Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 5)

A lot of stuff can (and did) happen over the course of a three-day weekend. 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…

► After days of speculation, President Trump made Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce the news on Tuesday: The Obama-era immigration policy better known as DACA is coming to an end. As CNN reports:

The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program as of Tuesday and rescinded the Obama administration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday at the Justice Department.

In the five years since DACA was enacted, the nearly 800,000 individuals who have received the protections have started families, pursued careers and studied in schools and universities across the United States. The business community and education community at large has joined Democrats and many moderate Republicans in supporting the program, citing the contributions to society from the population and the sympathetic fact that many Dreamers have never known another home than the US…

…The administration also announced a plan to continue renewing permits for anyone whose status expires in the next six months, giving Congress time to act before any currently protected individuals lose their ability to work, study and live without fear in the US.

Most Democrats and even some moderate Republicans have largely opposed scrapping DACA, and many business leaders are worried about the impact it will have on reducing the available workforce. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Trump’s decision on DACA shows just how much the Republican Party has changed in the last few years.

Here in Colorado, the end of DACA is estimated to impact more than 17,000 people, and many local, state, and federal lawmakers are pushing back on the decision. Students across Colorado responded this morning by walking out of classes and staging public protests. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), who has a mixed history on immigration reform in general, says he plans to enact a motion in Congress to force a vote on legislation intended to protect so-called DREAMERS.

 

► Congress is back at “work” today following its annual month-long August recess. As the Washington Post explains, lawmakers have a lot on their schedule:

If you want to understand the situation facing Congress in September, imagine resolving the thorniest problem you can think of in the space of one month.

Now multiply that task by four and add President Trump.

This is what awaits lawmakers as they return from summer break this week. In the small number of working days between now and the end of the month, Congress faces the following decisions: passing a bill to avert a U.S. debt default, renewing government funding to avoid a partial shutdown, reauthorizing critical programs including the Federal Aviation Administration, extending funds for health insurance for about 9 million children and agreeing on emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

And that’s all while trying to anticipate the behavior of an unpredictable president.

Oh, but that’s not all. Not even close:

Trump has said he wants members to start working on tax cuts. There’s a chance Congress will respond if Trump phases out protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, as he is expected to do. Lawmakers are under pressure to fund Obamacare cost-sharing reduction payments before Sept. 27, when insurers have to commit to offering plans on the exchanges next year. The Senate needs to pass a defense authorization bill. Committees are expected to interview members of Trump’s inner circle about Russia. Depending on how Hurricane Irma evolves, Capitol Hill could find itself responding to yet another destructive storm.

 

► Colorado’s air quality is suffering from multiple major wildfires burning in the Western United States. As the Denver Post reports:

Heavy smoke from forest fires in the Northwest has triggered a health advisory for ozone and fine particulates along the northern Front Range through 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Outdoor air quality is at unsafe levels for sensitive groups, such as the elderly and those with health problems. In some areas, particulates are at high levels unhealthy for the public at large, according to the “Action Day Alert” from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The elderly, the very young and those in poor health are urged to remains indoors and to relocate if outside smoke is worsening indoor air quality. Even those in good health should avoid heavy exertion outdoors, such as jogging, until the alert is lifted.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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It Didn’t Have To Be This Way: Rep. Mike Coffman’s Original Sin

With increasingly official word from the White House yesterday that President Donald Trump does indeed intend to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Barack Obama to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from deportation, Republicans can be divided into two camps: those who enthusiastically support this harsh crackdown on the least offending group of undocumented immigrants, and every Republican who has at any point been forced to acknowledge a humanitarian interest in protecting this population–which is most Republicans who run in politically competitive districts and states.

Colorado has prominent Republicans in both of the aforementioned camps, from nationally infamous anti-immigrant firebrand Tom Tancredo to GOP politicians considered today to be key “moderates” on the issue like Rep. Mike Coffman. Coffman, as we noted last week when word initially broke of Trump’s intention to end the DACA program, is hopinh to use an uncommon legislative maneuver with hoped-for Democratic support to force a vote on legislation to temporarily continue most DACA protections.

Mike Coffman’s public transformation from the Republican congressman who literally inherited Tancredo’s deep-red district into one of the GOP’s foremost alleged proponents of the rights of immigrants all goes back to the 2011 redistricting cycle, which redrew Colorado’s CD-6 into a diverse and competitive battleground district centered on the city of Aurora. Prior to redistricting, Coffman did his level best to keep up Tancredo’s anti-immigrant rhetoric–declaring in 2010 that “the DREAM Act will be a nightmare for the American people.” Then, after nearly losing his seat in 2012 to an underfunded challenger, Coffman began a public about-face the following year that outraged suspicious Democratic opponents but slowly began to win over the media.

In 2013, Coffman had the chance to take immigration off the table as a political issue, and participate a monumental bipartisan victory on immigration. We’re referring to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, which passed the U.S. Senate with a huge 68-32 margin of victory–and then died with the Republican-controlled House refusing to move the bill forward.

And who was right there on the same page with House Speaker John Boehner? Rep. Mike Coffman:

“I disagree with the Senate bill,” Coffman said April 25. “What Boehner has said, and I agree with, is that a comprehensive approach doesn’t have to be a comprehensive bill. We’re going to do step-by-step approach with individual bills on individual subject matters. The subject that I’ve taken up is on the military, but that’s certainly not the end all on immigration reform.”

Coffman said he doesn’t support a special path to citizenship for adults in the country who knowingly illegally immigrated to the country, contrary to one of the Senate bill’s main tenants and a contentious topic between Republicans and Democrats…

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

There are a host of reasons why the hard-won 2013 compromise from the U.S. Senate on immigration reform died as soon as it was sent to the House. One of the biggest, undeniably, was a perceived need to deny President Obama–who Coffman claimed in 2012 “is just not an American”–even the smallest of political victories. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, one of the architects of the Senate bill, has called again this year for Congress to pass his bill; but the idea that today’s GOP-controlled Congress can pass anything even remotely close is wildly unrealistic.

