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.”

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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.

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UPDATE #2: This deserves its own post.

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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.”

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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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BREAKING: Mueller Submits Completed Report to AG

UPDATE: So…now what? The Washington Post breaks down the next steps. The New York Times considers 6 key questions that need answers.

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Robert Mueller

As the Washington Post and every other news outlet on the planet is reporting:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has submitted a confidential report to Attorney General William P. Barr, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.

The Justice Department notified Congress late Friday that it had received Mueller’s report but did not describe its contents. Barr is expected to summarize the findings for lawmakers in coming days.

The submission of Mueller’s report marks the culmination of his closely held inquiry, a case that has engulfed the Trump administration since its inception and led to multiple guilty pleas from former advisers to the president. With the closing of his investigation, Congress and the newly empowered Democratic House majority will soon assess his findings – and determine what steps to take next.

We will update this post as more information becomes available.

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Gardner Once Called for Release of Mueller Report. What Will He Do Now?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

UPDATE: Gardner’s statement on release of Mueller report: ““I have consistently said the Mueller investigation should be allowed to reach a conclusion, and I’m grateful the Special Counsel has finished the investigation and submitted a report today. The American people have a right to know the outcome of this investigation and the Department of Justice should release as much as possible to the public in accordance with the law.”

Trump Attorney General William Barr told reporters today that he will review Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report and determine how much could eventually be released to Congress and the public.

During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Barr faced pointed questions from Democrats about whether he’d release the Mueller report, and he never committed to doing so.

It’s not clear what Democrats can do to force the release of the report now, but one Republican with close ties to the Trump White House is Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, and he’s called for the release of the report.

Asked about Mueller’s investigation, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner said earlier this year that the “American people need the information so that they can make up their own minds.”

“Look, the Mueller investigation needs to be completed as soon as possible,” Gardner told KHOW’s Krista Kafer, substituting for Ross Kaminsky Jan. 24. “The American people need the information so that they can make up their own minds. And I think transparency is in the best interests of the President. The President has said that. And, you know, we’ve heard his Attorney General nominee say the same thing. And so, I think getting this information out — this will be — this is something that is important. This can’t drag on for four years. It needs to be done. It needs to be done quickly.”

Listen to Gardner on KHOW 630-AM Jan. 24, 2019.

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Gardner Votes To Let Saudis Keep Bombing Yemen

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports:

Colorado’s U.S. senators split Wednesday over whether to end America’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war.

Sen. Michael Bennet, a Denver Democrat considering running for president in 2020, voted in favor of a resolution ending assistance to Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Yuma Republican, voted against the resolution, which passed the Senate 54-46…

After Democrats took control this year, the House passed a similar measure in February, with only one Colorado member, Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, opposed to the resolution. Two other Colorado Republicans, Reps. Scott Tipton of Cortez and Ken Buck of Windsor, joined all four Colorado Democrats in support of that resolution.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

First of all, it’s universally expected that President Donald Trump will veto this resolution once it reaches his desk, and based on the vote in the Senate there aren’t enough votes to overturn that veto. But two factors combine to make this a morally questionable position for Sen. Cory Gardner to take–the growing condemnation of civilian casualties in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen’s ongoing civil war, and anger over the role of the Saudi crown prince and government in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year inside a Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Like so many other hot-button issues Gardner has tried to have it both ways on relations with Saudi Arabia, claiming support for an investigation into Khashoggi’s death but unwilling to back up that concern with criticism of Saudi Arabia that might jeopardize relations with our “key ally”–let alone votes that might actually motivate the Saudis to be more forthcoming, like voting to end support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

It looks like once again the action to match Sen. Gardner’s lip service will have to wait for another day.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 5)

Pro tip from Colorado Pols: If you set your clock ahead 10 minutes every day this week, you won’t have to make the full one-hour Daylight Saving adjustment on Sunday. 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…

► When Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul announced that he will support a measure — already passed by the House — that would reject President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for big ol’ wall building, he did what Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner should have done. Paul believes there could be as many as 10 Republican Senators who will ultimately defy Trump on this upcoming vote. As the Washington Post reports, the White House is scrambling to keep more Republican Senators from voting “YES”:

The White House told Senate Republicans on Monday to “keep their powder dry” ahead of a vote to nullify President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border as the administration worked to limit defections on a measure rebuking the president.

The message was delivered by Zach Parkinson, White House deputy director of government communications, in a meeting Monday morning with Senate Republican communications staffers, according to two people who attended the meeting…

…At Monday’s meeting, Parkinson cautioned GOP Senate communications aides against public criticism from their bosses over the emergency declaration, saying that if senators are planning to vote to overturn it, they should contact the White House to get further information on Trump’s rationale, according to the two people.

What are the odds that Sen. Gardner has already called the President to ask him what to do? Definitely better than 50-50.

 

► The oil and gas industry in Colorado is panicking about a new regulatory bill that will begin moving through the state legislature today. Industry leaders are warning Democratic lawmakers that Senate Bill 181 will turn Colorado into a “Mad Max” movie.

 

► State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) is openly inciting violence. Sonnenberg fired off a bizarre email recently that calls the legislature “evil” and includes an almost-obligatory Nazi reference.

 

► Did you know that Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in 2020? You’re going to hear this a lot before the 2020 election. Here’s Stuart Rothenberg for Roll Call:

Trump will be a significant liability for Gardner, since a vote for the incumbent is one for continued GOP control of the Senate and inevitably a vote in support of the president.

Gardner, after all, chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee last cycle (making him a member of the party’s Senate leadership), and he generally has been a loyal soldier in Trump’s Senate army. [Pols emphasis]

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Gardner Outraged in Fox Interview…About the Wrong Subject

Via Fox News, 2/28/19

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was a guest on “The Daily Briefing” with Dana Perino on Fox News Thursday morning. The interview was primarily about North Korea and President Trump’s apparently fruitless talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as Trump’s non-response about the death of American Otto Warmbier. As it is in many of Gardner’s television and radio appearances, the most fascinating part of the interview was about what Gardner didn’t say, as you’ll see in a moment.

Gardner appeared on Fox News Thursday because he fancies himself to be a foreign policy expert on North Korea. Gardner is a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Chair of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy. He likes to think that he has the President’s ear when it comes to North Korea, though in reality, Gardner seems to shift right along with Trump in most discussions about the DPRK.

