Get More Smarter on Monday (April 15)

Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is engulfed in flames, and it’s not clear if the iconic structure can be saved. It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

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► As the Washington Post reports, the (redacted) Mueller Report is expected to be released on Thursday:

…congressional Democrats have been sharply critical of Barr’s handling of the Mueller report, accusing the attorney general of soft-pedaling the findings to protect the president.

The House Judiciary Committee is poised to issue a subpoena for the report’s redacted portions.

Barr has spent weeks redacting sensitive information from the report in preparation for its public release. Barr is shielding four specific categories of information: grand jury material, details whose public release could harm ongoing investigations, any information that would “potentially compromise sources and methods” in intelligence collection, and anything that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

 

► As Politico reports, the late 2017 tax cut plan championed by President Trump and hammered through by Congressional Republicans is not at all popular:

Multiple polls show a majority of Americans don’t think they got a tax cut at all — even though independent analyses show they did. And only about a third of the country approves of the legislation itself, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by Congress at the end of 2017.

So as Trump moves closer to full-time reelection mode later this year, he will have to battle a stark reality: While his personal rating on the economy remains high, his signature legislative achievement is widely viewed as a political dud, one that has drawn special anger in places with high state and local taxes and pricey housing markets where deductions were limited to reduce the overall cost of the tax plan.

White House officials are clearly aware of their vulnerability on the issue and officials are dubbing this Tax Cut Week, sending the president out to tout the impact of the legislation starting in Minnesota on Monday.

On the subject of taxes, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is now saying that Trump’s tax returns shouldn’t be released because they are just too complicated to understand anyway.

 

The recall grift in Colorado just keeps growing and growing and growing.

 

► Check out the latest episode of The Get More Smarter Show, featuring an in-depth interview with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

 

► Voters in Denver will receive mail ballots in the coming days in advance of a busy Spring ballot. The Denver Post runs down the candidates and issues battling it out in Colorado’s Capitol.

 

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The Get More Smarter Show: April 14, 2019

Today on the Get More Smarter Show: host Jason Bane sits down with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to talk about the 2018 elections, Weiser’s agenda and accomplishments in just a few short months in office, and the greatest video game ever.

Catch up on previous Get More Smarter Show episodes here, and thanks for watching!

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 12)

The Denver Nuggets start their playoff run on Saturday at home against the San Antonio Spurs. It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

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President Trump is affirming threats to release immigrant detainees into the home districts of prominent Democrats as punishment for not letting him build his big border wall. As the Washington Post reports:

Trump said Friday that his administration is giving “strong considerations” to a plan to release immigrant detainees into “sanctuary cities,” blaming Democrats for what he characterized as an unwillingness to change immigration laws.

His comments on Twitter followed a Washington Post report that the administration had been eyeing districts of political adversaries, including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to release detainees.

“The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!” Trump wrote.

His tweets suggested that the plan, which immigration officials had rejected in November and February, was again viable.

Never underestimate the ability of President Trump to sink lower than you ever thought possible. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN:

The fact that this would even be considered speaks volumes about how Trump (and Miller) view not only the ongoing crisis at the border, but human beings more generally. [Pols emphasis]

Because this is, at heart, a story about people. People who tried to enter the country illegally, yes. But people nonetheless. And what the President of the United States wanted to do to these human beings was turn them, literally speaking, into political pawns. Ship them somewhere so that they could, maybe, accomplish a political goal of his — and, if not that, then just make things more uncomfortable for his political opponents…

…Only by seeing certain people as lesser or a threat can you treat them like political pawns on your broader chessboard.

And when you see people as something less than, well, people you can rationalize treating them in ways that no person should be treated. That’s where we are with President Trump on immigration. There is no bottom. He just keeps going lower and lower. [Pols emphasis]

 

► The Denver Post endorses Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for re-election:

Ballots for the city’s spring election will arrive in mailboxes next week, and we hope voters consider how very much is on the horizon in Denver to be excited about….

…Hancock’s administration and City Council have stood up to developers, even if at times we wish they had reacted more quickly: rejecting slot-home developments; closing a loophole that allowed developers of multi-family houses on small lots to not provide off-street parking; setting an ambitious goal for affordable housing, meeting it early and then creating a multi-million dollar fund to keep the progress going. We see the mayor’s leadership in creating Denver Day Works, a program that sets aside city work for day laborers, and in his commitment to creating new shelter beds, improving existing shelter spaces and building a daytime facility with showers and other resources.

More needs to be done, but Hancock is ready and willing to meet the challenges of a booming city and he is the only candidate ready to meet the challenges if this nation faces an economic downturn.

 

► What are Republican recall attempts in Colorado really about? Making money, of course.
 
 
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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 10)

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

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Attorney General William Barr continues to toss his credibility out the window. As CNN reports:

Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers Wednesday that he will be looking to the “genesis” of the the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into potential ties between members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government began in 2016, saying, “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal” — echoing some of the more inflammatory claims lobbed by President Donald Trump for months, but declining to elaborate on his concerns [Pols emphasis]

…”For the same reason we’re worried about foreign influence in elections, I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr said. I’m not suggesting those rules were violated but I think it’s important to look at. . . . I think it’s my obligation.” [Pols emphasis]

He added that he’s not launching a full blown investigation to the FBI, and does not view it as a problem that is “endemic” to the FBI, but has in mind some colleagues to help him “pull all this information together, and letting me know if there are some areas that should be looked at.”

