Get More Smarter on Friday (December 14)

Get ready for a lot of “hemp” mentions in the near future. 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…

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to run interference for Saudi Arabia when it comes to foreign policy decisions. From the Denver Post:

Gardner voted Thursday afternoon against ending U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen — one of a pair of votes taken in response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The amendment passed, however, with support from all Senate Democrats, including Colorado’s Michael Bennet, and a handful of Republicans.

“The tragic and extraordinarily complex situation in Yemen requires a political solution,” Bennet said in a statement. “It’s also critical to stress how inadequate the President’s response to the death of Jamal Khashoggi has been, in effect legitimizing his murder and failing to stand up for press freedom.”

President Donald Trump has continued to support Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite the CIA’s findings.

As the Washington Post explains, the Senate — not including Gardner — is at least trying to take on a leadership role in the absence of a strong voice in the White House:

On Thursday afternoon, a bipartisan coalition in Congress moved to fill the void and perform this function of the presidency that Trump has essentially outsourced. Senators voted 56-to-41 to cut off U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s often brutal conduct in the Yemen civil war. It’s the first time either chamber of Congress has asserted itself against the executive branch by using the War Powers Act, which became law during the depths of the Vietnam quagmire in 1973.

A few minutes later, the Senate voted unanimously to approve a separate, nonbinding resolution that blames Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for what happened to Khashoggi. The CIA concluded that MBS, as he’s known, probably ordered and monitored the dismemberment of the dissident journalist inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. But Trump has touted the authoritarian prince’s denials and sought to play down the expert assessment of his own intelligence community. There’s even a tape.

Gardner has said a lot of words about Saudi Arabia lately. None of them meaningful.

 

► Congressional Republicans have again settled on a familiar strategy regarding a potential government shutdown: Punt. As Politico reports:

The House and Senate left town Thursday with no strategy to avert a partial government shutdown next week, putting Congress on the brink of an intractable conflict that could drag out through New Year’s Day — furloughing hundreds of thousands of workers and costing taxpayers millions.

Frustrated lawmakers in both parties are complaining that congressional leaders have made zero progress since Tuesday, when Trump stunned even his fellow Republicans by boasting that he would take the blame for the closure of a dozen federal agencies if he doesn’t get money for his border wall.

Lawmakers say there is no public plan to prevent a partial government shuttering. And no secret plan either.

 

President Trump has more answers than a Scantron sheet in response to worsening news about Robert Mueller’s investigation into a myriad of 2016 campaign issues. From the Washington Post:

The president no longer disputes that he instructed his then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to make the payments to former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels.

Instead, Trump sought to evade that question Thursday by saying he never told Cohen to break the law — making a narrow assertion that was itself an admission that his and his team’s earlier denials were false…

…In these and other statements Thursday, Trump tried to place blame entirely on his lawyer for felonies that his advisers and allies are increasingly concerned could imperil the president. The statements come as Trump feels besieged by multiplying investigations in New York and Washington and uncertain about what may be around the corner, according to several of his associates.

The evolving strategy on the hush-money allegations is textbook Trump: Tell one version of events until it falls apart, then tell a new version, and so on — until the danger passes.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Everybody Should Have The Opportunity To Run Against Gardner

UPDATE: Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette now updating that Andrew Romanoff may not be a U.S. Senate candidate despite today’s filing:

A representative of Andrew Romanoff said Thursday’s FEC filing was an update to previously filed paperwork and was not intended to launch a new campaign for Senate.

We’ll update when we or anybody else learns more.

—–

The overwhelming consensus from post-election polls and press analysis is that Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado will be one of the nation’s most vulnerable incumbent U.S. Senators in the 2020 elections. With that in mind, it should surprise no one that a large number of Colorado Democrats are seriously considering a run against Gardner, setting up would could be a big and very competitive primary. Back in April of 2017, Gardner held a telephone “town hall” where he answered a question about Donald Trump’s tax returns saying “everybody should have the opportunity to release their tax returns.”

Today, everybody wants the opportunity to run against Cory Gardner.

With that in mind, we’re beginning with this post a running list of the Democratic candidates who are officially in the U.S. race, seriously considering, or maybe would make the jump given the appropriate encouragement from the right people. And as we’ll explain, there’s lots of room for this list to grow, including big names who could become prohibitive favorites upon entry:

Former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff filed to run just today, confirming widespread rumors that he would take his second shot at a U.S. Senate seat after losing the hotly contested 2010 Democratic primary to now-Sen. Michael Bennet. Romanoff remains popular among grassroots Democrats, and has stayed in the game with his unsuccessful challenge to Rep. Mike Coffman a few years ago.

