Profiles in Cowardice: Cory Gardner and MBS’s Mastercard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gardner Talks in Circles About Mueller Investigation

Sen. Cory Gardner’s loyalties are not difficult to understand.

We’re still waiting for more information today from filings related to special investigator Robert Mueller’s examination of Donald Trump’s “relationships” with Russia. Legal experts are very excited to view two expected filings related to former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort and former personal attorney Michael Cohen as everyone outside of Mueller’s team looks for new tea leaves to read.

President Trump has relentlessly accused the Mueller investigation of being a “witch hunt,” but the majority of American people do not agree with him and continue to support the investigation moving forward. According to a new poll, 67% of American adults believe that Mueller’s investigation should be allowed to continue; a whopping 76% want the results of the investigation to ultimately be made public.

Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake is pushing his colleagues to vote on legislation that would explicitly protect Mueller’s investigation from Trump (who has tried to fire Mueller more than once). Said Flake on Thursday, “The message that needs to be sent to the White House is that we do not have the president’s back if he fires the special counsel.”

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) does not support Flake’s cause and is insisting that the Senate is actually sending a stronger message to President Trump by not discussing such legislation (no, this makes no logical sense whatsoever). Gardner talked with Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner this week and performed a plainly-ridiculous dance on the topic — part of Gardner’s ongoing effort to avoid directly answering questions on protecting Mueller’s investigation. We transcribed the relevant part of the interview below:

WARNER: Let’s turn to the Mueller-Russia probe. A key, but short-lived, member of the Trump administration has given Mueller, quote, “substantial assistance.” The special counsel therefore is recommending no jailtime for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. What, exactly, Flynn offered up was unclear, but it’s an important element, apparently, in an investigation that the President could seek to derail. Outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake has called for a Mueller protection bill. The Senate Majority Leader says that would be a futile gesture. Do you agree that such legislation is futile, or do you think it would send an important signal to the White House?

GARDNER: Well, I think what sends an important signal to the White House is our support, in the Senate, for the Mueller investigation. That transcends any legislation. I haven’t heard a Senator yet who is opposed to the Mueller investigation. This is critically important [that] this investigation be completed. It needs to be completed. I’ve said that many times and will continue to support the investigation. I think it’s in the best interests of the President, if the President believes that he did nothing wrong, then the Mueller investigation will find that. If there is something wrong, the American people need to know that. And that’s why I think this is so important.

WARNER: Why not put the weight behind it with some sort of legislation?

GARDNER: Well, I think the weight behind it is the fact that we’re not playing politics here. And I’m concerned that others want to play politics. I want to see this investigation carried through. Look, if the President wants to disband the Mueller investigation – if he wants to find out what it feels like to touch the sun – he can disband the Mueller investigation. It’s not a good thing.

Here we have Gardner ostensibly warning President Trump that interfering in the Mueller investigation would be tantamount to “touching the sun.” Undeterred, Warner rightfully presses Gardner on why he wouldn’t just support Flake’s proposal for a pre-emptive legislative protection.

WARNER: So you don’t support any legislative action in that regard. If President Trump moved to fire Bob Mueller, do you think the President should face some sort of consequence? What would that be?

GARDNER: Again, I think if you want to find out what it feels like to touch the sun, [then] take that direction and take that action. The President has not done this, he will not do this, and he should not do this.

WARNER: I wonder why you wouldn’t want a Mueller protection bill…

GARDNER: Well, I think I’ve been very clear. Some people want to play politics. This investigation needs to continue, and it’s in the best interests of this country for this. I’m not about playing politics, I’m about getting results.

WARNER: You think that a Mueller protection bill is playing politics, then?

GARDNER: I’ve answered the question about my support for this Mueller investigation. It must continue.

“I think I’ve been very clear,” says Gardner.

Yes, indeed.

Gardner avoided five separate questions about supporting legislation to protect the Mueller investigation. It’s easy to see through Gardner’s word salad to understand that the critical words are the ones he won’t say.

