Get More Smarter on Friday (June 14)

“Father’s Day” is on Sunday, so make sure to buy some wrenches or something. 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…

► Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) have both qualified for the first round of debates for 2020 Presidential hopefuls. As Colorado Public Radio reports:

Hickenlooper and Bennet will appear either June 26 or 27 in Miami. Each night will feature 10 candidates, chosen at random, making their case why they should be the nominee to take on President Donald Trump.

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was the most high-profile candidate left off the list. He failed to reach the party’s polling or grassroots fundraising thresholds.

Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam were among the others who missed the threshold for the debate.

According to the candidate drawing that took place today, Benkenlooper will share the stage in one of the debates with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris, and former Vice President Joe Biden.

 

► President Trump and his supporters are furiously trying to walk back comments Trump made to ABC News earlier this week in which he said that he would accept intelligence on political opponents from foreign governments and likely would not alert the FBI to such an approach (which is very clearly a federal crime). From Politico:

President Donald Trump on Friday tried again to rectify the mess he made by saying he would likely accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign entity, going on “Fox & Friends” to clean up the comments.

Trump insisted during a meandering 50-minute interview on the network that “of course” he would alert the FBI in such a case, but only after reviewing it first, “because if you don’t look at it, you won’t know it’s bad.”…

…Remarkably, Trump also asserted on Friday that he didn’t foresee that issue arising. “I don’t think anybody would present me with anything because they know how much I love the country,” he said, despite well-documented attempts by Russian nationals to do just that during the 2016 election.

As Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post, no amount of spin from Trump can fix this mess:

The key to the ABC interview is that even though we now understand these full dimensions — now that we understand that this effort was a wide-ranging criminal scheme designed to harm our democracy and country — Trump has confirmed that he would happily profit from such an effort again, and wouldn’t alert law enforcement about it.

This is what Trump’s spinners are trying to make disappear when they falsely claim that Trump actually said he would report another offer of help to the FBI.

Law enforcement officials say that Trump’s statements about accepting foreign election interference have all but smashed months of work by federal agencies to prevent this very problem.

Trump’s comments also prompted Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub to issue a very direct statement on Thursday warning against candidates accepting help from foreign governments. “I would not have thought that I needed to say this,” said Weintraub.

 

 President Trump is pointing his stubby fingers at Iran in the wake of reports of new attacks on oil tankers. From the New York Times:

President Trump said on Friday that there was no doubt that Iran was behind the explosions that crippled two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week and warned Tehran not to try to close the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit point for the world’s oil supplies.

“Well, Iran did do it,” the president said in a telephone interview on “Fox & Friends” in his first comments since the ships were damaged. “You know they did it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s got essentially Iran written all over it.”

The president was referring to video footage released by the United States military that it said showed an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrol boat pulling alongside one of the stricken ships several hours after the first explosion and removing an unexploded limpet mine in broad daylight…

…Iran dismissed allegations of its involvement, characterizing them as American propaganda intended to provoke a conflict.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Trump Says He’d Accept Foreign Help with Re-Election

UPDATE #2: Gardner speaks…sort of. From Politico:

Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), one of the most vulnerable senators in the 2020 cycle, said foreign opposition “should be turned over to the FBI, plain and simple.”

Perhaps there is more to come from Gardner, but you probably noticed that he didn’t actually say anything about Trump’s comments. He isn’t alone, as Politico noted later:

Still, most stopped short of calling out Trump by name despite some private anger over the president’s comments. Republicans seemed to view the firestorm as a temporary one that will pass given Trump’s penchant for changing the media narrative.

There are two parts to this question for other elected officials, particularly Republicans: 1) Would you inform the FBI about information you received from foreign countries about a political opponent, and 2) What do you think about President Trump’s comments that he would accept politically-helpful information from a foreign government?

—–

UPDATE: Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) regularly boasts about his frequent communication with Trump. So what does Gardner have to say about this? Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis tried to find out:

But not all Republican Senators are avoiding the subject:

—–

President Trump

I’m not “not listening.”

President Trump sat down for an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News on Wednesday and candidly admitted that not only would he accept foreign help in his 2020 re-election campaign — but he probably wouldn’t even tell the FBI about those interactions:

President Donald Trump may not alert the FBI if foreign governments offered damaging information against his 2020 rivals during the upcoming presidential race, he said, despite the deluge of investigations stemming from his campaign’s interactions with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

Later in the interview, Stephanopoulos brought up FBI Director Christopher Wray’s warning that anyone who received incriminating information from a foreign government should immediately contact the FBI. As James Hohmann recaps for the Washington Post:

Trump said that he would “want to hear” whatever information a foreigner was offering and that accepting compromising information about a challenger does not count as foreign interference. “The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it,” he said. “When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it. They always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

Trump added: “You don’t call the FBI. … Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.”

In response to rebukes, including from Republicans, Trump claimed in the summer of 2016 that he had been joking when he encouraged Russia to hack his opponent’s emails. Watch last night’s clip, and you’ll see that Trump is clearly not joking about welcoming dirt from foreigners. Once again, this puts him crosswise with the FBI.

After the ABC News interview aired, Trump seemed to belatedly understand the problem with these statements and is now furiously trying to spin his own remarks in a different light. As Stephen Collinson writes for CNN:

President Donald Trump threw up a smokescreen of deflection and confusing counter attacks Thursday as a furor mounted over his staggering comment that he would be open to dirt dug up on his 2020 opponents by foreign powers such as Russia or China.

The President even implied — clearly erroneously — that he had been merely referring to the content of his conversations with foreign dignitaries such as the Queen of England and Prince Charles when he made the remark in an ABC News interview.

Even in a presidency that long ago burned through all conceivable superlatives, Trump’s statement was a stunner…

…This was the President of the United States — the man charged with protecting the Constitution, American democracy and the Western world — sitting at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, saying he would accept damaging information from Russia and China on his 2020 Democratic foe. [Pols emphasis]

It is a federal crime in the United States for a political candidate to accept money (or anything of value) from foreign governments or citizens for the purposes of winning an election.

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Trump’s Tariff Cave: Thanks For Nothing, Cory Gardner

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

While President Donald Trump and the conservative mediasphere celebrate their “big win” in high-stakes negotiations with Mexico under the threat of punitive sanctions to reduce undocumented immigration into the United States via that country, the New York Times was obliged to pop the bubble:

The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, [Pols emphasis] according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations.

Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said.

The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.

It’s become a distinct patten in the Trump administration: when facing defeat on a high-stakes policy gambit, Trump simply moves the goalposts to a location from which he can claim victory. Can’t replace Obamacare? At least we messed it up good! North Korea still firing off missiles? Hey, at least they’re not testing nukes! So it makes perfect sense that with the deadline to make good on his threats or fold rapidly approaching, Trump decided the concessions he already had won from Mexico were enough to stand down his threat of tariffs starting Monday.

