Sen. Michael Bennet: Ditch “Sagebrush Rebel” Pendley

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

A significant development on Friday afternoon in the continuing controversy over the Trump administration’s plan to “reorganize” the Bureau of Land Management–Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is now calling for the removal of Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley:

Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet led a letter with 11 additional Senate Democrats urging U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to terminate William Perry Pendley’s authority as acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In the letter, the senators outline their concerns with Pendley’s advocacy for the widespread sale of public lands, his efforts to roll back key conservation laws, and his long-held disregard for the important role BLM plays in managing our public lands.

“As the BLM considers a major reorganization, there is no reason for this effort to be led by an Acting Director who spent his career attempting to dismantle the agency. Keeping Mr. Pendley atop the BLM is an affront to all Americans who believe in the balanced, multiple use and sustained yield mission of the agency,” wrote the senators.

“The American people deserve better. Therefore, we request that you rescind Mr. Pendley’s authority as Acting Director of the BLM and that the President nominate a BLM Director with a true commitment to our public lands and waters,” the letter continues.

As we’ve been observing over the course of several months now, the backlash from environmentalists as well as career employees of the BLM against the planned move of the bureau’s headquarters to Grand Junction has altered the political calculus of what was at one point a no-brainer choice for local Democrats to support bringing the power and prestige of an agency headquarters to our state. Bennet originally came out in support of moving the BLM back in 2017, and Gov. Jared Polis has similarly been in support even while working to clean up oil and gas drilling across the state via Senate Bill 19-181.

At this point, however, the known political agenda of acting BLM director Pendley, along with that of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and of course President Donald Trump himself, is inimical to any goal Democrats have of protecting public lands inside Colorado or elsewhere from unwise development. However Bennet and other local Democrats may feel in the abstract about moving the BLM “Out West,” doing so under the current management is not going to result in Democratic priorities with regard to public lands being respected in the process.

If this is the beginning of an about-face, it’s a welcome development.

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Recall Cashola: From Grifting To “Gifting”

FRIDAY UPDATE: Amateur hour continues, writes Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette:

After Colorado Politics reported that a Polis recall committee had disclosed distributing $11,000 in contributed funds as gifts to people involved in the group, the committee has amended state filings to say that the payments were for “consultant and professional services” instead of “gifts.”

The amended report from “Official Recall Governor Jared Polis” group — filed at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, hours after CoPo’s story was posted — labels the purpose of those expenditures as “BOARD APPROVED – THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT COLORADO.”

The previous filing identified the purpose as as “BOARD GIFT – THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT COLORADO.” Other information about the payments was not changed.

That’s a swell amendment, but we’d say the grounds for the mother of all campaign finance complaints have only been reinforced by this act of ex post facto backside covering. We assume that will be the next shoe to drop–unless it just plain becomes time to start arresting people for fraud! We’ll leave that question to the lawyers, who should be coming directly.

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As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports, the end of the road has come for the Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Issue Committee–and after diverting $29,000 into a committee calling itself Colorado For Trump, thousands of dollars in donations to the committee are being given out as “gifts” to the abortive campaign’s organizers:

The Official Recall of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis group — which didn’t participate in the recent failed recall attempt by two other groups — has given $11,000 of the money it raised for the effort as gifts to staffers.

According to online campaign finance records filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, committee manager Shane Donnelley got $5,000 as a “thank you for caring about Colorado” gift, and secretary Lisa Pascoe and Weld County lead Rene McGill both received $3,000.

“Whether you call it a grift or a gift, this is just the latest in a string of events that show these recalls are being driven by scammers who are looking out for their own interests at the expense of unwitting voters,” said Curtis Hubbard, the spokesman for the Democratic group working against the recalls, Democracy First.

When we last checked in on the ashes of the failed push to recall Gov. Jared Polis earlier this month, the chair of the committee Juli-Andra Fuentes said she was waiting for a phone call (that wasn’t coming) from President Donald Trump personally before deciding what next to do with the $29,000 she diverted to “Colorado For Trump” from the Recall Polis committee–which might include legal defense if she’s sued by the Trump campaign for misuse of their brand.  Shane Donnelley, as readers know, is one of the original organizers of the committee, but stepped back from a public role after anti-Semitic posts from Donnelley and another principal organizer Judy Spady wound up on the evening news.

The diversion of tens of thousands of dollars into the bogus Trump committee, and the thousands paid to local political operatives like Jon Caldara and Scott Gessler for their “Freedomfy” fundraising platform and legal fees respectively are well-known scandals at this point. But this latest disclosure of $11,000 given away as “gifts” to organizers after a campaign that accomplished absolutely nothing–helping principally to discredit the Polis recall petition drive after it commenced–is absolutely gobsmacking in its audacity.

This is a campaign whose donors literally contributed their SSI checks.

And they’re pocketing the money.

It may not be on a grand scale, but it is easily as disgraceful as anything we’ve seen in this business.

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Yeah Right, Ken Buck: Raccoon Revolution Edition


Here’s a clip of Rep. Ken Buck earlier this week in a House Judiciary Committee hearing, interacting with friendly witness Amy Swearer of the Heritage Foundation on the hot-button subject of the AR-15 assault rifle–a weapon whose availability to civilian Americans is once again in question as mass shootings utilizing the easily-obtainable and modifiable weapon continue to claim lives by the dozen.

In this exchange, however, Rep. Buck wants to talk about something else–innocuous, even routine use of AR-15s to kill varmints on ranches in his district:

BUCK: And, and are those individuals and and, let me just tell you from my experience and in my district in eastern Colorado an AR-15 is used to kill raccoons that are, or foxes or other animals that are predators and trying to disturb individuals. [inaudible off camera] Or trying to, you know, kill chickens or or are are disturbing agriculture in some way. Is that your understanding also of how some, not saying a majority of that 16 to 18 million, but some of those guns are used?