And this is critical to understand: in May of this year, Coffman welcomed the Trump administration’s actions on immigration overall–as a matter of principle and as a catalyst for action in Congress:

Coffman said immigrants in his district “should be concerned” about increased enforcement under the Trump administration.

At the same time, Coffman defended the Trump administration’s actions.

“Where the burden falls right now I think is not on this administration. [Pols emphasis] This administration is enforcing the law,” Coffman said. “They’re making both sides uncomfortable in Washington, D.C. by enforcing the rule of law. Before, it wasn’t enforced– or it was selectively enforced, and both sides were complacent on the left and the right. Now, I think neither side can be complacent.”

“[President Trump] is lighting a fire for Congress to act,” Coffman said.

If you apply these comments in May to what Trump is doing now, you would very reasonably conclude that Coffman supports Trump ending the DACA program instead of wanting to preserve it! Coffman tries to reconcile this sleight of hand by arguing DACA wasn’t passed by Congress, forgetting to mention that the GOP-controlled Congress could never pass the equivalent DREAM Act without Democratic support–and the GOP’s so-called “Hastert Rule” informally requiring legislation to have the support of “the majority of the majority” made that an impossible task. If Coffman does manage to succeed in forcing a vote on this three-year extension of DACA, win that House vote, get the bill through the Senate, and somehow persuade a famously egotistical President Coffman said in a campaign ad last year he doesn’t “care for much” to sign a bill undoing a central campaign promise…

You know what, folks? We don’t even need to speculate about that at this point. If it happens, great–Coffman will have accomplished a tiny sliver of the reform needed, years after it could have happened. In the much more likely event that Congress accomplishes nothing once again, the only thing that will matter is this: Coffman is part of the Republican majority who either helped Trump or failed to stop him. Worse, Coffman had the chance to take this issue off the table years ago, and he refused.

Either way, these are not the actions of “a hero.” This is a man dodging fate.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (September 1)

For those of you who haven’t already left town for a “four-day weekend,” allow us to catch you up on your political news. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump is calling his own bluff — again — on a potential government shutdown. The White House is backing off of Trump’s most-recent threats to “shut down” the federal government if Congress doesn’t appropriate enough money to build a giant wall between the U.S.-Mexico border. As the Washington Post reports:

“Build that wall,” Trump said at the Aug. 22 rally in Phoenix. “Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

But shortly after Trump made those comments, White House officials quietly notified Congress that the $1.6 billion would not need to be in a “continuing resolution” that was meant to fund government operations from October until sometime in early December, a senior GOP congressional aide said…

…Trump could still follow through on a threat to shut down the government in December, but this marks the second time he has pulled back from the wall demand in order to allow lawmakers to pass a budget bill. The first time came in May, when lawmakers voted to authorize government funding through September and refrained from including money that would allow for the construction of a new wall.

The OVER/UNDER for the number of times that Trump will threaten to shut down the federal government (in 2017) is now at 3.5.

 

► Governor John Hickenlooper and his new BFF, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are promoting a healthcare policy plan of their own for Congress to get behind. The key tenets of the “Kasichlooper” plan are to stabilize insurance markets in part through retaining the “individual mandate” for insurance coverage. Governors from Nevada, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Virginia, Louisiana and Montana have also signed onto the plan.

Why is it so important to retain the “individual mandate?” Read this story from the Seattle Times about what happened in the state of Washington when state legislators dumped the mandate (SPOLER ALERT: It didn’t go well).

 

President Trump is expected to rescind DACA — an Obama-era policy halting the deportation of children of undocumented immigrants — a decision that could mark a significant turning point for the electoral hopes of Republicans in years to come. Denver7 provides some Colorado-centered specifics:

They were brought to the U.S. as children of undocumented immigrants and a program called DACA allowed them to stay, to go to school and enter the workforce. But Thursday night, the hundreds of thousands of so-called ‘Dreamers,’ including those living in Colorado, fear their dreams could vanish as President Donald Trump nears a decision on whether to end DACA.

Denver7 talked to a local Dreamer, Monica Acosta about what’s at stake…

…This would essentially deport 17,000 Dreamers in Colorado and 800,000 across the country. Acosta is trying to cope and says she plans to stay put in the only place she has ever called home.

Officials with Denver Public Schools are warning that ending DACA would have “catastrophic” effects on the community as a whole. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Friday that he does not believe President Trump should axe DAVA.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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BREAKING: Trump To Pull The Plug on The American DREAM

UPDATE #2: Politico reports that Rep. Mike Coffman will try to force a vote on legislation to protect DACA beneficiaries next week when Congress reconvenes:

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said Thursday he’ll attempt to force a vote on a bill that would extend protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors.

When he returns to Washington next week, Coffman said he’ll file what’s known as a “discharge petition” to force action on his proposal, known as the BRIDGE Act. If he can convince a majority of the House — 218 members — to join him, the House will be required to take up the measure later in September.

Coffman’s rarely used gambit comes amid reports that President Donald Trump may roll back an Obama-era program meant to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors. The program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has shielded about 800,000 immigrants from deportation and provided work permits.

Coffman’s move can be expected to pick up Democratic support, but the real question is whether enough Republicans can be persuaded to go along with this to get a majority. If it does, obviously Coffman will get credit for that. But if Republican leadership holds the majority caucus together against it, it’s a futile gesture.

Stay tuned.

—–

UPDATE: From the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR):

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has allowed millions of immigrant young people to come forward and apply for protection from deportation and find opportunities in work and education. Most importantly, it has helped to keep families together and make young people in our community feel safe.

We are hearing that this administration is threatening to eliminate this program – a truly callous and craven move. This would force many people in our community to live in fear. We are disheartened they would even consider getting rid of DACA. Immigrants want to be able to be part of and contribute to their communities and to provide a better life for themselves and their children. It is the archaic and cruel policies that make it difficult for people to do so. We need to fix this broken system and do all we can to keep families together.