Obviously, the revelation that Trump didn’t actually win new concessions in this latest round of drama undercuts the sense of triumph this was all supposed to build up to. We’re not completely sure how this was going to play out in the long term–would it have meant Trump was done demonizing immigrants, having solved the issue once and for all? That seems hard to imagine. In this respect, the news that Friday’s “last-minute deal” was a sham could actually help Republicans stay on their anti-immigrant message.

As for Sen. Cory Gardner? Once again Gardner has exhibited precisely zero leadership on the issue dominating the past week of nationwide news headlines. Gardner was one of the last Republicans who claimed to oppose the tariffs to dissent publicly before Trump announced that the tariffs would not be imposed. Gardner hasn’t commented publicly since the announcement that we’ve seen, but we’re not sure what he should say. If Gardner acknowledges reality and thanks the President for caving, the GOP base will be outraged. But if Gardner tries to validate Trump’s fictional pretense of a deal, everybody who knows the facts will laugh at him.

The sole piece of good news here that everybody can agree on is that there will be no sudden tariffs on billions of dollars of goods starting Monday. That’s a relief for everyone, though it comes no thanks to Trump, Gardner, or anyone with an (R) after their name. A relatively painless end to another self-inflicted crisis does not leave voters with anything to celebrate.

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Cory Gardner on the Ass-End of History Once Again

Never fear, Cory Gardner is here!

(To get the full multimedia effect of this blog post, we suggest listening to “Ride of the Valkyries” in the background as you read).

President Trump’s threat to impose new tariffs on Mexico — which are widely considered to be an economic disaster waiting to happen — become reality on Monday. Naturally, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) boldly took action

…on Friday.

As Politico reports:

Gardner is raising the alarm about Donald Trump’s tariff threat just three days before the president’s proposed penalties against Mexican imports take effect.

The Colorado Republican distributed a letter to his Republican colleagues on Friday afternoon warning “current and proposed tariffs would negate all the economic benefits of tax reform” as Trump prepares to slap a new 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods that could increase to as much as 25 percent. The president has said those levies would go into effect on Monday without border reforms from Mexico aimed at stopping illegal immigration to the United States…

…Gardner’s missive comes as the GOP broadly frets about the effects the tariffs could have on the American economy and their constituents. Several Republican senators are warning the president they would vote to overturn the new levies, though Gardner has not explicitly said he would go that far. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner’s letter to Republican colleagues has all the political power of a letter-to-the-editor in a small town newspaper.

Whatever ends up happening with Trump’s Mexico tariff threat, the outcome will have absolutely nothing to do with Cory Gardner. And that’s exactly how Gardner likes it.

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Gardner Tiptoes Around Trump Tariff Threats

UPDATE #2: Whatever he’s doing If Cory Gardner is doing anything to stop Trump’s tariffs, it ain’t working. From Politico:

The White House pledged on Thursday to charge ahead on tariffs on Mexico, saying the U.S. position “has not changed” after officials met for a second day to address the steady flow of Central American migrants trying to enter the United States.

Talks between Mexican and U.S. officials at the White House wrapped up without resolution. Several key officials in the administration were unavailable for negotiations. President Donald Trump was in France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, and both Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were on the road.

It would sure seem like Sen. Gardner is about to get another painful wedgie.

—–

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

UPDATE: Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports today on Colorado businesses bracing for the potential tariffs…and guess who isn’t commenting?

And all eyes are on Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, named the Senate’s most vulnerable Republican for the 2020 elections.

Gardner told Bloomberg News Monday that tariffs are “a bad idea, plain and simple.” His office declined to comment about whether his opposition would include any efforts to overturn the President’s authority under IEEPA. [Pols emphasis]

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) did respond to Goodland, as did House Members such as Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez).

—–

President Trump
today renewed his threat to place new tariffs on Mexico if America’s southern neighbor doesn’t accede to his demands on immigration — while also smacking Republican Senators for their opposition to his pressure campaign. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump said Thursday that talks with Mexico over new measures to block migrants from entering the United States were making headway, but he renewed his threat to impose a punitive import tax on Mexican goods unless an agreement was reached before Monday.

“Something pretty dramatic could happen,” the president said, referring to the talks with Mexican diplomats, which are scheduled to continue Thursday in Washington. “We’ve told Mexico the tariffs go on. And I mean it, too.”

Trump dismissed Republican senators who have threatened to block his tariff plans, saying they “have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to tariffs.”[Pols emphasis]

Trump is threatening to impose a 5 percent tariff on all goods imported from Mexico starting June 10; the tariff would increase by 5 percentage points every month until it reaches 25% on October 1.

Earlier this week Senate Republicans began to (meekly) push back against Trump’s threats, suggesting that the Senate could pass legislation to block the tariffs; unnamed sources even offered that the GOP had enough support to override a potential Trump veto of a Senate blocking maneuver. Economists are warning that a new import tax on Mexico could cost the United States 400,000 jobs, but even with numbers on their side, Senate Republicans are treading very carefully so as not to anger the Big Orange Guy.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) on Wednesday

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) made a brief appearance on Wednesday in an interview with Zack Guzman and Alexis Keenan of Yahoo Finance. Gardner predicted that this tariff kerfuffle would be “resolved over the next 48 to 72 hours,” though in typical Gardner fashion, he was careful to avoid any specifics:

KEENAN: Where do you stand on [tariffs] and how much support do you have from fellow GOP members who also have said that they don’t necessarily support this action perhaps against Mexico?

GARDNER: Well, look, if you look at Colorado, a lot of those top exports are agriculture — agriculture-based — whether that’s corn, whether that’s beef, whether that’s potatoes. I don’t think there’s much support at all for tariffs overall, specifically a tariff on Mexico, and goods from Mexico. So, I think that if this were to come to a vote, there wouldn’t be much, at all, support, out of the United States Senate for a tariff. [Pols emphasis]

GUZMAN: Would that be true even if you needed President Trump’s signature on the state’s act [on marijuana legalization] to get it through as well, if push came to shove?

GARDNER: Well, look, I think they are two totally mutually exclusive issues, but tariffs are bad policy, and I don’t think you can confuse the two issues and I don’t think you can politicize the two issues together. But tariffs are bad policy. They are a tax on the American consumer, and they affect disproportionately the lowest-income earners across the country who rely more on imported goods. So, this is something that I think is bad policy, and I think you’ll see this issue resolved over the next 48 to 72 hours. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner’s prediction is that some sort of deal is reached with Mexico by late Saturday, less than two days before the new tariff is scheduled to take effect. Calling tariffs “bad policy” has been Gardner’s standard response on this issue — when reporters can actually find him — but Gardner continues to avoid saying whether he himself would support a move by the Senate to block Trump’s tariffs from taking effect. History has shown that Gardner will stand with Trump if forced to take a side, which is no doubt why he sticks to vagaries on the tariff issue.