SWEARER: Uh yes, it’s actually not suitable for a a lot of higher-end hunting for larger game because it’s actually more suitable for, as you inferred more varmint hunting and small predator hunting.

Here’s the thing: Rep. Buck is not wrong that AR-15 are often used for varmint control, and the Heritage Foundation employee he’s talking with agrees that the small caliber of assault weapons makes them unsuitable for hunting larger game. There are of course plenty of other weapons that would be suitable for ranch varmint duty, but since you can buy AR-15s at any gun shop starting at surprisingly low prices, they’re no doubt very popular.

But folks, we’re going to go out on a limb and assert that Rep. Ken Buck does not keep an American flag-painted AR-15 in his office to celebrate its ability to kill raccoons. The AR-15 was not developed for ranches, it’s a weapon made for battlefields. The .223 ammunition used by these weapons is indeed too weak for big game–because it was designed to kill people, not elk. Incidentally, yes, it’s hell on raccoons.

The point here is simple: you can’t have it both ways. If you cherish assault weapons as a defense against tyranny based on their ability to kill people efficiently, you can’t minimize them as a mere ranch implement in the same breath. Everybody knows why Ken Buck wants AR-15s available to the masses like shovels and plows, and it has nothing to do with killing varmints.

We all benefit from honest debate, and here’s an issue for which honesty is long overdue.

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Colorado Republicans Might Impeach Ken Buck

With President Trump dominating the news cycle this week in extraordinary fashion, there have been a couple of important Colorado political stories that have flown under the ol’ radar. One story we wanted to be sure to rewind involves Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ken Buck, whose leadership seat is getting warmer despite the fact that he’s rarely ever sitting in the chair himself.

As the Colorado Sun reported via its newsletter “The Unaffiliated” earlier this week, there is a brewing discomfort with the GOP’s absentee chairman:

Headline from Colorado Sun political newsletter “The Unaffiliated” (9/24/19)

A Republican activist began collecting signatures Saturday at the Colorado Republican Party’s organizational meeting to oust new Chairman Ken Buck.

Peg Cage, the immediate past chairwoman of the Boulder County Republican Party, told The Sun that Buck is spending too much time in Washington as a congressman and not doing his job as chairman to fundraise, recruit candidates or serve as the GOP’s public voice.

“He’s demonstrated no leadership toward that objective goal of taking back the state,” she said. “He’s not doing the job.” [Pols emphasis]

At the party’s central committee meeting, Cage distributed forms seeking written consent from members of the governing body to force his removal. She needs to collect a majority of the roughly 450 members to force the issue. She declined to say how many she’s received, but added: “We have a long way to go, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Buck won the party’s leadership post in a close vote in April. Cage supported Buck’s opponent in the chairman’s race, state Rep. Susan Beckman. A party spokesman said he was not aware of any such effort and Buck did not return a call seeking comment. [Pols emphasis]

Ken Buck races to his side hustle.

Chairman Buck, you may recall, spends most of his week masquerading as the Congressman from CO-4. Buck’s plan to split his time in Congress with overseeing the State Republican Party from afar has not endeared him to GOP activists and doesn’t appear to be providing much benefit to Colorado Republicans.

Congressman Buck will occasionally take to Twitter to stick his foot in his mouth or blurt out something stupid in a House committee meeting. Chairman Buck, meanwhile, has been relatively quiet about the GOP’s summer of failed recall attempts after infamously promising to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” In fact, Chairman Buck can be difficult to run down altogether:

Congresschairman Buck’s “Jekyl and Hyde” routine is already wearing thin with reporters and GOP activists alike. When Buck was elected Party Chair in late March, the plan was that former State Party Chairman Steve House would serve as the “CEO” of the party when Buck was off playing Congressman in Washington D.C. Even though Buck was elected Chairman, this proposal was not particularly popular. As Ernest Luning reported in March:

Veteran Republican strategist Dick Wadhams, who served two terms as state chairman last decade, said he was stunned after reviewing Buck’s proposal, calling it “unworkable” and “absolutely nonsensical.”

“If Steve House wants to be state chairman, he ought to run for it, and if Ken Buck doesn’t want to be state chairman, he ought to get out of the race,” Wadhams said… [Pols emphasis]

…He also slammed Buck’s plans to run the party from Washington, D.C., saying he was “baffled” by the proposition.

Last month House stepped down as Republican Party “CEO” so that he could pursue the GOP nomination for Congress in CO-6. House was quickly replaced by former vice-chairman and congressional candidate Don Ytterberg, but as reporting from the Colorado Sun and 9News indicates, the case of the missing GOP Chairman continues to be a problem.

Congressman Buck will be running for re-election a year from now, where he is still favored to keep his seat because CO-4 is a heavily-Republican district. The odds of Buck holding onto his other title are considerably worse.

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Let’s Not Pretend Republicans Care About Public Opinion Now

FRIDAY UPDATE: The Washington Post reports on the Trump administration’s anti-impeachment strategy, which includes a pretty significant hole:

Trump’s advisers said they envision a “split screen” strategy in the coming weeks. The president is considering stepping up his fall schedule of campaign rallies at arenas across the country to galvanize his supporters outside of Washington and portray House Democrats as liberal insiders who are focused on impeachment instead of governing. [Pols emphasis]

If the House is skirting its governing responsibilities to focus on impeachment, then what is the Senate’s excuse? Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell and friends haven’t been governing for most of 2019.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner yuck it up on the Senate floor.

Senate Republicans are responding to questions about President Trump’s Ukraine scandal — and associated impeachment proceedings — with what you might call “skeptical irritation.” Trump defenders have tried to brush aside questions of impropriety while simultaneously putting on a show about how the Senate should be focused on policy work instead of political squabbles — a particularly absurd position to take considering the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has famously refused to even allow discussions on dozens of pieces of legislation passed by the House of Representatives (McConnell refers to himself as the “Grim Reaper” for progressive policies).

