The currently ragingQAnon unified field theory of crazy, which if you haven’t heard is a global cabal of wealthy elites to abduct children and variously abuse them sexually and/or obtain from their blood a wonder drug known as adrenochrome t0 stay forever young–look it up–has found a home in the Jefferson County, Colorado Republican Party:
They’re everywhere now, and we don’t mean “the pedophiles.” Believers in this unhinged and rapidly-spreading conspiracy theory staff the Republican Party at every level, and are Republican nominees for the Colorado legislature and for Congress in 2020.
Don’t take their beliefs seriously — but do beware of their increasingly mainstream political aspirations.
A sprawling report released Tuesday by a Republican-controlled Senate panel that spent three years investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference laid out an extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russian government officials and other Russians, including some with ties to the country’s intelligence services.
The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, totaling nearly 1,000 pages, provided a bipartisan Senate imprimatur for an extraordinary set of facts: The Russian government undertook an extensive campaign to try to sabotage the 2016 American election to help Mr. Trump become president, and some members of Mr. Trump’s circle of advisers were open to the help from an American adversary…
…the report showed extensive evidence of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and people tied to the Kremlin — including a longstanding associate of the onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, whom the report identifies as a “Russian intelligence officer.”
The Senate report for the first time identified Mr. Kilimnik as an intelligence officer. Mr. Mueller’s report had labeled him as someone with ties to Russian intelligence.
This report from the Senate Intelligence Committee — which is CONTROLLED BY REPUBLICANS — pretty well blows up President Trump’s claims of a “witch hunt.” Mike Littwin of The Colorado Sun calls the report “maybe the most shocking moment from the U.S. Senate since John McCain’s thumbs-down vote on ending Obamacare.” The Huffington Post zeroes in on the finding that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was deemed a “grave” security threat.
► Postmaster Louis DeJoy is scheduled to testify at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Friday about funding requirements for the postal service to handle mail ballots this fall. As POLITICO reports, DeJoy is already bending to widespread criticism:
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday that he was suspending “longstanding operational initiatives” at the United States Postal Service, amid fears that the changes could delay election mail this fall in the middle of the pandemic.
“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” DeJoy said in a statement.
Meanwhile, as The Washington Post reports, state governments aren’t waiting for the feds to take action:
At least 20 states plan to file lawsuits this week against the U.S. Postal Service and its new postmaster, Louis DeJoy, seeking to reverse service changes that have prompted widespread reports of delays and accusations of an intentional effort to thwart voters from mailing their ballots this fall.
The suits, expected to be filed in federal court imminently, will argue that the Postal Service broke the law by making operational changes without first seeking approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission. They will also argue that the changes will impede states’ ability to run free and fair elections, officials from several state attorney general offices told The Washington Post. The Constitution gives states and Congress, not the executive branch, the power to regulate elections.
“We’re trying to stop Trump’s attacks on the Postal Service, which we believe to be an attack on the integrity of election. It’s a straight-up attack on democracy,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) said in an interview. “This conduct is illegal. It’s unconstitutional. It’s harmful to the country. It’s harmful to individuals.”
“We’re asking a court to make him stop,” he said.
Colorado is among the states filing lawsuits.
► Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper is going after Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) for his silence on efforts by President Trump to defund the U.S. Postal Service as a means of suppressing votes in the 2020 election. As The New York Times reports:
But Democrats running for the Senate in states that rely heavily on the mail made clear they would continue to press the issue. John Hickenlooper, the former Democratic governor of Colorado, took to Twitter in a campaign video to upbraid the impact of the delays and laid the blame squarely on Mr. Trump and his Republican opponent, the incumbent Cory Gardner.
“It just makes me want to pull my hair out, and Cory Gardner hasn’t said a word,” Mr. Hickenlooper said. [Pols emphasis]
Gardner has said some words about the postal service — quite a few of them, actually — but he has yet to offer a coherent public comment about the issue.
► Day One of the Democratic National Convention is in the books. POLITICO is tracking all of the DNC news, including Monday’s big speech from Michelle Obama. As The Washington Post notes, this speech from the former First Lady is not one that Melania Trump is going to want to borrow. Check out CNN for more analysis on the highlights and lowlights from Monday.
National Public Radioreports on an admission so jaw-dropping it could only be…an average Thursday in Donald Trump’s train wreck presidency:
While President Trump has long railed against mail-in voting, falsely claiming it leads to rampant fraud, he appeared to confirm Thursday morning that he opposes Democrats’ proposed boost in funding for the U.S. Postal Service because he wants to make it harder to expand voting by mail…
“They [the Democrats] want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent — that’s election money basically,” Trump said.
Continued the president: “They want $25 billion for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren’t getting there. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.” [Pols emphasis]
First of all, there is no proposal for “universal mail-in voting” at the federal level. For all the discussion about migrating to a mail ballot system during the COVID-19 pandemic, only two additional states have switched to primarily mail ballots in addition to the six states including Colorado that already conduct mail ballot elections.
Trump’s characteristically frank admission that he opposes more money for the U.S. Postal Service because he doesn’t want USPS to be able to handle mail ballots is fully consistent with the reports of new policies within the Postal Service that are slowing down the delivery of mail across the country–policies put in place by Trump’s newly appointed postmaster general Louis DeJoy, a campaign donor and supporter. Taken together, these clearly point to an agenda by the Trump administration to deliberately harm the USPS–and blame any resultant election chaos on the mail ballots Trump is determined without evidence to vilify in advance for his expected defeat at the polls in November.
As you can imagine, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is pretty upset…
The Denver City Council will hold its regular weekly meeting tonight, where one City Council member hopes to force a vote on a massively-consequential proposal that she hasn’t even sketched out herself.
Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca wants to place a measure on the city’s November ballot asking voters to abolish the Denver Police Department and create a “peace force” in its place.
The actual language of the measure that CdeBaca wants to place on the ballot has not yet been published, but the councilwoman filed a placeholder to the City Council’s Monday agenda that bypassed the normal committee process. Her lack of a specific ballot question or communication with fellow council members may spell problems with getting the council support needed to put the measure before voters in November.
CdeBaca said while she wants the proposal to make it to the November ballot, she doesn’t realistically expect it to pass the council. Rather, the measure is a useful way to force her colleagues to vote publicly on the issue, she said.
She questioned whether the rest of council will kill the proposal before the public has a chance to comment and make their case for change. [Pols emphasis]
Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca wants the public to be able to comment on a proposal that nobody has seen — and to force a City Council vote on a completely undefined ballot measure less than 7 weeks before ballots arrive in mailboxes — on an issue as big and consequential as abolishing the entire Denver Police Department in favor of some sort of unexplained “peace force.” We understand that people are anxious for movement on efforts to reform police departments in Colorado and throughout the country, but this is absolutely not how to speed things up.
CdeBaca tells the Post that this sort of thing is “what people have been demanding and asking of us for the last few months.” We generally pay pretty close attention to the news, but perhaps we missed the rally where Denver residents chanted, We want something vague! When do we want it? Now!
A handful of councilors told Colorado Politics they were caught completely off guard when they learned late Thursday, and some not until Friday, from the Denver City Council’s Monday agenda that CdeBaca had direct-filed three major proposals that would change the city’s charter and therefore require voters’ approval on the Nov. 3 ballot…
…CdeBaca’s proposal has not yet been formalized into a bill. Instead, she direct filed the proposal by title, with a memo that outlines the forthcoming legislation — a tactic Councilman Kevin Flynn called “completely inappropriate and, frankly, insulting to the body.” [Pols emphasis]
Historically, he said, the council has had filings by title only as a rarity, “never for a charter amendment intended for a ballot that is only 80 days away on a fundamental structural change proposal that has had absolutely no outreach, engagement or transparency,” Flynn said in an email to Colorado Politics. “I don’t believe the concepts outlined in the memo can even be formed into an actual bill and ballot question by Monday.”
The deadline for placing a measure on the ballot via the direct file process is August 31, but because proposals of this nature need a full reading in two separate Council sessions, next Monday the 24th is effectively the last opportunity to propose something completely new. Even if CdeBaca were to present a fully-drafted idea to the City Council by tonight, we’re talking about a HUGE question to put before voters with very little time for open discussion before ballots arrive in mailboxes.
A new week of politics in Colorado is beginning with more defense of Colorado’s mail-in voting system, as President Donald Trump says he doesn’t want to slow down the mail. Colorado’s top Democrats held a news conference first thing Monday morning to denounce efforts that they feel could hamper or prevent mail-in voting during the November election…
“Now we’re in the middle of a major public health crisis and the President is using it not as an opportunity to unite the country, but as an opportunity to keep attacking our democracy. For months, central to that attack have been false claims about mail-in voting, something we’ve had in Colorado for years,” Sen. Michael Bennet said in the news conference.
With President Donald Trump’s increasingly shrill fact-free denunciations of mail ballots and apparent ongoing sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service underway to fulfill Trump’s prophecies, Colorado Republicans have been put in a most uncomfortable position–they all know these warnings of imminent disaster from mail ballots has no basis in reality, but they are politically unable to admit this for fear of doing further damage to their presidential nominee in an election Republicans are already losing.
For some time now, we’ve been able to count on former Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams to defend Colorado’s mail ballot system, and debunk misinformation from Trump and other fellow Republicans. Williams, who ran for Secretary of State in 2014 on an in-retrospect ludicrous campaign warning that “union bosses” would manipulate voters if mail ballots were allowed to continue, became a sincere defender of mail ballots once he became Secretary of State and saw that they increased voter participation without compromising security.
But today, we’re sorry to report that Wayne Williams has given up on being a voice of reason with respect to the mail ballot elections he once championed, and is parroting Trump talking points like a good Republican soldier:
Former Secretary of State Williams, a Republican, told CBS4 on Monday the bill passed by the House of Representatives would strip the process of signature verification,[Pols emphasis] which is critically important.
“Mail ballot voting works if it’s done right like Colorado does. We have a number of precautions in place, including accurate voting lists and signature verification. However, mail ballot voting does not work if it’s not done right,” Williams said.
Williams’ argument that the U.S. House’s bill to assist states that want to use mail ballots ‘strips signature verification’ comes right from, you guess it, Donald Trump! And, you guessed it and the Washington Post fact-checked days ago, it’s completely false:
What Democrats have introduced is a bill that says U.S. election officials must notify any voter whose signature was deemed deficient and give them an opportunity to fix it. That’s not a ban on signature verification, not by any stretch…
Republicans have argued that coronavirus relief legislation from House Democrats “guts” signature verification requirements, because it would allow 10 days for voters to clear up ballot signature deficiencies. That’s not a ban.
…Trump complained that Democrats are pushing “a bill banning signature verification” for mail-in ballots. No such bill exists. He earns Four Pinocchios. [Pols emphasis]
And with that, Wayne Williams earns Four Pinnochios of his own. It’s not like we would have expected, say, Cory Gardner to show up to today’s press conference and defend mail ballots against his sitting President. But despite Williams’ silly attacks on mail ballots before he learned to love them and expense-account foibles in office, we were prepared to be grateful to Williams for having courage to stand up to Trump’s end-stage madness.
So much for that. Wayne Williams will go down in history as just another Trumpian stooge.