—–

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

The Hill reporting–a moment many in the immigrant rights community have dreaded, hard-right anti-immigration demagogues like Tom Tancredo have demanded, and GOP Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado wishes had never come, as word that President Donald Trump will rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, putting hundreds of thousands of America’s most sympathy-inspiring undocumented immigrants–those who came here as children through no fault of their own–in danger of deportation.

President Trump plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “as it exists today” on Friday, Fox News reports.

Under DACA, nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children have received work permits and deferral from deportation.

According to Fox, a senior administration official told correspondent John Roberts that Trump would end the program “as early as” Friday.

The program, instituted through an executive order signed by President Obama in 2012, is facing a legal challenge from Texas and nine other states, which threatened court action to attempt to block it unless Trump rescinds DACA by Sept. 5.

We are awaiting word from local politicos on all sides, and we’ll update with statements as they come in. Rep. Coffman in particular, who once declared “the DREAM Act will be a nightmare for the American people” but did an about-face on the issue after being redistricted into a more diverse district, we assume will be as publicly displeased with this action as possible–along with some other “moderate” Republicans who have paid lip service to protecting DACA beneficiaries.

The reason is simple: although pleasing to a narrow segment of particularly vindictive Americans, stripping these kids, students, and workers of the only life they have ever known is an absolute political disaster for Republicans. Whether or not Coffman’s “Paul on the road to Damascus” conversion on immigration is legitimate or a contrived survival tactic in his new district is now irrelevant. This is an action that will define the Republican Party for years to come with the fastest-growing bloc of voters in the United States.

And Mike Coffman is a Republican. Trump is his President.

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Vicente Fox Still Ain’t Paying For Trump’s “F–ken Wall”

Vicente Fox.

The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports on former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s visit to Denver yesterday–in which Fox kept his now-legendary trolling of U.S. President Donald Trump going with mucho gusto:

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox on Tuesday kicked off his multiday visit to Denver this week by praising the city’s efforts to protect immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and blasting President Donald Trump over his proposed border wall and views on NAFTA…

Speaking to reporters about Trump’s proposed border wall, Fox used an expletive and called the U.S. president’s efforts misguided. [Pols emphasis]

“It’s criminal to separate families,” Fox said of the Trump administration’s crackdown on unlawful immigration.

Denver Business Journal:

Fox said that President Trump’s characterization of the trade deficit as a zero-sum game shows “absolute ignorance on how the economy works.” Companies in North America have increased production, he said, because of their partnerships and a developed global supply chain.

Opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is of course not cleanly partisan, but Colorado in particular is an exporting state that has seen economic growth and jobs from trade with Mexico–making an easier argument here than the Rust Belt for keeping the treaty in its substantially present form. You might not agree with Fox on this point, but it’s perfectly understandable why he’s making the case in our state.

Once you reconcile where you stand on that issue, Fox’s comments about Donald Trump’s basic comprehension skills, and where Trump can stuff his proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border, should enjoy much broader consensus.

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Denver City Council: Preserve immigrant rights. Williams: More deportations!

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver City Council Chambers  were packed Monday night with an overflow crowd, wearing white to show support of immigrants and refugees, cheering Denver City Council’s passing of the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act.   (PSEPA)  The PSEPA ordinance codifies a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Share” policy  for requesting immigration documents, while also preserving exceptions for violent or wanted criminals, and provides for notifying ICE when detainees “of interest” are released. PSEPA is viewed as a compromise which preserves immigrant’s Constitutional  due process rights, while also protecting public safety.

It is the result of months of negotiations between city officials and immigration rights activists.

Here is ovation greeting #DenverCouncil 10-0 vote to pass #immigration ordinance that is don’t ask/don’t share but still notify of releases. pic.twitter.com/v90cHqqneC — Jon Murray (@JonMurray) August 29, 2017

While Denver City Council was debating this compromise legislation, HD15 State Representative David Williams wrote to President Trump and AG Sessions, claiming that Denver is not deporting enough people, and detention / deportation needs to be increased. Williams has called for an investigation into “sanctuary city politicians”, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Williams’ letter, released Sunday, per reporting by Kasey Kershner of KRDO News13, asks for federal intervention concerning illegal immigration in the Denver area. It specifically calls out Denver City Council’s PSEPA ordinance as a “sanctuary city ordinance”.

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(Almost) Everybody In Colorado Pans Arpaio Pardon

Tom Tancredo, Joe Arpaio.

A press release from local activist group Mi Familia Vota today contains statements from a who’s who of Colorado’s left-of-center politicos, denouncing the pardon last Friday evening by President Donald Trump of former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock stated, “There is nothing right about pardoning Joe Arpaio. This is not just. This is not righteous. This is not leadership. And this pardon is neither earned nor deserved. I am disgusted by the seeming approval of racist actions conducted by another elected official. This is politics and pandering to the base in its poorest form. So again we must resist the message the White House is sending to our communities. We must not mistake Joe Arpaio’s racial profiling and abuse of power and people as ‘tough on immigration.’ His actions were wrong and our federal courts ruled as much.”

Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar stated, “Working with community partners and law enforcement across the state, I led the effort to repeal Colorado’s racial profiling law (Show Me Your Papers) in 2013. Colorado is now comforted in knowing that we will never have Joe Arpaio wannabes in our state. Simply put, we will not tolerate law enforcement in our state that terrorizes communities or violates constitutional and civil rights. “.

City of Westminster Councilwoman Maria De Cambra stated, “Sheriff Arpaio has a track record and was found guilty of unlawfully racially profiling and detaining Latinos in Arizona. By pardoning Sheriff Arpaio, the President continues to show his disregard of the law and his support of discriminatory practices. Sheriff Arpaio’s practices should be punished not rewarded!”