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is taking a typical mealy-mouthed approach in response to mounting questions about the Trump administration, but he has largely settled on the idea that the Senate should be focused on other issues. Gardner was initially noncommittal about his reaction to reports of a whistleblower report, as Politico reported on Tuesday:

Gardner said Trump’s conversations with the president of Ukraine about Joe Biden and his family as well as a whistleblower complaint about the president’s conversations with a world leader are a “serious issue.” Asked if he still supported Trump’s reelection, Gardner declined to address the question: “Let’s find out what’s happening. Let’s get to the bottom of this.” 

“I’m not going to get in front of the facts that I simply don’t have right now,” he added. [Pols emphasis]

Later on Tuesday, Gardner issued a statement calling impeachment a step too far:

Today the Senate unanimously voiced its support for the full release of the whistleblower report and the Senate Intelligence Committee will be conducting a formal inquiry, which I support. Starting an impeachment inquiry to appease the far-left is something the majority of Americans do not support and will sharply divide the country. [Pols emphasis] Instead, we should focus our efforts on finding real, bipartisan solutions to lower health care costs, solve our broken immigration system, and protect our public lands.

If this statement doesn’t raise your blood pressure a bit, then you really haven’t been paying much attention to Congress in the last year. Gardner is saying that Congress should not pursue impeachment proceedings against President Trump because it does not align with public opinion in the United States. Available public polling has generally shown a lack of support for the idea of impeachment, but those numbers are changing as more information comes out about Trump’s Ukrainian shakedown (the latest numbers indicate that voters are split on the topic, which is an increase in support from recent months). Regardless, it is absolutely absurd for any Republican Senator to attempt to paint impeachment as folly because of public opinion polls.

The chart below shows just how much Senate Republicans care about public opinion:

On Wednesday, Sen. Gardner voted for the second time this year to support Trump’s “emergency declaration” for border wall funding, even though only 39% of Americans agree with the idea. Gardner cast this vote the day after issuing a statement opposing impeachment because of a lack of public support.

Senate Republicans who support President Trump are free to oppose the idea of impeachment, but they don’t get to hide behind “public opinion” as a rationale.

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Senate Subcommittee Zeroes Out BLM Move Funding

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Reporter Allison Winter via the Colorado Independent:

The U.S. Senate Appropriations panel with jurisdiction over the Interior Department approved a fiscal 2020 spending measure that does not include funding for the agency’s reorganization plan, including the BLM move.

But the Trump administration indicated it would not back down from the planned move, instead putting employee benefits on the line in the dispute…

In its fiscal 2020 spending proposal, released this week, the Senate Interior and Environment Subcommittee zeroed out funding for the reorganization. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to vote on the bill later this week.

“This bill contains no additional resources to implement the ill-advised relocation of the Bureau of Land Management,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), the top Democrat on the committee, said at the panel’s vote on the spending measure. [Pols emphasis]

We’re watching for the next vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee, but what we’re seeing here is further resistance on the part of most Democrats to the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to Grand Junction in far western Colorado–resistance that has now made it through a GOP-controlled Senate subcommittee for further debate. The threat by the Trump administration to punish BLM employees by docking their moving reimbursements if Congress doesn’t fund the BLM’s move to Grand Junction is hardball that won’t win them much sympathy, and it’s in direct retaliation to the opposition to the move by career BLM employees.

The controversy evolving into full-blown opposition by policy experts, former and current BLM career employees, and now most Democrats in Washington to moving the BLM to Grand Junction appears to have caught many Colorado Democrats off guard. It may not have been clear to local boosters early on in the discussions, but the widespread concern that has arisen over the weakening of the BLM’s core mission of protecting public lands by moving its headquarters to a remote building literally shared with oil and gas companies should oblige responsible Coloradans to rethink their previous support for this whole business.

In the end, though, the executive branch most likely does have the power to force through this relocation, and if the Trump administration is willing to absorb the criticism from experts and the public in addition to the expected attrition of BLM employees–which may be a feature, not a bug–there may be little anyone can do to stop them. The one thing we can say is that in the event Trump (or another Republican) loses the election next fall, this could prove to be the shortest “relocation” in the BLM’s history.

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Devastating Whistleblower Complaint Accelerates Impeachment

UPDATE #3: Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora), who co-authored an Op-Ed supporting impeachment in the Washington Post earlier this week, was interviewed this afternoon by CNN’s Jake Tapper.

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UPDATE #2: Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver on MSNBC a short time ago:

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UPDATE: The Phil Anschutz-owned Washington Examiner leans in, quoting longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy warning of immediate danger to vulnerable U.S. Senators like Cory Gardner:

A longtime adviser to Republicans has claimed that if the tally were held in secret, 30 Republican senators would vote to remove President Trump from office.

Mike Murphy, who has worked as a senior adviser to now-Sen. Mitt Romney and the late Sen. John McCain, appeared Wednesday on MSNBC and said that if the Democratic-led House votes to impeach the president and the Senate acquits him, it could spell political damage the Republican Party in 2020.

“These Senate Republicans, should the Democrats vote impeachment — which I think is far more likely than not — are going to be pinned down to a yes-no answer,” Murphy said, “and if they provide cover for Donald Trump on this, a clear violation of his role as president, we’re going to lose Colorado with Cory Gardner. [Pols emphasis] We’re going to lose Maine with Susan Collins. We’re going to lose Arizona with [Martha] McSally. And the Democrats will put the Senate very much in play.”