Colorado Public Radioreports on what could be considered an admission of defeat by the Trump administration, the announcement this weekend that interim Bureau of Land Management director William Perry Pendley will not be formally nominated for the position–but news that Pendley will continue to run the BLM in the interim capacity he has controversially held for a year now is making this announcement harder to celebrate:
The White House is expected to withdraw William Perry Pendley’s nomination to be director of the Bureau of Land Management, a White House official confirms. The move comes as a chorus of voices have raised objections or concerns about the nomination in recent weeks.
Pendley will remain the agency’s number two. The Deputy Director for Policy and Programs will still continue to “exercise the authority of the director” and lead the public lands agency.
“The President makes staffing decisions. Mr. Pendley will continue to lead the Bureau of Land Management as Deputy Director for Programs and Policy,” a spokesperson for the Department of the Interior said Saturday…
Back in June, despite a lawsuit from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility demanding that Pendley either be put up for confirmation by the U.S. Senate or replaced, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt indefinitely extended Pendley’s interim directorship via a questionable unwritten order. The Grand Junction Sentinel’sDennis Webbreported then:
Pendley has been serving as BLM acting director since last July, based on orders by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt delegating the authority to run the agency to Pendley, and then repeatedly issuing orders extending that delegation. Pendley’s latest, monthlong extension ran through Friday…
As acting director, Pendley has overseen the BLM’s relocation of most of its jobs in Washington, D.C., to various locations out West, including its new headquarters in Grand Junction.
Bernhardt notably didn’t issue a new delegation order this week further extending Pendley’s time running the BLM. Pendley remains at the helm based on updated Interior Department succession orders, Swanson said.
Unlike in the case of the past orders from Bernhardt, no expiration date applies to the succession order for Pendley, and Bernhardt issued no written order on the matter.
The announcement by President Donald Trump that Pendley would be formally nominated, the first BLM nominee submitted by the Trump administration after over three years in office, was met by a hailstorm of pent-up criticism–and nervous admissions even from Republican allies like Sen. Cory Gardner that Pendley would face “tough questions” in his confirmation hearing about Pendley’s career-long advocacy for the mass liquidation of public lands.
The good news, obviously, is that Pendley will not be nominated to formally lead the BLM. The bad news is Pendley apparently isn’t going anywhere, and the oversight the Senate is supposed to exercise over this important executive branch appointment remains thwarted. You’d think Cory Gardner would be upset about not being able to ask his “tough questions” of Pendley. After all, haven’t they been valid questions for as long as Pendley has been in his job as “interim” director of the BLM? Shouldn’t Gardner join with Democrats in demanding that Pendley be ousted if he’s not going to be confirmed?
When that doesn’t happen, you’ll know all you need to know.
UPDATE: It’s been more than 10 days. Still no bill text:
You actually thought I couldn’t go lower?
Politicians can do craven, gutless, despicable things when they are worried about their own re-election. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is on another level entirely.
Today marks the one-week anniversary of the introduction of legislation that Gardner has not talked about other than issuing a brief press release late on Friday. In fact, we didn’t even realize that this had happened until we accidentally stumbled upon a press release from Gardner’s Senate office.
At some point last Thursday, Gardner introduced a bill title — we say “title” because there is no actual bill language to accompany the headline — that was formally read aloud in the U.S. Senate that he calls the “Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act.”
Really. Let that sink in for a moment.
Gardner has based his entire political career in Congress on his unapologetic opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which as you probably know, ALREADY PROHIBITS INSURANCE COMPANIES FROM DENYING SOMEONE COVERAGE BECAUSE OF A PRE-EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITION.
As a candidate for the House of Representatives in 2010, Gardner unequivocally stated his opposition to any sort of legislation that would protect people with pre-existing medical conditions (video below). Gardner has spent his entire career in Congress trying to dismantle the ACA. He has voted dozens of times to destroy former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, and he acknowledged just a few months ago that he still supports a lawsuit pending with the U.S. Supreme Court that would effectively eliminate pre-existing medical coverage protections for 2.4 million Coloradans. Eliminating the ACA will also end the very protection that Gardner is now claiming to champion.
So, what changed? Two things: 1) Voters overwhelmingly support policies that protect people with pre-existing medical conditions, and 2) Cory Gardner is in serious trouble of losing his Senate seat in 2020. So Gardner decided to pretend to champion an issue that he has opposed for a decade…but he did it in such a half-assed manner that he couldn’t even be bothered to write a damn bill.
Here’s Gardner’s quote from last week’s press release:
“My bill is simple – it guarantees coverage for people who have pre-existing medical conditions and ensures that people cannot be charged more because of a pre-existing condition. I will continue to fight for pre-existing condition protections as well as measures to lower health care costs, strengthen innovation, and expand access for all Coloradans, including those with pre-existing medical conditions.”
Gardner’s bill is so damn simple, in fact, that it doesn’t even exist. Here’s the current summary available at Congress.gov:
Gardner isn’t just completely lying about some longstanding commitment to protecting pre-existing medical conditions — he’s even pretending to have drafted legislation to deal with the issue despite the fact that somebody else beat him to it: North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis introduced the “Protect Act” back in April 2019, though unlike Gardner he actually took the time to write a damn bill and collect co-sponsors. It is telling that Gardner is not among the 27 co-sponsors — ALL of whom are Senate Republicans — on the Tillis bill. Apparently, Gardner was not as worried about his re-election chances 18 months ago.
The Washington Post awarded Gardner “Four Pinocchios” for pretending to support protections for pre-existing medical conditions.
Gardner has recently tried to convince Coloradans that he has always been a huge supporter of protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, despite his many votes to kill Obamacare (and its associated protections for pre-existing conditions). Last month, The Washington Post featured Gardner in a Fact-Checker analysis about his claims to have long supported coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions. The Post determined, as any functioning human being would conclude, that Gardner is completely full of crap:
Voters deserve straight answers when their health care is on the line, especially in the middle of a deadly pandemic.
