Get More Smarter on Friday (June 14)

“Father’s Day” is on Sunday, so make sure to buy some wrenches or something. It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (June 10)

If this were 2020, we’d be two weeks away from the Primary Election. 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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President Trump is lobbying tariff threats…again. As Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post:

President Trump has spent the last half day frantically retweeting his propagandists, who are pushing the absurd deception that Trump’s new deal with Mexico is a massive and historic victory. In reality, the agreement — which averts Trump’s threatened tariffs — consisted mostly of things Mexico already agreed tomonths ago.

Trump is in a rage over this — he repeatedly fumed at the New York Times for reporting it — and now he’s amplifying the notion that he won enormous concessions from Mexico by claiming that Mexico has secretly agreed to another major provision that will be revealed at some unspecified future time.

This has come packaged with a threat: Trump just tweeted that if Mexico does not soon take formal steps to ratify that secret provision, “Tariffs will be reinstated!” [Pols emphasis]

The White House called off tariff threats against Mexico over the weekend after pretending that its crack negotiatin’ resulted in a capitulation that — in reality — had already been agreed upon. Or maybe it was all because of Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-Yuma) breathtaking “dear colleague” letter on Friday.

From a local perspective, Aldo Svaldi of the Denver Post explains why Colorado farmers and business owners stand to lose Bigly because of Trump’s trade war.

 

The U.S. Senate isn’t doing much of anything these days, and Republicans are now pretending to be concerned. As Politico reports:

The Senate is going to get back to good old-fashioned legislating any day now. Republicans swear it.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate has been almost entirely focused on confirming President Donald Trump’s personnel and judges and has had little in the way of recent legislative victories…

…The paltry list of accomplishments has given Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer an opening to portray the GOP as devoid of any agenda and could endanger Republicans at risk in a tough election cycle. And there’s a growing recognition within the GOP that it needs to do more.

 

 The Justice Department has reached a deal with Congressional leaders on turning over evidence from the Mueller investigation. From the New York Times:

The Justice Department, after weeks of tense negotiations, has agreed to provide Congress with key evidence collected by Robert S. Mueller III that could shed light on possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Trump, the House Judiciary Committee said on Monday.

The exact scope of the material the Justice Department has agreed to provide was not immediately clear, but the committee signaled that it was a breakthrough after weeks of wrangling over those materials and others that the Judiciary panel demanded under subpoena.

The announcement appeared to provide a rationale for House Democrats’ choice, announced last week, to back away from threats to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress. The House will still proceed on Tuesday with a vote to empower the Judiciary Committee to take Mr. Barr to court to fully enforce its subpoena, but even that may no longer be necessary, the panel’s leader said…

…House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said he expected the department to begin sharing some of the material Monday afternoon and that all members of the committee would be able to view it privately.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 5)

The Brits just love President Trump. They absolutely adore him, really. 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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► Denver finally wrapped up its interminable election season on Tuesday. Incumbent Denver Mayor Michael Hancock won a third (and final) term in office with a 12-point victory over inept challenger Jamie Giellis, but the bigger story might be an unprecedented shift on the City Council. As the Denver Post explains, three incumbent Council members were ousted for apparently the first time in Denver’s history; Mary Beth Susman (District 5), Albus Brooks (District 9), and Wayne New (District 10) will all be looking for new jobs this summer.

The closest race of the night was for Clerk and Recorder, where Paul Lopez appears to have defeated Peg Perl by a few hundred votes out of a total of more than 143,000 cast.

 

Congressman Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) played an important role as the House of Representatives passed a bill intended to give relief to so-called “DREAMERs.” As the Washington Post reports:

The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would offer a path to citizenship to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, including “dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children.

The vote was 237 to 187 for the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, which would grant dreamers 10 years of legal residence status if they meet certain requirements. They would then receive permanent green cards after completing at least two years of higher education or military service, or after working for three years…

…Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), a freshman congressman and the son of Eritrean refugees, prompted cheers and a standing ovation from Democrats as he quoted President Ronald Reagan to defend immigration as integral to the fabric of the country. He also described dreamers as “young people all across our country who know no other home but the United States.”