Barr isn’t saying that it happened, but it could have happened, and maybe it did happen. But then again, maybe it didn’t…

As Paul Waldman writes for the Washington Post, Barr is very much the good clapping monkey that Trump was searching for when he hired a new Attorney General.

 

► The Denver Post reports on the advancement of paid family leave legislation in Colorado:

The proposed insurance program, five years in the making, cleared a key Senate committee on a party-line vote Tuesday afternoon after the sponsors amended the bill to allow businesses that already offer identical benefits and local governments to opt out, increase the share employees must contribute, and push back the rollout of the program to 2023.

The committee also reduced the amount of available time off to 12 weeks. The previous version allowed up to 16 weeks in some instances.

The bill still provides wage-replacement benefits and job protections for all employees who work at least 680 hours during a year and contribute to the state fund. Seasonal workers are not covered.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 9)

Temperatures in Colorado could reach a high near 80 degrees; tomorrow it might snow as much as 7 inches. Please note that this does not give you the right to say things like, “That’s Colorado weather for ya!” It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► It seems clear that the Trump administration is in the midst of a calculated leadership purge within the Department of Homeland Security. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump continued to dismantle the leadership of the nation’s top domestic security agency Monday, as the White House announced the imminent removal of U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph D. “Tex” Alles, the latest in a series of head-spinning departures from the Department of Homeland Security.

A day after Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to step aside following a White House meeting with Trump, senior DHS officials remained in a fog about the fate of their agency’s leaders, expecting more firings as part of a widening purge.

“They are decapitating the entire department,” said one DHS official, noting that the White House had given no cause for Alles’s removal.

As Politico reports, Congressional Republicans are at a loss for words in trying to understand what the White House is doing:

President Donald Trump’s congressional allies are alarmed by his purge at the Department of Homeland Security — urging him not to fire more top officials and warning him how hard it will be to solve twin crises at the border and the federal agencies overseeing immigration policy.

The president’s frantic four days of bloodletting at DHS and other agencies blindsided senior Republicans who are already fretting about difficult confirmation battles ahead. Some are worried about the rising influence of top White House aide Stephen Miller. And after November elections in which suburban voters rejected Trump’s hard-line immigration agenda, the president is once again making it the centerpiece of the GOP’s platform.

“It’s a mess,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, summing up the dynamic on the border and in Washington.

Chris Cillizza of CNN looks at the list of administration officials who said “No” to the big orange guy and subsequently lost their jobs.

 

► Attorney General William Barr said today that a redacted Mueller report will be delivered to Congress and the American public “within a week.” The New York Times has more details, including news that special counsel Robert Mueller did not review a four-page summary of the report that Barr announced last week. Elie Honig of CNN wonders how much of the report will end up blacked-out:

In the interest of transparency and public confidence in the Department of Justice, Barr should put away his redaction pen and disclose as much of Muller’s report as possible. Anything less will raise one big question: What is Barr trying to hide?

 

► These three sentences from Tyler Silvy of the Greeley Tribune tell you everything you need to know about the recall effort to oust Rep. Rochelle Galindo:

Former Weld County GOP Chairwoman Stacey Kjeldgaard, who is leading the recall effort, in a phone interview Sunday went further when it comes to oil and gas — and the potential negative economic impact of SB 181 — being the reason for the recall.

“That’s our big thing; that’s our only thing,” Kjeldgaard said.

But then there’s this: When asked whether she would be working to recall Galindo if she had voted “no” on SB 181, Kjeldgaard said, “Absolutely.” [Pols emphasis]

Recalling a freshman Democratic Representative is about a lot of things — Galindo’s sexuality, Republican anger at getting drubbed in the 2018 election, and the enormous grift opportunity it presents for numerous right-wing political operatives, to name a few — but it ain’t about how Galindo voted on SB-181.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 5)

Today is “Opening Day” for the Colorado Rockies; have fun parking downtown this afternoon. It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Remember when President Trump asserted that he was “totally exonerated” after Attorney General William Barr issued a summary of the Mueller report? That talking point is not aging well.

As the Washington Post reports:

Revelations that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s still-confidential report may contain damaging information about President Trump ignited a fresh round of political fighting on Thursday, ushering in a new phase of the nearly two-year-old battle over the Russia probe.

Members of Mueller’s team have told associates they are frustrated with the limited information that Attorney General William P. Barr has provided about their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

While Barr concluded the special counsel’s evidence was not sufficient to prove that the president obstructed justice, some of Mueller’s investigators have said their findings on obstruction were alarming and significant, one person with knowledge of their thinking said.

Some on the special counsel’s team were also frustrated that summaries they had prepared for different sections of the report — with the view that they could be made public fairly quickly — were not released by Barr, two people familiar with the matter said.