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Politico reports as Trump loyalists try desperately to spin the damage back:

According to an unclassified version of the complaint released by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning, the unidentified whistleblower said White House officials who listened to the call were “deeply disturbed” by Trump’s requests that Zelensky investigate former vice president and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden and revisit claims related to the 2016 U.S. presidential election…

The complaint describes concerns among White House officials that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden — and that the call was the culmination of a series of events meant to pressure the new Ukrainian president to bend to Trump’s will, including dispatching Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to lean on Ukrainian officials to probe Biden. [Pols emphasis]

…The whistleblower said about a dozen White House officials were on the president’s July 25 call and that White House officials later intervened to “lock down” records of the call. According to the whistleblower complaint, White House officials were directed by White House lawyers to move electronic transcripts to a more secure electronic system typically meant for classified information.

Rep. Joe Neguse of Boulder, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, appropriately captures the magnitude of this disclosure–underscoring why the White House tried so hard to prevent it:

As we’ve observed from the beginning of this rapidly-developing crisis a week ago, the phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is just one piece, albeit a crucial and particularly damning piece, of the whole impeachable puzzle. The freezing of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine that occurred prior to this call without adequate explanation, then the lifting of that hold in its aftermath, completes the loop of what has every appearance of a shocking abuse of presidential power in order to “motivate” Ukraine to revisit unsubstantiated allegations against Joe Biden’s son ahead of the 2020 elections.

To be sure, this latest scandal does not make any previous allegation against Trump less relevant. But “UkraineGate” could well be enough, even without factoring other events in Trump’s historically chaotic and scandal-plagued presidency, to justify Trump’s removal from office all by itself. We expect the public polling on impeachment to move precipitously in the coming days following this week’s disclosures, and that will be a key determining factor for Republicans in their hard decision whether to cut the President loose.

Because that’s what this is coming down to at long last: how much more damage can Republicans endure before President Mike Pence becomes the only way to stave off total calamity at the polls in 2020? Senate Republicans can save the President. But at what cost to themselves?

It’s math that, among many others, Sen. Cory Gardner is doing in his head right now.

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Ken Buck Leads With His Chin, Gets Pummeled

The Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, who by day masquerades as Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley), tried to spin news of impeachment proceedings against President Trump today as Democrats “trying to overturn an election that didn’t go their way.”

Anyone familiar with Colorado politics instantly recognized the absurdity of Buck leading with his chin on this statement. This is, after all, the same Ken Buck who was elected GOP Chair earlier this year on the heels of a speech in which he cheered on a bunch of lame recall efforts by various Republican groups. Back in March, Buck stood on the stage at a Republican Central Committee Meeting and promised his audience that he would teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” Multiple recall attempts have since failed in spectacular fashion, leaving the State Republican Party to choose between being labeled insincere or incompetent (or both).

Buck’s laughable attempts at accusing Democrats of trying to re-do an election were thus widely mocked by local political reporters, as you can see after the jump below…

 

(more…)

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Same Vote, Different Day

Right behind you, Mr. President!

As Roll Call reports, the Senate today voted once again to reject President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for border wall money, though it is a largely symbolic move since there aren’t enough votes in the Senate to override a promised Presidential veto:

Eleven Republicans joined 43 Democrats in support of ending the emergency declaration, which allowed the administration to repurpose $3.6 billion in funds appropriated for military construction projects. That money has been diverted to border wall construction…

…Both chambers previously voted to end the Feb. 15 emergency declaration, but without sufficient majorities to override Trump’s veto, which immediately followed the Senate’s passage in March. By law, Congress has the ability to reconsider ending national emergencies every six months, which enabled Wednesday’s vote.

The resolution passed with the support of 11 Republican Senators — none of who are named Cory Gardner. For the second time this year, Sen. Gardner voted in support of President Trump’s emergency declaration for stealing money from other projects, and he’s not done yet:

Senator Gardner will apparently also support the backfill of money stolen from shovel-ready military projects, putting the proverbial cherry on the top of a pretty amazing policy waffle; you may recall that Gardner claimed he was opposed to building a border wall until literally hours before Trump made his “emergency declaration,” and now he’s ready to endorse a giant check for that exact purpose. As the Denver Post wrote earlier this month:

“It’s unfortunate Gardner can’t defend Colorado and the U.S. Constitution at the same time, or even one at a time, or just one or the other.”

Gardner voted “NO” on a similar resolution of opposition back in March, which led directly to the Denver Post’s stunning un-endorsement of the Yuma Republican. When news of this second vote on Trump’s declaration was breaking a few weeks ago, Gardner again pretended that he was undecided, which was transparently silly. In a pitch-perfect response to Gardner’s second vote, ProgressNow Colorado sent out a statement that was basically a cut-and-paste from their reaction last March:

Two can play that game.

 

As Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll said in a statement after the vote: “Senator Cory Gardner had a very clear choice with today’s vote: double down on his support for Trump’s unconstitutional power grab, or prevent Peterson Air Force Base from losing $8 million in funding. Gardner chose Trump over doing what’s right for Colorado.”

Senator Cory Gardner may hail from Colorado, but he’s always going to choose Trump over his home state.

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Reminder: Health Care Still An Issue, And Cory Gardner Lied

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As the Colorado Sun’s John Ingold reports, new statistics from the Colorado Health Institute show the enduring value of the much-maligned Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. “Obamacare,” which has dramatically expanded access to health coverage in our state since passage in 2010:

Bucking the national trend, the rate of people without health insurance in Colorado has held steady this year, according to a major new study released Wednesday.

The every-other-year Colorado Health Access Survey found that a record-low 6.5% of Coloradans are without health coverage, identical to the survey’s 2017 finding and down from the 15.8% of people without insurance in 2011. [Pols emphasis]

That will bring a big sigh of relief from health care advocates in Colorado, who had worried that the state might be following the national trend toward higher uninsured rates after the Trump administration and congressional Republicans weakened key pieces of the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of people without health insurance in America had risen for the first time in a decade.