“We can’t allow these young people to continue to live in fear, to be at risk,” Neguse said.

The Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to move the House bill forward, but as Jennifer Rubin writes for the Washington Post, that doesn’t change the significance of Tuesday’s vote:

With each bill on a popular item, the House moves one step closer to locking in its majority as it turns up the heat on vulnerable Senate Republicans who have to show what they’ve done to get reelected in 2020. What exactly are Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Susan Collins (Maine) and the rest going to point to? They cannot exactly brag about an unpopular tax cut (wiped out by Trump’s trade tax, otherwise known as tariffs). They had better not boast that they almost obliterated the popular Affordable Care Act and tried to wipe it off the books in court.

This isn’t rocket science. Pass popular bills. Tell voters you’ve passed popular bills. Remind them again. Point to the do-nothing Senate and chaos-creating and incompetent president. It’s a pretty effective way to keep the House majority, win the White House and maybe even win back the Senate.

 

 Senate Republicans are warning President Trump against imposing new tariffs on Mexico, suggesting that they have enough votes to override a potential veto of a measure that would prevent the tariffs from being implemented. The flip-floppety past of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) makes it difficult to determine whether he would stand with Senate leaders or President Trump on Mexico tariffs.

Meanwhile, a new report suggests that tariffs on Mexico could cost the United States 400,000 jobs.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (June 3)

Today is Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 30)

Was that the dog, or did you just release some “molecules of U.S. freedom?” 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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President Trump is in Colorado today to give the commencement speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

 

An effort to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora) continues to reflect poorly on Colorado Republicans. Arapahoe County Republican Party Vice Chair Brenda Stokes says that Sullivan “shamefully politicized his son’s death” in sponsoring red flag legislation this year. Sullivan’s son was killed in the 2012 Aurora Theater shooting.

 

► President Trump is trying to navigate the aftermath of the first public comments from special counsel Robert Mueller, in which Mueller made clear that his investigation did NOT exonerate Trump. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump on Thursday attacked Robert S. Mueller III as “totally conflicted” and “a true never-Trumper” and claimed that the special counsel would have brought charges against him if he had any evidence — a characterization directly at odds with what Mueller said in a public statement Wednesday.

Trump’s attacks came in morning tweets and later while speaking to reporters at the White House. In one of his tweets, he also seemingly acknowledged for the first time that Russia had helped him get elected in 2016 — but he strongly pushed back against that notion while talking to reporters as he prepared to leave Washington…

…Trump caused a kerfuffle earlier in the morning after seeming to acknowledge for the first time that Russia had helped him in 2016.

“Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. [Pols emphasis] It was a crime that didn’t exist.”

Shortly afterward, however, he told reporters at the White House that Russia had not helped him get elected.

As Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post, Trump can’t put this one back in the bag. Meanwhile, CNN fact-checks Trump’s newest list of lies.

 

 Colorado Gov. Jared Polis today released his “roadmap to 100% renewable energy by 2040” plan for fighting Climate Change.

In related news, Glenwood Springs is now the 7th city in the United States to be powered by 100% renewable energy.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 24)

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named first team All-NBA on Thursday — only the second player in Nuggets history to accomplish such a feat. 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…

► As the country prepares to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, President Trump is sending more military forces to the Middle East so that he can show Iran that he has the bigger…um, pen. From the Washington Post:

The Trump administration, facing rising tensions with Iran, plans to reinforce its military presence in the Middle East by sending another few thousand forces to the region to step up missile defense and surveillance, according to U.S. officials.

The decision to send the additional forces to U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations across the Middle East, was made late Thursday during a meeting at the White House between President Trump and top Pentagon leaders, the officials said.

Ahead of the meeting, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan said the purpose of any additional troops would be to ensure the protection of U.S. forces and avoid the risk of Iranian miscalculation that could lead to a broader conflict.