The truth shall set you free, as the saying goes…though it may yet have the opposite effect for many in Trumpland. Attorney General William Barr appears to be well on his way to getting tossed under the ol’ bus.

 

► Colorado lawmakers have reached an agreement on transportation funding, though as the Denver Post reports, the details are murky:

Colorado’s Republican and Democratic lawmakers reached a second and potentially final deal to spend $300 million more on transportation in the next budget year, but the big question still left to answer is what gets cut to pay for it.

This new deal struck Thursday afternoon is $36 million less than the amount agreed to in the Senate last week. The House got approval from their counterparts before announcing this compromise, which directs the six members of the Joint Budget Committee to find $70 million for the Department of Transportation in the $30.5 billion state budget.

“We are giving permission for your JBC members to go into conference committee and dig through the couch cushions a little harder,” Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, told her fellow Democrats during a meeting to explain the agreement.

This can serve as your regular reminder that TABOR is awful.

 

► Elections matter. Leadership matters.

Consider the rollout on Thursday of a plan from Gov. Jared Polis to reduce health care costs in Colorado. The “Roadmap to Saving Coloradans Money on Health Care” includes several pieces of legislation that have bipartisan support. Most of these bills could have been passed and implemented in prior years, but Senate Republicans had no interest in governing with their one-seat majority. This is why Colorado voters overwhelmingly elected Democrats in 2018.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 3)

Sign us up as investors in the first business to start delivering marijuana AND fast food at the same time. 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…

► Attorney General William Barr says that he will make a “redacted” version of the Mueller report available to lawmakers by mid-April. The House Judiciary Committee isn’t satisfied with that approach, as CNN reports:

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a subpoena to obtain the full confidential report from special counsel Robert Mueller, sending a warning to Attorney General William Barr not to redact Mueller’s report and setting the stage for a clash between Congress and the Trump administration.

Wednesday’s vote, which was divided along party lines, comes the day after an April 2 deadline House Democrats set for Barr to provide the full Mueller report to Congress. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler now has the ability to issue a subpoena for Mueller’s unredacted report as well as the underlying evidence collected during the 22-month investigation into Trump’s team…

…”The big question is, do we get the entire report and the documentation? Or does he redact it so it’s meaningless?” Nadler told on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.

Colorado is represented on the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley).

 

► So-called “red flag” gun safety legislation is through the state legislature and awaiting the signature of Gov. Jared Polis. The editorial board of the Pueblo Chieftain has a strong message for those who think they are doing their community a service if they refuse to enforce the new law:

Sheriffs and the deputies who work for them are supposed to be in the business of enforcing laws. That’s why it’s a little surreal to hear so many of them across Colorado vowing not to enforce the so-called “red flag” bill…

…The larger point here is that sheriffs shouldn’t be in the position of picking which laws they choose to enforce. That’s a slippery slope that, taken to its extreme, would lead to anarchy.

► The newly-elected Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party wasted no time in embarrassing the State GOP on Tuesday. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) made the wrong kind of headlines for his questioning during a hearing to amend the Equality Act when he asked a witness (who was testifying about her experience with discrimination after a same-sex marriage) if she thought requiring Christian doctors to treat gay patients was comparable to forcing Jewish doctors to treat Nazis. From Yahoo! News:

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo, posed an even more outlandish scenario to one of the witnesses, Jami Contreras, who faced discrimination in seeking medical care for her child because she is in a same-sex marriage.

“Is it your position,” Buck asked Contreras, “that an Orthodox Jewish doctor whose grandparent was killed in the Holocaust be required to work with a Nazi patient?”

Nazis are not a protected class, meaning that adherents of a political ideology — in this case, fascism — are not covered by the anti-discrimination statute of the Civil Rights Act. A seemingly confused Contreras answered by pointing out that she and her wife were raising their child according to “Christian values” and wanted only protection from prejudice.

Click here for the full exchange during Tuesday’s hearing.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 2)

At least you don’t have to worry about lame April Fool’s Day jokes for another year. 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 Trump administration may or may not have an actual plan for health care reform, but the answer to that question won’t be settled anytime soon. President Trump is heeding Republican worries about picking another health care reform fight ahead of the 2020 election cycle, as CNN reports:

President Donald Trump on Monday night backed away from his push for a vote on an Obamacare replacement until after the 2020 elections, bowing to the political reality that major health care legislation cannot pass in the current Congress.

Trump’s statements come a week after his administration announced that it now agreed with a judge’s ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act should be scrapped. The opinion was a dramatic reversal from the administration’s previous stance that only portions of the act could not be defended…

…”The Republicans are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare. In other words it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House. It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America,” Trump declared in a series of tweets. “Also, Republicans will always support Pre-Existing Conditions. The Republican Party will be known as the Party of Great HealtCare. Meantime, the USA is doing better than ever & is respected again!”

Trump’s decision comes at a good time for White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who has been getting hammered by media outlets for nonsensical health care statements he made on the talk show circuit last weekend.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) says that he opposes President Trump’s latest threats to close the U.S.-Mexico border. Of course, Gardner says a lot of stuff that he doesn’t mean, like his “opposition” to Trump’s “emergency declaration” for border wall money.

