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.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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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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Get More Smarter on Friday (December 14)

Get ready for a lot of “hemp” mentions in the near future. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (December 13)

Tremendous amounts of political news. 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…

► Gun deaths in the United States have reached a new high, as CNN reports:

Nearly 40,000 people in the United States died by guns last year, marking the highest number of gun deaths in 38 years, according to a new analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database.

A similar analysis was first conducted by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, a non-profit gun policy advocacy group.

CNN replicated that analysis and found that 39,773 people died by guns in 2017, which is an increase of more than 10,000 deaths from the 28,874 in 1999.

CDC statisticians confirmed with CNN on Thursday that these numbers are correct and they show gun deaths have reached a record-high going back to at least 1979.

We’re #1! Dammit.

 

A new farm bill made it through the House of Representatives on Wednesday and is now on its way to the desk of President Trump.

 

► Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) emerged as a major player in discussions that will likely ensure that Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House. Perlmutter helped negotiate a deal that will set term limits on Democratic leadership to pave the way for new “generational” change in two years.

 

► “Medicare X” is not the name of a new superhero. The Colorado Sun explains:

Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is giving a new push to his grand idea for fixing America’s health insurance market.

He calls it Medicare-X — “the best name I ever came up with,” he says. Bennet, a Democrat, touted the idea last week at the Colorado Health Institute’s annual Hot Issues in Health conference, then spoke about it afterward with reporters.

On the political spectrum of health-policy ideas, Medicare-X sits somewhere in the middle — a more moderate and incremental approach than the single-payer plans many of his fellow Democrats have been endorsing, but with plenty of federal involvement to draw fire from Republicans skeptical of government meddling in the marketplace.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 12)

We have reached the teens! There are only 19 days remaining in 2018. 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 tried to film an episode of “The Apprentice” in the Oval Office on Tuesday, and it did not go well at all. As the Washington Post explains, Trump got his first taste of divided government on Tuesday:

In his first two years in office, President Trump operated without a clear check on his power. With his party controlling both houses of Congress, he issued demands from his bedroom in the form of early-morning tweets, and legislative leaders got in line. He rarely was personally confronted about his untruths and misstatements. And he mostly ignored congressional Democrats, choosing to spar instead with journalists.

That all came to a crashing halt Tuesday. In an extraordinarily heated public fight with the nation’s top two Democratic leaders, the combustible president confronted for the first time the enormity of the challenge he will face over the next two years: divided government…

…With Democrats sweeping into power in the House in January, Trump for the first time will be forced to work with the opposition party to govern. And if Tuesday’s spectacle is any indication, Pelosi and Schumer intend to be tough adversaries. They showed an eagerness to challenge the president by using some of his own tactics against him. They tried not only to debate him on policy, but also to hold him accountable for his fact-challenged bluster and to paint him as weak and inept.

 

► President Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison today as a result of illegal activities he allegedly performed at the behest of Trump.

 

Another poll, another bad set of numbers for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). According to a survey conducted this month by Change Research, Gardner is wildly unpopular heading into the last two years of his Senate term:

The poll also found that 50% have unfavorable feelings towards Senator Gardner compared with 38% who are favorable and if the election were held today, he would lose to ‘the Democratic candidate’ 47% to 41%.

Given their size in the state, independent voters who do not identify with one of the two major political parties are particularly important. Senator Gardner’s net unfavorables are 14 points higher than his favorables among this group and he loses them by 13 points in a head-to-head with a generic Democrat.

Gardner’s numbers in Colorado have been positively brutal for more than two years now.

 

► Britain’s Conservative Party has called for a vote to oust Prime Minister Theresa May, which could be a precursor to a sea-change election in Old England.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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BREAKING: Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

President Trump and former personal attorney Michael Cohen

From CBS News:

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen has been sentenced by a federal judge in Manhattan to three years in federal prison.

Prosecutors had recommended a “substantial term of imprisonment” for Cohen, who pleaded guilty to both lying to Congress over a possible Trump Tower Moscow project, and to campaign finance violations for paying women who alleged affairs with Donald Trump. Cohen’s lawyers had asked that he serve no prison time.