During Gardner’s four-minute interview with Perino, he was asked specifically about something that CNN called “Trump’s shocking, shameful about-face on Otto Warmbier.” Warmbier was an American student who was captured and tortured by North Korea between 2015-17. He was ultimately returned to the United States in a comatose state in June 2017; Warmbier died less than a week later in Cincinnati, Ohio. Following his summit in Vietnam, President Trump was asked about Warmbier and whether the subject came up with Kim. As the New York Times and multiple other news outlets reports, Trump’s response was…awful:

President Trump’s refusal to blame Kim Jong-un for the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died in 2017 after being imprisoned in North Korea, set off anger and sympathy for the young man’s family among political leaders in the United States on Thursday.

Before their summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, ended abruptly, Mr. Trump said that he and Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader, had discussed Mr. Warmbier and that Mr. Kim felt “badly” about what happened to the American. Mr. Warmbier died shortly after he was released to the United States, with doctors saying he had sustained a catastrophic brain injury.

Referring to Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump said, “He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”

He also said: “I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen, it just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen. Those prisons are rough, they’re rough places, and bad things happened. But I really don’t believe that he, I don’t believe that he knew about it.”

To get an idea of the immediate blowback to Trump’s words, take a look at what former Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum told CNN on Thursday morning:

“This is reprehensible, what he just did. [Pols emphasis] He gave cover, as you said, to a leader who knew very well what was going on with Otto Warmbier. And again, I don’t understand why the President does this. I am disappointed, to say the least, that he did it.”

As The Hill reports today, several Republican Senators are “fuming over Trump comments on Warmbier”:

Trump’s statement that he believed Kim when he said he didn’t know at the time of Warmbier’s treatment left a number of GOP senators upset.

“I personally find that statement extremely hard to believe,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who represents Warmbier’s home state, warned the president not to be “naive” about the “brutal nature” of the North Korean regime in a speech on the Senate floor.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) earns another gold star from President Trump

So, what did Gardner have to say about Trump shrugging off questions about Warmbier’s death? Nothing at all, actually. Gardner was very careful not to express express one iota of outrage at Trump’s remarks.

Perino opened her segment with Gardner by playing a sample of Trump’s response to questions about Warmbier. Later, she asked Gardner directly about Trump’s statement. Here’s that exchange:

PERINO: When you hear that the President says Kim Jong Un didn’t know and that he’ll take him at his word — do you take Kim Jong Un at his word?

GARDNER: Look, I’ve talked to Fred and Cindy Warmbier. The tragedy that they went through. Otto Warmbier – they made a spectacle of him to the world, accusing him of being a traitor. A spy. And they executed him. [Pols emphasis] The blood of Otto Warmbier is on the hands of Kim Jong Un. There’s no doubt in my mind that he knew about it, he allowed it to happen, and the responsibility lies directly with Kim Jong Un.

If you’re playing word bingo at home, you probably noticed that Gardner specifically avoided words like “President,” “Donald,” or “Trump.” At the same time, Gardner makes it clear that he has no doubt of Kim Jong Un’s knowledge and involvement in Warmbier’s detention and, ultimately, his death.

Now, think about this for a moment: Gardner openly calls Warmbier’s death an “execution” at the hands of the North Koreans. Yet unlike many of his Senate Republican colleagues, Gardner cannot summon any sort of indignation at the fact that President Trump just gave Kim Jong Un a pass for Warmbier’s death.

Gardner did manage to manufacture some outrage later in his interview with Perino – but on an altogether different subject. It took a question about the Colorado legislature voting to change the way we elect the President of the United States – the National Popular Vote proposal – to get Gardner riled up:

PERINO: I am, frankly, a little shocked that a small state like Colorado would do this, and I’d like your thoughts on it.

GARDNER: Well, this just says that the person that Colorado votes for may not get Colorado’s votes. We’ll go follow New York, or California, or Texas, or Florida. The design of the Electoral College was to give smaller states a voice, but what they have done with this legislation is to say, you know what, we don’t care if Colorado has a voice, because the Presidential candidate may not win Colorado. Or they may win Colorado, and we’ll give those votes to somebody else. This is outrageous what they are doing to silence the votes in a state like Colorado. [Pols emphasis] This is giving away our electoral process and our votes, and I think…

PERINO: What have you heard from constituents about it in Colorado?

GARDNER: Disbelief. You know, there’s a lot of people who don’t know about this, actually. They’ve kind of done it quickly at the very beginning of the legislative session. There’s a lot of people I think will be surprised when the candidate that wins Colorado doesn’t get Colorado votes. That’s going to be a real shock to a lot of people.

What Gardner is saying here is not at all what is actually happening; Colorado voters aren’t just going to wake up the day after the next Presidential election and scream out, “We did WHAT?” Not only is the NPV proposal unlikely to be implemented by 2020 (more states still need to join this coalition before it can take effect), but there’s a 100% chance that people will learn more about this in the meantime.

We don’t want to dwell on this point, however, because it would overlook Gardner’s totally creepy ability to express more remorse about a bill in the Colorado legislature than he can muster for President Trump’s refusal to blame Kim Jong Un for the death of an American student.

But, hey, Gardner sure does smile pretty.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 28)

And that will do it for February. 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…

President Trump’s second in-person meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un turned out to be about as productive as hunting for Bigfoot. From the Washington Post:

Two days of soaring rhetoric and over-the-top flattery between President Trump and Kim Jong Un could not bridge the gap on an issue that has plagued U.S. negotiators for months: the lifting of crippling economic sanctions on the impoverished rogue state.

Trump said Thursday that North Korea’s demand for full sanctions relief in exchange for partial denuclearization was the main impediment to reaching an agreement on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic programs, a centerpiece of the president’s foreign policy..

“Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters at a news conference in Vietnam that capped a two-day summit. “You always have to be prepared to walk.”

The abrupt conclusion of the talks on Thursday without a future meeting date or a plan to move forward exposed the vulnerabilities of relying on the personal rapport of Trump and Kim to overcome disputes that faceless negotiators had been stuck on for eight months following the two leaders’ first summit in Singapore.

Last summer Trump boasted that North Korea was no longer a “nuclear threat” after his first in-person meeting with the North Korean dictator. Now, a second meeting has produced bupkis. The “Negotiator-in-Chief” strikes again!