Colorado Congressman Jared Polis stated, “The hasty pardon of Joe Arpaio, a convicted racial profiler, is truly discouraging. The president has again chosen hate over Rule of Law. With this pardon, the president has sent a message to racists everywhere that their behavior is permissible, and he will have their backs,” said Polis. “I am heartened by the bipartisan criticism the president is receiving because of his pardon. We need to unify and send a clear message that we won’t tolerate hate and discrimination. We are a country that values due process and equal protection under the law.”

Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter stated, “Arpaio is guilty of racial profiling and violating the rights of Latinos. The President’s pardon is a terrible decision.”

We’ve reprinted the rest of the quotes from Mi Familia Vota’s release after the jump for posterity. As for statements from Colorado politicos supporting the Arpaio pardon? Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette has some of those:

Some national Republicans criticized Trump for granting clemency to Arpaio, arguing that the pardon “undermines (Trump’s) claim for the respect of rule of law,” as Arizona Sen. John McCain said in a statement, and threatens to diminish law enforcement officials’ responsibility to “respect the rights of everyone in the United States,” as a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said. But Colorado Republicans were either silent or said they supported the president’s use of his pardon power for the first time.

[Sen. John] Cooke said Saturday he thought Trump’s pardon was the right response to a criminal contempt charge brought against Arpaio for “doing his job.”

“I think the judiciary oversteps their bounds,” Cooke told Colorado Politics. “That’s what they did on Arpaio’s case. Sheriff Arpaio was doing his job. The courts are trying to legislate from the bench, and when he didn’t go along with it, they charged him with contempt. The president has that power to pardon, and Trump did it. Certainly, Obama pardoned a lot of people who probably shouldn’t have been, but I think Arpaio, it was more than appropriate.”

“It was great. It was wonderful,” former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, a longtime Arpaio ally, said Saturday. “I think it was totally political from the start, the prosecution was, so the resolution of it should be.” [Pols emphasis]

It’s important to keep a couple of items in mind. First of all, Sen. John Cooke is the former sheriff of Weld County–so it’s not surprising at least from that perspective to see him defending Joe Arpaio. But more importantly, the point to get here is that Colorado Republicans are considerably more hard-line on immigration policy than even many fellow Republicans in other states. The best evidence for that is to compare the condemnation of Arpaio’s pardon from Arizona’s own U.S. Senators to the words of praise Arpaio is getting from Colorado Republicans. Next time you wonder how Tom Tancredo is able to gain so much traction in Republican primaries, it would be useful to remember this.

One other point to make here is that the defense of Arpaio essentially boils down to his “sovereign right” as an elected sheriff to carry out his duties free from “political interference.” The details of the case, Arpaio’s refusal to discontinue enforcement tactics considered to be illegal racial profiling resulting in Arpaio being found in contempt of court, don’t inspire much sympathy among anyone who values the rule of law and the superseding power of the judiciary. Colorado sheriffs who seem to enjoy refusing to enforce laws they don’t like (see: 2013 gun safety laws), on the other hand, will feel empowered by Arpaio’s pardon.

There’s a reason why those whose job it is to enforce the law cannot be free to pick and choose which laws they themselves will follow while enforcing the law. That path, as surely as not enforcing the laws at all, leads to very bad things historically.

More statements follow.

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Donald Trump May Have Lost Control of the White House

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, left, and other staffers during Trump’s Tuesday press conference (Kristin Donnelly, NBC News)

Donald Trump has gotten away with saying more ridiculous things than any President in modern history. With his stunning remarks Tuesday on the violence in Charlottesville, VA, Trump may have finally gone beyond a point that his own staff is willing to follow.

As multiple media outlets are reporting today, Trump’s insane comments seemingly defending white supremacists could lead to a mass exodus of vital staff members.

Here’s NBC News:

To President Trump’s aides, it was stunning. Multiple sources inside and close to the White House described the president’s senior staff as confused and frustrated, caught off guard by Trump’s decision to defend his initial response to the violence in Virginia.

He “went rogue,” one senior White House official told NBC News.

And Politico:

White House aides are wrestling with how to respond to President Donald Trump’s defiant news conference on Tuesday in which he doubled down on his statement that “both sides” are to blame for the Charlottesville violence and offered what some perceived to be overtures to white supremacists.

No aides had yet threatened to resign as of Wednesday morning, according to White House officials and advisers, but a number of White House staffers had private conversations on Tuesday night about how terribly the day went. [Pols emphasis]

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, who was standing near Trump on Tuesday for what was supposed to be a statement about infrastructure, was particularly displeased, according to people familiar with the matter, as the president launched into a rant about the culpability of the “alt-left” while calling some of the protesters at the white nationalist rally “very fine people.”…

And The Washington Post:

Now that President Trump has reverted to his earlier position that “many sides” are to blame for the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, the dismay of senior people very close to him is suddenly getting smuggled out to the rest of the world, as if by magic. [Pols emphasis] We are told that Gary Cohn, a top economic adviser to the White House, was “disgusted” and “upset.” We learn that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have been urging moderation. We are informedthat Trump’s top aides were “stunned” by Trump’s comments, and that new chief of staff John F. Kelly was “very frustrated” by them.

And the New York Times:

No word in the Trump lexicon is as tread-worn as “unprecedented.” But members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private. [Pols emphasis] The National Economic Council chairman, Gary D. Cohn, and the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who are Jewish, stood by uncomfortably as the president exacerbated a controversy that has once again engulfed a White House in disarray.

We could go on and on and on, but let’s wrap up with this story from CNN:

Donald Trump always got away with everything.

The most unorthodox candidate and president in history has exhibited a near-mystical capacity to evade the price of blunders that would have felled conventional politicians.

If that is ever going to change, the moment may be now.

Trump’s approval ratings continue to plummet, as does his hope of advancing any sort of policy agenda with Congressional Republicans who are increasingly distancing themselves from the President. The President has already burned through three different Communications Directors in his first 200 days in office; Hope Hicks, who is all of 28-years-old, is the new White House Communications Director. But what happens when critical staff members such as Cohn and Kelly decide that they can longer work for Trump?