Cohen, according to the Associated Press, said in his defense that “blind loyalty” to Mr. Trump “led me to take a path of darkness instead of light.”

Prosecutors say they believe Cohen committed illegal acts at the direction of Mr. Trump, named “Individual 1” in court filings. Mr. Trump has disowned Cohen, calling him “not very smart.”

We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.

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Profiles in Cowardice: Cory Gardner and MBS’s Mastercard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gardner Talks in Circles About Mueller Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, indeed.

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

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Cory Gardner Does a Saudi One-Eighty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jamal Khashoggi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cory Gardner Doublespeaks His Way To Backing Saudis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump Doesn’t Know the Guy He Already Said He Knows

President Trump tries out his newest version of “I didn’t do it.”

As Politico reports, President Trump’s adventures in organizing the Justice Department took another weird turn today:

President Donald Trump defended acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker as a “highly respected man” on Friday, while also claiming he didn’t know him despite reports Whitaker had regularly visited the Oval Office in recent months.

“I don’t know Whitaker,” the president told reporters, but added that he is “highly thought of” and a “highly respected man.”

The New York Times reported in September that Whitaker, then the chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, had “frequently visited the Oval Office” and that Trump had called him to offer “reassurance that he has faith in him.” The Washington Post also cited a senior administration official who said Whitaker met with Trump in the Oval Office more than a dozen times, usually alongside Sessions.

Trump has also previously said that he does actually know Whitaker.

“I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy,” he said on an interview on “Fox and Friends” on Oct. 11. “I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.” [Pols emphasis]

This all might just be a really clumsy attempt by President Trump to throw Matthew Whitaker under the bus in the midst of heavy criticism over the appointment…but it is a remarkably lazy effort. The odds are pretty good that somebody has at least one photo of Trump and Whitaker together.

Of course, it’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Trump doesn’t remember his interactions with Whitaker, which is also terrifying.

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Signs of the Times at Denver’s #ProtectMueller Rally: “Gardner Grow A Spine”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

With less than 24 hours’ notice, hundreds of Coloradans gathered at the West Steps of the state capitol on Thursday evening to protest President Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker to be acting Attorney General of the United States. Whitaker had been AG Jeff Sessions’ Chief of Staff. He has publicly argued that Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation has gone too far and that President Trump has the authority to end it whenever he wants.

Speakers included Senator Michael Bennet, Congressmen-elect Joe Neguse and Jason Crow, Attorney General-elect Phil Weiser, State Rep. Joe Salazar (D – Thornton), and AME Shorter Church Pastor Dr. Timothy Tyler.

Gardner Sign at Protect Mueller Rally

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Coffman’s Saudi Arabia Faceplant: Last Chance Blown?

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

CNN reports on the stunning admission late yesterday from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that officials directly subordinate to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were indeed responsible for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul:

After 18 days in which Saudi Arabia adamantly denied that any harm had come to Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul, it committed a startling about-face. Not only did Riyadh admit that Khashoggi came to a violent end, it pinned the blame on some of the closest aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, both widely known figures who shot to fame during the crown prince’s rapid rise to power, were among five high-ranking officials who were dismissed over Khashoggi’s death. Eighteen others were detained…

In a flurry of coordinated statements, issued in the dead of night in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia claimed Khashoggi’s death was accidental. According to the Saudi Press Agency, preliminary investigations revealed that “discussions” between Khashoggi and suspects currently detained by Saudi Arabia developed into a physical altercation that resulted in Khashoggi’s death. Those responsible then tried to cover up the death, state TV said.

Outside the bubble of Saudi state media–and apparently, the Trump administration–it has been the consensus of investigators and reporters that Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Turkish investigators were said to have evidence from the beginning, though the source and manner has been in question, that Khashoggi was tortured and dismembered by a team of high-level Saudi agents who arrived in the country with this sole task. Given the autocratic control of every part of Saudi Arabia’s economy and government by the Saudi royal family, it’s an easy question even for non-foreign policy experts like this blog how this could possibly have happened without the Crown Prince’s express authorization.