The latest report from the Colorado Health Access Survey is not all good news: in some segments of the population the rate of uninsured has actually increased since 2017, and many Coloradans still report financial trouble covering their medical expenses even after their coverage pays in. Republican undermining of the Affordable Care Act is undeniably taking its toll nationally and locally. But there is no question that the expansion of health coverage via the Affordable Care Act, both through Medicaid and the state’s health coverage marketplace, has greatly expanded access to care, and slashed the number of Coloradans without coverage to historic lows.

The drop in the rate of uninsured Coloradans from nearly 16% in 2011 to 6.5% today also disproves once again one of the biggest political lies of the 2010s in all of Colorado politics–Sen. Cory Gardner’s false contention over the course of years that “hundreds of thousands of Coloradans had their health insurance canceled” by the Affordable Care Act. Gardner claimed for years that some 300,000 or more Coloradans had “lost their coverage” after the ACA’s mandated changes to insurance plans took effect. The truth, as the law’s defenders and annoyed fact-checkers have tried to correct Gardner with at every step, is that plans were simply updated to reflect the coverage requirements of the new law.

Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans did not “lose coverage.” In reality, hundreds of thousands gained coverage, and the historic drop in the number of uninsured in the state persisting to the present day proves indisputably that Gardner was lying the whole time. On the other hand, Gardner’s literally dozens of votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have had exactly the effect he falsely warned of–losing coverage and not getting it back.

After Republican efforts to repeal “and replace” the ACA fell apart in 2017, the issue has been on the back burner excepting occasional courtroom flare-ups that service mostly to remind voters who benefit from the ACA who is on their side. Republicans have no desire to revisit health care legislatively before the 2020 elections, least of all America’s Most Vulnerable Senator™.

For the rest of us, “Obamacare” still plugging along helping Coloradans is an occasion to celebrate loudly.

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“Transcript” of Ukraine Call is Bad News for Trump, GOP

UPDATE #4: Senate Republicans are apparently baffled that the White House would release a “transcript” that undermines their own claims of innocence.

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UPDATE #3: Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) reacts in a very Lambornesque manner:

You know that old expression about “missing the forest for the trees”? Lamborn isn’t aware of the existence of a forest or trees. No conscious politician ever wants to echo Lamborn’s thoughts on anything.

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UPDATE #2: CNN’s Chris Cillizza:

“It ended up being a nothing call,” Trump said in the wake of the release of the transcript on Wednesday morning.

But what is documented, very clearly, in this kind-of, sort-of transcript is this: The American President pressuring a foreign leader to look into the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. And doing it by reminding the Ukrainian President of all the US has done for his country.

The transcript is truly stunning stuff — even from a President who has moved the goalposts on “stunning” a long time ago. If Trump thought releasing this transcript would somehow make Democrats look like fools for beginning an impeachment inquiry against him, he was wrong. Very, very wrong. [Pols emphasis]

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UPDATE: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is not projecting a lot of confidence:

“Shut up moron. Shut up. Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about, idiot.”

That was Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, shouting down a guest on Fox News who disagreed with him about the whistleblower complaint filed against the President regarding a conversation he had in July with the President of Ukraine.

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President Trump has been promising for days that we would all see that he is totally innocent when a “transcript” was released of a phone call he held on July 25 with Ukraine’s President. That phone call is part of a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump withheld foreign aid to Ukraine until he could ask that country’s President to investigate some sort of made-up scandal involving former Vice President Joe Biden.

On Wednesday, the White House released a “transcript” (we use quotes here because the “transcript” is not an exact word-by-word account of the July discussion) of the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that absolutely does not exonerate Trump:

Front page of The Washington Post (9/25/19).

As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate the conduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and offered to meet with the foreign leader at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly-released transcript of the call.

Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law…

…The call begins with Trump congratulating Zelensky on his election victory, but quickly devolves into the president pressing for an investigation of his political rivals and endorsing an apparent conspiracy theory. He seems to suggest Hillary Clinton’s private email server is in Ukraine and asserts that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation started with that country. He repeatedly says Zelensky should work with Attorney General William P. Barr or his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Giuliani had separately pressed Ukrainian officials for a Biden inquiry. [Pols emphasis]

The biggest new development from the “transcript” is the degree to which Trump goes out of his way to push for Zelensky to talk further with Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

The “transcript” of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian President is just a piece of what is thought to be a more detailed allegation from a whistleblower. Congress is pushing for the full whistleblower report — the White House is offering only a redacted version — and the person making the accusations may soon testify on Capitol Hill behind closed doors.

Front page of CNN.com (9/25/19)

The uncertainty surrounding the whistleblower report has many Senate Republicans treading carefully in their pre-emptive defense of Trump, as Amber Phillips writes for the Washington Post:

Maybe Trump has nothing to hide. Maybe we already known the worst of the story, and at the very least, it’s spinnable for Republicans. (We wish he didn’t bring up his reelection on a diplomatic call, but the president should have the prerogative to talk to foreign leaders how he wants, or something like that.) That seems to be the pattern for most of Trump’s scandals. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) even defended Trump after he tweeted that four minority members of Congress, all U.S. citizens, should “go back.”

But there’s also the possibility Trump did something indefensible, and that it eventually comes out. That’s the gamble most Senate Republicans are taking right now. [Pols emphasis]

That’s not a wager we’d be willing to make.

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Wednesday Open Thread

“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”

–Montesquieu

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Impeachment: It’s On

UPDATE #2: Colorado Public Radio looks at how Colorado’s congressional delegation is responding on the question of impeachment and the Ukraine controversy.

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UPDATE: The Washington Post reports–the dam has officially burst:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to announce a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, a dramatic turnaround by the Democratic leader that sets up a constitutional and political clash pitting the Congress against the nation’s chief executive.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) is slated to make her announcement later on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting with her caucus, according to Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe private deliberations.