At what point does the White House all but cease to function? We may be on the verge of finding out the answer to that question.

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Good news! July 1-7, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine, and categories often overlap.

Attorneys General across the country (including Colorado’s Coffman)  are claiming that they will check Big Pharma’s pushing of opiods, “clear the swamp”, ensure fair voting, and protect transgender people. AGs be aware – people will check to see that you follow through on your promises.

Voting rights roundup

flag with I voted

Image by debaird on flikr

Fourth of July, Fireworks, and the Franchise – what could be more patriotic? Voting seems to be on everyone’s minds right now.

Alabama seeks to inform felons of restored voting rights in jail

Kentucky also ordered the voting rights of 284 felons to be restored.

Kris Kobach, Vice-Chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity,  requested that all 50 states send him their voter information by July 14 so that the Commission can create a national voter registry to prevent what he claims is rampant voter fraud.

Unfortunately, rather than creating a process to make it easier for voters to register and vote, the Commission’s goal appears to be to selectively disenfranchise voters. The good news is that 45 states now have refused to provide part or all of the information requested. President Trump is not pleased, and has let us know this in his usual way.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, KY Secretary of State said that there is  “not enough bourbon in Kentucky” to make  Trump’s request seem sensible.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann suggested that, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from…”

Floridians are also petitioning to restore voting rights to felons.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams is trying to have it both ways  –  comply with Trump’s request, while still protecting the privacy of Colorado voters by supplying only publicly available information. Many voters are choosing to keep their data confidential by filing a form and paying $5 at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters seldom commit fraud in Colorado – but when they do, they are usually Republicans.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (July 3)

You can still get burned if you wear a hat in the sun. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is back in Colorado this week not holding town hall meetings as Congress takes its annual July 4th holiday recess. Colorado’s cherubic junior Senator has risen quickly in the political world over the last decade by smiling broadly and throwing bombs at Democrats, but his strategy of climbing the partisan ladder at the expense of his home state has turned even once-loyal supporters like the Denver Post against him.

Late last week, the Post published two separate editorials critical of Gardner’s performance. In the first editorial, which appeared in Saturday’s print edition, the Post wrote that it was “ashamed” of Gardner after his office sought to have protestors with disabilities arrested. On Sunday, the Post then published another strongly-worded editorial calling on Gardner to show some actual leadership in the Senate healthcare discussions:

Here in Colorado, the spectacle has placed Sen. Cory Gardner in a most damning spotlight. It’s time for him to exercise his leadership within the party — Gardner runs the National Republican Senatorial Committee — and join the growing bipartisan rejection of the McConnell effort.

Gardner’s silence on what he’d like to see changed in the bill is deafening in a state where a shockingly high percent of voters support a more liberal approach to health care.

Our first-term Republican senator needs to think long and hard about who he represents and what he stands for.

He needs to spend his break telling constituents how he’d like to fix health care and why he’s the right man for the job in D.C. Because now there is clear reason for doubt. While he’s shown himself too skilled at dodging town hall meetings of constituents of late, Gardner can’t escape the public record. Gardner was one of the select members of a working group meant to inform McConnell’s bill…

Nothing about the path he is on will be easy, but if Gardner wants to prove his mettle as a leader, this is his chance.

He ought to take it. [Pols emphasis]

The entire editorial is worth reading (they both are, frankly).

Elsewhere, Politico points out just how big of a problem Trumpcare has become for Gardner.

 

► Senate Republicans remain perplexed by President Trump’s ever-changing strategy (and we use the word “strategy” very lightly here) regarding GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare. As the Washington Post reports:

When congressional Republicans zig, President Trump zags. When they follow suit and zag, he zigs. Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to overhauling the Affordable Care Act.

Trump jerked the GOP-led Congress around on a puppet string last week when he abruptly tweeted that the Senate should suspend its uphill climb to pass a health-care bill and instead just vote to repeal the ACA without a replacement already lined up.

But that two-step strategy of first repeal, then replace is precisely what the president had convinced Republican leaders not to do earlier this year. 

“I feel that repeal and replace have to be together, for very simply, I think that the Democrats should want to fix Obamacare,” Trump said in a Jan. 10 interview with the New York Times. “They cannot live with it, and they have to go together.”

At a news conference the next day, Trump promised an Obamacare replacement “simultaneously.” “We will be filing a plan,” the president said. “It will essentially be simultaneously.”

Perhaps Trump meant to say that he would be “simultaneously” promoting competing narratives on healthcare.

 

► One Colorado woman profiled by NBC News shows how the healthcare battle over Medicaid spending is deeply personal:

Kelly Stahlman’s twin sons were born 12 weeks prematurely in 1992, and soon after, both were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other severe health issues that required around-the-clock care.

After two years of constant care with the help of neighbors, friends and au pairs, Stahlman and her husband, Bruce, found themselves nearly broke — both financially and mentally, she told NBC News.

She says their search for assistance to help with the medical bills yielded nothing and even included advice to seek a divorce and give her twins up to foster care so they could receive adequate help.

Both sons required care that private insurance wouldn’t cover at a cost the middle-class family couldn’t afford as the bills reached hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

“We weren’t poor enough” to get financial assistance, she said, “not in the right county. No matter where I went or what I did we couldn’t access anything.”

 

Maine and New Jersey have joined Illinois on the list of states facing massive cutbacks because of decimated state budgets. The causes of these state budget woes are too many to list here, but it’s no coincidence that all three states are led by Republican governors.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Good News! June 16-23, 2017

(Because Lord knows we can use some – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This was a hard week to write “Good News” for. Still, there was some.

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about the heat, voters, immigrant rights, cannabis, and beer. Farmer’s markets. Buying local. No sports news, because the only sports I halfway understand are basketball and baseball. Anything else, I’m the one looking at you to see when to stand up and cheer.