Daines, Gardner and McSally have voted to end the Affordable Care Act. People with preexisting conditions would have been left exposed because of those votes; insurers could have denied coverage or jacked up prices for sick patients.
The three senators’ comments about the GOP lawsuit are woefully vague, but they can all be interpreted as tacit support. Asked about the case, a Daines spokesperson said “whatever mechanism” to get rid of the ACA would do. McSally’s campaign “didn’t specifically answer, but pointed to her general disapproval of the ACA.” Gardner avoided the question six times in one interview, but in another, he said: “That’s the court’s decision. If the Democrats want to stand for an unconstitutional law, I guess that’s their choice.”
If this all sounds familiar, it should. President Trump made headlines this week for suggesting that he will sign some sort of executive order to super-duper preserve protections for pre-existing medical conditions. Or as this headline from Axios summed up:
President Donald Trump on Monday acknowledged a prospective executive order he’s considering to make insurers cover pre-existing conditions amounted to political messaging — and that Obamacare already offered such protections.
“It’s a signal to people … it’s a second platform,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “Pre-existing conditions will be taken care of 100 percent by Republicans and the Republican party. I actually think it’s a very important statement.”…
…Trump’s tacit acknowledgment the prospective executive order was little more than messaging could intensify Democratic efforts to portray the president and GOP as not being serious about having a fallback to the 2010 health law.
In this case, the difference between President Trump and Senator Gardner is that Trump is actually willing to acknowledge that his pre-existing conditions proposal is a nonsense political stunt.
That Gardner is attempting to sell such a ridiculous lie is not a surprise in itself. During his 2014 U.S. Senate campaign, Gardner was widely lampooned for his insistence that “there is no federal personhood bill,” despite the fact that he was a co-sponsor of the legislation. Gardner was trying to convince Colorado voters that he was not an anti-abortion extremist, but the only way to do so was to flat-out lie every time he was asked about it.
Gardner has been repeatedly been asked on the campaign trail about his sponsorship of the federal Life Begins at Conception Act, which, as Clark pointed out, nearly everyone but Gardner agrees would outlaw abortion.
“We are not going to debate that here tonight because it’s fact,” Clark said. “It would seem that a charitable interpretation would be that you have a difficult time admitting when you’re wrong and a less charitable interpretation is that you’re not telling us the truth.
“Which is it?” [Pols emphasis]
Gardner said the bill is “simply a statement that I support life.”
“The personhood bill, congressman, is a bill. It’s not a statement,” Senator Mark Udall countered. “If it became law, it would ban all abortions and it would ban most common forms of contraceptives. Coloradans deserve the truth from you. You have to really give a straight answer.”
“Straight answer” is not in Cory Gardner’s vocabulary.
Gardner has voted dozens of times on proposals to weaken the ACA, including at least 13 individual votes to repeal or defund the program (click here for the complete list), but he’s hoping that Colorado voters will forget about this because he had someone read the title of a nonexistent bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate last week.
What Gardner is trying to do here is disgusting. Full stop.
Gardner lied to Coloradans in 2014 on the issue of abortion, and he’s lying to Coloradans today — about health insurance, in the middle of a global pandemic.
This man wants your vote for another term in the U.S. Senate. In less than two months, you’ll get a ballot in the mail, and you can tell him exactly what you think.
From the high-commission conservative fundraising site Freedomfy–that’s right, kids, Jon Caldara has a piece of the action–comes a preview of an upcoming Very Important Self-Published Book™ written by a hefty group of Republican lawmakers and hard-right local activists just in time for the 2020 election season: UNMASKED2020: Colorado’s Radical Left Turn and a Warning to America.
Are you excited? Because we’re excited:
The book, UNMASKED2020: Colorado’s Radical Left Turn and a Warning to America, will consist of 15 chapters in approximately 200 pages, each written by a different contributor. Five of the fifteen coauthors are current or former elected Colorado legislators, including a former President of the State Senate and a former chairman of the Senate Health Committee. Two are involved with broadcast journalism, two are attorneys, one the director of a university-based think tank, one a former deputy administrator of a federal agency, and another a former Colorado regional coordinator for Americans for Prosperity.
The “partial list” of contributors to UNMASKED2020 isn’t exactly an “A-List” of Colorado Republicans, but it is a fair number with a few modestly notable names: former Colorado Senate President John Andrews, Jeff Hunt of the religious right Centennial Institute, former fringe-right Sen. Kevin Lundberg, local talk radio freakshowRandy Corporon, the “gruesome twosome” of Rep. Kim Ransom and Rep. Dave Williams, and Sen. Rob Woodward who colleagues know is a charming man to work both for and with. Lundberg narratives the preview video above, and let’s face it, folks: the man’s got a golden voice.
As for what these very fine people have to say in the actual book, it’s not looking real good.
“First the coronavirus pandemic upended everything. Then in May after another few weeks, racial tensions flared following the George Floyd death. Then before long, well-organized seditious elements began abusing the people’s freedom of assembly with violent nihilist riots. The shock and strain these compounding crises placed upon Colorado’s institutions of self-government, and on the elected officials leading them, can hardly be overstated…. But I agree with our chapter authors that these leaders and too many others in state government, local government, public health, and law enforcement did not rise to the occasion as we the people had a right to expect they should.”
-Former Senate President John Andrews, “A Warning to America”
“It is time for the elected leaders of our state to put public health officials back into their proper role. They must, once again, become objective scientists who are ready and able to give good counsel to our elected leaders and the public. Never again should public health officials become our unaccountable and unelected rulers.”