“Our job is deterrence. This is not about war,” Shanahan said

President Trump may also commemorate Memorial Day by issuing pardons for several Americans accused of war crimes. Why would he do this? Because Fox News wants it to happen.

 

An effort to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora) by Colorado Republicans and the “no compromises” gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) has become a complete messaging disaster for the GOP.

 

► “Gardner’s office declined an interview request from The Denver Post this week…”

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to dodge reporters seeking answers from him about his position on abortion after Alabama passed the most restrictive abortion measure in the country earlier this month.

 

 Colorado is the first state in the country to cap rising prices of insulin. Governor Jared Polis signed legislation on Wednesday that limits the co-pay for the life saving medicine to $100 per month.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 21)

The Denver Nuggets would not have been swept by the Golden State Warriors. 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 expected, former White House Counsel Don McGahn failed to show up for a hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is pretty steamed about this, as the Washington Post explains:

Nadler vowed that his panel would eventually hear McGahn’s testimony about alleged obstruction of justice by Trump “even if we have to go to court to secure it.”

“We will not allow the president to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself and his allies above the law,” Nadler said. “We will not allow the president to stop this investigation, and nothing in these unjustified and unjustifiable legal attacks will stop us from pressing forward with our work on behalf of the American people. We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other.”

Nadler’s remarks came at the outset of the second “empty chair” hearing this month held by the Judiciary Committee. Three weeks ago, Attorney General William P. Barr declined to appear.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s all-out blitz to prevent Congress from seeing or hearing anything about pretty much anything — including his financial records — ran into a legal wall on Monday. As CNN reports:

A federal district judge has told the accounting firm Mazars it will need to turn over Donald Trump’s accounting records from before he was President to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee.

In a 41-page opinion, Judge Amit Mehta of the DC District Court dealt a significant blow to the White House as he rejected Trump’s attempt to block the committee’s subpoena, asserting that Congress is well within its authority to investigate the President…

…Congress specifically can probe the President for conflicts of interest and ethical questions, Mehta wrote, reaching into history — citing everything from the presidency of James Buchanan, to the Teapot Dome scandal, to Watergate and Whitewater — to back up his ruling.

In a delicious bit of irony, Trump’s lawyers will now appeal in a federal court overseen by none other than Judge Merrick Garland himself. Garland was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama in early 2016, but his confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans so that a Republican President (Trump) could fill the vacancy instead.

As Jennifer Rubin writes for the Washington Post:

We see a crack opening in Trump’s unconstitutional stonewall strategy. It’s the courts that might have the will and the ability to defuse a constitutional standoff.

As Elie Honig explains for CNN, Trump’s “legal” strategy for avoiding Congress is, in a word, “nuts”:

The White House previously invoked executive privilege in an effort to prevent McGahn from producing documents to Congress. Now the White House — perhaps recognizing that its executive privilege invocation would likely fail on the legal merits — has changed tack and instead made an even broader claim that Congress cannot ever compel testimony from a senior adviser to the President.

This is nuts. The White House is relying on a brand new memo from the Office of Legal Counsel claiming that, as an absolute matter of separation of powers and executive branch autonomy, Congress cannot force the President’s senior advisers to testify.

Notably, the memo cites not a single court decision to support this novel proposition. The memo does begrudgingly note in passing that the only court opinion on the matter, a 2008 decision relating to testimony from former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, actually reaches the opposite conclusion: Senior advisers to the President are not immune from compelled congressional testimony.

 

Some House Democrats, including freshman Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) are pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move ahead with an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. From Politico:

Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Joe Neguse of Colorado — all members of Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office, said the sources. Pelosi and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Cheri Bustos of Illinois — some of her key allies — rejected their calls, saying Democrats’ message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump.

Raskin — a former law professor — said he wasn’t advocating impeaching Trump but suggested that opening an impeachment inquiry would strengthen their legal position while allowing Democrats to move forward with their legislative agenda. [Pols emphasis]

 

Could Colorado follow in the footsteps of states such as Alabama and Missouri in passing legislation to essentially make abortion illegal? We could be closer than you might think.