It’s also worth noting once again that while Gardner goes out of his way to avoid talking to Colorado media outlets, he’s plenty cooperative with people he chooses to speak with:

GUZMAN: Alright, Senator Cory Gardner. Thank you so much for joining us and for calling us twice — really appreciate it.

“Calling us twice.”

This is Cory Gardner.

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Senate Republicans Warn Trump On Mexico Tariffs…But Gardner?

Senator Cory Gardner tends to stand behind President Trump no matter what.

Senate Republicans are finally, sorta, pushing back against President Trump amid threats to impose new tariffs on Mexico. As the Washington Post reports:

Republican senators warned Trump administration officials Tuesday they were prepared to block the president’s effort to impose tariffs on Mexican imports, promising what would be GOP lawmakers’ most brazen defiance of the president since he took office.

During a closed-door lunch, at least a half-dozen senators spoke in opposition to the tariffs, while no one spoke in support, according to multiple people present who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

Senators told officials from the White House and Department of Justice that there could be a disapproval vote if Trump moves forward — and this time, unlike with an earlier disapproval resolution, opponents of Trump’s tariffs could have enough support to override a veto…[Pols emphasis]

…The lunch meeting occurred just hours after Trump, during a news conference in London, reiterated his intention to impose the tariffs next week and said it would be “foolish” for Republican senators to try to stop him. The 5 percent tariffs on all Mexican goods, rising to 25 percent over time, are aimed at trying to force Mexico to take action to stop the tide of Central American migrants seeking entry into the United states.

President Trump issued the first veto of his Presidency in March when he rejected a Congressional resolution opposing his “emergency declaration” for border wall money. The Senate didn’t have the votes to override that veto, with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) among the Republicans who stood behind Trump.

Gardner hasn’t said much about Trump’s tariff binge in 2019 (to be completely accurate, Gardner hasn’t said much about anything in a long time), though Bloomberg News recently got him on the record saying tariffs against Mexico are “a bad idea, plain and simple.” These broad words from Gardner are completely worthless, of course; calling tariffs “a bad idea” is as meaningless as Gardner opining on whether he likes meatloaf. Gardner said repeatedly that he opposed Trump’s emergency declaration before he eventually flipped in support — a decision that prompted the Denver Post to un-endorse the Yuma Republican in a blistering March editorial.

Given Gardner’s flip-flopping history, there’s no real way to know if he is among the Senate Republicans who are firmly in the “no tariffs” camp. This is one of those questions Gardner needs to be asked very specifically: Would you vote to override a Trump veto of a Senate resolution of disapproval?

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Get More Smarter on Monday (June 3)

Today is Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. 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…

► Ah, diplomacy. President Trump is on a brief visit to Europe this week, with the main focus being a stop in England so that he can have tea with the Queen and insult a bunch of Brits. From the Washington Post:

President Trump met Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on Monday, beginning three days of royal feting and carefully calibrated diplomacy. The royals had lunch and a tea with Trump. They showed him old paintings of George Washington and an honor guard in scarlet tunics.

But first, Trump mocked the relatively popular London mayor as a “stone cold loser” — and short in stature. And then Trump complained at length on Twitter about CNN news coverage of his trip, which had only just begun. [Pols emphasis]

Headline from The Washington Post (6/3/19)

Before he had even landed in England, Trump was already tossing barbs at the Royal Family; in an interview with the Sun, Trump called Megan Markle “nasty” in response to remarks Markle made long before she became Duchess of Sussex. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Markle called Trump “misogynistic” and “divisive” — descriptions that Trump essentially affirmed in his comments to the Sun.

It’s no wonder that 2 in 3 Britons have unfavorable unfavourable opinions of Trump. Large anti-Trump demonstrations are planned for Tuesday, and the Trump baby balloon (see image at right) is expected to make another appearance.

 

Congress is back in session after a long Memorial Day weekend. As the New York Times reports, budget and debt issues loom large for Congressional leaders:

A Congress that has struggled all year to legislate returned Monday to face two urgent deadlines that, if not met, could lead to a disastrous default on the federal debt and to automatic spending cuts that would sweep like a scythe through the military, federal health care and other popular programs.

In October or early November, fiscal analysts predict that the Treasury will run out of room to borrow money to keep the government operating, a catastrophe that could damage the stability of the United States economy and force the government to default on its debt.

That is about the same time that back-to-back budget deals would expire and strict spending caps enacted in 2011 would come back into force, automatically cutting military and domestic spending across the board by $125 billion. Lawmakers say they need to act now, before recesses in July and August, to avert a crisis. But so far, a divided Congress has found even usually easy things hard — like passing disaster relief…

“We don’t have a lot of people in government right now who know how to govern or who want to govern,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky and the chairman of the House Budget Committee. [Pols emphasis]

As CNN notes, outgoing White House economist Kevin Hassett says that tariffs and deficits are bad for America…which probably explains why Hassett is the “outgoing” White House economist.

Elsewhere, Colorado Public Radio looks at the damage to Colorado businesses from Trump’s economic policies.

 

The recall effort targeting Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora) is full of more shady characters than a Quentin Tarantino flick.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Caption This Photo: Cory Takes Taiwan!

Courtesy Taiwan’s Central News Agency, there’s Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado on a tour of the capital city of Taipei along with President Tsai Ing-wen this weekend. Sen. Gardner is currently on a junket to East Asia in his role as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy. No word yet on whether this trip includes a stop to visit Gardner’s old buddy Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who may in all fairness have been too busy with extrajudicial killings and rape jokes to roll out the welcome mat.

In any event, Sen. Gardner seems to have something interesting to say to the President of Taiwan–and only you, gentle reader, can tell us what it is! We do know it’s about (gestures) that big.