Cory Gardner Does a Saudi One-Eighty

UPDATE: The plot thickens as Sen. Cory Gardner explains his vote against the recent resolution meant to rebuke President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia to Colorado Public Radio in an interview today:

What we can’t do is weaken our efforts against terrorism. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Iranian-back Houthis, and others, who wish to destabilize not only the Middle East but the United States. We cannot confuse the actions [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman] took with actions that would embolden terrorists. [Pols emphasis] And I think that’s a very, very big concern and should be a concern of every single one of my colleagues.

Call us out if we’re wrong, but it sure seems based on the sum of these latest statements like Cory Gardner has already made up his mind. And Jamal Khashoggi’s life isn’t worth, you know, a big fuss.

—–

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

We’ve been closely following the reaction of Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado’s member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to continuing developments in the controversy over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in early October. President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the essentially universal consensus, including that of the Central Intelligence Agency, that Khashoggi was brutally murdered on direct orders from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has provoked international condemnation and left U.S. Senators angrily working through their next steps.

Back on November 29th, Gardner appeared on obscure local AM radio host Jimmy Sengenberger’s morning program to answer questions, and Sengenberger brought up the Khashoggi murder. Let’s revisit briefly what Gardner said then:

GARDNER: Again, I think Saudi Arabia needs to be held accountable for — and we need to find out and get to the truth of what happened with Jamal Khashoggi. And that is something that I am committed to doing. I’ve signed a global Magnitsky Investigation on Human Rights and making sure that we punish those responsible, including the royal family that may or may not have been involved in this. And of course, yesterday, you saw the public comments made by Secretary of State Mattis and Secretary — [correcting himself] or excuse me, Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mattis — that there is “no smoking gun,” I think were the words that they used at the briefing. [Pos emphasis] And so, what I am committed to, is making sure we get the bottom of that. But what I’m also committed to is making sure that Iran doesn’t gain a further stronghold in the Middle East, that terrorists like ISIS or al Qaeda-Arabian Peninsula don’t gain an advantage in Saudi Arabia and destabilize the region, which would devastate our great ally Israel. And so, I think it’s important that we continue to find out who is responsible, [and] hold them accountable, but also not allow Iran, ISIS, and AQ- AP a foothold in Saudi Arabia to destabilize the region which could then spread out to hurt our allies.

SENGENBERGER: One of my concerns though, about the direction things may have to head — at least, in the minds of some — when it comes to Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the throne, next in line. And he’s being accused — and reports are suggesting that the CIA thinks that he may be the one who gave the order for Khashoggi’s murder. And that would be something–.

GARDNER: [interrupting] Well, I would be careful of what the CIA is being accused of saying. And I think that was clear in a briefing yesterday. I can’t get into the details of it, but I would just be very careful about what the CIA does and doesn’t believe. [Pols emphasis]

SENGENBERGER: Thank you. I appreciate that. But if it were to be found out true that he gave the order, one thing that I’ve been understanding — especially speaking with the gentleman I know you know as well. I’ve interviewed him a few times and talked with the former Ambassador Sam Zakhem about this, and that is in the Middle East, in the vast majority of countries except for Israel and to some extent Lebanon, it seems like you’ve got two situations in most of the countries in the Middle East: bad or worse. And there are a lot of reforms that Mohamed bin Salman has been taking leadership on, and it’s difficult to think of who would be any better than him, with some of the calls for his ouster by many of your colleagues in the Senate.

GARDNER: Well, this is the challenge we face. And that’s the challenge we face across the Middle East.

Jamal Khashoggi.

Here we have Sen. Gardner, while allowing for the possibility that the Saudi royal family was involved, closely echoing the Trump administration’s position that there was “no smoking gun” connecting the royal family to Khashoggi’s murder. Gardner went even further to suggest he knew the CIA’s position was not as clear-cut as reported based on some kind of non-public information he possessed based on his briefings.

Well folks, something happened between last week’s interview and today’s quote from Gardner via Voice of America:

“All evidence is pointing to MBS [Mohammed bin Salman] in this horrific murder, and there is no exculpatory evidence that’s been provided by anyone [Pols emphasis] — it’s not there, there’s a reason for that,” Colorado Republican Cory Gardner told VOA. “Holding MBS accountable for these actions ought to take place in the weeks and months to come.”