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who fancies himself to be an expert on North Korea but generally takes his cues from the President, issued a lengthy nothingburger statement following the end of the latest round of “negotiations.” Remember this headline from The Weekly Standard a little more than a year ago:

 

Is Gardner giving Trump bad advice, or is Trump just not paying any attention to Colorado’s junior Senator? The answer might be: Yes.

 

President Trump’s former personal attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, testified publicly before Congress on Wednesday regarding a slew of issues related to Trump. The New York Times says Cohen depicted a life “more like ‘The Sopranos’ than “The Apprentice.'” Here’s more from CNN:

Wednesday’s hearing, which played out amid fiercely partisan scenes, contained revelations that hinted at future and deeper legal exposure for the President. Most notably, Cohen produced a personal check for $35,000 that Trump signed while in office that appears to show that the President reimbursed him for hush payments he made to women who claimed affairs with the then-GOP nominee.

Cohen has already admitted paying off the women in an infringement of campaign finance law. If it is proved that Trump — who has denied having affairs with the women — knew he was breaking the law, the President could be in serious trouble, even after he leaves office.

Cohen, a former confidant turned accuser, also revealed that prosecutors in New York were probing Trump’s organization for alleged illegality in a previously unpublicized case, underscoring the potential that the biggest threat to the President may come not from special counsel Robert Mueller but from the hard-charging US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

“I think it’s ominous news for the President,” said former southern district prosecutor Elie Honig on CNN.

“Ominous news.” Is there any other type of news when it comes to President Trump?

CNN’s Chris Cillizza looks at the “Winners and Losers” from Wednesday’s hearing. Right-wing Republicans generally ended up in the latter category. Take a look at this part about Republican Rep. Mark Meadows:

The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus was out for blood in the hearing; he could barely contain his anger and contempt for Cohen every time he spoke. The stunt of bringing Lynne Patton, a longtime African-American employee of the Trump organization (and now a member of the administration) to stand behind him as a prop to prove that Trump isn’t racist was a very, very bad idea.

D’oh! D’oh! D’oh!

 

► A State Senate committee will hear testimony this afternoon on House Bill 19-1032, the sex education bill that has right-wingers in a tizzy thanks to a steady stream of misinformation from a handful of extremist interest groups. We have one humble request for those on the right who will be returning to the Capitol to testify today: Can we go ahead and skip the anal fisting explanations?

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Gardner’s Stance On North Korea Appears To Evolve As his Relationship With Trump Changes

(Like everything else – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

It appears that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s stance on North Korea evolves in different directions due to political, rather than national security, considerations.

When he was in full attack mode against Obama, Gardner took the hardest of hard-line stances on North Korea, denouncing a minor move by the Obama Administration, under its “strategic patience” approach, to communicate with the North Korea regime.

Then, as he cozied up to Trump, Gardner flipped and supported the president’s gentler approach, culminating in a summit.

Now, as he’s facing a tough re-election bid and he’s trying to both embrace and repel the president a bit more, Gardner is returning to a hard line stance.

Trump, Gardner, and Domestic Politics

About a year ago, when Trump announced a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Gardner, who was wooing Trump as he led the GOP’s campaign to elect Republican U.S. senators, welcomed Trump’s summit, saying it was a “certainly a positive move” for Trump to enter into talks with North Korea, even if it should be taken with a big grain of salt.

That raised eyebrows from national security wonks, because back in 2016 Gardner said he was “extremely” disappointed with Obama for reportedly engaging in low-level talks with North Korea without insisting on “tough” preconditions, like ending its nuclear missile program. And soon after Trump was elected, Gardner had warned against any talks without preconditions.

Gardner’s never explained why his stance on North Korea had morphed into a softer approach.

(more…)

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Michael Cohen Testimony Open Thread

President Trump and former personal attorney Michael Cohen

President Trump’s longtime (former) personal attorney Michael Cohen is testifying in Congress today. Check out live updates via the Washington PostCNN.com, and Colorado Public Radio.

The Washington Post summarizes what Cohen is expected to discuss:

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer and personal lawyer, returns to Capitol Hill Wednesday for public testimony before the House Oversight Committee in what is expected to be a compelling appearance.

Cohen will allege — amid a stream of potentially damaging revelations about the president — that Trump knew in advance that the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks planned to publish hacked Democratic National Committee emails, and he will describe the president as a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat,” according to a copy of his written testimony.

The WikiLeaks allegation is perhaps the most explosive in the written testimony, speaking to the core of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the election. Mueller already has alleged that Russian military officials hacked the emails before they were published online by groups including WikiLeaks.

We’ll update this post as news develops.

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All Eyes on Senate as House Votes on Trump “Emergency”

UPDATE: The House votes, as expected, to oppose Trump’s emergency declaration. From the Washington Post:

The House on Tuesday passed a resolution to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border, as majority Democrats painted an apocalyptic portrait of a lawless chief executive out to gut the Constitution.

The 245-182 tally was mostly along party lines, with 13 Republicans defecting to side with Democrats on a vote that effectively became a test of GOP loyalty to Trump. Despite their frequent complaints of executive overreach during the Obama administration, most Republicans fell in line with Trump’s decision to try to circumvent Congress to get billions of dollars for his border wall. As a result the vote fell well short of the two-thirds majority that would be required to overcome Trump’s threatened veto.

Democrats argued that Trump’s claim of a crisis at the border was baseless, and that he was embarking on the road to dictatorship by unilaterally declaring an emergency to try to get money from U.S. taxpayers to fulfill an unpopular campaign promise.

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President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner apparently speak regularly by telephone.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote today on a measure opposing President Trump’s “emergency declaration” so that he can build himself a big ‘ol wall at the Mexico border. The measure is widely expected to be approved by the House (approval means rejecting Trump’s emergency declaration), which means that the real drama will take place in the Senate.

As the Washington Post reports:

Partisans on both sides unleashed sharp new rhetoric ahead of Tuesday’s vote on a Democratic-authored resolution that would nullify President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. Congress has never before sought to cancel a national emergency declared by the president since passage of the National Emergencies Act in 1976. [Pols emphasis]…

…While Democrats tried to focus on the constitutional issues at stake in Trump using an emergency declaration to get border-wall money denied by Congress, Republicans trained their arguments on what they called dire conditions along the border that necessitated Trump’s move.