 

► The Associated Press reports on the advancement of some significant legislation at the State Capitol:

A House committee on Monday advanced a bill to ask Colorado voters if the state can retain excess tax revenue and a companion bill that would spend that revenue on roads and schools.

The House Finance Committee votes came after Democratic Speaker KC Becker argued the state should do all it can — especially at a time of sustained economic growth — to address Colorado’s chronically underfunded transportation and education needs…

…One bill would ask voters in November if the state can keep excess revenue that would otherwise be refunded under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The other would allocate that excess revenue in equal parts to K-12 schools, higher education and transportation.

Even some of the most staunch defenders of TABOR are admitting that the spending restrictions need to be changed — and soon.

 

► So-called “red flag” gun safety legislation has officially made it through the state legislature and is now on its way to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis. From 9News:

The bill would allow the seizure of weapons from persons the court deems to pose a significant risk to themselves or others.

The 38-25 passing vote included two Democrats who voted against it: Rep. Bri Buentello (D-Pueblo) and Rep. Donald Valdez (D-La Jara)…

…Colorado Republicans defeated a similar bill last year, insisting it infringed on citizens’ Second Amendment rights. But Democrats won both statehouse chambers in November, and Polis called for a “red flag” law while campaigning last year.

It would allow family or law enforcement to seek a court order to have guns seized if they believe the owner is a threat. If approved, a subsequent court hearing would be held to determine whether to extend the seizure, up to 364 days.

Polis is expected to sign the legislation, which is overwhelmingly popular among most Colorado voters.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 29)

March is on its way out in a sorta lion-lamb hybrid style. 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.

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► The Grand Junction Sentinel reports on the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s new Secretary of Interior: Rifle, Colorado native David Bernhardt.

Bernhardt on Thursday touted his experience and defended his ethics — denying one senator’s accusation he lied about his ethical integrity — during his Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to become secretary of the Department of Interior.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who strongly backs Bernhardt’s nomination, said in introducing him to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee that he believes Bernhardt would become the seventh Interior secretary from Colorado if confirmed. Recent secretaries from the state include Ken Salazar during the Obama administration and Gale Norton during the George W. Bush administration…

…Bernhardt’s work as an attorney and lobbyist for oil and gas, water and other industries affected by Interior Department policies has caused him to come under intense scrutiny from critics over the policies he has espoused during the Trump administration and questions about possible conflicts of interest.

That scrutiny was laid bare during Thursday’s hearing when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told Bernhardt he’d read recently obtained department documents showing Bernhardt had blocked release of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report with new analysis of the dangerous effects of toxic chemicals.

As the Colorado Independent reports, Bernhardt says he will stop recusing himself from cases that might cause a conflict with his former lobbying clients. That’s some straightforward graft right there.

During Thursday’s confirmation hearing, Bernhardt also updated news about the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to move its headquarters to the Western U.S. — perhaps in Grand Junction.

 

► Lawmakers in the United Kingdom rejected a third proposal for managing England’s Brexit. As CNN explains:

The defeat of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement by 344 votes to 286 came on the same day that Britain was originally supposed to leave the European Union, and left the path forward on Brexit unclear.

The rejection of May’s plan raises the chances of a lengthy delay to Brexit or Britain crashing out of Europe without a deal on the new deadline of April 12.

May had offered to resign if Parliament passed her deal, but ultimately she was unable to persuade enough MPs to back a plan they had resoundingly rejected in two previous votes.

It may now rest on British lawmakers to find a way out of the impasse when they run a second vote on alternatives to May’s deal on Monday.

 

► As Colorado Public Radio reports, a last-minute budget deal that includes new money for transportation funding may yet be held up before passage.

 

► So-called “red flag” gun safety legislation has passed out of the State Senate and now returns to the State House for consideration of amendments. House Bill 19-1177 is expected to win final approval in the House before making its way to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 19)

For the first time in six years, the Denver Nuggets are heading to the playoffs. 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…

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has plenty of explaining to do after his inexplicable vote last week to oppose a Senate measure condemning President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for wall building money. As the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, Gardner’s “promises” he claimed to have extracted from President Trump aren’t worth squat:

The Trump administration’s border wall project could raid $77 million in construction money from Fort Carson, according to a Pentagon list released to Congress on Monday.

The list, released to The Gazette by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, puts more than $10 billion in military construction projects across the country and abroad on the chopping block since President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to build the barrier along the Mexican border. The emergency allows Trump to pull money from Pentagon accounts.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., exacted a promise from the Trump administration last week that Colorado military construction money wouldn’t be “repurposed” for the wall, a promise that spokesman Jerrod Dobkin emphasized Monday. But the Pentagon included the Fort Carson project on its list.

Fort Carson was to provide troops with a long-awaited, improved vehicle maintenance shop to repair the post’s aging fleet of trucks, tanks and Humvees.

Really great work, Sen. Gardner.