Environmental / energy

It’s freaking hot in Colorado, especially on the western slope , down south, and in Denver, but the head of the EPA won’t say if climate change is a hoax, although his boss says it is.

Good news: It’s not as hot as Phoenix’s 119 degrees . Even AZ Sen. McCain thinks this global warming thing is the real deal.   Plastic mailboxes are melting in Arizona – it’s that hot.  (Photo from reddit, via Buzzfeed)

 

MacGregor Ranch is piloting a program to work closely with the NRCS to cut underbrush and mitigate wildfire risk, since it is so freaking hot in Colorado. Drought and wildfires are the two main hazards Colorado experiences from climate change. Here’s the video from the pilot project.

Virgin Mobile and several other big retailers are planning to conserve energy by running their trucking fleets more efficiently.

Coal India, the world’s largest coal mining company, will shut down 37 of its mines that are no longer economically viable. The lost energy will be replaced mainly with solar.

Clean energy jobs remain the fastest-growing employment sector in Colorado  – with 62,000 added last year.  65% of those jobs are in energy efficiency.   This all helps Colorado to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 2.3%.    Rates for youth under 24 were at 6%, and for Hispanics at 5%, still lower than most other states.

There’s still some good fishing around Colorado. Get’em while there’s still water enough to fish in.

And you can drive to your fishing spot on roads you won’t have to pay an extra tax on, per the Colorado Business Coalition. Amendment 267 passed, funding $3 Billion for road repair and maintenance; however, $10 billion was needed. Where will that come from?

The “Dog Days” are  approaching. If you see poor Puddles panting in a hot car, you can break in to save the pet – but not legally,  in Colorado, until August.

(more…)

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Good news! Week of June 11- 17, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine. And that’s fine. Something I’m missing? Add it in the comments.

LGBT:

Massive Marches may move us, but the  biggest and gayest parade this year in Colorado will be Pridefest, this Sunday June 18. Civic Center Park will host the celebration all weekend. For your daily minimum requirement of fabulousness, go to Pridefest Denver. (Photo from 2016 Pridefest, Wikipedia Commons)

Pridefest Denver 2016 -from Wikipedia commons

LGBT hero: One of the Capitol Police agents wounded in the recent terrorist attack in DC was Crystal Griner, a married lesbian woman. Griner and her fellow officers, including David Bailey , rushed the shooter, taking him down and preventing a massacre.

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Watch out for the “Proud Boys” and other violent racists today

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

At the State Capitol now (Saturday, July 10, 2017) at 4 pm. Antifa counterprotesters at the bottom of the hill, #marchagainstsharia protesters at the top, marshalls in between. Via twitter, Anna V Smith, High Country News.

From Unicorn Riot, (@UR_ninja)  pictures of the Proud Boys and others ready to spread hate and fear today:

From Unicorn Riot, photos of Proud Boys, neo-nazis, and other racists at the Capitol today.

Proud Boys, a white supremacist, violent organization of young males , had a rally in Boulder on June 3, 2017, and plan another “Anti-Sharia March” in Denver at the Capitol from 3:30 – 6 pm on Saturday, July 10. EDIT: The Anti-Sharia Marches are organized by ACT for America, (Facebook link here) .  These anti-Sharia Marches are in 19 cities nationwide. A wide coalition of racist, violent, anti-Muslim groups are attending, including ACTforamerica, the ProudBoys, the Oathkeepers, and the Threepercenters (shown below in Atlanta).  The Southern Poverty Law Center is live-blogging them. You can follow the hashtag #hatewatch or #CounterActHate.

Proud Boys in Boulder June 3, 2017

Proud Boys, Boulder 6/3/17
Attribution: Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer, Boulder Daily Camera

On June 3, in Boulder, a dozen or so of  the “Boys” demonstrated at the Boulder courthouse, behind police barricades. They were met by about 250 counter-protesters, including some “AntiFa” (Antifascists) dressed in black, with black kerchiefs covering their faces. At some point during the counter-protest, someone threw firecrackers at the Proud Boys, and one of the counter-demonstrators was arrested.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (May 22)

Happy Victoria 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.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump is in the midst of his first major overseas trip since he took office (or as Trump calls it, “my big foreign trip“). Trump is in Israel today after spending the weekend in Saudi Arabia, where he put his hands on a glowing orb and generally enjoyed not talking about scandals involving Russia.

But then, Trump being Trump, he made sure to bring up “that Russia thing” in a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel’,'” Trump told reporters in Jerusalem. “Never mentioned it during that conversation. They were all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word ‘Israel’.”

The story Trump was reacting to was this one, which ran a week ago in the Washington Post. And the thing about that story is that, well, the word “Israel” is never mentioned. Not one time…

Trump is the denying an allegation that, literally, no news organization made. He’s also implicitly confirming that, yes, he did talk to the Russians about classified information. [Pols emphasis] While the president has total freedom to de-classify material, the White House has urged media organizations — including CNN — not to report on the specific information Trump passed along due to how highly sensitive it is.

In a separate story, Cillizza also notes that Trump is regularly contradicting himself on foreign policy. The Washington Post notes the same phenomenon.

 

► Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is expected to invoke his fifth amendment right to not incriminate himself in response to queries from the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding his interactions with Russian officials. From the Associated Press:

Attorneys for Michael Flynn say that a daily “escalating public frenzy against him” and the Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel have created a legally dangerous environment for him to cooperate with a Senate investigation.

That’s according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press that was written on behalf of the former national security adviser under President Donald Trump. The letter, sent Monday by Flynn’s legal team to the Senate Intelligence committee, lays out the case for Flynn to invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and his decision not to produce documents in response to a congressional subpoena.

The letter says that the current context of the Senate’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election threatens that “any testimony he provides could be used against him.”

 

► The Supreme Court has ruled that Republicans in North Carolina illegally disenfranchised African-American voters in the state’s last round of redistricting. From the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature unlawfully relied on race when drawing two of the state’s congressional districts.