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Mueller: If the President Did Not Commit a Crime, We Would Have Said So

UPDATE: Rep. Diana DeGette responds:

—–

Robert Mueller

Special counsel Robert Mueller today offered his first public comments on his investigation into President Trump and his campaign for President in 2016. Mueller declined to get into many specifics about the work of the special counsel’s office, but what he did not say may be more consequential than anything else, as the New York Times reports:

[Mueller] declined to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice in his first public characterization of his two-year-long investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mr. Mueller said, reading from prepared notes behind a lectern at the Justice Department. “We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.” [Pols emphasis]

Mueller did not take questions from reporters at an event in which he also announced that he is closing his office and resigning from the Justice Department to return to a private life. But before he finished speaking, Mueller offered some not-so-subtle suggestions about what happens next:

He also said that while Justice Department policy prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime, the Constitution provides for another process to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing — a clear reference to the ability of Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. [Pols emphasis]

Although his remarks closely matched statements contained in his nearly 400-page report, Mr. Mueller’s portrayal of Mr. Trump’s actions was not as benign as Attorney General William P. Barr’s characterizations. While Mr. Barr has seemed to question why the special counsel investigated the president’s behavior, Mr. Mueller stressed the gravity of that inquiry.

“When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Mr. Mueller also stressed that the evidence his team uncovered of Russia’s effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election was a threat to the nation’s political system and “deserves the attention of every American.”

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.

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Trump to Bypass Congress on $8 Billion Arms Deal

Don’t hold your breath expecting Sen. Cory Gardner to do anything other than stand behind Trump’s latest effort to bypass Congress.

As the Washington Post reports:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified lawmakers Friday that President Trump is invoking his emergency authority to sidestep Congress and complete 22 arms deals worth approximately $8 billion that would benefit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries, despite lawmakers’ objections to the transactions. [Pols emphasis]

Both Republicans and Democrats urged the Trump administration this week not to take the rare step of declaring an emergency to push through arms deals that lawmakers have blocked, including a controversial sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia that some lawmakers fear may be used against civilians in the war-torn country of Yemen.

This move by President Trump is another direct effort to circumvent the authority of Congress, which is supposed to be able to approve or reject the sale of weapons to other countries. This is particularly egregious when you remember that both the House and the Senate voted this year to end U.S. support in the civil war in Yemen — a resolution that Trump quickly vetoed. Here’s more from Vox.com:

There is a provision in a weapons export law allowing the executive branch to sell arms without congressional sign-off if “an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States.” Administrations rarely invoke it, experts say, mainly because of how controversial it is and the high bar required to claim a dire situation exists.

President George W. Bush used the provision in 2006 to send precision-guided weapons to Israel during the Israel-Hezbollah July War, but that was last time an administration took advantage of the loophole.

President Donald Trump likely will claim that Saudi Arabia and the UAE need new munitions because they face repeated attacks from Houthi rebels. However, the Yemen war has raged since 2015, with the US supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s side. It’s jarring now to say that an emergency exists after all this time, especially when the US previously sold weapons to the Saudis through the normal process.

There’s also the fact that introducing more weapons to the war will likely worsen a catastrophic situation.

We’ll use this space to remind you that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Let the “national emergency” waffling begin anew.

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White House, Senate GOP Can’t Square Talking Points

Oh, this sign has always been there!

White House officials are still chirping about President Trump’s temper tantrum in lieu of a scheduled meeting with Congressional leaders about legislation to advance much-needed infrastructure improvements. As Politico reports, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is spinning quite the load of crap:

The White House on Thursday denied that President Donald Trump’s eruption one day earlier at a meeting with Democratic leaders was a pre-planned stunt, rebuffing lawmakers’ accusations that the president was trying to bow out of serious infrastructure negotiations…[Pols emphasis]

…Senior administration officials are insisting that the Rose Garden gathering was impromptu, spurred by Trump’s discovery of Pelosi’s comments, which one official said both Sanders and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney alerted him to.

But Democrats who were at the meeting argued Thursday it’s obvious that Trump’s outburst was planned.

The idea that Trump’s tirade was a spontaneous reaction to comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier in the morning is impossible to square with images from Trump’s Rose Garden fist-shaking appearance right after he walked out of the infrastructure meeting. As multiple media outlets have noted, including CNN’s Jake Tapper, you can’t seriously claim spontaneity when you have a professionally printed sign on the front of your podium.

Meanwhile, Sanders is also trying to convey that it is Democrats, and not President Trump, who are incapable of walking and chewing gun at the same time:

“So far what we’ve seen from the Democrats in Congress, Alisyn, is that they are incapable of doing anything other than investigating this president,” Sanders told host Alisyn Camerota in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”

Time for another coffee break?

But as we see in a separate story from Politico, Senate Republicans didn’t get the memo on these talking points:

Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) called on the Senate Wednesday to do more than confirm nominations and lambasted Congress for its lack of legislative accomplishments…

“We have done nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada,” Kennedy said. [Pols emphasis]

Republican Senators acknowledge that the upper chamber is accomplishing very little. Now that President Trump is refusing to negotiate with Democrats on any issue, this inactivity will only be amplified.

House Democrats, meanwhile, have already passed major legislation on issues such as campaign finance and ethics reform; health care access and lower prescription drug costs; landmark new anti-discrimination protections; and funding for disaster relief that President Trump inexplicably opposes.

Even if the GOP eventually gets on the same page on these talking points, Republican rhetoric won’t change reality. The difference in accomplishments between Democrats and Republicans will be plenty clear for voters in 2020.

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President Trump Channels His Inner Ernie

There is a classic Sesame Street story featuring Bert & Ernie (also explored in the vaguely titled children’s book “The Ernie & Bert Book“), in which Ernie explains to Bert that he must wear a pot on his head because Bert’s cowboy hat is now home to Ernie’s pet fish. This problem began when Ernie accidentally broke a cookie jar; Ernie placed the now-homeless cookies in the sugar bowl, which meant that he had to move the sugar to a flowerpot, which forced him to put the flower in a milk bottle, and so on and so forth.

 

What does this have to do with politics, you might ask? This is basically what President Trump is doing as a result of his obsession with placing massive tariffs on Chinese exports. As the Washington Post reports, Trump is bending to pressure to create economic bailouts for farmers that are only necessary because of the very policies the White House enacted in the first place:

President Trump on Tuesday rushed to placate furious farmers and Senate Republicans about his escalating trade war with China, with lawmakers now considering a package of fresh bailout funds to quell a rebellion in agricultural states.

The fresh uproar came as farmers, lawmakers, business executives, and global investors are looking to Trump for clues on how far he intends to take the trade showdown with China. On Monday, Trump suggested the standoff could last years and lead to structural changes in the global economy…

China has responded in two ways, both by trying to negotiate with him to stop the tariffs and by imposing import penalties on U.S. exports like soybeans and other items. This has led U.S. farmers to complain they are being caught in the middle of the standoff, putting pressure on lawmakers to intervene.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday were frenetically trying to deal with complaints from powerful farm groups. [Pols emphasis]

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner

Farmers in Colorado and across the country have been struggling during the Trump administration. The big Trump tax cut of late 2017 actually raised taxes for many farm families, and small and midsize farms are having trouble gaining access to credit from banks. Thus far in 2019, the Trump administration response to these financial pressures has been to pressure economists at the Agricultural Department to stop producing data and reports showing that farmers are getting crushed.