Wait a minute–all evidence is pointing? No exculpatory evidence “provided by anyone?” If that’s true, then what was Gardner talking about just a few days prior when he claimed he knew something we all didn’t that raised doubt about this very conclusion? There’s a major discrepancy here that needs to be explained, and right away. Gardner has a well-earned reputation for playing both sides of a hot-button issue, and landing wherever he needs at the last moment to save face.

This time, however, Gardner seems to have contradicted himself too much to walk it back.

How Hanging A Trump Portrait At The Colo Capitol Could Mark The Enlightenment Of The GOP

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

You might think that, for the GOP, hanging a portrait of Trump at the Colorado Capitol, amid inevitable protests and hype, is like begging for another blue Tsunami, even though Colorado Republicans were just flattened then drowned by one, perhaps indefinitely.

But Republican leaders are nevertheless pushing ahead with their plan to erect the Trump portrait by Jan. 4, when the legislature convenes again.

GOP leaders are saying, and it’s true, that Trump is our president, and it’s a tradition to place presidential portraits in our Capitol rotunda.

Trump’s likeness would hang next to paintings of former Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Bush. Like most Coloradans, none of those former presidents likes Trump very much at all, but so what? In America, we respect the office of the president.

Fair enough, and there’s bipartisan support for this. When Republicans were raising money to pay for the Trump portrait last year, some Democrats pitched in, as part of the $10,000 GoFundMe effort. State Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) and former state lawmaker Dorothy Butcher (D-Pueblo) donated, according to Republican organizers.

“Every President – regardless of their political party – deserves a portrait in the Colorado State Capitol,” said outgoing State Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) in August news release, calling Trump a “populist” whom many Coloradans support and adding that he can’t wait to see “another beautiful piece of art” in the rotunda.

But just how “beautiful” would it actually be to have Trump staring at you from a Capitol wall?

Already, it’s become passé to say that Trump weakens or undermines our country’s basic institutions and intellectualism, like the judiciary, the press, our voting system, our scientists, law enforcement, our Bill of Rights, and much more.

What will he do next? And how bad will it get?

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (December 4)

Did you know that today is Colorado Gives Day? If you have an email account or an electronic device of any kind, you might have noticed already. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

As CNN reports, Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign could take a YUGE step forward this week:

America may get its most intimate look yet inside Robert Mueller’s secretive Russia investigation in the next four days, with a series of disclosures that have the potential to be greatly damaging for President Donald Trump.

Court filings focusing on Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, on Tuesday and his ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Friday could offer tantalizing new details of Mueller’s deep dive into the 2016 campaign.

If the special counsel lives up to his reputation, his filings will feature surprising revelations and rich texture to color the picture he has already painted in indictments and witness testimony of a culture of endemic dishonesty in Trump’s orbit about multiple, so far unexplainable, ties with Russians…

…Stepping up the pace of his probe since the midterm elections, Mueller has moved in a direction that appears increasingly threatening to the President, including his crossing of Trump’s red line by showing interest in his family real estate empire.

 

President Trump’s Twitter habit may be crossing new lines in relation to Mueller’s special investigation. From the Washington Post:

Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that the most striking thing about Monday was that there were two statements in proximity.

“It comes very close to the statutory definition of witness tampering,” he said. “It’s a mirror image of the first tweet, only he’s praising a witness for not cooperating with the implication of reward,” he said, adding that Trump has pardon power over Stone.

“We’re so used to President Trump transgressing norms in his public declarations,” Eisen said, “but he may have crossed the legal line.”

This begs the question: Which social media platform is the most effective for witness tampering?

 

► Nic Garcia of the Denver Post manages to write an entire story about a Democratic majority in the state legislature without actually quoting any, you know, Democrats.

 

► Republicans are challenging election results in HD-47 (Pueblo), where Democrat Brianna Buentello defeated Republican candidate “Deadbeat” Don Bendell by a margin of a few hundred votes.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Cory Gardner: Same Dog, Same Tricks

Sen. Cory Gardner (right) has been fully onboard with President Trump.

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Perry Bacon Jr. is looking ahead to the next Congress and wondering which Senators will be the new “swing votes.” Bacon thinks that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) may fit the mold:

We can stop obsessing so much about how Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are going to vote. Long the crucial swing votes in the U.S. Senate, they will still be crucial to the GOP’s majority, but for the next two years, when the Senate considers legislation that Democrats unanimously oppose, the real deciders are likely to be Cory Gardner and Mitt Romney.