 

► Colorado Senate Republican leaders are in a Denver courtroom today in a case that could set new standards over judicial involvement with the legislative branch. As Marshall Zelinger reports for 9News:

The 2019 legislative session took on a new look when a sitting lawmaker took the witness stand in a lawsuit pitting Senate Republicans against Senate Democrats and the non-partisan Senate staff.

Sen. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) took the witness stand in a Denver District Courtroom on Tuesday morning.

Gardner, along with Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Parker) and Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley) were excused from the Senate on Tuesday morning to be at a Denver City and County Building courtroom.

The trio have sued Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) and Senate Secretary Cindi Markwell over the computerized reading of a 2,000-page bill on March 11.

 

► Senate Bill 181 — the oil and gas reform legislation — is moving along in the State House after another 12-hour marathon of testimony that featured plenty of ridiculous rhetoric from Republicans:

 

► As Jon Murray reports for the Denver Post, state lawmakers are looking at a host of different options for transportation infrastructure funding.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 15)

Happy early St. Patrick’s Day. 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.

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► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is in a very bad place, politically-speaking, after his inexplicable vote on Thursday to oppose a Senate measure (which passed anyway) condemning President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for wall building money. Gardner’s decision so incensed the Denver Post editorial board that the newspaper essentially retracted its 2014 endorsement of his Senate candidacy:

Yowza!

 

As the New York Times reports, President Trump made a number of calls to Republican Senators in hopes of persuading them to vote “NO” on the resolution. Was Gardner among those who received a personal call? As one Republican donor told Politico, “Beware the fury of Trump.”

 

► On Wednesday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted on a resolution encouraging the full public release of the final report from special investigator Robert Mueller. Nationwide polling has consistently shown that Americans want to see the full report, and a new Colorado poll echoes that sentiment. From the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Public Policy Polling — on behalf of left-leaners ProgressNow Colorado and Protect the Investigation —surveyed 543 registered Colorado voters between March 7 and March 8.

According to a press release about the poll, 77 percent of voters expect “a full, public report” on the investigation’s findings. The Justice Department, under President Trump, will determine how much of the report is submitted to Congress and, by association, the public.

The liberal groups said the poll indicated 57 percent “believe that the Special Counsel investigation has already uncovered crimes by associates close to Donald Trump.”

 

► So-called “red flag” legislation makes its way to the State Senate today after passing the House last week. Meanwhile, Governor Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser are speaking out against pressure from right-wing Republicans to encourage individual counties in Colorado to just refuse to enforce an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO).

 

►  The Joint Budget Committee gets a new look at Colorado’s budget numbers today, which could play a significant role in how the legislature proceeds on one of Gov. Polis’ signature issues of offering free full-day Kindergarten in Colorado.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (March 11)

It’s not just you — nobody knows what time it is in Arizona anymore. 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 White House released its new budget proposal on Monday, which includes $8.6 billion in new funding for President Trump’s border wall obsession. From the Washington Post:

President Trump proposed a $4.7 trillion budget plan Monday that stands as a sharp challenge to Congress and the Democrats trying to unseat him, the first act in a multi-front struggle over the role of government that threatens to consume Washington for the next 18 months.

The budget proposal dramatically raises the possibility of another government shutdown in October, with the inclusion of an additional $8.6 billion to build sections of a wall along the U. S.-Mexico border. Trump’s ask for yet more wall money — beyond the spending he is already seeking under a “national emergency” declaration at the border — infuriated Democrats.

The budget also calls for a significant increase in military spending, causing problems with some Republicans who are uneasy about how it is allocated. If lawmakers and Trump don’t reach a spending agreement by the end of September, many government operations will grind to a halt.

Trump’s budget proposal includes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

 

► Colorado lawmakers are debating major changes to how the state operates financially, as Anna Staver reports for the Denver Post:

Taken individually, a group of state tax bills in the works offer an overhaul of how Coloradans pay property taxes, backfill public schools and pay for a multibillion-dollar backlog of maintenance projects for roads and bridges. Taken together, the bills represent a fundamental shift in the way Colorado works.

“The overarching conversation here is that the people of Colorado for the last quarter century have put conflicting tax policy into the constitution without realizing it,” said Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver. “Standing alone each amendment can sound good, but combined they have caused an incredible mess.”

Supporters of fixing that “incredible mess” see Colorado’s booming economy and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country contrasted with leaky school roofs, outdated textbooks and fire districts that worry about how they can keep their response times from rising.

 

► State Sen. Vicki Marble crossed a new line on Friday when she appeared to threaten 9News reporter Kyle Clark in a social media post. Marble’s troubling words were picked up nationally by Newsweek magazine.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 7)

Just be glad your name isn’t Paul Manafort. 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.

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► We’re barely two months into the 2019 legislative session, and Republicans are already plowing ahead with recall efforts and threatening (again) to secede from Colorado. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and his brother, political consultant Joe Neville, are apparently behind a seemingly ill-advised recall attempt in South Denver targeting State Sen. Jeff Bridges and State Rep. Meg Froehlich.