Although Saudi Arabia appears to be working to insulate the royal family from responsibility for what is now indisputably a grave diplomatic crisis, this admission is still pretty close to the worst-case scenario for the Trump administration, who has spent the last two weeks more or less determined to blame anyone else for this killing they can. President Donald Trump in particular has gone on at great length about the purchases of arms and other American products the Saudis have committed to, in a grisly attempt to counterbalance the value of Jamal Khashoggi’s life against these purchases.

As this news was breaking yesterday, embattled Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, struggling for life in the 2018 midterms and triaged out of support from national Republicans, tried to get his name into the story:

After Mike Coffman called in penalty and repentance for the “immediate recall” of the “acting ambassador” to Saudi Arabia via Twitter, the internet remembered a fairly important detail: the United States doesn’t have an ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora.

To Coffman’s modest credit, the acting ambassador to Saudi Arabia is the chargé d’affaires, ad interim at the American Embassy in Riyadh, Christopher Henzel. But unlike most “interim” positions at this level, that’s not expected to change anytime soon. The reason for this is that President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has personally assumed responsibility for American diplomacy with Saudi Arabia, and this informal nepotistic arrangement has suited the Saudis just fine. Henzel doesn’t have the real power in relations with the Saudis, Kushner does. So if Coffman wanted to call for something that might actually matter, he would call for Trump to tell his son-in-law to do it. But for all the obvious reasons, Coffman’s not going to go there. So he makes a statement that dodges the whole issue.

And that, gentle readers, is how Coffman made himself into a punchline on foreign policy with just over two weeks until the election. Even The Hill, a notoriously incumbent-friendly publication, couldn’t fully spin it back.

With Coffman already well behind in the polls, nobody’s going to say in hindsight that this latest embarrassing demonstration of Coffman’s ineptitude when it comes to the biggest asset he offers the voters of swing CD-6–“standing up to his own party”–was the event that flipped this race. Especially since Trump’s election, Coffman’s inability to affect the course of his party’s unpopular agenda has proven the emptiness of this promise over and over.

But as a straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back, sure. This might do it.

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Laughter is (Not) a Yuge Sign of Respect

UPDATE: Maybe Trump is a reader of Colorado Pols? From CNN:

President Trump claims that world leaders were “laughing with” him, not at him, during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

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President Trump waits to speak at the UN on Tuesday (Getty images)

President Trump addressed members of the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, and as you may have heard, it did not go well.

As the Washington Post explains, Trump suffered the fate he fears most: World leaders were quite literally laughing at him.

Delivering a speech that aimed to establish U.S. “sovereignty” over the whims and needs of other nations, the president’s triumphant moment was marred in the first minute when he was met by laughter — at his expense.

The embarrassing exchange came when Trump boasted that his administration had accomplished more over two years than “almost any administration” in American history, eliciting audible guffaws in the cavernous chamber hall.

The president appeared startled. “Didn’t expect that reaction,” he said, “but that’s okay.”

Members of the audience chuckled again — perhaps this time in sympathy.

“It’s the first time I’m aware of that people actually laughed at a president. I think it is going to drive him absolutely crazy. It will play to every insecurity he has.”

— Thomas Wright, Brookings Institution

The only thing sadder than world leaders laughing at the President of the United States is when Trump supporters try to pretend that it was actually “respectful” laughter. As The Hill reports, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley appeared on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday morning to say this:

“When he said that, they love how honest he is,” she said. “It’s not diplomatic, and they find it funny. I mean, when he goes and he is very truthful, they kind of were taken back by it.

“Whether he said good things about him or not, they love that he’s honest with them,” she added. “And they’ve never seen anything like it, so there’s a respect there. I saw that the media was trying to make it something disrespectful, that’s not what it was. They love to be with him.”