Bacon’s premise is based on a logical course of action for Gardner, making the assumption that Gardner both should and will attempt to moderate his image as he prepares to run for re-election in 2020:

Colorado’s Gardner has a more obvious reason to potentially vote against controversial Trump appointees and judges: political survival. It’s hard to see Trump winning Colorado in 2020 — he lost there by 5 percentage points in 2016. When Gardner is up for re-election in 2020, he will likely need some Democrats or independents to back him even as they vote against Trump. And at least right now, it would be hard for Gardner to separate himself from the president: He backs the Trump position 91 percent of the time. And, among the 100 current senators, he is tops in voting with Trump more often than the political ideology of his state would predict. [Pols emphasis]

Being a Republican in a blue state who almost always backs Trump and GOP initiatives is politically dangerous. Nevada’s Dean Heller, who was the last Congress’s second-most pro-Trump senator compared to his state’s politics, can attest to that — he just lost his re-election race.

It’s not difficult to argue that Gardner should try to move more to the middle if he hopes to earn another term in the Senate, particularly given that he will appear on the same ballot as President Trump in a state that just saw massive Democratic gains. It’s also not entirely clear that Gardner intends to make such a strategic shift even if he should. Gardner sounded very Trumpish following the 2018 election; he claimed that Colorado did not witness a “Blue Wave” despite the fact that everyone in the state is sopping wet, and he fed wild conspiracy theories to explain Republican troubles in states such as Arizona.

Gardner’s longtime right-hand man, Chris Hansen, recently made it clear that Republicans are running with President Trump “no matter what,” which presumably includes Colorado in 2020. Gardner’s increasingly-public appearances with the President make any obfuscation all the more difficult.

The more important question, then, is whether Gardner can make a meaningful move to the middle after how he has so clearly fallen in behind Donald Trump (and even though it often backfires on him). As you can see from the chart below, Gardner has voted with Trump to a degree that absolutely does not reflect the will of Coloradans:

Via FiveThirtyEight

 

That Gardner has a natural tendency to say one thing and do the opposite has not been lost on Coloradans. Gardner’s approval ratings have been consistently terrible since the 2016 election, and he’s not just unpopular with Democrats and Unaffiliated voters — his Republican base isn’t particularly fond of him, either. President Trump is not viewed favorably in Colorado, but the Big Orange Guy isn’t nearly as disliked as Gardner. In fact, Gardner could be dealing with a Primary challenge before he even gets a chance to worry about a General Election. In that case, he’ll face more pressure to move ever rightward in order to preserve his hold on the GOP nomination.

In the 2014 election, Gardner famously said that he wanted to “shake up the Senate.” Perhaps he’ll actually try to do that in 2019 and become something like the “swing vote” that FiveThirtyEight envisions.

Or maybe Cory Gardner just is who he is.

Hickenlooper, Bennet Maybe Both Want To Be President

Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

It turns out Gov. John Hickenlooper isn’t the only Colorado Democrat with his eye on the White House.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is considering a presidential bid, according to three people who confirmed to CPR News that they talked with him about it earlier this fall. The individuals declined to use their names because they were not authorized to speak about the matter. One of them discussed it with Bennet in the last 30 days.

“What he said to me is he is seriously thinking about running,” said another individual. “He has not made up his mind yet but he is seriously thinking about running.”

Who wouldn’t want to run against Donald Trump, asks anyone with the wherewithal?

Our highly unscientific but sure to provoke a lively debate poll asks the question:

Would Bennet or Hickenlooper be the better Democratic nominee for President?
Sen. Michael Bennet
Gov. John Hickenlooper
No preference/unsure
See irate comment below
View Result

Get More Smarter on Friday (November 30)

So long, November! It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► We haven’t even finished with 2018, and it’s already clear that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is in for a rough couple of years before his term expires in 2020. A new report showing rising uninsured rates for American children is a significant political problem for Gardner, as his is willingness to support President Trump in declining to take any action against Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Gardner is even promoting Trump’s decision to ignore information from American Intelligence agencies in regard to the Khashoggi murder.