As the Post story notes, the Democratic-led House should have little trouble passing the resolution; under the National Emergencies Act, the Senate is then required to hold a vote on the measure within the next two weeks. Assuming that all Senate Democrats vote in favor of the proposal, it would only take four Republican votes to advance the measure to the President’s desk. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have signaled that they will vote YES, and so will Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. If you’re doing the math at home, one more Republican vote will move the measure forward.

Tillis laid out his argument in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post in which he brings up his opposition to President Obama’s use of emergency declarations:

It is my responsibility to be a steward of the Article I branch, to preserve the separation of powers and to curb the kind of executive overreach that Congress has allowed to fester for the better part of the past century. I stood by that principle during the Obama administration, and I stand by it now.

Conservatives rightfully cried foul when President Barack Obama used executive action to completely bypass Congress and unilaterally provide deferred action to undocumented adults who had knowingly violated the nation’s immigration laws. Some prominent Republicans went so far as to proclaim that Obama was acting more like an “emperor” or “king” than a president.

There is no intellectual honesty in now turning around and arguing that there’s an imaginary asterisk attached to executive overreach — that it’s acceptable for my party but not thy party. [Pols emphasis] 

Ouch. That last line is particularly relevant for Coloradans, because Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has backed himself into the same corner. Take a look at what Gardner said in December 2014 in response to Obama’s executive order on DACA. From Fox 31 News:

Gardner, who defeated Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and is positioning himself as a moderate within the GOP Senate caucus, voted with a majority of House Republicans in support of Rep. Ted Yoho’s bill that seeks to bar the executive branch from delaying deportations…

…Gardner immediately released a statement following the vote, explaining that he opposes the president’s unilateral action but not comprehensive immigration reform overall.

“Recently, the President issued an executive order that circumvented Congress and asserted power he previously said he doesn’t have,” Gardner said in the statement. “Today the House voted on a bill to condemn the President’s circumvention of Congress.

If we go by Sen. Tillis’ definition of “intellectual dishonesty,” then Sen. Gardner cannot possibly vote against this measure. Yet…he might.

As we’ve noted before in this space, Gardner voiced his opposition to an “emergency declaration” on the very same day that Trump issued the order; Gardner told Ryan Warner of Colorado Public Radio that he had spoken to Trump directly and urged him NOT to issue an emergency declaration. After Trump went ahead and issued the order anyway, Gardner started backpedaling, stating that he needed time to “study” the President’s decision.

Colorado political reporters have since been working hard to get some sort of clarification from Gardner on where he stands, but Gardner isn’t returning phone calls. Will Gardner stick with his original stance against Trump’s “emergency declaration,” or will he once again wilt in the face of pressure from the President?

President Trump has promised to veto the measure if it makes it to his desk. Congress probably doesn’t have enough votes to override a Presidential veto, but Gardner may well be the deciding vote on whether or not we even have that discussion. He can’t waffle his way out of this one.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (February 25)

I can still see his lips coming straight for my face.” 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…

► House Democrats are expected to vote on Tuesday on a measure rejecting President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for wall-building money. As the Washington Post reports, a gaggle of national security experts are giving Trump’s “emergency declaration” a big thumbs down:

A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials will issue a statement Monday saying that “there is no factual basis” for President Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The joint statement, whose signatories include former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary Chuck Hagel, will come a day before the House is expected to vote on a resolution to block Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration.

The former officials’ statement, which will be entered into the Congressional Record, is intended to support lawsuits and other actions challenging the national emergency proclamation and to force the administration to set forth the legal and factual basis for it.

Here in Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is catching well-deserved flak for waffling on whether or not he truly opposes Trump’s “emergency declaration.”

 

► Nobody can lower expectations quite like President Trump, as the Associated Press reports:

President Donald Trump will head into his second meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un having reframed what would make a successful summit, lowering expectations for Pyongyang’s denuclearization while eager to declare a flashy victory to offset the political turmoil he faces at home.

Trump was the driving force behind this week’s Vietnam summit, aiming to recreate the global spectacle of his first meeting with Kim, although that initial summit yielded few concrete results and the months that followed have produced little optimism about what will be achieved in the sequel. He once warned that North Korea’s arsenal posed such a threat to humanity that he may have no choice but to rain “fire and fury” on the rogue nation, yet on Sunday declared that he was in no hurry for Pyongyang to prove it was abandoning its weapons.

But…didn’t Trump already denuclearize North Korea?

 

► Former State House Speaker Crisanta Duran announced her campaign to challenge incumbent Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-Denver) in 2020. Duran had been looking at a potential run for U.S. Senate, but she apparently decided that a Democratic Primary in Denver was her best political option.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (February 22)

Snow is coming to the Front Range later today. 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…

► House Democrats will vote on Tuesday on a measure rejecting President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for big ‘ol wall building money. From the Washington Post:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement came an hour after a disapproval resolution was filed in the House, and she told reporters on a conference call she would waste no time putting it up for a vote once lawmakers return to Washington next week.

“The president’s act is lawless — it does violence to our Constitution and therefore our democracy,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, arguing Trump’s Feb. 15 declaration violated the constitutional balance of powers by undermining Congress’s authority to manage federal expenditures.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), who authored the one-page resolution, said he had gathered at least 226 co-sponsors for his measure — more than enough to guarantee House passage. But only one Republican, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, has joined the bill so far.

The disapproval resolution will almost certainly pass in the House, which isn’t what makes this so interesting politically. The fascinating part comes next, because it forces the Republican-held Senate to then hold a floor vote on the same question.

As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and friends like Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) had better prepare for a loonnnggg couple of weeks:

The question before McConnell and his Senate Republican colleagues is whether casting a symbolic vote aimed at sending a message that the legislative branch will not be bullied by the executive branch is worth crossing this President. (The Constitution lays out that the legislative branch is solely charged with appropriating federal funds.)

My guess is that the answer to that question is “no.” But McConnell will be on pins and needles between now and when he secures that 50th “no” vote. *If* he secures that 50th “no” vote.

 

► There has been much discussion lately about what the public will ultimately get to see as a result of the Mueller investigation. As CNN reports, a key filing due today in the case of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort might spill a whole lot of beans:

It is the last major requisite court filing in Mueller’s longest running case, a sprawling prosecution of the former Trump campaign manager that led investigators to gather exhaustive information about his hidden Cypriot bank accounts, Ukrainian political efforts in Europe and the US and into Manafort’s time on the 2016 presidential campaign.