The decision continued a trend at the court, where justices have found that racial considerations improperly predominated in redistricting decisions by Republican-led legislatures in Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina. Some involved congressional districts, others legislative districts…

…In the split decision, Justice Clarence Thomas joined the liberal justices in saying race improperly predominated the drawing of the district. New Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was not on the court when the case was heard, and took no part in the decision.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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“Blowhard Brauchler” Out Over His Skis Once Again

George Brauchler.

On Friday, Gov. John Hickenlooper pardoned Rene Lima-Marin, a Cuban immigrant who had endured a terrible legal ordeal after being released mistakenly, re-incarcerated years later, ordered released again, then picked up by federal immigration agents for deportation as a legal immigrant who committed a felony. Hickenlooper’s pardon removes the underlying basis for Lima-Marin’s deportation, but it remains an open question whether the Trump administration will honor the pardon and halt his removal from the country.

In response to Hickenlooper’s pardon, GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler launched into a Twitter tirade attacking the decision, later issuing a press statement asserting that Hickenlooper’s pardon was not legal–despite the fact that Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly had asked for it.

That’s where the Denver Post’s Danika Worthington picks up the story:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper responded Saturday to criticism from District Attorney George Brauchler of his pardoning of Rene Lima-Marin, rejecting claims that he had acted improperly and broken the law in his haste to act.

The governor’s office said it had given proper notice to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office, even receiving a lengthy letter in reply. Additionally, the office said it was within the governor’s authority to skip the standard seven-year waiting period typically required for pardons.

But Brauchler responded later in the day to counter Hickenlooper’s claims — another war of words between two frequent rivals, especially now that the district attorney is campaigning for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.

Brauchler said his office received a clemency application for Lima-Marin, not one for a pardon, as required by law… [Pols emphasis]

The Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning goes down the process rabbit hole with Brauchler…and comes up empty:

Brauchler acknowledged Lima-Marin had filed an application for a commutation of his sentence, and his office had provided input on that to the governor’s office earlier this week.

“But a commutation of sentence is very different from a pardon,” he said. “We never had the victims consulted about a pardon. We never had input with the governor about a pardon. I was caught completely unaware the governor was considering a pardon…”

State Sen. Owen Hill, a Colorado Springs Republican who sponsored legislation last month calling on Hickenlooper to grant clemency to Lima-Marin — the Legislature approved the resolution unanimously — dismissed Brauchler’s complaints. [Pols emphasis]

“Reuniting Rene with his family is the right thing to do for him, his wife and his children,” Hill told The Statesman Friday night.

And the truly absurd part? Brauchler says he supports the hoped-for outcome of Hickenlooper’s pardon. Post:

Brauchler was careful to clarify that he believes Lima-Marin should be released and he opposes the move to deport him to Cuba — even as he objected to the pardon decision. [Pols emphasis]

Again, the reason Hickenlooper had to move quickly is Lima-Marin is by all accounts on a fast track for deportation. Without the pardon, his deportation is more or less automatic as long as the host nation of Cuba is willing and able to receive him–and they say they are. Recent changes to immigration policy toward Cuba and the general warming of relations between the two nations ironically makes it more likely that people in Lima-Marin’s situation, having come to America as children and knowing no other home, will be kicked out.

As for Brauchler, this is just shallow grandstanding. The governor’s constitutional authority to grant pardons supersedes Brauchler’s objections, and Brauchler concedes the moral high ground to Hickenlooper by agreeing that Lima-Marin should be freed. Brauchler clearly wants this to be a political fight over crime and immigration, not process questions–but he’s hiding behind the latter in an attempt to have it both ways.

And except for a few haters who need no encouraging to vilify immigrants, this isn’t going to help Brauchler become governor.

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Hickenlooper Pardons Rene Lima-Marin While Brauchler Fumes

UPDATE: Bad news via 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger:

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Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The Denver Post’s Kevin Simpson reporting, Gov. John Hickenlooper took swift action this afternoon to prevent the deportation of Rene Lima-Marin, a Cuban immigrant whose criminal case became a cause célèbre for state legislators before they realized he was subject to deportation:

Gov. John Hickenlooper said Friday he has issued an extraordinary pardon for Rene Lima-Marin, who was mistakenly released early from a long prison sentence only to be sent back after he had forged a productive new life as a husband and father.

Lima-Marin was freed from his Colorado prison sentence earlier this week and then held by federal immigration authorities. State lawmakers, Lima-Marin’s family and others had urged the governor to act quickly to prevent what they feared would be imminent deportation to his native Cuba…

“We thought it through well,” Hickenlooper said, pointing to bipartisan unity in the state legislature resolution that called for clemency. He added that it would be a “terrible symbol” to snatch away Lima-Marin’s freedom once again.

Asked what he hopes happens to Lima-Marin now, the governor said: “I hope he doesn’t get deported.”

The governor added that with the pardon, he has done everything he can at this point to stop deportation.

We noted yesterday how at least one GOP lawmaker was still fighting for Lima-Marin’s freedom even after it came out that he was subject to deportation for the crime he originally committed–though we were waiting to hear from others to know if this was as unanimous as the original resolution calling for Lima-Marin’s release was.

Post-pardon, GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler is making it painfully clear he does not approve:

So…we assume there’s a big disagreement here between Brauchler and the entire Republican caucus in the Colorado General Assembly? That’s what we have to assume until we see some more statements from Republican lawmakers. It’s going to be difficult for Brauchler to make much political hay out of this unless a bunch of silent Republicans who were in support of Lima-Marin’s freedom come out with a different opinion now.

As for Gov. Hickenlooper, it’s true that he has now done everything he can. If President Trump wants to make a political martyr of a man who has already been through a bizarre and painful mistake in the criminal justice system, it’s his fire to play with.

And now, George Brauchler’s too.

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Trump Immigration Crackdown Trips Up Colorado GOP

9NEWS’ Kyle Clark reports on a fascinating development in a story that attracted much attention at the close of this year’s legislative session in Colorado–a prison inmate named Rene Lima-Marin who was mistakenly released early and then re-incarcerated, prompting a bipartisan push from legislators to win his freedom.