Unsurprisingly, messing around with spreadsheets has not made farmers feel any better. As this story from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel explains, farmers are reporting a rise in suicides as a direct result of the economic harm being inflicted upon them by Trump’s tariffs.

Here in Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is talking more about mythical socialism threats than the very real harm being inflicted on farmers. Gardner has said publicly that he doesn’t support Trump’s tariffs, but he won’t do anything to challenge the President beyond issuing the occasional statement of disapproval (after all, Gardner was one of the first big Republican names to officially endorse Trump’s re-election campaign).

As Paul Krugman recently opined for the New York Times, “Trump’s biggest supporters are his biggest victims.” That sentence works just as well if you replace “Trump” with “Gardner.”

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 9)

The Colorado Avalanche are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a controversial loss in Game 7 on Wednesday, but the Denver Nuggets can advance to the Western Conference Finals with a win tonight in Portland. It’s time “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…

► If there’s one thing you can count on from President Trump (other than lots of Tweeting), it’s inconsistency. As CNN reports:

Trump reversed course again Thursday that he will leave it up to Attorney General William Barr as to whether special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress.

“I’m going to leave that up to our very great attorney general. He’ll make a decision on that,” Trump said, adding that Mueller’s report has come out and it is done.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted, “Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!” But an administration official told CNN’s Jim Acosta that Trump was merely “expressing his opinion,” and was not necessarily expressing intent to block Mueller’s testimony.

 

► Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora), whose district includes the Highlands Ranch STEM school that was the scene of a shooting earlier this week, is introducing new gun safety legislation. From the Aurora Sentinel:

A proposed federal law from Aurora Democratic Congressman Jason Crow would ban immediate, over-the-counter sales of rifles and shotguns to buyers in states where they do not live.

Crow said the law closes a loophole “that allows purchasers to immediately obtain rifles and shotguns, but not handguns, when traveling out-of state.”…

…The proposed same-day gun legislation comes nearly a month after Sol Pais, a Florida woman traveled to Colorado, bought a shotgun and killed herself, as police across the Front Range sought her for unspecified threats to local schools the FBI deemed as credible. Law enforcement said she was “infatuated” with the Columbine High School shooting. She traveled to Colorado just days before the 20th anniversary of the shooting.

The threats caused most Front Range schools to cancel school as law enforcement searched for Pais.

Crow says this legislation would have prevented Pais from immediately purchasing a shotgun upon her arrival in Colorado.

 

► The Colorado Independent reports on Wednesday’s vote in the House Judiciary Committee to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt:

The committee voted 24-16 along party lines to approve a resolution recommending that the full U.S. House find Barr in contempt for his refusal to comply with a committee subpoena seeking an unredacted copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election…

…Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) said that, given the threats to U.S. democracy from a foreign adversary that were revealed in the Mueller report, he was “at a loss for understanding” why his GOP colleagues wouldn’t join Democrats’ efforts to secure the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. “We have no choice but to move forward with a contempt citation,” he said.

Neguse and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) both sit on the House Judiciary Committee. Buck was a ‘NO’ vote, urging his colleagues to “move on and not attack the attorney general in this way.”

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that there may be more contempt charges in the near future for Trump associates who persist in efforts to stonewall Congress.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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This is Not What Totally Innocent People Do

Would a guilty person just sit in a chair like this?

As the Washington Post reports:

The White House formally asserted executive privilege over special counsel Robert S Mueller III’s report Wednesday, President Trump’s first use of the executive authority in the latest confrontation with Congress…

…The White House assertion of privilege represents the latest collision between Trump and House Democrats, who have seen their investigations of the president blocked at every turn.

“This decision represents a clear escalation in the Trump administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’s constitutionally mandated duties,” Nadler said, later adding: “As a co-equal branch of government, we must have access to the materials that we need to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities in a manner consistent with past precedent.”

The White House move came shortly before the House Judiciary Committee planned to vote to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt for failing to provide the full Mueller report.

Today’s move comes one day after the White House asserted “executive privilege” to block a subpoena for written records from former White House counsel Don McGahn. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also recently refused to accede to Congressional demands to turn over President Trump’s tax returns, setting up a likely legal battle over the matter.

But, you know, “case closed” and all that.

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McConnell Declares “Case Closed” on Trump Investigations

“It’s sort of like Richard Nixon saying, ‘Let’s move on,’ at the height of the investigation of his wrongdoing. Of course he wants to move on. He wants to cover up. He wants to silence.”

— Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, responding to McConnell’s speech on Tuesday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor today to declare that there is nothing to see regarding investigations into President Trump and that we should all just move along thank you very much. As the Washington Post reports:

McConnell on Tuesday laid out his case to move on from investigations into President Trump and his 2016 campaign, calling the matter “case closed” even as Democrats intensify their probes into Trump’s conduct.

McConnell (R-Ky.), who faces reelection next year, argued that Democrats are continuing to re-litigate an election result that is now more than two years old — deriding it as a “Groundhog Day spectacle” — and insisted in a floor speech Tuesday morning that the matter was finished and that lawmakers should now focus on legislation.

“Remember, Russia set out to sow discord, to create chaos in American politics, and undermine confidence in our democracy,” McConnell said. “But on that front, given the left’s total fixation on delegitimizing the president — the president Americans chose and shooting any messenger who tells them inconvenient truths, I’m afraid the Russians hardly needed to lift a finger.”

Declaring “case closed,” McConnell added: “This ought to be good news for everyone but my Democratic colleagues seem to be publicly working through the five stages of grief.”

It is more than a little ridiculous for McConnell to be pretending to be worried now about Russian interference in American politics:

So…yeah. McConnell’s speech signals a new attempt by Republicans to pretend that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Trump just doesn’t matter, even as Congressional Democrats seek out more information about the redacted Mueller report and related whitewashing from Attorney General William Barr.

We know where Sen. Cory Gardner stands, literally and figuratively.

Last weekend, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) even suggested that Trump’s refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas and other information requests is really just a “negotiating position,” as though it is totally normal for the White House to stonewall Congress at every turn. This is, of course, not at all acceptable, and past comments from Gardner show his shift on the issue as he continues his full-throated defense of President Trump. Gardner was all about subpoenas for solar company Solyndra in 2011, and here he is during a tele-town hall event in March 2017:

I think that we have to have testimony from anybody who is engaged proper. The committee has, I believe, subpoena power if that needs to be used. They ought to use it if somebody’s refusing testimony. [Pols emphasis] I would hope that people would come in of their own volition and free will to testify and provide a comment during the investigation.