 

► As the Washington Post explains, President Trump is absolutely on the top of the list when it comes to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation:

In two major developments this week, President Trump has been labeled in the parlance of criminal investigations as a major subject of interest, complete with an opaque legal code name: “Individual 1.”

New evidence from two separate fronts of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation casts fresh doubts on Trump’s version of key events involving Russia, signaling potential political and legal peril for the president. Investigators have now publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.

Together, the documents show investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.

Trump has provided conflicting answers on his business ties to Russia. In July 2016, he Tweeted that he had “ZERO investments in Russia.” In January 2017, Trump told a reporter that “I have no deals that could happen in Russia.”

Today, Trump Tweeted this:

We can all see where this is going.

 

► Republican State Sen. “Handsy” Jack Tate announced that he will not seek re-election in 2020.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Gardner Joins Trump in Questioning CIA’s Reported Conclusion That Saudi Prince Knew Of Journalist’s Murder

(Going full Trump – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Apparently referring to information he received during a classified senate briefing, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is directly questioning the CIA’s widely reported conclusion that Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about the plot to kill journalist journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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

Even Secretary of State James Mattis refused to deny that the CIA has a high level of confidence that bin Salman knew about the Khashoggi murder, as CNN reported this morning:

Speaking to reporters after the briefing, Pompeo said there is “no direct reporting” connecting the crown prince to the murder of Khashoggi.

Mattis echoed that point telling reporters “we have no smoking gun that the crown prince was involved” in the killing. Mattis said he read all the intelligence reports and transcripts himself.

But when he was asked if it was true the CIA expressed high confidence, Mattis would only say, “there you need to go to the CIA.” [emphasis added by the Colorado Times Recorder]

Neither Mattis nor Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doubted the CIA directly in public comments Wednesday, so yesterday’s classified briefing was apparently the source for Gardner’s “clear” information about the uncertainty of the CIA’s Khashoggi conclusion.

The CIA did not testify at yesterday’s hearing, and Gardner told Politico that CIA testimony would have been “helpful.” But that didn’t stop Gardner from casting doubt on the CIA’s reported conclusion.

It appears that Gardner and Trump are the only prominent Washington politicians who are skeptical of the reported CIA conclusion.

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Rising Rate of Uninsured Kids is Political Disaster for Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) tries to make himself smaller while attending a 2017 press conference in support of gutting the ACA.

As NBC News explains, the number of uninsured children in the United States is rising for the first time in a decade:

After years of steady decline, the number of U.S. children without health insurance rose by 276,000 in 2017, according to a Georgetown University report released Thursday.

While not a big jump statistically — the share of uninsured kids rose to 5 percent in 2017 from 4.7 percent a year earlier — it is still striking. The uninsured rate typically remains stable or drops during times of economic growth. In September, the U.S. unemployment rate hit its lowest level since 1969…

…Study author Joan Alker and other child health advocates place the blame for this change on the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, saying their policies and actions cast a pall on enrollment.

As Jessica Seaman writes for the Denver Post, health insurance coverage for kids in Colorado is looking equally grim:

The number of children in Colorado with health insurance has increased for almost a decade, but now the decline in the state’s youth uninsured rate is stagnating — and advocates fear more children could lose coverage due to a rule change proposed by the Trump administration.

The number of uninsured children in Colorado remained unchanged in 2017, with about 57,000 individuals under 19 without coverage, according to a new report by Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families.

That stagnation comes after Colorado saw the percentage of children without health insurance drop from 14 percent in 2008 to 4.3 percent in 2016, according to Colorado Children’s Campaign, a nonprofit group advocating for children’s health and education…

…Political events on the national stage attributed to a notion that public coverage was at risk, leading to the jump in uninsured children.