-Former Senator Kevin Lundberg, “Public Health Today Means Command and Control”
“In mid-February the grassroots activists received a slap in the face. The vaccination bill that was defeated last year came back to life. SB 20-163, “School Entry Immunization,” was introduced…. Like last year, hundreds of parents with children in-hand testified before the Senate committee hearing. Once again politicians disregarded the personal stories and comments from citizens and parents and passed the bill.”
-Kim Monson and Patti Kurgan, “Citizen Voices Silenced”
In short, if you believe that everything and everybody including your local fire department is out to get you, especially anybody who tells you to (gasp) wear a mask or (gasp even harder) vaccinate your kids, this book is for you! But based on every poll in sight on all of these issues, we can say pretty confidently that’s not anything remotely close to a majority of Colorado voters.
All told, this will earn Colorado Democrats more support than the Republicans it’s supposed to help.
As readers know, Sen. Cory Gardner is generally reported by the press as being “in support” of Colorado’s mail ballot system. It would be weird if he wasn’t, since he was elected to the U.S. Senate in a mail ballot election in 2014, and Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams has become a leading advocate for mail ballots after presiding over the system through two general election cycles.
But like we discovered when we were sent a clip from Gardner on a local right-wing podcast disparaging the very same expanded unemployment benefits he claims in defiance of his party he supports, Cory Gardner says something very different about mail ballots in the private company of fellow Republicans. Westword’sMichael Robertsyesterday:
During recent interviews, Gardner has said positive things about the way Colorado has conducted mail-in voting, and he did so again, more or less, during a forum not meant for public consumption: an August 5 telephone fundraiser. But in a transcript from the event obtained by Westword, he also sought to cast doubts on a nationwide application of the process amid the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that should keep The Donald happy, since his references to heavy-handedness coming out of “Washington, D.C.” are explicitly aimed at Congress…
“Look, protecting the integrity of our elections is job number one when it comes to carrying out free, transparent, secure elections, which we have to have. We know what’s happened in California, where they have voter harvesting laws that allow people weeks and weeks and weeks after the election to change the result of the election. We saw what happened in Florida while the Supreme Court of Florida actually found that state officials had acted unconstitutionally in the way that they were carrying out that election. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done in Colorado. I’m proud of the way that we have carried out our election, but we have to make sure that Washington, D.C., it doesn’t impose some kind of California or Florida style voting regime that impedes the protections of our elections across the country.”
Gardner added: “When Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were arguing about what we should do to make sure we have a strong constitution, the last thing on their minds was if they could tell Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming how they were supposed to vote and the way they were going to carry out their elections. That’s not what this country was founded on. Washington, D.C., needs to stay away from running our elections…”
Folks, this answer is sufficiently ridiculous that it really needs more public scrutiny than we or even Westword can afford it. Gardner’s absurd claim that “vote harvesting” allows people to “change the result weeks and weeks after the election” is a nonsensical retcon of the simple fact that in the 2018 elections in California, a lot of returned ballots took a long time for some areas of the state to count. In Colorado, any voter can drop off up to ten ballots. In California there’s no limit–but since the ballots are all individually signed and sealed by the voters, it doesn’t matter who drops them off.
We’re not sure what specifically Gardner is referring to in Florida, be it the battle over felony disenfranchisement (we hope not) or litigation over absentee ballots expected to be widely requested there for the November elections. But it doesn’t change the bottom line: no one is seeking to “impose” mail ballots on any state that doesn’t want them,and mail ballots are nothing to be afraid of. This entire business about instilling fear in voters about mail ballots has no factual basis whatsoever, and Cory Gardner knows that based on his own state’s experience. But Gardner can’t tell the GOP base the truth about mail ballots while Donald Trump is busy declaring mail ballots to be the greatest extant threat to American democracy.
As a result, the stuff coming out of Gardner’s mouth to pacify his base is getting more and more ridiculous.
For the fourth consecutive week, we are discussing on a Friday the failure of Senate Republicans to make any movement whatsoever on another coronavirus stimulus bill.
As CNBC reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has adjourned the Senate for a month-long recess while the rest of America stares back dumbfounded:
The Senate is officially adjourned through Labor Day despite not coming to an agreement on its next coronavirus stimulus package.
Congress and the White House have spent the past few weeks debating what to include in the package, but have been unable to come to an agreement. One of the biggest sticking points: Jobless benefits. Democrats want a continuation of the enhanced unemployment payment of $600 per week, while Republicans say that amount is too high. Democrats are also pushing for more than $900 billion for state and municipal aid, and $60 billion in food assistance, far higher than what Republicans have proposed.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the two sides would not strike a deal until Republicans added $1 trillion in aid to their bill.
That means a deal could be weeks away. Meanwhile, around 28 million Americans remain unemployed and many of the relief provisions from the first stimulus package have dried up. President Donald Trump has issued four executive orders to address some of the issues, but experts remain unconvinced that they will be efficient in helping vulnerable households.
McConnell says that he will call the Senate back into session “if” a stimulus deal is reached — though he continues to take virtually no role in the discussions himself. As we’ve noted repeatedly in this space (HERE, HERE, and HERE, for starters), this is not a complicated discussion; the Senate has failed to move on another coronavirus stimulus bill — the House passed the “HEROES Act” in May — and Republicans have majority control of the upper chamber of Congress. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can’t move a bill in the Senate, no matter how much McConnell blames her for his failures.
Remember, Senate Republicans haven’t just failed to advance a much-needed stimulus bill…going on recess at this point is McConnell admitting that they aren’t even trying to get something done.
You’ve probably noticed that the air quality along the Front Range is less than optimal. But on the plus side, it will be a lot harder for anyone to notice that you haven’t showered since Monday. 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 learner, check out The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.