Prosecutors are set to outline all facts they believe the judge should consider at his sentencing, now set for March 13. That will likely include Manafort’s criminal business schemes, his attempt to reach out to key contacts after his arrest and the lies he told to prosecutors and a grand jury after he agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.

Often, in filings like these, prosecutors will pull together a complete retelling of the defendant’s crimes, convictions and cooperation. Details about Manafort’s cooperation have been especially guarded by prosecutors, since his interviews are a significant part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reports that state prosecutors in New York are prepared to file charges against Manfort in the event that President Trump grants him a pardon.

 

► National Popular Vote legislation is on its way to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis, as Colorado Public Radio reports:

Colorado’s Democrat-controlled legislature approved a bill Thursday to join a compact that wants to tie states’ Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

With the final vote needed in the Colorado House, a 34-29 tally, SB 19-042 will head to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis. The Democrat has indicated he will sign it.

 

Marshall Zelinger of 9News is in Iowa this weekend to see how Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and former Governor John Hickenlooper are faring in their early efforts at running for President in 2020. Nic Garcia of the Denver Post is also in Iowa to witness Bennet’s politicking:

“We don’t have to settle for disgraceful politics. We don’t have to settle for being as terrible as Donald Trump,” said Bennet during a house party. “We don’t have to settle for Freedom Caucus tactics — those guys are tyrants. We don’t have to accept that. In fact, we can’t and have this country be what this country really can be.”

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 21)

Sad trombone for Case Keenum. 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…

► It sure looks like the Mueller probe is nearing a conclusion of some sort. As the Washington Post reports:

Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The special counsel’s investigation has consumed Washington since it began in May 2017, and it increasingly appears to be nearing its end, which would send fresh shock waves through the political system. Mueller could deliver his report to Attorney General William P. Barr next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.

 

► If it looks like political retribution, and it smells like political retribution, and…oh, hell, this here is obviously a “spade.” From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it’s canceling $929 million of federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project and demanding the return of $2.6 billion that’s already been spent.

Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly denounced the move as political retribution for the state’s resistance to a southern border wall and said California will fight for the money…

…In a statement Tuesday, Newsom said, “It’s no coincidence that the administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the president’s farcical ‘national emergency.’ The president even tied the two issues together in a tweet this morning.”

The reference was to a tweet in which Trump asserted that with cost overruns that “are becoming world record setting,” California’s project “is hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!”

► House Democrats plan to push forward a resolution on Friday in opposition to President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for building big ‘ol walls. Should such a resolution pass in the House, and it likely will, it will force Republican Senators to go on the record with a vote of support or opposition to Trump’s power grab. Sucks to be you, Sen. Cory Gardner!

 

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Mueller Probe Nears Completion; Will Republicans Try to Bury It?

Donald Nixon

There’s a lot to unpack about special counsel Robert Mueller’s apparently soon-to-be-final report into potential collusion between President Trump’s campaign and/or obstruction of justice, so let’s jump right in, shall we?

As CNN reports:

Attorney General Bill Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, with plans for Barr to submit to Congress soon after a summary of Mueller’s confidential report, according to people familiar with the plans.

The preparations are the clearest indication yet that Mueller is nearly done with his almost two-year investigation.

The precise timing of the announcement is subject to change.

The scope and contours of what Barr will send to Congress remain unclear. Also unclear is how long it will take Justice officials to prepare what will be submitted to lawmakers…

Under the special counsel regulations, Mueller must submit a “confidential” report to the attorney general at the conclusion of his work, but the rules don’t require it to be shared with Congress, or by extension, the public. And, as Barr has made clear, the Justice Department generally guards against publicizing “derogatory” information about uncharged individuals.

As a result, one of the most pressing questions Barr will face in the coming weeks is the extent to which Mueller’s findings should be disclosed to Congress. [Pols emphasis]

How would Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) oppose any efforts by Barr (or the White House, as adviser Kellyanne Conway indicated on Tuesday) to potentially bury the results of the Mueller investigation? If Gardner’s recent public comments are any indication…we really don’t know the answer to that question.

87% of Americans want a full public report of Mueller investigation — including 92% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans.

It’s important to note that the American public is not particularly divided about wanting to see the results of Mueller’s investigation, as FiveThirtyEight.com noted earlier this month:

It’s rare for Americans to agree on anything these days, particularly when it comes to a politically charged issue like special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But a CNN poll released last Thursday found that a whopping 87 percent of Americans (including 92 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans) believe that once the Mueller investigation ends, there should be a full public report on the findings, whatever they may be.

The Washington Post found similar numbers in a separate poll this month.

So far, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has had President Trump’s back at every turn.

Last month a bipartisan Senate bill was proposed that would require Mueller’s team to submit a public report to Congress once the investigation has concluded. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who is reportedly in frequent communication with President Trump, has been lukewarm on this proposal from Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Gardner has generally given lip service to supporting the Mueller investigation, but has balked at standing behind any sort of pre-emptive legislation to protect the special counsel. As Colorado Public Radio reported in December regarding a proposal to protect Mueller legislatively, “Gardner accused the bill’s backers of ‘playing politics,'” which is a particularly stupid response given that Gardner is paid a full salary so that he can go to Washington D.C. and “play politics” on all sorts of issues. This is sort of like John Elway saying that there is too much “playing football” with the Denver Broncos.

If Mueller’s investigation is indeed nearing a conclusion, the American public has made it clear that they expect to be able to see the results for themselves. We’ll learn a lot about Gardner’s political future by how he responds to any public release of information (or lack thereof) once the investigation is finalized.

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Cory Gardner Endorses Trump in 2020

Sen. Cory Gardner (right) departs Air Force One behind President Trump in 2018.

In the fall of 2016, back when it was still inconceivable to most people that Donald J. Trump might actually end up as the President of the United States, it wasn’t hard to find a Republican seeking distance between themselves and the Republican nominee for President. Media outlets often referred to these Republican politicians as “Never Trumpers.”

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was one of these “Never Trumpers.” Gardner called for Trump to drop out of the race for President following the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood.” Not only did Gardner pull his support of Trump — he didn’t even vote for him. Gardner has repeatedly said that he wrote in the name “Mike Pence” on his 2016 ballot rather than vote for Trump.

Naturally, Gardner has now formally endorsed President Trump for re-election in 2020.