Meanwhile, Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) took time out from running away from reporters to answer a question about abortion with an intentionally-vague and pointless statement that laws should be left “up to the states.” Gardner knows full well that the entire point of strict anti-abortion laws passed by individual states is to ultimately force a reconsideration of Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 17)

Go forth and make us proud, graduates. 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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► Supporters of President Trump would love for you to believe that the investigation into Trump’s campaign and potential collusion/obstruction involving contacts with Russia should be classified “case closed.” The reality is much more complicated, as the Washington Post reports:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election…

…Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.

Chris Cillizza of CNN lays out one big lesson from this news:

At nearly every turn of the probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election, President Donald Trump was working to make sure Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, knew that the White House was on his side — and that the President himself thought Flynn was a good guy.

Now we seem to know why.

Trump was worried — and it turns out, rightly — that Flynn knew things that would be problematic for the President as it related to Russia. And that if Flynn cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — as he eventually did — it would have negative consequences for the administration. Court records released Thursday night revealed previously unknown details of Flynn’s cooperation.

 

Recall fever in Colorado is exposing some significant bad blood between Republicans and the “no compromises” gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is working hard on trying to brand himself as a supporter of LGBTQ rights. The organization “One Colorado” isn’t buying it.

 

Colorado’s outdoor industry is bracing for massive financial hits because of President Trump’s trade war with China; one local retailer says that “people will be shocked” at the extent of necessary price increases. Colorado’s economy in general is not well-positioned to withstand heavy losses from rising tariffs.

Meanwhile, a proposed aid package for American farmers harmed by Trump’s trade war could reach $20 billion.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 15)

May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day. 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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A memorial service will be held today for Kendrick Castillo, the 18-year-old STEM school student who likely saved the lives of many of his classmates when he intervened during a shooting at the Highlands Ranch school last week.

 

► The Republican-controlled state legislature in Alabama on Tuesday passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Chris Cillizza of CNN explains where this is all headed:

The state’s Republican governor — Kay Ivey — is expected to sign it. When she does, two things will happen: 1) Alabama will become the state with the country’s most restrictive abortion law and 2) the law will immediately become fodder for the swirling debate over if (and when) the Supreme Court might consider overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

That two-pronged goal was clearly the intent of the bill’s sponsor — state Rep. Terry Collins (R), who said after the vote: “This bill is about challenging Roe v. Wade and protecting the lives of the unborn, because an unborn baby is a person who deserves love and protection.”…

…The point here is two-fold. First, there’s no doubt that legislation like the abortion ban in Alabama is aimed at the larger goal of prohibiting abortion nationwide. Second, the court has been mysterious enough on the issue to make it very difficult to predict with certainty how it might rule — and when — on these challenges to Roe.

 

► Allies of the United States are voicing their skepticism over an aggressive military shift against Iran. From the New York Times:

As the Trump administration draws up war plans against Iran over what it says are threats to American troops and interests, a senior British military official told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that he saw no increased risk from Iran or allied militias in Iraq or Syria.

A few hours later, the United States Central Command issued an unusual rebuke: The remarks from the British official — Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, who is also the deputy commander of the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State — run “counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.”…

…“We are aware of their presence clearly and we monitor them along with a whole range of others because of the environment we are in,” General Ghika said.

But he said, “No, there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria.”

As Politico reports, Trump administration officials will brief Congressional leaders on Thursday about their latest saber-rattling (or sabre-rattling, if you prefer) over Iran.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 10)

Sunday is Mother’s Day. If you forgot to order flowers, enjoy that premium pricing! 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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► Our great negotiator-in-chief Donald Trump is defending his decision to raise import tariffs on some Chinese goods from 10% to 25%, even as economists warn of the damage this could do to businesses in the United States. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump on Friday defended his decision to impose steep tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports and promised that much steeper penalties would follow, putting the rest of the world on notice that he will follow through on his protectionist agenda no matter the blowback. [Pols emphasis]…

…The chain of events that began with higher tariffs and continued through Trump’s tweets have sown unrest in financial markets around the world and have left investors and business executives unsure of what is to come. Trump in the past has threatened severe penalties only to back down days later, but he has also shown a willingness to dig in and trust his instincts, even if advisers have warned against it. He believes the strength of the economy gives him leverage to use aggressive trade tactics.