► You have more than one reason to wear a mask in Colorado this weekend. As 9News reports:
Governor Jared Polis (D-Colorado) visited the Incident Command Center for the Grizzly Creek Fire Friday morning where he said getting it under control was the top priority in the nation.
He was at the fairgrounds in Eagle at 8 a.m. That is the command center for the fire which has now burned more than 14,000 acres near Glenwood Springs since it was first reported Monday afternoon…
…As of Thursday night, it had burned 69,135 acres and was 7% contained.
► If you’re wondering about the latest on another coronavirus stimulus bill, we have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you can stop speculating on a potential deal, because the bad news is that the U.S. Senate has adjourned UNTIL MID-SEPTEMBER. As The Hill newspaper reports:
The Senate left Washington, D.C., on Thursday until September — the latest sign that a deal on a fifth coronavirus relief package is, at least, weeks away.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had kept the chamber in session this week, which was technically the first in its August recess, as a last-ditch attempt to create space for the administration and congressional Democrats to get an agreement.
But with talks stalemated, senators argue there is little reason for them to keep holding daily, roughly 1 1/2-hour sessions.
McConnell continues to blame Democrats for a lack of progress on coronavirus relief, nevermind that the United States Senate is controlled by Republicans.
► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) appears to be panicking about his re-election chances. Gardner is running fundraising ads around the country touting his “achievements” alongside President Trump — but you can’t find those ads here because Gardner is still trying to convince Colorado voters that he’s not a Trump toadie.
Oh, and don’t be surprised to see a Gardner ad in Colorado soon that touts his “work” on protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions. Gardner has repeatedly sought to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which already DOES protect people with pre-existing conditions, but he is now the sole sponsor of a bill title (sans the actual bill text) he calls the “Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act.” No, really.
►Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is pushing back against President Trump’s baseless claims that mail balloting is rife with fraud. As Colorado Public Radio reports:
“He’s trying to affect turnout in November by undermining a system that we know works, and works well for Democrats and Republicans and, of course, independents,” Griswold said…
…Colorado is one of several all-mail ballot states to receive letters from the Postal Service indicating that ballots, usually sent by clerks via “marketing mail” but treated like first class, will no longer get that treatment and could be slower to make it to people’s mailboxes.
Griswold said the Colorado election model is “safeguarded” from a possible delivery slow down. Ballots are sent out weeks ahead of time and voters are asked to mail in them back at least eight days before Election Day.
Colorado also has a new law in place this year that requires replacement ballots to be sent via first-class mail.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is running a new Facebook ad, touting his close relationship with President Donald Trump.
“We’re asking patriots nationwide to show that they support the pro-growth, conservative agenda that President Trump and I are fighting for ― will you join them? Sign your name now to say ‘thanks’ to President Trump for delivering REAL results on behalf of ALL Americans!” reads the text of the Facebook ad, which also has a little video featuring pictures of Gardner and Trump side-by-side.
But if you’re a voter in Colorado, you probably haven’t seen it…
The reason? Gardner’s own state of Colorado doesn’t appear to be in the targeted audience:
Now, we are obligated to point out at HuffPo does today that there’s a possibility this ad for some innocent reason hasn’t appeared in Colorado, thus accounting for our state appearing as a bright blank spot on a map showing the ad is running in every other state. That seems very unlikely, but it’s theoretically possible. And rither way, there’s nothing unusual about high profile Senate candidates fundraising in other states.
But the fact remains–President Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in Colorado, and Cory Gardner’s campaign is well aware of this reality. Trump is unpopular in California too, but the benefit of Sen. Cory Gardner using the “Trump and Gardner have delivered for America” message on California Trump supporters is avoiding the negatives from this gushing pro-Trump propaganda being seen by swing voters in Colorado.
For anyone who understands the dynamics of the 2020 U.S. Senate race in Colorado, with Gardner considered the most vulnerable Republican Senate up in 2020 largely due to Colorado’s politics tracking leftward both before and after Gardner’s narrow 2014 election, it’s painfully obvious why Gardner is running this red-meat ad everywhere but Colorado. Support from the pro-Trump Republican base is crucial, but also toxic to Gardner to the extent it defines him here in his home state.
Hiding this ad from Colorado voters is a metaphor for Gardner’s larger dilemma.
Americans are still struggling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has surpassed 5 million cases in the U.S. alone and claimed the lives of 162,000 Americans. The economic impact from the pandemic continues to grow amid Senate Republican inaction; President Trump signs executive orders that are probably illegal and definitely inadequate…but apparently no one is listening to Donald Trump anyway;, our 2nd favorite U.S. Senator from Colorado tells people to Take a Hike; and self-proclaimed pro-police demonstrators physically assault Black Lives Matter counter-protesters and film it all themselves!
As the Denver Post’sJustin Wingerterreports on a new poll that, if accurate, shows Republicans in deep trouble in a congressional district that was held easily by ousted incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Tipton for a decade:
The survey of 400 likely voters in the 3rd Congressional District found Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat, with 43% support and Lauren Boebert, a Republican, with 42%. Four percent of voters were undecided and three other candidates split the remaining 11%.
The massive 3rd District, which spans all of the Western Slope, along with southern Colorado and Pueblo, hasn’t elected a Democrat in a dozen years. Mitsch Bush lost by eight points there to Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in 2018.
But Boebert’s shocking primary win over Tipton on June 30 has placed the race in the crosshairs of national Democratic groups, which see an opportunity to flip the seat, and has Republicans on the defensive. A poll showing a tied race is certain to jolt national onlookers and could lead to an increase in outside spending.
All of the usual early polling caveats apply: it takes two methodologically consistent polls to establish a trend, and GQR Research is considered slightly Democratic leaning by leading aggregator and critic of pollsters FiveThirtyEight. CD-3 in 2017 was rated R+6 on the Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI), but Rep. Tipton consistently defeated his Democratic opponents by wider margins regardless of the national political climate.