 

► As the Washington Post reports, President Trump can’t seem to make progress on any of his signature issues. Naturally, he’s blaming others for his problems:

Trump is losing ground on top priorities to curb illegal immigration, cut the trade deficit and blunt North Korea’s nuclear threat — setbacks that complicate his planned reelection message as a can-do president who is making historic progress.

Late last week, Trump flew home empty-handed from a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi — and, within days, new satellite images appeared to show that the North was secretly rebuilding a rocket-launching site.

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that unauthorized border crossings have spiked to the highest pace in 12 years — despite Trump’s hard-line rhetoric and new policies aimed at deterring migrants.

And on Wednesday, the Commerce Department said that the nation’s trade deficit is at a record high — in part due to punitive tariffs Trump imposed on allies and adversaries. Trump vowed throughout his 2016 campaign and during his presidency to shrink the trade deficit, which he views as a measure of other nations taking advantage of the United States.

So much not winning should concern Trump supporters, but it probably won’t.

 

► Colorado’s oil and gas industry is still making a lot of noise about Senate Bill 181, though it’s not clear that anybody is listening. In fact, there are more supporters turning out to testify on SB-181 than opponents.

 

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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.

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► 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]

 

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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?

 

 

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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.

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► 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.

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► 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.

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► 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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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 13)

Joe Flacco, eh? Try to contain your excitement. 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.

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► Congressional leaders are putting the final touches on legislation that will prevent another government shutdown. From the Washington Post:

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled Wednesday to finalize a sweeping spending bill that includes a compromise on border security two days ahead of a deadline for government funding to expire, as last-minute disputes arose on an array of issues.

While President Trump appeared open to signing the legislation — which includes far less funding than he has sought for construction of barriers along the southern border — White House officials said he was waiting to see the final package before making a decision.

Still pending were issues, including whether to use the bill to provide back pay to federal contractors who were caught in the middle of the recent government shutdown and to extend the federal Violence Against Women Act.

President Trump is likely to sign the legislation — despite not getting what he wants — and will try his damndest to make it look like this is some sort of victory for his administration and all wall-loving people. In reality, this is nothing short of a big, fat loss for the White House.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the rebranding of the wall debate is already underway.

 

► Denver teachers are still on strike, but negotiations have restarted between Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was one of the first high-profile Republicans to endorse President Trump for re-election. Gardner is trying very hard to convince everyone else to agree with him.

 

► The U.S. Senate passed a massive public lands bill on Tuesday that includes reauthorization for the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It may be up to the House of Representatives to make sure LWCF is properly funded, however. At the very least, it’s nice to know that Congress isn’t completely broken. Just “mostly” broken.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (February 11)

Valentine’s Day is on Thursday; those flowers aren’t going to order themselves. ” 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…

► Today is the day that Congressional leaders were supposed to announce a deal on keeping the federal government open, but there is no indication as of yet that a proposal is in the works. President Trump and the GOP are trying (again) to blame Democrats for inaction, but as James Downie writes for the Washington Post, Republicans are going through the exact same motions that drove us into the last shutdown:

The truth is, three weeks after the last shutdown ended, the White House and the GOP still have no idea how to get out of the corner they’ve worked themselves into. They promised the base a “border wall,” but they have even less leverage now than they did when the first shutdown started. So they’ve returned to the first page of the playbook: scaremongering about violent immigrants.

Of course, we all saw how well fanning fears over immigration worked for the president and his party during the last shutdown, not to mention during last fall’s midterms. If anything, one wonders whether spinning the bed issue will make any deal harder for the GOP base to swallow. What was once a nonissue becomes, in the base’s mind, another cave.

As CNN reports, you’ll need to look elsewhere for silver linings:

Bottom line: There is no agreement on the path forward on the conference committee. There is no agreement on what, if any, alternatives could pass both chambers and be signed by the President if the conference committee fails. Monday is a crucial day as lawmakers try and figure a way out of another mess, all as the clock ticks away. At this point, each day leading into the February 15 deadline is enormously consequential.

Shutdown 2: Electric Boogaloo.

 

► Denver teachers are off the job today as part of the first DPS strike in 25 years; many students are joining the picket lines in solidarity. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association will hold a rally on the West Steps of the State Capitol this afternoon.

For more information on all things strike-related, check out this FAQ from the Denver Post or this primer from Colorado Public Radio and the Associated Press.

 

► A growing number of Americans are expressing frustration that the great Republican tax cut of 2017 isn’t doing jack squat for them. From the Washington Post:

Millions of Americans filling out their 2018 taxes will probably be surprised to learn that their refunds will be less than expected or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service after years of receiving refunds.

People have already taken to social media, using the hashtag #GOPTaxScam, to vent their anger. Many blame President Trump and the Republicans for shrinking refunds. Some on Twitter even said they wouldn’t vote for Trump again after seeing their refunds slashed.

The uproar follows the passage of a major overhaul to the tax code in December 2017, which was enacted with only Republican votes and is considered the biggest legislative achievement of Trump’s first year. While the vast majority of Americans received a tax cut in 2018, refunds are a different matter. Some refunds have decreased because of changes in the law, such as a new limit on property and local income tax deductions, and some have decreased because of how the IRS has altered withholding in paychecks…

…The average tax refund check is down 8 percent ($170) this year compared to last, the IRS reported Friday, and the number of people receiving a refund so far has dropped by almost a quarter.