As IJR.com reports, Gardner is completely onboard with a second term:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), another Republican senator who vocally opposed Trump in 2016, told IJR that he’s endorsing the president now because it’s the “right thing to do for Colorado.”

“Look, there are things here — look, I’ve made it very clear that where I agree with the president, we will agree or where I disagree, we will disagree,” Gardner told IJR. “But I’m going to fight like hell for Colorado, and we’ve done some good things for Colorado.

“I know what Kamala Harris and I know what Bernie Sanders will do to Colorado, and that’s why I’ll be supporting the president,” Gardner added.

Gardner called for Trump to step aside in 2016 and said the only way Republicans would defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton “is with a new nominee that reflects the values of our country and our party.”

“I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women.”

— Sen. Cory Gardner, Oct. 8, 2016

 

Supporting the President in 2020 is “the right thing to do for Colorado.”

— Sen. Cory Gardner, Jan. 30, 2019

As we discussed on Tuesday, a new poll from Keating Research shows just how out-of-tune Trump and Gardner have become with Colorado voters; both politicians own an approval rating of just 39%. Gardner’s poll numbers in Colorado have been in the toilet since 2016, and even his base is leaving him; conservative columnists see right through Gardner’s attempts at appearing to be “bipartisan.”

When Gardner was shown departing Air Force One right behind President Trump in August 2018, he gave up any pretense of separation with Trump. Formally endorsing Trump’s re-election now is a bit odd, however, considering that we don’t yet know the results of the Mueller Investigation and Americans are still angry about the government shutdown. Gardner will now be expected to stand alongside Trump whenever the President campaigns in Colorado, which is a hell of an albatross for any politician.

Perhaps Gardner feels that he needs to make a public endorsement in order to stave off any potential primary opponents, because this move certainly won’t help him with a general electorate in Colorado.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 22)

If you have gone the entire month without once writing “2018,” then give yourself a nice pat on the back. Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The federal government shutdown is now in its 32nd day, and supporters of President Trump are increasingly getting fed up with the man they helped elect to the White House. From the Washington Post:

“What the [expletive] were we thinking?”  [Pols emphasis] he asked the other night inside a Walmart here, in an area of blue-collar suburban Detroit that helped deliver the presidency to Trump.

While Trump’s relationship with much of his base remains strong, two years after his inauguration his ties are fraying with voters like Jeff Daudert, the kind who voted in droves for Trump in key pockets throughout the industrial Midwest, flipping previously Democratic states to him in 2016. The shutdown fight, as it has played out over the past month, is further eroding the president’s support among voters who like the idea of beefing up border security — but not enough to close the government.

Many here, even those who still support Trump, say they hold him most responsible. They recite his comment from the Oval Office that he would be “proud to shut down the government.” When he said it, they listened. [Pols emphasis]

“What the [expletive] were we thinking?” If there is a more perfect quote for Trump supporters, we’d love to see it.

 

► In local shutdown news, Colorado has spent more than $100,000 on unemployment benefits for federal workers who aren’t getting paychecks anymore; Gov. Jared Polis authorized an emergency rule to allow federal employees who remain on the job (without pay) to apply for unemployment benefits.

As the Denver Post reports, the shutdown is causing significant economic damage across a broad range of sectors in Colorado.

 

Senate Republicans have ceded the shutdown/border wall debate to President Trump, offering little resistance to their man in the White House. And as Politico reports, upcoming Senate legislation to end the shutdown is filled with sharp, pointy bits that won’t do much for a compromise:

A 1,300-page spending bill released by Senate Republicans Monday night contains provisions to restrict asylum and other hard-line immigration changes that make it unlikely to generate bipartisan support.

Democrats already were poised to reject President Donald Trump’s proposal to pass his $5.7 billion funding request for a border wall in exchange for temporary protections for some immigrants brought to the United States as children and others covered by a humanitarian status. But hawkish measures embedded in the Republican spending bill will give Democrats even more reason to spurn the legislation.

“This is a Stephen Miller special,” Kerri Talbot, a director with the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Hub, told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a Trojan horse with many extreme immigration proposals included.”

The bill doesn’t appear likely to end a partial shutdown of the federal government that stretched into its 32nd day Tuesday.

Elsewhere, CNN takes a look at six potential scenarios that could possibly lead to an end of the government shutdown.

 

► Republican State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Weld County) is getting blasted in both local and national press over comments she made suggesting that white and black people were lynched in equal numbers after Reconstruction (comments first reported here at Colorado Pols). Here’s a brief rundown of the coverage.

You know you done f*cked up when even Fox News calls you out.

 

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Trump Directing Cohen to Lie Might be the Tipping Point

While you were busy with the rest of your life on Thursday evening, the online news site BuzzFeed dropped a bombshell of a report on the ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Donald Trump and Russia that may very well be the tipping point for a flailing administration.

 

 

As Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier report for BuzzFeed, President Trump directed former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump’s business dealings in Russia — specifically regarding efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow:

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

But Cohen’s testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia. [Pols emphasis]

There is no precedent for the endless stream of bad news coming out of the Trump administration, so it’s fair to wonder if any particular iceberg is sharp enough to sink this ship. But…this is really, really big news. House Democrats quickly pledged to investigate this claim specifically.

 

CNN.com headline (1/18/19)

 

Here’s Chris Cillizza of CNN:

The BuzzFeed story also claims that Cohen confirmed this information to special counsel Robert Mueller after “the special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

It’s hard to overstate what a big deal that is. [Pols emphasis] No other major outlets have confirmed the BuzzFeed report. But if the BuzzFeed report is right, then the President of the United States directed an underling to lie under oath — which is, in and of itself, a crime.

As Cillizza and others have noted, this exact topic came up during William Barr’s confirmation hearings for Attorney General this week. In response to questions from Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Barr acknowledged that persuading a person to commit perjury is obstruction of justice — which is a federal crime in and of itself.

Bloomberg News headline (1/18/19)

As Aaron Blake writes for the Washington Post, the key to this new report could be the presence of direct evidence implicating Trump:

Predicting President Trump’s imminent demise has made fools of people since the moment he launched his presidential campaign. But the latest blockbuster story about the Russia investigation is different.

If Robert S. Mueller III has the evidence he reportedly has — that Trump asked Michael Cohen to lie to Congress for him — it could present something that’s been missing thus far from the public domain: an event so cut-and-dried that even Republicans would be hard-pressed not to consider impeachment.