Lorena Garcia, executive director of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition, announced her run in late November. Although she has never held elected office, Garcia is a longtime director or numerous local political nonprofits and is a frequent presence at the state capitol during the legislative session.

Here are candidates who haven’t yet formally joined the race but are known to be considering:

Outgoing Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran has an energetic base of support among Denver Democrats, who have made no secret of their desire for her to run–but could struggle elsewhere.

Former Colorado Sen. Michael Johnston, who lost the gubernatorial primary despite large helpings of out-of-state ed “reform” support, still has resources he could draw upon for a Senate bid.

Former Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett indicated an interest in the race last year.

Trish Zornio, who seems nice but would be best described as a minor candidate in the event she files for the race.

From there, the speculation turns to potentially big names who could upset or even end a primary if they were to announce their own runs. This would include Rep. Ed Perlmutter and freshman Rep. Joe Neguse–and yes, even Gov. John Hickenlooper in the event he reconsiders a run for President. Cary Kennedy was another potential first tier candidate, but she just took a high-level position in Jared Polis’ administration.

Again we’re not intending this to be a comprehensive list, and names are likely to come and go before we get to anything like a final slate of Democratic primary candidates. The multitude of qualified candidates on the Democratic bench, combined with Gardner’s widely-recognized weakness, means this is going to be a compelling primary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Poll: Cory Gardner Would Lose The Election Today

Following an historic victory for Colorado progressives in the 2018 midterm elections, a new poll of Colorado voters from Change Research indicates that Sen. Cory Gardner is in serious jeopardy as a candidate for re-election in 2020. The poll was conducted between December 2nd and 4th online, had 540 responses, and has a margin of error of +/-4.2 points.

A majority of voters polled disapprove of Gardner’s job performance, reject Gardner’s excuses on a wide range of policy issues, and support a Democratic challenger over Gardner by a 47-41% margin. Colorado voters also strongly support reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Gardner claims to support. Voters are are prepared to punish Gardner if his fellow Republicans aren’t persuaded.

“After the 2018 landslide election for Democrats in Colorado, Cory Gardner is in politically toxic territory,” said Ian Silverii, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado. “Colorado didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016, and in 2018 Colorado voters punished Republicans at every level of government as a rebuke to Trump. The damage done to Cory Gardner’s own career in politics after publicly aligning himself with Trump to save the U.S. Senate is clearly indicated in this new polling, which shows that if the election were held today Gardner would lose handily to virtually any Democratic opponent.”

“Coloradans have had four years of experience with Cory Gardner as their Senator, and they don’t like what they see,” said Silverii. “Fully 50% of Colorado voters have an unfavorable opinion of Senator Gardner, with 29% viewing him as very unfavorable. Only Donald Trump himself has such negative numbers among Colorado voters. In a match-up between Gardner and a generic Democratic candidate, Gardner loses 47-41%. Only 12% of voters have never heard of Gardner, which means these unfavorable ratings are based on specific factors that will be very hard if not impossible for Gardner to overcome before 2020.”

“The one bright spot in this very bleak outlook for Sen. Gardner is the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Silverii. “LWCF has the public support of both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators, but the onus is on Gardner to persuade fellow Republicans to continue this vital investment in our public lands and recreation. 65% of Colorado voters support full mandatory funding for LWCF, and 38% say they would be much more likely to oppose Gardner if he doesn’t keep this promise. That’s support Gardner cannot afford to lose, and Gardner’s next steps to protect Colorado’s natural environment and outdoor economy are critical to his future.”

“Contrary to popular belief, Cory Gardner barely won his seat in 2014 by less than two percentage points, and since that time Colorado has only moved farther away from Gardner’s brand of deceptive politics,” said Silverii. “The results of the 2018 elections and this new poll send a clear message that Cory Gardner’s time is running out.”

ADAPT Crashes Gardner Fundraiser–And Gets A Photo-Op

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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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Party Time! Gardner’s PAC Hosts His Annual Xmas Party Tonight At The Brown Palace

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senator Cory Gardner Xmas party w/ State Rep. Bob Rankin

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s annual Christmas party will take place at the historic Brown Palace Hotel in Denver this evening. The annual event is officially hosted by Project West PAC, a leadership political action committee chaired by Gardner.