If these numbers prove accurate, CD-3 has truly been reshuffled by Lauren Boebert’ssurprise GOP primary victory: from the GOP’s congressional firewall in this state after Rep. Mike Coffman was taken out in CD-6 two years ago, into a investment-grade opportunity for Democrats to increase their congressional delegation from Colorado to an historic 5-2 majority. Boebert defeated her complacent incumbent in the GOP primary, but is now failing to succeed Tipton as a viable general election candidate. Boebert’s sophomoric quips that debase her campaign, low-information policy agenda, and at this point indelible branding as a “Q-Anon” curious nutjob have put this seat in play–where Tipton simply, for all his warts, would not have.
For Democrats, the opportunity here is electrifying. But this remains a Republican-leaning district, and even against an unqualified fringe opponent a full-scale effort will be necessary to prevail.
But the game is on. CD-3 is a top 2020 battleground now.
NPR reported yesterday that mail ballot collection boxes, which have proven highly popular among Colorado voters–and that’s before President Donald Trump started monkey-wrenching the U.S. Postal Service coincidentally just a few months before an election he insists without factual basis will be defraudulated by mail ballots:
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett…told the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration recently that his state doesn’t allow drop boxes for fear voters might be pressured to vote a certain way.
“If someone knows you’ve got an absentee ballot, they can say, ‘Hey I’ll be glad to take that for you and drop that off for you.’ They can ask to watch you fill that ballot out or they cannot turn it in at all for you,” Hargett said. “We believe it’s a great security measure to have someone returning their own ballot by the United States Postal Service.”
The Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have even gone to court to try to block Pennsylvania from using such boxes in November, arguing they could increase the chances for fraud.
[Drop boxes] been pretty much uncontroversial, said Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill.
“They are strongly in favor, strongly in favor, because it gives them more options,” she said.
But in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Republicans are already challenging the state’s use of drop boxes, arguing in a lawsuit that allowing ballots to be collected in the boxes “allows illegal absent and mail-in voting, ballot harvesting, and other fraud to occur and/or go undetected, and will result in dilution of validly cast ballots.”
Responding to this latest angle on the same old low-information fight over the logistics of mail ballots, which have been in uncontroversial and highly successful use in Colorado since 2013, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold tore into the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign today for asserting without evidence what Colorado’s experience has already wrong:
“Colorado’s election model is the nation’s gold standard, and we use both mail ballots and ballot drop boxes,” said Secretary Griswold. “Mail ballot drop boxes are safe, secure, and add great access to voting. In fact, about 75% of mail ballot voters return their ballots to a drop box.Our use of drop boxes is even more crucial as the U.S. Postal Service is under attack.” [Pols emphasis]
…Colorado drop boxes are safe and secure. Drop boxes are sturdy, metallic, weather-resistant, and are bolted to the ground. Colorado law also requires that all drop boxes be kept under 24-hour video surveillance with adequate lighting in order to be able to easily detect potential tampering. When drop boxes are emptied, they are done so at least every 24 hours by a team of bipartisan election judges who must maintain a detailed chain of custody log when transporting ballots between drop boxes and the central counting facility to ensure no ballots are removed or added.
With budget cuts and other attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, [Pols emphasis] Colorado’s election model is uniquely insulated to withstand any service disruptions. Ballots are sent to voters starting 25 days before Election Day and voters are reminded that they must return their ballot via drop box instead of the mail within eight days of the election. In addition, during the 2020 legislative session, Secretary Griswold led the Colorado legislature to pass a law requiring replacement ballots be sent via first-class mail starting 11 days before Election Day.
With uncertainty growing about the reliability of a politicized U.S. Postal Service to support mail ballot elections that have gone off without a hitch year after year in Colorado, our state’s already very high utilization of ballot drop boxes at libraries, municipal offices, and other public locations could be an important countermeasure against shenanigans. Because there is no rational justification for the alarm that Trump and his surrogates are now raising about mail ballots, especially in Colorado where in our state’s successful history with mail ballots makes all of this talk look ridiculous, if there’s going to be a problem it’s increasingly clear that Trump is going to have to manufacture it.
Samantha Koch, the Republican nominated to unseat Rep. Sue Lontine in southwest Denver’s House District 1, wants you to know that she has got this whole coronavirus thing figured out:
Once again, the rule of “we’d ignore it if they weren’t a Republican candidate for the legislature” applies! There’s a lot to unpack here, more than we or the voters of HD-1 will most likely have time for. But please, begs the Food and Drug Administration and every other responsible public health authority in the world, do not take hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 no matter how many Republicans tell you you should. And if Bill Gates’ philanthropy ends up contributing to a coronavirus vaccine, your first instinct as a reasonable person should not be to assume it contains a mind control microchip.
These people have always been with us, of course. 2020 is merely bringing them out of the woodwork, and Donald Trump’s Republican Party has given them a home.
► Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he has selected California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate. As The Washington Post reports, Republicans are a bit confused about how to attack Harris:
At 4:45 p.m., Trump campaign aide Brad Parscale tweeted that the pick meant that the “Bernie Bros get burned,” pointing to a story about liberal resistance to her candidacy.
Around exactly the same time, though, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said something quite different. “Kamala Harris’ extreme positions … show that the left-wing mob is controlling Biden’s candidacy, just like they would control him as president,” McDaniel said in a statement.
But by late that evening, the RNC was back to making a very different case. “Liberals revolt against Biden, Harris ticket,” an RNC news release said. It pointed to Bernie Sanders supporters and others who attacked Harris as insufficiently progressive. “Even if Joe Biden’s campaign handlers gave their base the same notes they gave Biden for his video chat with Kamala D. Harris, it’s highly unlikely the left’s reception of Kamala would have gone any better,” it said. “Talk about embarrassing.”