Despite this blustering from Republicans, Democrats are still moving ahead with what is very much an ongoing investigation. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee — which includes Colorado Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) —  will vote to hold Barr in contempt for ignoring a House subpoena to turn over the unredacted Mueller report (Barr also refused to testify in front of a House committee last week).

Separately, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin is defying requests from House Democrats to turn over copies of President Trump’s long-hidden tax returns. And in its latest public display of total innocence, the White House today invoked executive privilege in resisting a House subpoena requesting written records from former White House counsel Donald McGahn related to the Mueller investigation.

But there’s nothing to see here. Nothing at all.

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William Barr’s Crash and Burn Singes Cory Gardner Too

AG William Barr, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-ole boys).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, the state’s two senior Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate are calling for the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, as a standoff between Barr and the House over what’s become generally recognized as a brazen cover-up of damning evidence in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian support for Donald Trump in the 2016 elections rapidly escalated this week with Barr’s defensive (and abortive) testimony:

“To see the attorney general of the United States behave not like the leader of the Justice Department, but like the president’s criminal defense lawyer, is shameful,” Bennet said.

Rep. Diana DeGette, another Denver Democrat, made similar criticisms Wednesday, saying all attorneys general must enforce the law evenly and equally. “Attorney General Barr has shown over and over that he is either unwilling or unable to do that when it comes to evaluating the actions of the president and, for that reason alone, he should resign immediately,” DeGette said.

These calls to resign come as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerrold Nadler makes one more attempt to get cooperation from the Justice Department:

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Friday sent his latest offer Attorney General William Barr to try to reach an agreement in his effort to obtain the unredacted special counsel report and the underlying evidence before Nadler moves forward with holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress…

“The Committee is prepared to make every realistic effort to reach an accommodation with the Department,” Nadler wrote in the letter, which was obtained by CNN. “But if the Department persists in its baseless refusal to comply with a validly issued subpoena, the Committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse.”

Barr’s testimony to Congress this week took place just after a major development broke that Special Counsel Mueller had written to Barr to complain that the summary released by Barr “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.” Barr’s answers to questions about this and other aspects of his handling of the report in testimony severely undercut both Barr’s credibility as attorney general and the Trump administration he in appropriately acting as de facto counsel for. Whether an impeachable offense or a political question to resolve in the 2020 elections, it’s clear now that the President knowingly benefited from a foreign intelligence operation, and ordered actions that were in the best case not obstruction of justice only because subordinates refused to carry them out.

Jason Salzman wrote yesterday and Wingerter reports in his story today on Sen. Cory Gardner’s worthless response:

“I think Mueller should testify,” Sen. Cory Gardner, a Yuma Republican, told KOA Newsradio. “I’m fine with that. But I think the (Barr) testimony really revealed what we’ve seen in the (Mueller) report that’s been released and I think it’s important that we focus on the findings of that report.” [Pols emphasis]

The first thing you have to do here is not be driven to distraction by Gardner’s circular rhetoric. Because maddening though it is, it serves a purpose: Gardner isn’t praising Barr as much as doing everything he can to avoid definitive conclusions and downplay the larger scandal. Gardner wants to create a fictional third position where he is against “Russian interference,” but can still back the President against the “revenge majority” Democrats.

It’s not a tenable position. After voting to confirm this attorney general, Gardner has an obligation to state clearly whether he thinks Barr was truthful in his original summary, his defensive pre-release press conference, and this week’s interactions with the House. And Gardner needs to say once and for all whether he believes Trump obstructed justice. Then there should be lots of follow-up questions–about, for example, why the Russians supported Trump for President.

Unless he is willing to give straight answers to these straightforward questions, Gardner’s evasions make him part of the cover-up–and party to the same offenses fellow Coloradans say AG Barr should resign for.

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Gardner: “Mueller Should Testify”

Smile!

(Words, words, words — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Robert Mueller should testify before Congress, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner told KOA radio this morning, putting Gardner at odds with conservatives who think it’s time to end the debate about the special prosecutor’s report.

But, as he did last week in another radio appearance, Gardner continues to downplay or ignore concerns, raised in the wake of the release of the Mueller report, that Trump obstructed justice.

In discussing the possibility of Mueller testifying this morning, Gardner again focused on the Russian interference issues in the special prosecutor’s report without mentioning anything about obstruction:

“I think Mueller should testify. I’m fine with that,” Gardner told KOA host Marty Lenz. “But I think the testimony really revealed what we’ve seen in the report that’s been released. And I think it’s important that we focus on the findings of that report, including making sure we protect our elections from Russian hacking or any other country’s attempts to influence or cause division within our country”

Gardner also commented on Attorney General William Barr’s testimony, without offering specifics.

You know, I think it was good for Bill Barr to come and testify,” said Gardner on air. “I think that was important. But, you know, we’ll see what happens next — if people are going to actually use it and try to come up with a good policy, or are they going to try to drive a partisan divide.  That’s really — I guess — up to the individual temperament of the members.  As far as my actions, I’m going to make sure that we take the report and we safeguard this country.”

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 2)

May Day! Oh, wait, that was yesterday. It’s time “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…

► The editorial board of the Washington Post pulls no punches in blasting Attorney General William Barr over his embarrassing testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Mr. Barr has lit his reputation on fire, and he just added more fuel during his Wednesday testimony before a Senate panel.

Much of the hearing centered on the attorney general’s decision to release a highly misleading representationof the findings of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. In particular, Mr. Barr failed to acknowledge the alarming nature of Mr. Mueller’s analysis on whether President Trump obstructed justice, and he did not explain why the special counsel declined to say whether Mr. Trump was guilty of the charge. This really matters: Given the damning account in Mr. Mueller’s report, what appeared to be keeping the special counsel from accusing the president of criminal acts was not the lack of evidence but the fact that the president cannot be charged under Justice Department rules…

…Mr. Barr’s long history in Washington belies his argument: He should have known how his pre-spinning of the Mueller report would distort the truth of the special counsel’s damning findings to the president’s benefit. He did it anyway.

Several prominent Democrats called on Barr to resign as Attorney General following his horrible day of testimony on Wednesday; CNN takes a detailed look at whether or not Barr lied to Congress.

Barr was supposed to testify today in front of the House Judiciary Committee but didn’t show up. As the New York Times explains:

The House Judiciary Committee convened at 9 a.m. despite the fact that the witness chair — where Attorney General William P. Barr was supposed to sit — was empty. After opening statements from the chairman and ranking Republican, it adjourned.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, the committee’s chairman, gave opening remarks castigating the attorney general and what Democrats are increasingly labeling wholesale obstruction of their inquiries by the Trump administration.

