disturbing emails that Mr. Miller wrote, is the clear conclusion that he brought his dedication to white nationalism with him into your administration and translated this hateful ideology directly into your administration’s discriminatory immigration policies. Mr. Miller’s documented hatred of Muslim immigrants shaped your Muslim ban, and sheds new light on your administration’s intent in writing that ban. Mr. Miller’s clear support for halting all immigration is evident in many forms, including your continued support for ending DACA as well as the increasing difficulty of obtaining asylum and visas across all categories. There is a clear line between Miller’s advocacy for books like “Camp of the Saints,”–a novel celebrated by neo- Nazis for promoting the view of non-white immigrants as “monsters”–and the Administration’s inhumane family separation policy, of which Miller was the primary architect.

Since the release by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) of emails documenting Stephen Miller’s predilection for openly racist and xenophobic points of view, including material from the infamous VDARE hate site of which Colorado nativist politico Tom Tancredo is a former board member, calls for Miller’s ouster have spread from usual-suspect Democrats to potentially more influential quarters like the Anti Defamation League. On the other hand, Miller is reportedly a personal favorite of President Donald Trump due to Miller’s unvarnished “toughness,” which has helped Miller hold on to power while the Trump administration in general suffers from chronic “high turnover.”

Whether or not Miller weathers this latest storm, he’s become another living example of the worst fears about a public figure proving accurate. It’s not always the case, but sometimes the villains of the story manage to live up to their villainous billing.

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It Doesn’t Matter What Cory Gardner Thinks About Weed

Mitch McConnell, Cory Gardner.

As Westword’s Thomas Mitchell reports, legislation to end the federal blanket prohibition on marijuana and legitimize states like Colorado who have legalized cannabis is moving through the Democratic-controlled House:

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, better known as the MORE Act, would end federal marijuana prohibition while allowing states to regulate the plant as they see fit, as well as set up funding and programs that allow expungement for cannabis offenders and social equity within any potential federally legal pot industry.

Introduced by New York Representative Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, the MORE Act passed 24-10 out of the House Judiciary Committee, setting up a future vote on the House floor. However, Nadler’s role as Judiciary Committee chairman enabled the bill’s quick markup, and Republican representatives don’t seem to think the bill would receive Senate approval if it passes the House. [Pols emphasis] Before the vote, several brought up the States Act, a Senate bill that would leave marijuana legalization to states.

Colorado Congressman Ken Buck unsuccessfully tried attaching the States Act as an amendment to the MORE Act, claiming the Senate isn’t likely to touch the latter.

The States Act, as our toker-friendly readers know, is legislation in the U.S. Senate that would similarly leave the regulation of cannabis up to individual states. A key difference between the States Act, which has bipartisan support in the Senate including both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators, and the MORE Act is that federal law enforcement would still be able to bring federal charges under the States Act over marijuana violations in states where the drug remains illegal.

The biggest problem with the passage of either bill, however, remains Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–who has remained a steadfast opponent of THC-bearing cannabis even while loosening his position on industrial non-narcotic hemp cultivation. McConnell claims that hemp and cannabis grown for consumption are “two entirely separate plants,” deeming marijuana to be hemp’s “illicit cousin, which I choose not to embrace.” McConnell’s opposition to marijuana legalization is effectively a roadblock to any legislation to end federal prohibition–and the legislative fight in the Senate may center on the more limited SAFE Banking Act, to free up banking services for legal marijuana businesses in legalized states who are dangerously forced to do their business in cash.

The point in all this, which we’ve made previously about other issues on which local Republicans feint to the center like healthcare and immigration, is that Sen. Cory Gardner’s longstanding lip service to supporting the end of federal prohibition of marijuana is hobbled by the Republican Senate leadership Gardner voted into power. Gardner can tell Colorado’s marijuana stakeholders whatever he wants, but if he’s not willing to force a showdown over the issue with his own Republican leadership, Gardner’s platitudes on this and every other subject are meaningless.

At the end of the day, you dance with the one who brung you.

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22 States Join Colorado To Stop “Faithless Electors”

A press release from Secretary of State Jena Griswold this afternoon:

Today, twenty-two states signed on to an amicus brief that underlines the urgency in Colorado’s petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an unprecedented decision issued in August in Baca v. Colorado Department of State. The 10th Circuit decision states that Colorado cannot remove presidential electors if they fail to cast their ballots in accordance with state law, which requires presidential electors to cast their Electoral College ballots for the candidate who won the most votes in Colorado. Because the 10th Circuit’s ruling impedes Colorado’s ability to enforce state law and has the potential to undermine voters across the nation, Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Attorney General Phil Weiser have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and protect Americans’ fundamental right to self-determination.

In filing the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Secretary Jena Griswold said the 10th Circuit’s decision, if upheld, “undermines voters and sets a dangerous precedent for our nation. Unelected and unaccountable presidential electors should not be allowed to decide the presidential election without regard to voters’ choices and state law.”

The states that signed onto the brief request are Alaska, California, Illinois, Mississippi, Maryland, Nevada, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Tennessee, and Rhode Island.

“Having twenty-two states support our petition to the U.S. Supreme Court underlines the urgency of this matter. When Americans vote in the presidential election, we are exercising our most fundamental right – the right to self-governance and self-determination. We have to preserve that right. Without swift action by the Supreme Court, the foundation of our democracy is at risk,” said Griswold.

The appeals court decision last August in the Baca v. Colorado Department of State case sent a shock through many more state capitols than our own, since the ruling threatens to destabilize the entire Electoral College system used to elect Presidents since the founding of the Republic. Although the notion of “faithless electors” is not new and historically very rare, the heightened awareness of the power of the Electoral College after two presidential elections in the past 20 years were decided adverse to the winner of the nationwide popular vote–combined with a ruling enshrining the right of electors to go “faithless”–could make them a regular, unpredictable, and decidedly un-democratic component of future elections.

As we’ve discussed in this space, the decision also complicates the as-of-now stalled implementation of the state’s National Vote Compact law, which would assign the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The Compact doesn’t have enough participating states to take effect, and the law in Colorado is under challenge via a statewide ballot question set for next November–but if the 10th Circuit’s ruling in this case prevails, NPV would be impossible to enforce here or anywhere else.

The one upside we can offer is that if the end result of this court battle is an Electoral College that no longer functions as the Founders intended, or no longer has the public’s confidence, it could result in the change the Electoral College’s opponents desire faster than any other means. We and everyone else with a stake in the outcome of presidential elections–meaning everybody–should be watching closely.

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