It’s difficult for Republicans to argue that an increase in uninsured children is not their fault, particularly given the fact that the U.S. unemployment rate is lower than it has been in decades. Congressional Republicans spent much of 2017 trying, and trying, and trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While they never managed to wrangle enough votes to support a full repeal, Senate Republicans and President Trump still figured out a way to bleed the ACA by removing the “individual mandate” section of the law and allowing cut-rate and generally worthless insurance programs to be sold. Senate Republicans also let funding lapse for the Children’s Health Insurance Project (CHIP) for several months; the GOP tried to hold the program hostage as a bargaining tool over immigration and federal budget issues but ultimately folded what was an obviously-weak hand.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has supported every recent GOP effort to cripple the ACA, though he’s also very well of the political danger this creates for his own re-election in 2020; in October, Gardner joined other Senate Republicans in pushing for a toothless resolution intended to make it look like they were truly concerned about coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

When pressed on healthcare policy issues, Gardner just vomits out nonsense talking points hoping that reporters give up on getting a real response. When he thinks he can get away with it, Gardner works hard to both support AND oppose legislation to gut healthcare access for Americans. But when it comes to declining health insurance rates for children specifically, Gardner is completely stuck; the numbers are clear and there is no plausible story he can tell whereby he can cast himself as anything other than completely implicit in keeping sick kids from seeing a doctor. In fact, things would be even worse in this regard had any of Gardner’s preferred policy measures been implemented.

The number of uninsured children in the U.S. and Colorado will almost certainly increase in the next two years. You can expect to see plenty of television ads pointing this out in advance of the 2020 election.

Gardner was already looking at a very difficult re-election in Colorado after Democrats demolished Republicans in 2018. Add this issue to the mix, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how Gardner can possibly end up with another term in the U.S. Senate.

Cory Gardner Doublespeaks His Way To Backing Saudis

CBS News reports on yesterday’s vote in the U.S. Senate, delivering a rebuke to President Donald Trump over his blind support for Saudi Arabia in the wake of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by voting to end military support for that nation’s war in neighboring Yemen:

The bill proposed by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., would require President Trump to withdraw U.S. troops in or affecting Yemen within 30 days. The measure would not affect troops fighting al Qaeda in Yemen. The Senate previously voted to table the measure in March by a vote of 55 to 44.

Trump ally Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke in Russell basement following his vote in support of advancing the resolution to the floor. Graham said he did so because he was “pissed” even though he generally supports the war in Yemen.

“The way the administration has handled the Saudi Arabia event is just not acceptable,” Graham told reporters.

To be clear, this resolution will not result in a withdrawal of military support for Saudi Arabia, mostly because it would never be signed by the President if it reached his desk. But it’s very significant that the anger over Khashoggi’s murder motivated a relatively large contingent of Republican Senators to vote for this resolution along with all Senate Democrats. With every investigation including that of America’s own Central Intelligence Agency concluding that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s execution, Trump’s refusal to acknowledge this reality is a compounding international embarrassment.

There has been no statement from Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado about this vote as of yet, but he was not among the 14 Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for the resolution. Politico appears to have gotten Gardner’s last quote before the vote:

“Saudi Arabia continues to remain an important and key ally that has a lot of answers that they have not yet given to the U.S.” [Pols emphasis]

If that’s not the perfect Cory Gardner duplicitous response, we don’t know what is! The vote he cast just after taking both sides of the issue in the course of a single sentence is less ambiguous, but you’ve got to almost admire Gardner’s vacuous wordplay. He could convey more relevant information by saying nothing at all.

That’s just how Cory Gardner rolls, folks. Certain events make it stand out in sharp relief.

Colorado Trump Backer Warns Gardner to Apply an Even Tighter Bear Hug to the President

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Ex-Sen. Ted Harvey (R).

The chair of a large Trump-backing organization hopped on conservative KNUS radio yesterday and warned U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) that he’d better put an even tighter embrace around Trump.

“I think he’d better start supporting the President’s issues when it comes to border security, and fighting against illegal immigration, and supporting the president on all of the important issues that the president got elected on, but specifically illegal immigration,” said former Colorado Springs lawmaker Ted Harvey, who chairs the Committee to Defend the President.

I left a phone message for Harvey asking why he’s critical of Gardner, given Gardner’s 91 percent pro-Trump voting record, including Gardner’s major votes for three Trump-backed bills to kill Obamacare and his vote for the Trump tax bill.

Harvey didn’t immediately respond, but the former director of Colorado’s Republican Party, Dick Wadhams, countered Harvey’s position in a recent KNUS interview, saying Gardner has always been there for Trump.