Impeachment is a rare and extraordinary step that would overturn the decision of U.S. voters in 2016 to elect Trump. Pelosi’s decision foreshadows an intensely partisan fall, triggering pushback from Trump allies with repercussions for the 2020 campaign.

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Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora)

Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is one of seven freshman Democrats — all with military or defense/intelligence backgrounds — signing on to an editorial published in today’s Washington Post that makes a strong case for investigating what they call “impeachable offenses”:

The president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it. He allegedly sought to use the very security assistance dollars appropriated by Congress to create stability in the world, to help root out corruption and to protect our national security interests, for his own personal gain. These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent. We also know that on Sept. 9, the inspector general for the intelligence community notified Congress of a “credible” and “urgent” whistleblower complaint related to national security and potentially involving these allegations. Despite federal law requiring the disclosure of this complaint to Congress, the administration has blocked its release to Congress.

This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand. To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.

If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense. We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly, and we call on our colleagues in Congress to consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of “inherent contempt” and impeachment hearings, to address these new allegations, find the truth and protect our national security. [Pols emphasis]

Crow is a former Army Ranger who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

House Democrats appear to be moving closer to initiating impeachment hearings in the wake of an alleged whistleblower complaint regarding threats by President Trump to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it investigates former Vice President Joe Biden for some sort of invented transgression.

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UkraineGate: Cory Gardner Still Can’t Say Trump’s Name

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

This morning, Sen. Cory Gardner appeared on the obscure Ross Kaminsky Show on Denver’s AM 630 KHOW radio–the latest case of Gardner avoiding mainstream media outlets and reporters in order to be “accessible” to the tiny sliver of diehard conservatives who tune into the lesser AM talk radio channels from 5-10:00AM.

To Kaminsky’s credit, however, he did ask Sen. Gardner about the budding scandal over President Donald Trump’s alleged abuse of presidential power to pressure Ukraine into re-investigating the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and received what we believe are Gardner’s first public comments since the story broke in the middle of last week.

Predictably, though, Kaminsky got answers from Gardner that won’t satisfy anyone. Hot from transcription:

KAMINSKY: I do want to ask you about this whole, quote/unquote, “whistleblower” thing going on, because this is leading the news everywhere. In my mind, it’s a special kind of bone-headedness, for a guy who’s just been through three years of what Trump went through, being accused of, quote/unquote, “collusion” with an Eastern European government, to then go ask an Eastern European leader to do something that involves our election. But I think, really, the big question that this might — kind of the linchpin, here, is whether there was some kind of direct quid pro quo regarding money or military aid.

GARDNER: Well, I think what has to happen is, step back from the politicization of this — [the politicization] that you’ve already seen rampant on the headlines. And get the information. I think that is simply what we have to do, follow the process of the Intel Committee which is in an effort right now to get the information, to hold a hearing, and to have a briefing. And I think that’s the kind of thing that we need to do — to get the information — because this is serious, and that’s why it should be taken seriously, and not just in the context of an election.

KAMINSKY: I mean, how serious is it, in your mind?

GARDNER: Well, we have to get the information. [Pols emphasis] I mean, there have been miscellaneous reports about whether the whistleblower was actually on the call, or in the call, or whether he was — whether he or she was receiving this information through a read-out which many, many other people got. So, I’m not going to speculate. But what I do think we need to do is follow the law, follow the process, and make sure that we get the information.

What we have here is textbook “Con Man Cory” evasion, notable mostly for its insulting lack of candor while still managing to employ a large number of generally grammatical words. Gardner waited until an appearance on a conservative radio show to address this growing controversy, but his non-answers won’t make conservatives any happier than liberals. Gardner says he’s not going to “speculate” about the seriousness of the situation, one literal sentence after speculating about whether the situation is all that serious! And of course we mustn’t “politicize” the allegations, even though the entire story is about Trump taking improper actions (wait for it) against a political opponent.

Given Gardner’s long record of advocating for Ukraine’s interests as they try to preserve their independence under the constant threat of Russian domination, Gardner’s lack of concern over Trump essentially turning American aid to Ukraine into a personal political bargaining chip looks especially bad. But it’s Gardner’s willingness to “speculate” about the motives of everyone except Donald Trump that has wrecked his credibility ahead of his re-election campaign, in a state whose voters are motivated to punish Trump’s party and brand for a third consecutive cycle.

It was yet another chance for Gardner to change course. And it’s another chance blown.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 24)

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

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump’s latest scandal, involving withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for that country potentially investigating one of Trump’s political opponents, looks to have tipped the scales on impeachment proceedings. From the New York Times:

House Democrats hurtled on Tuesday toward a consequential set of decisions about the potential impeachment of President Trump, weighing a course that could reshape his presidency amid startling allegations that he sought to enlist a foreign power to aid him politically.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, who has stubbornly resisted a rush to impeachment, appeared to be rapidly changing course, as lawmakers from every corner of her caucus lined up in favor of filing formal charges against Mr. Trump if the allegations are proven true, or if his administration continues to stonewall attempts by Congress to investigate them.

“We will be making announcements later,” she told reporters in the Capitol, declining to discuss her views on impeachment.

One possibility was the formation of a special committee — reminiscent of the one created in 1973 to investigate the Watergate scandal — to look into the president’s dealings with Ukraine and potentially lay the groundwork for articles of impeachment based on the findings.

Colorado Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is among seven freshman Democrats who penned an Op-Ed for the Washington Post making the case for proceeding with impeachment proceedings.

President Trump today confirmed that he made a decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine, though he claims it is totally unrelated to his requests to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

 

 If you’re waiting for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) to weigh in on President Trump’s Ukraine scandal…well, you might want to get comfortable.

 

 Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is supporting an effort to require federal background checks for ammunition purchases.