Lower tax refunds mean bad news for the American economy.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (February 4)

Let the record show that the New England Patriots officially killed the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2019; there was more drama during “The Puppy Bowl.” 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 still threatening that he might make an “emergency declaration” in order to build his great big border wall. But as the Washington Post reports, Senate Republicans are positively terrified because of what would happen next:

According to one of the country’s leading experts on national emergencies, it appears that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can trigger a process that could require the GOP-controlled Senate to hold a vote on such a declaration by Trump — which would put Senate Republicans in a horrible political position.

Trump reiterated his threat to declare a national emergency in an interview with CBS News that aired over the weekend. “I don’t take anything off the table,” Trump said, adding in a typically mangled construction that he still retains the “alternative” of “national emergency.”

But Pelosi has recourse against such a declaration — and if she exercises it, Senate Republicans may have to vote on where they stand on it.

Senate Republicans would likely be forced to take a public position on an “emergency declaration,” which leaves them backed into a corner between a rock and a hard place:

…the Senate could vote not to consider that resolution or change its rules to avoid such a vote. But in those scenarios, the Senate would, in effect, be voting to greenlight Trump’s emergency declaration.

D’oh!

 

Politico answers your questions about the State of the Union speech, which President Trump is scheduled to deliver on Tuesday.

 

► Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is expected to enter the 2020 race for U.S. Senate, according to Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman. Romanoff kinda, sorta leaked his Senate plans in mid-December before  an associate walked it back on his behalf.

Romanoff unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2010; in 2014 he came up short against Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in CO-6. Former State Senator and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston announced his U.S. Senate bid last week.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 30)

At least you don’t live anywhere East of Kansas, where temperatures are cooler than a penguin’s refrigerator. Let’s warm up with “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 taking another crap on U.S. Intelligence agencies, as the Washington Post reports:

President Trump lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, calling them “extremely passive and naive” about the nuclear danger posed by Iran and pushing back on their assessments of the Islamic State and North Korea during a congressional hearing.

In tweets, Trump offered what amounted to a rebuttal of testimony on an array of global threats provided to the Senate on Tuesday by a panel of top officials from his administration.

Trump was most pointed in his pushback on the assessment of Iran. During testimony, officials said that Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon and was in compliance with an agreement forged during the Obama administration from which Trump subsequently withdrew the United States…

…“Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” the president added.

Panelists at the Senate hearing included Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, so this wasn’t exactly the “C” team doing the talking.

 

► According to a new poll of Colorado voters, most people don’t support a border wall, President Trump, or Sen. Cory Gardner.

As Politico notes in a new poll about another potential government shutdown, voters have no appetite to support President Trump’s threats:

Only 31 percent of voters support shutting the government down again to force Congress to appropriate money for the wall, while nearly twice that many, 58 percent, oppose another shutdown. If the government does shut down again, a combined 54 percent would blame Trump and congressional Republicans, while just 33 percent would blame Democrats in Congress.

Trump has suggested that he could declare a “national emergency” to avert a shutdown but still build the wall — but that, too, is unpopular. A narrow, 51 percent majority opposes declaring an emergency, which is supported by 38 percent.

 

► Contract negotiations between Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union are expected to resume on Thursday.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (January 25)

Roger Stone channels Richard Nixon. 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…

► Longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone has been arrested by the FBI after being indicted as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice. As CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains, this is a YUGE deal:

The indictment and arrest of longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone Friday morning in Florida fills in a big missing piece of the emerging picture that special counsel Robert Mueller is painting: The Trump campaign actively sought to communicate and coordinate with WikiLeaks in regard to stolen emails aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Here’s more from the Washington Post, including Stone’s reference to the “Godfather” movies:

The most politically explosive allegation in special counsel Bob Mueller’s seven-count indictment of Roger Stone — who was arrested early Friday morning during an FBI raid of his home in Florida — is that he lied to Congress when he denied discussing his advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ email dumps with anyone involved in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign…

…Prosecutors say Stone made repeated references to “The Godfather: Part II” in December 2017 as he pushed an unnamed “Person 2” to not tell the truth to the House Intelligence Committee so he could cover up his role. “People close to the case said Person 2 is New York comedian Randy Credico,” per Rosalind Helderman, Devlin Barrett and John Wagner.

 

On Day 35 of the federal government shutdown, the airports began to buckle. As the New York Times reports:

Significant flight delays were rippling across the Northeast on Friday because of a shortage of air traffic controllers as a result of the government shutdown, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The delays were cascading along the Eastern Seaboard, reaching as far north as Boston. But La Guardia was the only airport that had been closed off to departing flights from other cities because it was so crowded with planes taking off and landing on a weekday morning. Delays on flights into La Guardia were averaging almost an hour and a half, the F.A.A. said.