“Asking someone to lie,” as Blake writes, “is not a gray area.” It is a federal crime. Period.

There are 14 current Republican Senators who publicly supported ousting President Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice in 1999; if the BuzzFeed reports are verified, it will be more than complicated for the GOP to skate around the issue. And as Politico reported on Thursday — well before the BuzzFeed bombshell — potential targets of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump collusion/obstruction are already rushing to turn on each other in a desperate bid for self-preservation.

We may not have to wait long to learn more about these accusations. Cohen is scheduled to publicly testify before Congress on February 7.

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Jason Crow Gets Armed Services Committee

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora)

Freshman Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Aurora has been appointed to the House Armed Services Committee, which is typically an important committee for Colorado because we are home to Fort Carson Army Base, the Air Force Academy, NORAD, and military-industrial companies like Lockheed-Martin.. The full statement from his office is below:

“I’m honored to announce my appointment to the House Armed Services Committee. Our most solemn responsibility is the decision to send our young men and women into harm’s way. As a former Army Ranger, I have seen firsthand the horrors of war and understand force should always be a last resort. It is an experience that will guide my work on the committee and in Congress.

“I look forward to working with other committee members and fellow veterans to ensure a strong national defense, support our men and women in uniform, and work with our allies to advance diplomacy overseas.”

While the 116th Congress has the largest class of freshmen veteran members in more than a decade, less than 18 percent of members have served in the military, the lowest since World War II.

Jason Crow served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with both conventional and special operations units, receiving a Bronze Star for his actions in battle.

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Are We There Yet?

President Trump is finishing off a brutal week for the country. Have we finally reached a point in this Presidency where Republicans will stop sitting on their hands as Trump destroys everything he touches?

As the Washington Post reports…maybe:

President Trump began Thursday under siege, listening to howls of indignation from conservatives over his border wall and thrusting the government toward a shutdown. He ended it by announcing the exit of the man U.S. allies see as the last guardrail against the president’s erratic behavior: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose resignation letter was a scathing rebuke of Trump’s worldview.

At perhaps the most fragile moment of his presidency — and vulnerable to convulsions on the political right — Trump single-handedly propelled the U.S. government into crisis and sent markets tumbling with his gambits this week to salvage signature campaign promises.

The president’s decisions and conduct have led to a fracturing of Trump’s coalition. Hawks condemned his sudden decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Conservatives called him a “gutless president” and questioned whether he would ever build a wall. Political friends began privately questioning whether Trump needed to be reined in.

After campaigning on shrinking America’s footprint in overseas wars, Trump abruptly declared Wednesday that he was withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, a move Mattis and other advisers counseled against. And officials said Thursday that Trump is preparing to send thousands of troops home from Afghanistan, as well…[Pols emphasis]

…Trump has been isolated in bunker mode in recent weeks as political and personal crises mount, according to interviews with 27 current and former White House officials, Republican lawmakers, and outside advisers to the president, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments.

“There’s going to be an intervention,” one former senior administration official said speculatively. [Pols emphasis] “Jim Mattis just sent a shot across the bow. He’s the most credible member of the administration by five grades of magnitude. He’s the steady, safe set of hands. And this letter is brutal. He quit because of the madness.”

The resignation of Mattis, which came in the form of a strongly-worded letter to the President, is causing political shockwaves around the world.  Long considered to be among the most important rational voices in the White House, Mattis’ sudden announcement highlights several seemingly-haphazard foreign policy decisions by Trump that are worrying even his staunchest allies in Congress.

And the situation is only getting worse. As Politico explains, a shutdown cometh:

President Donald Trump warned Friday that “there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time” if the Senate fails to pass a spending bill that includes border wall funding, laying the groundwork to blame Democrats for a pre-Christmas shutdown that would shutter wide swaths of the government.

Trump pushed the government to the precipice of a partial shutdown on Thursday, insisting in a meeting with lawmakers that he would not sign legislation to keep the government open unless it included $5 billion for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Acceding to the president’s demand, House Republicans on Thursday rejected a short-term funding bill passed by the Senate that included just over $1 billion for border security — not a wall — and instead approved legislation that met the president’s demands for border wall funding. The House bill now goes to the Senate, where it is almost sure to fall short of the 60 votes it would need to pass.

Trump already promised that he would own a potential government shutdown — before later backing off that threat and then doubling-down again when right wing commentators criticized him on Fox News. Trump has always been susceptible to criticism from his right flank, but the timing of this reversal and the Mattis resignation really reinforces the idea that the President of the United States governs via television.

Now, can someone please change the channel?

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Post-Peak Cory Gardner: The Failures Pile Up

UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark sums it up:

—–

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

It’s shaping up to be another bad news week for GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, already making shortlists as one of 2020’s most vulnerable U.S. Senators, as legislative failures combine with the latest Trump foreign policy debacle to leave Gardner unable to catch a break. That’s the most sympathetic spin you can put on these developments, which bear an eerie similarity to the downward trajectory of another Colorado Republican as we’ll explain:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., vowed Tuesday to continue to push for the passage of his states’ rights marijuana measure after his proposed amendment to the criminal justice reform measure the Senate passed later in the day was rejected…

Gardner’s request for a unanimous consent vote to add the amendment to the criminal justice reform measure was rejected by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, according to the Senate Press Gallery.

Gardner’s support for normalizing the marijuana industry with respect to banking and federal enforcement against activities legal at the state level is in line with the wishes of Colorado voters, but not with Gardner’s conservative Republican base in the state which is increasingly convinced that marijuana legalization has been a culture-war disaster. The death of this legislation after Gardner failed to persuade senior GOP Senators to go along only underscores Gardner’s inherent weakness to make progress on marijuana to supporters of that industry, while deepening Gardner’s divide on the right with conservative Republicans.

That means politically, it’s a lose-lose for Cory Gardner. And the STATES Act wasn’t the only red-on-red legislative failure for Gardner this week, as another bipartisan bill Gardner very publicly supported was blocked by a fellow Republican, reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. CNN’s Manu Raju covered the action late yesterday:

As on the issue of marijuana, Gardner has enjoyed a large helping of credit for his support for reauthorization of the LWCF, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised suggested would could come back for consideration in January, but at the end of the day Gardner is part of the Republican majority that also includes Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R-Sagebrush Rebellion). Just like Rep. Mike Coffman on immigration, protestations that Gardner’s own party is scuttling bills he supports are cold comfort to the voters who only care about results.