 

► Make sure to check out the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast. Hosts Jason Bane and Alan Franklin have Ukraine on the Membrane!

 

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

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: Episode 10

Ukraine in the Membrane! Today on The Get More Smarter Podcast, we talk Ukraine and impeachment (1:08), Cory Gardner prepares to explain himself (8:50), the BLM will share an office building with the real decision-makers—oil and gas companies (14:39), climate change gets more popular (18:38), and is the Democratic nomination for president a two-candidate race (23:50)? Host Jason Bane is once again joined by Alan Franklin filling in for Progress Now Colorado bossman Ian Silverii.

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

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Tuesday Open Thread

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

–Dante Alighieri

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Trump, Allies Digging Deep Hole on Ukraine Scandal

President Trump

Hello, Ukraine?

The controversy surrounding an alleged whistleblower complaint involving President Trump and Ukraine is quickly becoming a full-blown crisis for Republicans. A nonprofit government watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission and the Department of Justice, accusing the Trump administration of illegally soliciting a political contribution from a foreign country. Also today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for investigative hearings backed by subpoena powers, as CNN reports :

Schumer calls for hearings “to determine exactly what prompted the whistleblower to file this urgent complaint,” and says they should feature testimony from a host of administration officials, including acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Schumer also calls for testimony from Trump’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani…

…Schumer’s letter calls on Senate Republicans to demand that the White House release the transcript of the conversation between Trump and the Ukranian President. It also asks that Trump administration officials be identified “who directed that $341 million of security assistance to Ukraine be delayed.”

Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell responded to Schumer’s request by accusing Democrats of politicizing the whistleblower complaint, which is a particularly absurd accusation given the fact that the complaint is fundamentally about American politics.

As NBC News reports, Trump keeps talking himself into a deeper and deeper hole on this controversy:

President Donald Trump on Monday said he had tied vital funding for Ukraine to that country’s handling of corruption — which he has alleged Vice President Joe Biden’s family was engaged in there — before denying just hours later he’d made any such demand. [Pols emphasis]

“We want to make sure that country is honest. It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?” Trump told reporters Monday morning in New York, when asked what he had spoken about with Ukraine’s new president in a July phone call…

…But later in the day, during a meeting with the Polish president, Trump denied that he told Zelensky that Ukraine could only have the military aid they were seeking if they investigated the Biden family.

This pattern of uncertainty on UkraineGate has been a consistent theme among Trump supporters. In an interview last week with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani stuck his foot in his mouth by admitting that he asked Ukraine to “look into Joe Biden” just moments after he denied the same charge.

As NBC News notes, Giuliani made a similar mistake today in an interview with Fox Business:

“Did the president threaten to cut off aid to the Ukraine?” Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo asked Giuliani.

“No, no, that was a false story,” he responded.

“One hundred percent?” she replied.

“Well, I can’t tell you if it’s 100 percent,” Giuliani said. [Pols emphasis]

D’oh!

As of this writing, Trump is back to denying that he solicited election help in exchange for foreign aid. As the Washington Post explains:

“No, I didn’t,” Trump said when asked whether he told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he would obtain $250 million in stalled U.S. aid only if he agreed to investigate the Bidens. Slamming the former vice president for doing what he said was a “very, very bad thing,” Trump added: “I didn’t do it … when you see the call [transcript], you’re going to be very surprised.” 

We’ll keep you updated on Trump’s denials and non-denials as best we can.

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A Few Words About NRSC Reverse Psychology

A press release from those clever kids at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC):

Tomorrow, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is launching a mobile billboard and Facebook video ad around the University of Colorado Boulder campus featuring Democratic Senate primary candidate Andrew Romanoff and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) as “one and the same.”

“From the Green New Deal to Medicare for All to stricter gun control, Andrew Romanoff and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez are one and the same,” said NRSC spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez. “Colorado deserves an independent, bipartisan voice, not someone who is just going to be a vote for ‘The Squad’s’ radical far-left agenda.”

If you look at the mobile billboard the NRSC deployed to the streets of Boulder during this weekend’s fundraiser for Boulder County Democrats starring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, you should be able to notice something right away: in Boulder, this isn’t a negative billboard. It’s more of a backhanded love letter.

For some months now, the NRSC has been rolling out ads ostensibly targeting minor Democratic primary candidates with the real intent of boosting their profile versus much better-known contenders. In the same vein, this billboard from the NRSC is obviously intended to boost Andrew Romanoff in his underdog primary bid against Gov. John Hickenlooper–who outpolls Romanoff on the order of 60% to single digits, and is the endorsed candidate of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

We of course know there are residual hard feelings among certain Democrats over Hickenlooper’s late-ish entry into the U.S. Senate race, and that the simple arithmetic underscoring Hickenlooper’s strength against Sen. Cory Gardner compared to the rest of the Democratic primary field is not a popular discussion subject in some circles. Democrats will pick their nominee. Republicans want to pick their opponent.

And everyone is looking at the same arithmetic.

Sometimes, and this is one of those times, the messenger says more than the message.

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How Can Cory Gardner Stay Silent On UkraineGate?

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

Politico:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday delivered a blunt warning to the Trump administration over its refusal so far to share details of an explosive whistleblower complaint, amid intensifying pressure from the vocal pro-impeachment wing of the Democratic Caucus.

Pelosi wrote in a rare weekend letter to lawmakers that President Donald Trump would enter “a grave new chapter of lawlessness” if he succeeded in blocking Congress from learning about his reported conversations pressing Ukranian officials to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2020 presidential contest…

Trump’s reported talks with the Ukranian government about Biden — which the president appeared to confirm on Sunday — have outraged the Democratic Party, which had already been investigating the president for, in part, being receptive to help from a foreign government in his 2016 campaign.