The gathering routinely attracts many of the most prominent Republicans in the state. Last year’s attendees included Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, GOP party chair Jeff Hays, gubernatorial hopeful Doug Robinson and many others.

Gardner Xmas party invite commentsThis year, the PAC emailed invitations to numerous local party activists, some of whom weren’t sure if the email was legitimate.

Gardner himself was unable to attend last year’s party; he was stuck in D.C. helping to ensure that President Trumps massive tax cut bill passed the Senate. Secretary of State Wayne Williams filled in as host, while Gardner delivered a remote video message to his guests.

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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.

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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.

Gardner Silent As Other GOP Senators Rage About ‘Guilty’ Saudi Prince

(Life comes at you fast – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

After a CIA briefing today on the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Politico posted a piece headlined, “Republicans rage at ‘guilty’ Saudi crown prince.”

But one senator who wasn’t in a rage was Colorado’s Cory Gardner, who made this comment last week when asked about the CIA’s reported conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about the plot to kill Khashoggi:

GARDNER: ““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.”

Republicans who attended today’s CIA briefing clearly disagree with Gardner, as Politico reported today:

A CIA briefing on Tuesday left senators raging at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with Sen. Bob Corker declaring a jury would find him “guilty” of murdering journalist Jamal Kashoggi and Sen. Lindsey Graham asserting the Trump administration must be “willfully blind” not to hold MBS, as he his known, accountable for the killing of Khashoggi.

The unbridled anger toward MBS after a meeting between top Senate leaders and CIA Director Gina Haspel suggests that the chamber will move swiftly to punish the Saudi regime in the coming days. Republican senators in particularly were biting in their assessments of both MBS and the Trump administration, which has declined to assert that the Saudi prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey in October.

Corker (R-Tenn.), the Senate Foreign Relations chairman, said that there is “zero question that the crown prince directed the murder.”

It’s not known if Gardner attended the CIA briefing, and his office didn’t issue a comment on the CIA’s Khashoggi briefing.

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

Gardner won’t return calls from the Colorado Times Recorder seeking to know why he doubts the CIA’s conclusion.

Gardner was commenting on other matters today. Shortly after Corker and Graham made their comments, Gardner tweeted:

“I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation w/ @SenDougJones to ensure student veterans receive every penny they’re owed,” tweeted Gardner. “The @DeptVetAffairs made a mistake and didn’t pay student veterans the money they’re entitled to for the semester, it’s unacceptable and must be fixed immediately.”

Another tweet addressed the boy from the northern Colorado town of Severence, who led a campaign to legalize snowball fights, which had been banned.

Gardner: “All it takes is one person with a dream (and some snow) to make something happen. To the people of Severance CO, enjoy your town’s first ~legal~ snowball fight!”

Briefing Tomorrow Could Give Gardner Chance To Confirm Doubts About Khashoggi Murder

(promoted by Colorado Pols)

Jamal Khashoggi.

CIA Director Gina Haspel will brief U.S. Senate “committee leaders” Tuesday, likely giving U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) the chance to confirm his doubts about the CIA’s reported conclusion that Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about the plot to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Last week, appearing on conservative talk radio, Gardner questioned the CIA’s position:

“Well, I would be careful of what the CIA is being accused of saying,” Gardner told KDMT radio host Jimmy Sengenberger Nov. 29. “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’s comment turned heads because it reflected Trump’s stance on the Khashoggi murder, apparently making Gardner and Trump the only prominent Washington politicians who are skeptical of the reported conclusion of the CIA.

Even Secretary of State James Mattis, who said there was “no smoking gun” connecting the prince to the murder, refused to cast doubt directly on the CIA’s reported conclusion.

CNN reported Nov. 29

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.”

Politico’s Burgess Everett reported today:

The spy chief will meet with top leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to a source familiar with the matter. The meeting comes ahead of a scheduled vote on whether the Senate will vote to pull support for the civil war in Yemen.

The number of attendees at the briefing could grow given the concern among both parties about Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey earlier this year. [emphasis added]

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week failed to address concerns by senators, who demanded Haspel appear on Capitol Hill. The Senate then voted to advance the measure curtailing U.S. support for Saudi forces in Yemen, setting up critical procedural votes that could occur later this week or early next.

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.

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.

(more…)

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.