And finally, as you may have heard, President Donald Trump is pulling out of Syria, and Sen. Gardner is…well, “doggone upset.”

Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw American forces from Syria, leaving the fight against ISIS in that country in the hands of the Russians and their murderous dictator ally is a stunning retreat from the United States’ historic responsibility to prevent aggression against civilians and international terrorism–with seemingly no purpose other than to gratify Russia’s geopolitical aims. If President Barack Obama had proposed something this radically out of step with overwhelming bipartisan consensus, Republicans would have called for impeachment, not a mere change of mind.

In all of these different stories, the theme tying them all together is Cory Gardner’s powerlessness to alter the course plotted by his fellow Republicans. Just like we did for years with now-defeated Rep. Mike Coffman, we can argue about the sincerity of Gardner’s positions–but the bottom line is the same. Because the party in power is responsible, and Gardner is a leadership member of that party, he is part of the problem, not the solution.

The more the failures pile up, the more necessary it becomes to step back and process this larger truth.

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Cory Gardner Contradicts Cory Gardner on The Big Wall

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) on “Fox and Friends” (12/14/18)

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) yukked it up on national television on Friday as a guest on “Wake Up, Mr. President” “Fox & Friends,” the morning news/talk show that is basically President Trump’s personal “Sesame Street” (Jason Salzman has more on Gardner’s “revenge majority” phrase) The topic of discussion was the looming government shutdown over funding for Trump’s big wall along the Mexican border…or as the clip is labeled, “Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner says the Democrats are taking revenge out on the president after winning back the majority in the House by not voting for border wall funding.”

Gardner had the bullshit meter turned up all the way to 100 for his sit-down interview, which we transcribed for your reading, uh, pleasure below. Gardner spends most of the interview bashing Democrats for not supporting billions of dollars in funding for Trump’s big wall — though Gardner himself is on the record opposing funding for a border wall. It wasn’t even all that long ago, either. Let’s take a step back in time to March 9, 2017, via Politico:

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, stated his opposition to a physical wall in fairly explicit terms during a telephone town hall Wednesday night…

…”As far as the wall goes, I believe we have to have border security, but I do think billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed,” Gardner told a constituent, according to audio obtained by POLITICO. [Pols emphasis] “I don’t support a tariff to pay for any kind of wall.”

If constructed, Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is expected, by some estimates, to cost $14 billion, if not much more.

Gardner told reporters last month that he didn’t think the wall was “the best idea,” but he was more emphatic in his comments Wednesday night.

“We do need security on the border,” Gardner said. “That may mean personnel. It may mean a fence. That may mean an electronic fence,” the first-term lawmaker said. “But we shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done.” [Pols emphasis]

Same wall. Same guy.

Hmmm…that’s odd. Here’s Gardner’s interview with “Fox & Friends” muppets Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt from Friday:

EARHARDT: Are there 10 Senators who are Democrats who would consider voting for this wall?

GARDNER: Well, I certainly hope so. This is about border security, which is something that both sides have said they supported. I hope there are more than 10 Senators on the Democrat side of the aisle that believe border security is important.

EARHARDT: I’m thinking about Senators from border states…

GARDNER: Right. You’ve got some border state [Senators]. You have others in the Senate who have been voting with us…

EARHARDT:…Like Joe Manchin…

GARDNER: Like Joe Manchin, on common sense border reforms, and others in the Senate. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that just a few months ago you agreed to $25 billion in border security. Why are they trying to cut border security funding now? And I hope they will agree that, yes, let’s get this done.

DOOCY: And that bill you were actually part of – the $25 billion that so many Democrats were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll sign onto that.’ But what has happened? The dynamic has changed because it seems as though the Democrats have dug in. They simply don’t want to give him [Trump?] a nickel for him to build a wall.

GARDNER: This is what I don’t understand. At all. It makes no sense. They have no border security plan. Months ago they supported $25 billion dollars in border security funding. Now, they support less than a fifth of that. This is a massive cut in border security funding that the Democrats are now proposing.

DOOCY: But it’s politics…

GARDNER: It’s politics, but it’s based on a revenge majority that they just elected to the House. This is nothing more than a revenge majority. They want to fight against a President that they believe should never have been elected in the first place. So, the policies that they are pursuing are all going to be based on revenge: Investigations, cutting border security, doing everything they can to provide that revenge.

EARHARDT: Senator, it doesn’t look like the President is going to get the $5 trillion…

GARDNER: Billion…

EARHARDT: $5 billion.

GARDNER: [laughing] $5 trillion would do it.

EARHARDT: I keep saying ‘trillion.’ It’s ‘billion.’ It doesn’t look like he’s going to get that, so is there a compromise? If he gets the 1.3 or 1.6 right now, is there a chance to get another 1.3 or 1.6 in a few months?

GARDNER: You know, there certainly is. You can keep going at it and getting more, bit by bit by bit. But we know the numbers. We know that border security is better when you have something like this in place. We know from the leaders of our border security agencies – by the way, which the revenge majority wants to destroy now. We know that the leaders of these agencies have said, ‘We can do a better job if we have these border security measures in place.’  So, yes, you can do it bit by bit, and ultimately I think we will see that happen over the next week. Let’s get this done.

DOOCY: Okay, first time we’ve heard the word ‘revenge majority.’ I’ve got a feeling we’re going to hear that more. Thank you, Senator.

It’s important to note that the $25 billion “border security” bill Gardner references also included a 12-year pathway to citizenship for so-called “DREAMers” — children of immigrants who are in the United States through no fault of their own — that President Trump rejected outright. The $25 billion “WALL Act” that Senate Republicans are now pushing is no shape or form similar to any of the immigration reform bills that Gardner is referencing when he says that Democrats are now trying to “cut border security funding.” This isn’t an “apples to oranges” comparison; it’s more like “apples to spaceships.”

Congressional Democrats largely do not support Trump’s obsession with building a giant wall but have consistently supported proposals to strengthen border security through the use of sensors, drones, and other non-wall means.

As for the duplicitous Gardner, it’s really not a mystery as to why his approval ratings are in the toilet — even among Republicans. Gardner is a man of his words…whichever words he thinks serve him best at any given moment.

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