Remember when your mother would tell you that people were laughing with you and not at you? Even as a kid you knew that she was just saying that to make you feel better.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (September 7)

Take THAT, glass ceiling. 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 is flipping out over that anonymous Op-Ed published by the New York Times on Wednesday afternoon. On Friday Trump said that the Justice Department should try to identify the author because it is a national security concern, but as the Washington Post writes, “It is unclear what law he believes was broken.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the White House has identified 12 potential suspects who might have authored the Op-Ed.

Who do you think is the author of the infamous Op-Ed? Cast your vote in our poll.

 

► Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is suing Purdue Pharma L.P. over the company’s marketing and distribution of the dangerous painkiller Oxycontin. This will be a big issue in the race to succeed Coffman in November; Republican candidate George Brauchler has been reluctant to say much about the opioid epidemic because his campaign is heavily-funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

 

► Hey, look: Tom Tancredo’s support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton is becoming more problematic by the day. It turns out that making racist public comments isn’t very helpful for Stapleton. Whodathunkit?

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Who Did It?

UPDATE (FRIDAY): Officials at the White House are reportedly looking at 12 potential authors of the Op-Ed.

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The anonymous Op-Ed published by the New York Times on Wednesday afternoon — you know, the one that absolutely demolishes President Trump — has people buzzing about the identity of the author (“who wrote the op ed” is a top suggested search on Google). We know the person responsible is a “senior official in the Trump administration,” as described by the Times…and that’s about all we know.

The list of suspects is immense and hard to narrow down, so we took to the Internet tubes to find the names being mentioned most often. Our sources include Chris Cillizza of CNNTaylor Telford of the Washington Post; Andrew Prokop at Vox.com; and even the betting site OddsShark (which listed Vice President Mike Pence — who purportedly likes the word “lodestar” — as the early favorite on Wednesday).

Here is that list, which is by no means exhaustive:

  1. Don McGahn, White House counsel
  2. Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence
  3. Kellyanne Conway, White House adviser/counselor
  4. John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff
  5. Kirstjen Nielsen, head of the Department of Homeland Security
  6. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General
  7. James Mattis, Secretary of Defense
  8. Fiona Hill, White House Russia expert
  9. Mike Pence, Vice President
  10. Nikki Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations
  11. Jared Kushner, “first son-in-law”
  12. Ivanka Trump, “first daughter”
  13. Melania Trump, First Lady
  14. Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary
  15. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary
  16. Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State
  17. Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education
  18. Stephen Miller, Senior White House adviser
  19. Gina Haspel, CIA Director
  20. Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary

Many of these “suspects” have already publicly denied writing the Op-Ed, but we wouldn’t assume that anyone would cop to being the author already. Among oddsmakers, the names generally getting top billing are Pence, Coats, Mattis, Haley, Kelly, McGahn, Conway, and “Javanka” (Kushner/Ivanka).

So, who did it? You tell us. Cast your vote in our poll after the jump…

(more…)

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (September 6)

Do you know what happened on this day in history? Not much, apparently. 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 Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is in his third day of Senate hearings, and things in Washington D.C. are getting pretty heated. Kavanaugh has generally refused to offer answers on consequential questions: he won’t say whether he believes the President is obligated to respond to a subpoena or could be legally indicted for a crime; he won’t divulge his opinion on Roe v. Wade; and he won’t say how he might deal with the question of pre-existing conditions as it relates to the Affordable Care Act (the Washington Post has a detailed list of important questions Kavanaugh is dodging).

Today’s hearings took a new turn when Democrats — led by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker — started to push back on the lack of available information on Kavanaugh. From Politico:

Democrats have fumed for weeks over the withholding of hundreds of thousands of pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s years in the George W. Bush White House, including a massive tranche of records that lawyers working for Bush had limited only to Judiciary Committee senators. That secrecy collapsed in dramatic fashion Thursday as Democratic senators vowed to begin releasing records they said were unfairly shrouded and highly relevant to the confirmation.

One of those confidential documents, obtained by POLITICO, shows Kavanaugh leaving the door open to the high court overturning Roe v. Wade. “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since [the] Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,” President Donald Trump’s nominee wrote in 2003.