Following the hearing, Nadler indicated that Democrats may proceed with a formal process of holding Barr in contempt for refusing to testify.

 

► With two days left in the 2019 legislative session, Colorado Democrats are working feverishly to finish off several important bills as Republican talking points on obstructionism  implode. A proposal from Gov. Jared Polis to ask voters to increase nicotine taxes took some big steps toward passage on Wednesday. A separate bill designed to improve vaccination rates in Colorado also continues to move forward.

The Colorado School Finance Act is close to receiving final approval, as is legislation to protect Coloradans from surprise medical bills. Another Climate Change bill also passed Wednesday; HB-1261, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado now awaits the Governor’s signature.

 

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) officially announced his candidacy for President this morning. Bennet is the 21st Democrat to join the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

 

► University of Colorado Regents are expected to vote today on whether to officially name dumpster fire Mark Kennedy as the new President of the university system. Kennedy’s candidacy continues to generate poor reviews from lawmakers, former elected officials, and even the editorial board of the Denver Post.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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William Barr Testimony Goes Very, Very Badly

UPDATE: Rep. Diana DeGette calls on Attorney General William Barr to resign.

“The attorney general of the United States is the people’s lawyer, responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws evenly and equally, regardless of anyone’s title or position. Attorney General Barr has shown over and over that he is either unwilling or unable to do that when it comes to evaluating the actions of the president and, for that reason alone, he should resign immediately.”

—–

Attorney General William Barr is testifying today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on matters relating to the Mueller investigation. It has been an absolute disaster for both Barr and President Trump.

As conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin writes for the Washington Post:

Among Barr’s worst moments: Claiming there was a difference between seeking to remove special counsel Robert S. Mueller III for “conflicts” (which never existed), or firing him; claiming, despite the language of Mueller’s letter, that he did not think Mueller found Barr’s four-page letter from March 24 misleading; claiming that he did not release Mueller’s summaries because the entire report had to be released (yet Barr released his own four-page letter, which he refused to characterize as a “summary”); and claiming that Mueller refused to reach a prosecutorial decision (despite the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) guidelines prohibiting prosecution of a sitting president) because of insufficient evidence.

Again and again, the attorney general resorted to word games. He didn’t lie, he now argues, when he told committee members that he was unaware of the Mueller team’s objections because he was referring to the team, not to Mueller. (Isn’t Mueller part of his own team?)…

…“Barr’s testimony has been disgraceful,” constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe tells me.

There will certainly be much more to unpack from Barr’s testimony today. In the meantime…

Michael Tackett of the New York Times:

CNN’s Manu Raju:

Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institute:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) have now called on Barr to resign as Attorney General.

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Damn The Russians, Cory Gardner Stands By His Man

A long-form Politico story out today gives us some of the first detailed answers from Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado about the now-concluded investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections–an investigation that, despite a vigorous attempt by the White House to spin the final report’s conclusions, revealed deeply troubling and quite possibly criminal actions by the Trump administration up to and including President Donald Trump himself.

But where Sen. Mitt Romney in neighboring Utah declared himself “sickened” by the report’s recounting of the administration’s conduct, Cory Gardner remains…if not unshaken, without a doubt still firmly onboard the “Trump Train” despite it all:

“Look, it’s clear there were no merit badges earned at the White House for behavior,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in an interview downtown here. [Pols emphasis] “You have to focus on the heart of this conclusion, which is there is no collusion, no cooperation. That’s where the focus ought to be and how we prepare for the next elections to protect us from Russian intrusion and interference.”

…[B]eyond conceding there are some embarrassing details, Republicans don’t feel the need to create any new space between them and the president. The desire to stay in Trump’s good graces and keep his supporters appears to override any interest in using the episode to appeal to swing voters.

There’s a good argument that the die was cast for Gardner when he endorsed Trump’s re-election in late January, well ahead of the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation. It’s possible that Gardner had some foreknowledge that the report would not recommend an indictment of the President–a decent bet even without inside knowledge given Mueller’s deference to the Justice Department on that question, and the controversially expansive views of then-AG nominee William Barr on presidential power.

As long as the report wasn’t too bad, or was at least properly spun/redacted to minimize the immediate political damage, Gardner made the calculated decision to ride out of aftermath and in so doing retain his GOP base of support. Politically this was still a risky course, since

Democrats believe Gardner is perhaps the most endangered incumbent senator given Democrats’ sweeping wins in Colorado in 2018, Trump’s loss here in 2016 and Gardner’s own narrow victory in 2014, a GOP wave year. But Gardner is showing no signs of distress over having Trump at the top of the ticket…

The story concludes by observing what could be the undoing of Gardner’s delicately balanced position: the massive contradiction between Gardner’s steadfast support for Trump and his equally vociferous complaints about Russian interference in the 2016 election–which Gardner says is “hell-bent on the demise of the West.”

“What we have to move on to is to make sure we are protecting this country’s elections. We have a country [Russia] that is hell-bent on the demise of the West. And we can’t stand for that,” Gardner said. “Some are going to push for impeachment and do everything they can to strike that revenge; we need to protect people in this country.” [Pols emphasis]

Here we have Sen. Gardner conceding again that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections, and that interference was not intended to benefit the United States–what Gardner meant with the “demise of the West” stuff. But by characterizing the “push for impeachment” as “revenge” for the Russian interference Gardner claims to decry, he is establishing the crucial link between the Russian operation against the 2016 elections and the purpose of that operation: electing Donald Trump President of the United States.

Folks, how do you reconcile that contradiction? How do you decry the interference of a foreign government in an American election, yet celebrate the result of that interference? How do you declare that Russia is “hell-bent on the demise of the West” but support the Russian choice to be President of the United States?

The most logical answer is that you can’t. And this is going to backfire mightily.

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Mueller Report Open Thread #1

UPDATE #4: Rep. Diana DeGette’s statement is much more to the point:

“The report released today paints a very different picture than what the president and attorney general had hoped the American people would see. And it’s now more important than ever that Congress be granted access to the full unredacted report immediately.”

—–

UPDATE #3: Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) might be the world’s fastest reader. From the Denver Post:

“I voted for the release of the Mueller report because I value transparency in government and all of my constituents should be able to read the document, firsthand,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, on Twitter. “Now it’s been released and it’s very clear – absolutely no collusion.”

Lamborn’s conclusions came 45 minutes after release of the 448-page report. [Pols emphasis] The report states that investigators did not search for collusion, but rather coordination, between Trump’s former campaign and the Russian government as the latter interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

—–

UPDATE #2: This deserves its own post.