 

► The Senate held votes on two bills Thursday aimed at (theoretically) ending the government shutdown, but both pieces of legislation were DOA. From the Washington Post:

Senate leaders scrambled Friday in search of a deal that would satisfy President Trump on border security and end the partial government shutdown as major delays at airports around the country produced a heightened sense of urgency.

“We’re still working on it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview outside his office when asked if an agreement might emerge Friday with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) did a very Gardner-esque thing by voting YES on both failed bills. As Westword notes:

Gardner issued a statement praising President Trump’s weekend proposal to end the government shutdown, which asks for Democrats to give him $5.7 billion for his Mexico border wall/collection of steel slats in exchange for a three-year reprieve involving participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Gardner voted for it and the rival Democratic measure that would have ended the ongoing partial federal shutdown without funding the wall.

Talk about trying to have it both ways. [Pols emphasis]

Some 800,000 federal workers will miss another paycheck today.

 

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is making national headlines after going OFF on the Senate floor Thursday in response to a nonsense speech from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. As The Denver Post explains:

“I seldom, as you know, rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side,” Bennet said during a floor speech. “I have worked very hard over the years to work in a bipartisan way with the presiding officer, with my Republican colleagues, but these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take.”

Cruz took the floor ahead of Thursday’s failed votes on two different bills to reopen the government and urged Democrats to vote for a bill to appropriate the money needed to pay federal workers during the shutdown.

That bothered Bennet because the Texas Republican led a charge to shut down the federal government in 2013 over funding for the Affordable Care Act. That 16-day shutdown coincided with the aftermath of a deadly flood that killed eight people in Colorado, and Bennet said the government’s closure delayed relief efforts.

 
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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 23)

Happy “Bounty Day,” everyone; be sure to celebrate responsibly. 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…

► Here’s the latest news on the government shutdown, now in its 33rd day. From the Washington Post:

House Democrats are prepared to support new levels of border security funding, but not a wall, if President Trump agrees to reopen the government first, lawmakers and aides said Wednesday.

The proposal, which Democrats plan to put into a formal letter to Trump, will include border security improvements such as retrofitting ports of entry, new sensors and drones, more immigration judges and border patrol agents, and additional technology, among other measures.

The letter was not final and the exact figure Democrats will suggest was not yet determined, but aides said it would be higher than the levels Democrats have supported in the past, which have ranged from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion.

Some Democrats suggested they would even be willing to meet Trump’s request for $5.7 billion — as long as it goes for technology and other improvements, not the physical wall the president is seeking.

Democrats remain opposed to offering any funding for Trump’s great big wall, and new polling data shows that they are on the right side of the American public. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump’s disapproval rating is at an all-time high amid a historically long partial government shutdown and concerns about the president’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

Nearly 6-in-10 voters — 57 percent — disapprove of Trump’s job performance, compared to the 40 percent that approve. In addition, 54 percent of voters blame Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill for the government shutdown. Only 35 percent blame congressional Democrats…

…While 43 percent support the construction of a border wall — compared to 49 percent who oppose construction — only 7 percent of voters said that they support dedicating funding to a border wall if it was the only way to end the government shutdown. [Pols emphasis]

That’s compared to 72 percent who oppose dedicating funding to a border wall if it was the only way.

In local shutdown news, CBS4 Denver reports on local “Dreamers” who see President Trump’s offer of temporary protections for immigrants as a “bargaining chip for our lives.”

 

President Trump is insisting that he be allowed to deliver his State of the Union Speech in the House chambers. As CNN reports:

President Donald Trump insisted in a letter Wednesday he would deliver his annual State of the Union address from the chamber of the US House next week as planned, telling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi her concerns about security during a partial government shutdown were unfounded…

…He said the speech would occur on January 29 from the House chamber.

“It would be so very sad for our country, if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!” he wrote. [Pols emphasis]

As speaker, it is Pelosi’s prerogative to invite the President to deliver the annual address. Both the House and the Senate would need to pass resolutions convening a Joint Session of Congress before the President’s appearance. And it’s not yet clear — despite Trump’s insistence he would be appearing in the Capitol next Tuesday — whether Pelosi would take the required steps.

In times like these — with a record government shutdown and an administration under investigation for federal crimes — it’s important that we focus on the things that are most important. You know, like making sure that the State of the Union speech is delivered at its traditional location.

 

► Republican State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Weld County) is still getting whacked over comments she made suggesting that white and black people were lynched in equal numbers after Reconstruction (comments first reported here at Colorado Pols).

Saine’s ridiculous antics — this is a pattern of behavior, remember — has earned her a new title from Westword: “Colorado’s Nastiest, Most Clueless Politician.”

This week, Colorado Representative Lori Saine stirred controversy (again) with a “tribute” to Martin Luther King Jr. in which she argued that blacks and whites were once lynched in “almost equal numbers.” She also struck back against naysayers by claiming that a fellow white Republican was a victim of reverse racism.

This combination of idiocy and vindictiveness is Saine’s brand, as Westword has documented over the past decade.

Even the Russians think Saine is a bit nutty. Colorado Republicans, meanwhile, remain silent about Saine.

 

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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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