That characterization is a distinct contrast with the more measured view of Roe as precedent that Kavanaugh offered on Wednesday. But the day before the document leaked, Kavanaugh was asked on about the exact sentiment he shared back in 2003 and portrayed it as merely a restatement of legal scholars’ opinion, “different from … my position as a judge.”

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) are publicly backing up Booker’s decision to release the documents in question.

 

► President Trump is in full “witch hunt” mode as the White House struggles to contain damning information indicating that Trump is not in contact with all of his marbles. The New York Times on Wednesday afternoon published an anonymous Op-Ed reportedly written by a “senior official in the Trump administration” that reveals an internal “resistance” working diligently to try to prevent Trump from destroying us all. Trump is characterizing the anonymous Op-Ed as “treason” and is reportedly stalking the White House looking for scalps.

As Aaron Blake writes for the Washington Post, it’s hard to argue that we are NOT dealing with a serious threat to Democracy. Stephen Collinson of CNN believes we have crossed a new threshold with Trump:

It’s impossible to know in the moment when a presidency begins to dissolve. But after a devastating 48 hours, it’s already clear that Donald Trump’s will never be the same. [Pols emphasis]

Whatever your view of Trump, his behavior and his presidency, Washington is watching the opening act of a stunning attempt to topple the elected leader of the nation.
Damaging twin portraits of the President in a New York Times op-ed and Bob Woodward’s new book are using the words of current top officials to fracture the mythology of vanity and bombast, conmanship and intimidation of Trump’s personality cult.

In an attack from an enemy within, top officials who see Trump up close, including one calling the band of renegades the “resistance,” are finally daring to say — albeit under Washington’s invisibility cloak of anonymity — what outside critics have long believed.

They warn the President of the United States is not only unfit to be the most powerful man in the world, but is a venal mix of ignorance and ego, pettiness, malignancy and recklessness that is putting the republic and the world itself at risk.

The most popular parlor game in Washington D.C. is trying to figure out the identity of the anonymous Op-Ed author (Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say they didn’t do it). As Politico reports, this is just the beginning.

 

President Trump is touting the support of…wait, what?

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (September 5)

At the very least, we promise not to make you any dumber. 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…

► The Washington Post has the latest on Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh:

In his first morning fielding questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh refused to answer an inquiry about whether a president must respond to a subpoena, an issue that could come before the Supreme Court in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question,” he told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

Feinstein had asked Kavanaugh about his views on investigations involving a sitting president. In the 1990s, Kavanaugh was a member of independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s team investigating President Bill Clinton, and took a hard line on questioning the president about what he called lies and “revolting behavior” involving intern Monica Lewinsky.

As James Hohmann writes for the Washington Post, Kavanaugh’s first day of hearings on Tuesday demonstrated the “institutional decline” of the U.S. Senate.

 
► Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh made other disconcerting headlines on Tuesday when he apparently refused to shake the hand of the father of a student killed in the Parkland High School shooting in Florida.
 

► The latest fundraising numbers for Colorado legislative races are now available, and the news is not good for Senate Republicans.

 

► The League of Conservation Voters is spending big bucks on a new ad targeting Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) over his poor record on environmental issues. As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

LCV Victory Fund, the political arm of the League of Conservation Voters, plans to spend $663,000 on the 30-second ad, which all but accuses Coffman of causing “cancer, asthma, and heart and lung disease” by voting to let donors “spew dangerous toxins” into the air and water. As ominous music plays over grainy images of belching smokestacks, the ad also ties Coffman to President Donald Trump, dubbed “the worst polluter of all.”

The ad — LCV’s first in a House race this cycle — is slated to run for two weeks on broadcast and cable channels, the group said.

Coffman campaign spokesperson Tyler Sandberg tried to point to one of Coffman’s regular fence-sitting positions on the environment, but that argument against the LCV ad didn’t work out:

While Sandberg listed Coffman’s vote last month against a Republican-sponsored amendment to gut the EPA’s rules on methane emissions as an example of bucking his party to side with the environment, Roberts dismissed the argument, pointing to a Coffman vote in favor of the same amendment a year ago.

 

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