—–

UPDATE: A key portion of the report appears to acknowledge that President Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice, but was prevented from doing so by subordinates who refused to break the law:

That’s pretty far from “exonerating.”

—–

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Attorney General William Barr

The 400-page Mueller Report will be revealed today (in a redacted form) for the first time. This morning, President Trump’s personal attorney Attorney General William Barr held a press conference to discuss the report’s release but also to preemptively defend his client the President.

We don’t yet know what the Mueller Report says, and it will take awhile for everything to be read and digested by news outlets, but here’s Aaron Blake of the Washington Post after Barr’s press conference this morning:

When Attorney General William P. Barr announced he was going to hold a news conference before the release of the Mueller report Thursday, there was instant pushback. How can the media ask questions about a report it hasn’t seen? Would this just be a whole bunch of pre-spin from a man already accused of being too friendly to the president who appointed him?

Barr’s performance did nothing to argue against those allegations.

In a lengthy opening statement, Barr found just about every way possible to say that there was no coordination, cooperation or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also said Trump was right about “no collusion,” expanding the Mueller report’s clearing of Trump to a more nebulous term with little legal significance.

But perhaps more importantly, on obstruction of justice, he seemed to go to bat for Trump personally, offering a sympathetic take on the president’s state of mind and cooperation. [Pols emphasis]

There will no doubt be much more to discuss on this topic as the day progresses.

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“Total Exoneration” Looks Less Exonerating By The Day

TOTAL EXONERATION. Got it?

The New York Times reports that the celebration by Republicans following the release of a letter from Attorney General William Barr on the now-completed investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election may have been more than a little premature:

Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

At stake in the dispute — the first evidence of tension between Mr. Barr and the special counsel’s office — is who shapes the public’s initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. Some members of Mr. Mueller’s team are concerned that, because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel’s findings, Americans’ views will have hardened before the investigation’s conclusions become public…

A debate over how the special counsel’s conclusions are represented has played out in public as well as in recent weeks, with Democrats in Congress accusing Mr. Barr of intervening to color the outcome of the investigation in the president’s favor.

In his letter to Congress outlining the report’s chief conclusions, Mr. Barr said that Mr. Mueller found no conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia’s 2016 election interference. While Mr. Mueller made no decision on his other main question, whether the president illegally obstructed the inquiry, he explicitly stopped short of exonerating Mr. Trump.

As time passes since Mueller handed off his investigation’s finding to Attorney General Barr, a Trump ally widely believed to have been chosen for the job because of his expansive view of presidential powers and limited oversight of those powers, the initial jubilation on the part of Trump loyalists has given way to nervous deflection. Trump’s declaration that the outcome represents “total exoneration” was not even supported by the extremely limited content of Barr’s letter, which in one of its few verbatim citations of Mueller’s own words makes clear that Trump was not exonerated.

With that uncomfortable reality becoming clearer with each passing news cycle, if the plan was to allow enough time between Barr’s letter and the full report’s release to deflate public interest, at this point the delay is more likely to have the opposite effect. Especially if the sum of the full report’s conclusions make what’s been released so far look like a cover-up, which this latest story suggests may be the case, it’s only going to increase public outrage when the truth comes out.

And for all we know, something game-changing could well be in the offing.

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Redacted Mueller Report Available by Mid-April

Robert Mueller

As the Washington Post reports:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report detailing his investigation of President Trump and Russia’s election interference will be delivered to Congress by mid-April, Attorney General William P. Barr said Friday in a letter to lawmakers offering important new details about how the document will be edited before its public release.

“Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own,” Barr wrote.

Barr’s new letter lays out a timeline for the next steps of the hotly-debated process by which Justice Department officials are sharing the nearly 400-page report.

The Mueller report will include redactions of sensitive grand jury information; material that could “adversely impact” ongoing investigations; information that could compromise intelligence sources or methods; and info that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

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What The Mueller Report Does And Doesn’t Mean

Just a one-way thing apparently.

Politico reports on the story set to dominate the week in Washington political news, the hotly-debated “summary” by Trump ally and Attorney General William Barr of the conclusions of a report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections to support President Donald Trump’s unlikely victory.

Though Republicans are tripping over themselves to declare Trump “exonerated” by Barr’s opinion of Mueller’s report, there’s little factual basis for that conclusion–and many essential questions left to be answered:

“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” the special counsel wrote in his findings, which Attorney General William Barr released on Sunday in four-page summary form.

Mueller’s long-awaited findings also do not take a clear position on whether Trump obstructed justice, a gray-area conclusion that leaves the door wide open for an already-heated debate in Congress over whether Democrats should even consider impeachment proceedings against the president.

“For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leave unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr wrote in a letter to the key House and Senate committees.

“The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’” Barr added. [Pols emphasis]

The phrase “does not exonerate” appears to have lost a key component in translation from the Special Counsel’s report, as eagerly disseminated by President Trump and Colorado Republicans–the “does not” part.

With a very large gap still evident between the reality of this investigation and Republican spin following the release of Barr’s summary, attention now is turning to the next logical Democratic priority: release of the unredacted full report provided by the Special Counsel to the Department of Justice. 9NEWS reports that two Colorado members of Congress will be closely involved with that effort on the House Judiciary Committee:

The Justice Department said Mueller delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr, who will now review the report and relay the conclusions to the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) are both members of the House Judiciary Committee.

We’re going to go out on a limb and suggest that Rep. Joe Neguse will be substantially more persistent in the public disclosure of the Mueller report than Rep. Ken Buck–and the difference between Buck’s eagerness to investigate any number of supposed Democratic misdeeds versus slow-walking the Mueller report will be a useful contrast. A great deal depends on the evidence “on both sides of the question” set forth in the full report that Barr doesn’t address with any specifics. In addition, it’s likely that Mueller himself will be called to testify to clear up these ambiguities.

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been clear for months now that the bar to commence an impeachment proceeding would be very difficult to clear–a revelation that not even the most hardened pro-Trump Republican could ignore. In the end Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 elections was always more likely to produce facts for voters to resolve electorally than an impeachment of Trump, which is why the Trump administration is trying desperately to control the release of those facts. It’s almost certain that more damaging disclosures are just around the corner.

What Americans do know now with no real partisan dispute is that the Russians wanted Donald Trump to be America’s President. If you accept as axiomatic that Russia does not have positive outcomes for America in mind when they meddle in our elections, which most observers do, the question of whether Trump actively colluded with the Russians or passively reaped the benefits of their election meddling becomes less significant.

The Russians helped Trump win, and it wasn’t to make America “great again.”

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