Trump backers’ response to Harris’s selection has been somewhat dizzying. They have mostly painted her as the kind of radical that McDaniel did, even labeling her a socialist. But as with the man whose ticket Harris is joining, they have offered mixed messages by also suggesting she is a disappointment to Sanders supporters and even a tool of Wall Street.
As Annie Linskey and Vanessa Williams write in a separate story for The Washington Post, the selection of Harris was an emotional moment for many Black women in America. POLITICO takes a look at the history of selecting female running mates and why 2020 might turn out different than in the past:
Female vice presidential candidates appeared on major party tickets in 1984 and 2008, and in 2016, a woman headed the ticket. Each time, headlines heralded the historic choice; each time, for any number of reasons, the ticket lost. Those races also gave us a window into how women running for executive office are treated in the U.S.: The candidates were more likely than men to be questioned about their spouses; their attire and looks often became a part of the story; they had to make extra effort to show they were “tough” enough to serve.
Now that Senator Kamala Harris has become the third female VP candidate on a major-party ticket in history, POLITICO Magazine asked some smart female political observers to tell us: How will things be different for this VP choice, for this woman, and for this race? Or has nothing changed at all?
► There were several interesting Primary outcomes in a couple of states on Tuesday, but the biggest story is in Georgia. As POLITICO explains:
Marjorie Taylor Greene has won the GOP nomination for a deep red congressional seat in Georgia despite widespread condemnation from party leaders over her videos where she expressed racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views.
Greene, who is also a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory, defeated neurosurgeon John Cowan in a primary runoff election on Tuesday for the deep-red Northwest Georgia district, where the GOP nomination is tantamount to a seat in the House.
A businesswoman who self-funded much of her campaign, Greene won the first round of the primary by a 19-point margin. But a week after, GOP leaders including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who chairs the House Republican campaign arm, took the rare step of disavowing her candidacy after POLITICO uncovered hours of videos where she demeans blacks, Muslims and Jews.
Greene, who has said that Black people are slaves to the Democratic Party, has been likened to longtime Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who lost his own GOP Primary race this year in part because of his racist past (President Trump naturally Tweeted a congratulatory message, calling Greene “a future star.”) Greene also embraces QAnon conspiracies, which will bring more attention to Colorado’s own conspiracist Congressional candidate, Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert. This whole mess should be a concern for all Republicans, writes Chris Cillizza of CNN.
► The New York Times looks at a school re-opening in Georgia, where the early COVID-19 results are not good:
Altogether, more than 900 students and staff members in the district have already been ordered to quarantine. On Tuesday, one high school closed its doors until at least Aug. 31.
While many of the nation’s largest school systems have opted in recent weeks to start the academic year online, other districts have forged ahead with reopening. In Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana and elsewhere, some schools, mainly in suburban and rural areas, have been open for almost two weeks.
Their experience reveals the perils of returning to classrooms in places where the coronavirus has hardly been tamed. Students and teachers have immediately tested positive, sending others into two-week quarantines and creating whiplash for schools that were eager to open, only to consider closing again right away.
CNN has more on the problems in Georgia following its effort to reopen schools.
►There’s still no news on progress regarding a potential stimulus bill. The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion measure in May, but Senate Republicans haven’t been able to even come up with a plausible bill of their own. As CNN reports:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday that she doesn’t want stalled negotiations for another round of coronavirus relief to drag until the end of September, when government funds are set to expire.
“I hope not. People will die,” she said…
…Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, blamed Democrats for the stalled talks.
This is the part where we remind you, again, that McConnell ISN’T EVEN IN THE ROOM FOR NEGOTIATIONS ANYMORE. The Senate is the only Congressional chamber that has not moved forward on another relief bill; the Senate is controlled by Republicans.
As Colorado Public Radio reports, the loss of extended unemployment benefits is about to hit Colorado HARD:
An emergency federal program had been paying $600 a week to unemployed people, but it expired late last month. With the change, state economists expect that Coloradans will reduce their purchases by 6 percent — which could knock $20 million a month from the state’s tax revenues, state budget director Lauren Larson told top state lawmakers at a meeting on Tuesday.
“We’re very concerned that we need Congress to act and act quickly,” Larson said.
More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…
The Denver Post’sJustin Wingerterdirects us to a report in the New York Times today that will either shock the hell out of you or (more likely) not:
President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, met privately last weekend with Kanye West, the rapper who has filed petitions to get on the November ballots for president in several states.
The meeting took place in Colorado, where Mr. Kushner was traveling with his wife, Ivanka Trump, those familiar with the meeting said. Mr. West had been camping in Colorado with his family, and afterward flew to Telluride to meet with Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, but was not accompanied by his wife, Kim Kardashian West, those with knowledge of the meeting said.
Last week, rapper Kanye Westfiled to appear on the ballot in Colorado as a presidential candidate with the help of former Cory Gardner spox Rachel George–who recruited a small group of mostly fellow Republican political operatives to sign on as qualified Colorado electors to qualify West for the ballot. One of those operatives actually pretended to support West on the merits, which is in every objective sense ridiculous, but most of them have kept quiet so as not to embarrass themselves.
It’s reasonable to speculate now that we know West himself was in Colorado last week that he met personally with local Republicans involved in getting him on the ballot in our state. To be clear, Kanye already admitted he’s doing this in order to pull votes from Joe Biden–“the joke” Rachel George asked co-conspirators to be “in on.” Meeting with “Javanka” in Telluride after “glamping” at some exclusive resort we may or may not have heard of closes the loop on the week’s Kanye news so perfectly…