Over the past few days, the story of President Donald Trump’s pressure on the newly elected President of Ukraine in July to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden over unsubstantiated charges of corruption by Biden’s son, followed by the blocking of a shipment of arms to Ukraine after this conversation, has rapidly escalated into a scandal on par with any that have provoked threats of impeachment in the last three years. Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post frames the politics of the situation as the week begins–and a familiar local name jumps out once again:

Imagine Senate races in 2020 for Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and others outside of deep-red America. So, Sen. Collins, you think it is perfectly fine to go to a foreign power to help sway our election outcome? Sen. Tillis, if your opponent goes to, say, China to dig up dirt on you, is that fair game?

The argument for Democrats — namely that Republicans are spineless lackeys who have violated their oaths of office — is far easier to maintain than the Republicans’ assertion that it’s nuts to remove a president who goes to a foreign power to help reelect him.

As of this writing, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado has been dead silent on the “UkraineGate” controversy since it broke last week. And that’s more than a little odd: Gardner, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has repeatedly rushed to Ukraine’s defense in recent years while condemning the Russian annexation of Crimea, the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine by Russian-backed separatists, and calling for Russia to be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. Google “Cory Gardner” +Ukraine and read your fill.

And then ask yourself: where has Cory Gardner been for the last four days?

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Monday Open Thread

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

–Winston Churchill

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Is “UkraineGate” The Tipping Point? Is Anything?

UPDATE: As the Washington Post reports, President Trump now admits that he spoke about Vice President Joe Biden in a conversation with the President of Ukraine:

President Trump suggested Sunday that he mentioned former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter in a phone call with the leader of Ukraine, as Democrats ramp up their calls for accountability amid swirling questions about whether Trump sought to use his influence to seek reelection help from a foreign country.

In an exchange with reporters outside the White House before departing for events in Texas and Ohio, Trump was asked about his July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Washington Post reported last week that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate a company with ties to Hunter Biden, and the call between Trump and Zelensky is the subject of an extraordinary whistleblower complaint.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters. “And Ukraine, Ukraine’s got a lot of problems.”

So much for that “deep state attack” theory.

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President Donald Trump.

The New York Times brings us up to speed on the latest scandal to erupt from within the Trump administration–and this one could be the worst yet, an abuse of presidential power that should force even many of Donald Trump’s most intractable defenders to concede he’s gone too far:

In a July 25 phone call, Mr. Trump is said to have pressed the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Mr. Biden’s younger son, Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Mr. Trump has seized on an unsubstantiated theory that Mr. Biden was trying to protect the company from prosecution when he called for the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor in 2016. Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers, has pushed the Ukrainian government to investigate the matter.

Why is this coming up now?

Because of an intelligence community whistle-blower who filed a complaint last month about the president’s actions. An inspector general deemed the complaint “credible” and “urgent” and forwarded it to the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who has refused to share it with Congress. The issue was brought into the open when the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, sent an angry letter to Mr. Maguire on Sept. 10 demanding the complaint be shared with his panel.

The Times reports that subsequent to this July 25 phone call, the U.S. government blocked a shipment of arms to Ukraine intended to help the country defend itself from a Russian-backed insurgency in the eastern part of the country. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, has been pressuring Ukrainian officials to go after Joe Biden’s son in separate meetings–delivering the message from both the official and political side of the Trump cabal.

Because the administration is refusing to share the whistleblower complaint, there’s a lot of details about this situation that haven’t been made public yet. There can be little question that manipulating a foreign country to take actions in support of Trump’s re-election campaign would be a very serious abuse of power, a grave offense for which impeachment is not only an option but arguably an urgent necessity. But in response to these new damning allegations, Republicans are once again circling the wagons around Trump:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he hasn’t seen the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, but if former Vice President Joe Biden behaved inappropriately then “we need to know.”

Following reports that President Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter Biden — which led to a whistleblower complaint and stalled congressional review — Pompeo joined many Trump allies in pivoting the conversation to discrediting the Democratic 2020 front-runner.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, considered one of the nation’s most indefatigable Trump defenders, went further:

“It looks to me like another deep state attack,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a top Trump booster, said Friday morning on Fox News. “We have seen this over and over and over in this administration from anonymous sources deep inside the bureaucracy.”

The Republican response to this latest scandal raises serious questions about whether anything Trump says or does at this point can be effectively challenged. With each new revelation of misdeeds by Trump that would bring down other presidencies, Republicans rush to legitimize and rationalize the situation–upgrading Trump’s unprecedented behavior to the “new normal.” After the extreme scrutiny of President Barack Obama’s administration by majority Republicans in Congress for the last six years of Obama’s presidency, the ability of Republicans to routinely brush off crimes by Trump that would have had them running to impeach Obama is absolutely devastating to their credibility.

But even that may not matter as long as the Republican base is submerged in pro-Trump propaganda, which it is to an historic extent as Fox News and the conservative mediasphere shovel whatever rationalizations they have to at the faithful in order to keep them cheering. For Democrats, these new allegations are up against the pressing clock of the 2020 elections, and it remains an open question whether impeachment would make political sense–rather than simply letting the voters throw Trump out of office in thirteen months as the polls show is highly likely.

Trump’s apparently total disregard for legal and ethical boundaries was predicted long before he became President. The difficulty of removing a sitting President, especially with the President’s party in control of the Senate and seemingly willing to run cover for anything he says and does, may well mean that no matter how bad it gets, the only remedy is the next election.

The lesson here for anyone who values the institutions and the standards that existed before Trump became President is that what happened in 2016, to Republicans and to Democrats, is something voters can never let happen again. Elections matter, and the damage from making the wrong choice is very hard to undo.

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Weekend Open Thread

“Nothing is poetical if plain daylight is not poetical; and no monster should amaze us if the normal man does not amaze.”

–Gilbert K. Chesterton

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