“At this stage, it is difficult to envision this as a bluff anymore,” said Eswar Prasad, a senior professor of trade policy at Cornell University. “He seems deadly serious about taking on China in a broad economic confrontation irrespective of the consequences to the U.S. economy.” [Pols emphasis]

“No matter the blowback.” Swell.

 

► As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Republicans are quietly — and anonymously — admitting that they don’t have a lot of hope for a big electoral comeback in 2020:

It’ll be nearly impossible for Republicans to win a majority next year in the Colorado House, where GOP candidates could win every competitive district and still fail to net the nine seats necessary to control the chamber.

That Republicans have no hope to win control of the State House won’t surprise many political observers, but even the State Senate could be out of reach for the GOP:

Next year, there won’t be as many narrowly divided districts on the ballot — and Republicans will be playing defense in some tough races, including an open seat in a district that’s trending Democratic.

By general agreement, the Republicans’ top target next year will be Jefferson County’s Senate District 19, held by Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, while the Democrats’ top targets will be Adams County’s Senate District 25, held by Republican Kevin Priola, and Arapahoe County’s Senate District 27, held by Republican Jack Tate, who won’t be seeking another term…

…There is a wild card, however, that could tilt the balance of power in the Senate after the 2020 election. Several threatened recall elections might put additional, off-cycle Senate seats in play next year, opening the door at least a crack to a Republican majority in the chamber.

Speaking of those recall elections, read on…

 

► As we’ve noted in this space on several occasions, the attempted recall elections in various stages of reality in Colorado are all about A) Grift, and B) Republicans looking for a way around General Elections that they can’t seem to win anymore. The “CEO” of the Colorado Republican Party, Steve House, said the quiet part out loud last weekend in Pueblo.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 9)

The Colorado Avalanche are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a controversial loss in Game 7 on Wednesday, but the Denver Nuggets can advance to the Western Conference Finals with a win tonight in Portland. It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (May 6)

The Colorado Avalanche are looking for force a Game 7 with a win over the San Jose Sharks tonight at Pepsi Center; on Tuesday the Denver Nuggets return home try to take a 3-2 series lead over the Portland Trailblazers. It’s time “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The 2019 Colorado legislative session came to a close on Friday, which means it’s recap time for media outlets across the state. Saturday’s Denver Post summarized the legislative session with a pretty straightforward message from Colorado Democrats. From Nic Garcia of the Post:

Front page of Denver Post, 5/4/19

Sweeping changes on education, health care and the environment, coupled with a host of social policy changes such as a ban on gay conversion therapy and new gun control legislation, ensure the 2019 legislative session will be remembered as one of the most transformative in decades…

…Democrats, who had complete control of the legislative agenda for the first time in four years, and Gov. Jared Polis were able to pass legislation they believe will drive down the cost of health care, pay for full-day kindergarten and overhaul regulations for the oil and gas industry.

“This is what we ran on,” said state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat and freshman lawmaker. “This is the transformative policy we fought for.”

Elsewhere, Colorado Public Radio reporters discuss their impressions of the 2019 session; ProgressNow Colorado churns out its annual “Winners and Losers” list; and the editorial board of the Aurora Sentinel gives the legislative session an ‘A’ for “delivering progress.”

 

► Anna Staver of the Denver Post looks at two big measures coming to a ballot near you in November, including a much-needed TABOR overhaul and a question about legalizing sports betting in Colorado.