“Okay, [Gardner] voted for, and was a day in, day out defender of the tax cuts,” Wadhams said recently on KNUS. “He has been a defender of deregulation. He’s been the defender of Trump’s foreign policy. So, tell me, where has Cory fallen down, as U. S. Senator for Trump?”

Commenting on this month’s election, Harvey said on KNUS that Republican candidate for governor Walker Stapleton had “no campaign” because he didn’t “run on any of the major issues that mobilize grassroots conservatives to get out and work their butts off to win an election.”

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Campaigning On Kavanaugh: Now Democrats Have The Ball

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (left) meeting with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

The New York Times’ Carl Hulse put out a marrowy story Sunday recapping the political aftereffects of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court–both as they played out in the recent midterm elections, and looking ahead to 2020:

Republicans saw the poisonous fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation as pure gold in the midterm elections, calling it “Kavanaugh’s Revenge.” Senator Bob Casey saw it a little differently in his own re-election bid — as a less-than-decisive issue in what was supposed to be a marquee race…

In the end, the most contentious Supreme Court confirmation drama in decades resulted in a split midterm decision that suggests that Democrats might have gained ground in their fledgling efforts to make the court as mobilizing an issue to their voters as it has long been to Republicans.

Republicans believed that the battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation would be a mobilizing factor for base GOP voters. But while there is anecdotal evidence to suggest it may have helped in some already red states like Missouri, the post-Kavanaugh future for Republicans politically is a minefield of angry suburban women who were not impressed by the GOP’s handling of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Nationally, exit polls showed that more voters opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination than supported it, and that women were far more likely than men to be against his confirmation. [Pols emphasis]

With 2018 behind them, Democrats plan to build on that anti-Kavanaugh sentiment and leverage it against Republicans who are expected to be at the center of the battle for Senate control in 2020. Activists believe they set the stage for voters to remember the fight two years from now. Among the Republican incumbents they intend to focus on are Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Cory Gardner of Colorado [Pols emphasis] and Susan Collins of Maine, whose support was seen as crucial to Judge Kavanaugh’s approval.

Although retaining control of the U.S. Senate is considered the sole bright spot of the 2018 midterm elections for the Republican Party, the reality is that the specific Senate seats up for election in 2018 made holding the Senate a very low bar for Republicans to meet. To the extent that the battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination either helped or at least did not hurt Republicans competing in relatively safe Republican states, the effect in swing and blue states appears to be the exact opposite–and in 2020, those are the battlegrounds.

Representing a state that has swung even farther away from Cory Gardner’s right-wing agenda than when he narrowly won his seat in 2014 in a massive “post-truth” insult to voters’ intelligence, Brett Kavanaugh is just one among a long list of grievances against Gardner Colorado voters are eager to address at the polls in two years. The 2018 blue wave that swept Colorado’s suburban battlegrounds indicates strongly that Gardner is on the wrong side of the Kavanaugh political equation–and a whole lot of other equations, too.

With Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court for the rest of our lives, ending Gardner’s career may be small comfort.

But along with their vote for the next president, it’s the action Colorado voters can take.

Republicans Still Planning To Hang Trump Portrait At Colorado Capitol

(Stand by your man – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

President Donald Trump.

Neither the recent election results nor Trump’s ongoing controversies have prompted Colorado Republicans to reconsider their plan to place a portrait of Trump in Colorado’s Capitol rotunda.

The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reported last week that Republican State Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City hopes the portrait will be on a Capitol wall with other presidential portraits before the 2019 legislative session starts Jan. 4.

Grantham was the key figure in a successful GoFundMe fundraising effort to create the Trump likeness, saying at the time that Trump is a “populist,” and all citizens should have the opportunity to donate.  About $10,000 was raised from 216 donors.

The Republicans’ state senate spokesman Sean Paige did not return a call yesterday seeking to find out if any Republican lawmakers had expressed qualms about hanging the portrait in light of the recent election–as well as the escalating controversies involving the president, including special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Also unanswered is the question, have Republicans considered delaying the Trump portrait-project until the Mueller investigation is complete?

Asked if Republicans are obliged to hang the Trump portrait, or if it’s just a tradition, Jay Sellers, Director of Arts for Colorado, told the Colorado Times Recorder back in July that he was not aware of “any law that requires us to hang a president’s portrait in the Capitol.”

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