 

President Trump is once again amping up his trade war with China, as the New York Times reports:

The prospect of a wider trade war between the United States and China sent global financial markets whipsawing on Monday and could force Beijing to make difficult decisions if it hopes to preserve its nascent economic recovery.

President Trump upended what appeared to be steady progress toward reaching a trade pact after he threatened on Sunday to impose still more tariffs on Chinese-made goods unless Beijing moves closer to a deal. Liu He, the Chinese vice premier overseeing economic policy and Beijing’s lead trade negotiator, had been set to travel to Washington for talks scheduled for Wednesday that were widely seen as the potential last round before reaching a trade deal.

What a negotiator!

 

► There’s an election in Denver tomorrow. Westword explains how to make sure your ballot is properly returned.

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 2)

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

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (April 26)

The Denver Nuggets can advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs by winning Game 7 on Saturday; this would mark the first time that both the Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche advanced to the second round of the playoffs in the same season. 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…

► As the Washington Post reports, President Trump’s border war is getting some new soldiers:

The Pentagon is preparing to approve a loosening of rules that bar troops from interacting with migrants entering the United States, expanding the military’s involvement in President Trump’s operation along the southern border.

Senior Defense Department officials have recommended that acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan approve a new request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide military lawyers, cooks and drivers to assist with handling a surge of migrants along the southern border.

The move would require authorizing waivers for more than 300 troops to a long-standing policy prohibiting military personnel from coming into contact with migrants.

The Pentagon has approved only one previous request to waive the policy since the beginning of Trump’s recent border buildup, in order to provide migrants with emergency medical care if required. There are about 2,900 active-duty and 2,000 National Guard troops along the border.

 

President Trump will speak at the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony on May 30. This will mark Trump’s first visit to Colorado since being elected President in 2016.

 

► Legislation to create a full-day Kindergarten program in Colorado — one of Gov. Jared Polis’ top priorities — is now just a signature away from becoming official.

 

President Trump is reversing himself on the importance of childhood vaccinations, as CNN reports:

President Donald Trump weighed in on the recent measles outbreak in the United States, appearing to do an about-face on his previous claims linking child vaccinations to autism.

“They have to get the shots. The vaccinations are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get their shots,” Trump told CNN’s Joe Johns on Friday when asked what his message is for parents.

Measles cases in the United States have surpassed the highest number on record since the disease was declared eliminated nationwide in 2000.

Even Donald Trump can see the light sometimes.

Governor Jared Polis, meanwhile, is voicing concerns about legislation in Colorado that seeks to increase vaccination rates.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 24)

The Denver Nuggets are one win away from their first playoff series victory in a decade after Tuesday’s blowout home win 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.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► As the Washington Post reports, President Trump is trying to play an Ace of Spades in a game of “Uno:”

President Trump suggested Wednesday that he would ask the Supreme Court to intervene if Democrats move to impeach him — a notion that legal experts said showed a misunderstanding of the Constitution.

It was unclear how Trump would legally justify such a move, since the Constitution delegates impeachment proceedings to Congress, not the courts. Trump mentioned the idea briefly in morning tweets in which he lashed out at Democrats who are continuing to investigate him after the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report…

…The notion was ridiculed by several legal experts, including Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, who accused Trump of “idiocy.”

“Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate,” Tribe wrote on Twitter, adding that Trump apparently thinks his recent court appointments would give him a “ ‘get out of jail free’ card.”

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wonders if Trump might be inadvertently making a stronger case for his own impeachment. This story in Politico reaches a similar conclusion.

 

► As the New York Times reports, White House staffers are discouraged from discussing anything about potential Russian election interference because it makes President Trump very sad:

But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”

Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections.

As a result, the issue did not gain the urgency or widespread attention that a president can command. And it meant that many Americans remain unaware of the latest versions of Russian interference.

 

The School Finance Act has advanced through State Senate; the legislation would increase funding for rural schools and for special education needs.

 

► Colorado’s Congressional delegation is not overly enthusiastic about pushing for impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

 

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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.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► 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.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► 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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