Apparently, no one expected what came next:

Rene Lima-Marin is now in the custody of Immigrations and Customs Agents who – years ago – had flagged him for deportation. Lima-Marin’s immigration status and possible deportation were not known to the judge who freed him, the state legislators who rallied to his cause, or the public which was implored to support his release.

Lima Marin’s advocates say he was brought to the US as a child fleeing Cuba. Cubans special status in the U.S. meant he wasn’t at risk for deportation, until he became a convicted felon in 2000. ICE flagged him for possible deportation at that time.

The ruling this week by Judge Carlos Samour did not mention Lima-Marin’s immigration status. A court spokesman confirms the Judge didn’t know he was freeing a man into the hands of ICE agents. He found out on Wednesday.

Fascinatingly, none of the politicians in either party who championed Lima-Marin’s release from prison were aware that, as a Cuban immigrant, he could be deported for his crime despite having been granted permission to remain in the country upon entry as a Cuban immigrant.

A bill in support of Lima Marin had broad bi-partisan support at the state legislature. We talked to two Democratic sponsors – Rep. Joe Salazar and Sen. Dominick Moreno – who said they did not know Lima Marin was flagged for deportation – but that wouldn’t have changed their stance. We haven’t heard back from Republican sponsors – Rep. Dave Williams and Sen. Owen Hill.

Late last night, GOP Rep. Dave Williams, who gained nationwide notoriety for his controversial failed legislation to punish so-called “sanctuary cities” this year, did respond to the news:

I’m committed to ensuring that Rene is not sent back to a communist country that is ruled by a cruel and repressive regime.  I will still do everything I can to help reunite Rene with his family while respecting the rule of law.

To which we can only say, thank goodness the guy’s from Cuba! Because otherwise he’d just be a noncitizen who committed a felony–exactly the kind of person President Donald Trump wants to deport. We’ll be very interested in seeing other Republicans who championed Lima-Marin’s freedom speak out–not least since their greater pull with the Republican administration in Washington could prove much more influential on this man’s behalf than Rep. Joe Salazar and a bunch of state house Democrats.

Whatever local Republicans do next, it’s a very straightforward question now whether they would have voted overwhelmingly to support Rene Lima-Marin’s release if they had known ICE would be waiting to pick him up. Freshman Rep. Williams may be willing to quietly munch on his crow, but we have trouble believing that will be a unanimous response from the GOP caucus.

Not to mention the soul searching. There really ought to be some soul searching.

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Trump Deputy Gorka on CO talk show: End nuclear deal unilaterally

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On Sunday, May 7, 2017,  Trump’s Deputy Assistant “Dr* Sebastian Gorka chatted with KVOR radio host Tron Simpson. I listened, and it raised several questions:

  • Why was a top level Presidential appointee slumming on a right wing talk show in Colorado Springs?
  • Is “*Dr.” Gorka still a part of the President’s National Security Council, or isn’t he?
  • Was a right wing Sunday talk radio show really the best time and place to announce that he wanted the US to pull out of an Iranian nuclear deal, even if Iran complied with the terms of the deal?
  • How does this guy even still have a job as deputy assistant to the President? He was supposed to have been kicked out of the White House because of his associations with a Hungarian Nazi group, Vitezi Rend.

For the first twenty minutes of the 5/7 “Weekend Talk with Tron” segment, host Tron Simpson was predictably Tea Party partisan: Obamacare was horrible, the AHCA will liberate us from tax tyranny, we need a Convention of States to amend the Constitution.

At 21:03, Tron introduced Gorka, the on-again, off-again deputy assistant to the President.

Then Gorka began to speak. first praising his boss, Donald Trump, as the “man who changed the geopolitical landscape with just one summit.” Tron was talking about Trump’s dinner with Chinese President Xi (complete with beautiful chocolate cake), after which Trump announced that we had bombed Syria. There was no mention of candidate Trump’s previous denunciations of China as a currency manipulator.

Praising that Syria strike, which may have killed 100 people, Gorka said that we had “Eight years of divisiveness, and now we’ve replaced it with Donald J Trump’s decisiveness.”

(more…)

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Boulder To Jeff Sessions: Keep The Change

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The Boulder Daily Camera’s Alex Burness reports:

The city and county of Boulder stand to lose a small amount of budget funding if the Justice Department makes good on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s threat to withhold grant money from so-called “sanctuary” communities.

In a short appearance at Monday’s White House press briefing, Sessions said the Justice Department would require cities seeking some of the $4.1 billion available in grant money to verify that they are in compliance with a section of federal law that allows information sharing with immigration officials.

Boulder, a self-proclaimed sanctuary city, is slated to receive DOJ funding this year, as in 2015 and 2016, in grants that go toward the salaries of two officers through the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office…

Boulder’s “sanctuary” policy, passed shortly before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, promises “no city employee shall inquire into a person’s immigration status,” and formally bans city employees from cooperating with federal authorities with regard to any investigation of a person’s immigration status.

Apparently, the total amount of funding Attorney General Jeff Sessions has the power to threaten Boulder with is somewhere between $23,000 and $25,000. In terms of the total budget for the city of Boulder, somewhere around .007%–small enough to be a rounding error. It’s safe to say the potential loss of those funds will not be enough to deter the city from what it considers a much larger humanitarian obligation.

In fact, it’s a small enough number to serve as a punchline. Chalk it up as the latest Trump administration grandstand that ended with a whimper.

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Meet Phil Covarrubias, Colorado’s Newest National Disgrace

Rep. Phil Covarrubias (R).

News this week of a freshman Republican legislator defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II didn’t move the needle much in Colorado media, but national outlets jumped on the story you read about here first–credit where due to the exception locally, Denverite’s Erica Meltzer:

The liberal site Colorado Pols (totally unrelated to Colorado Politics) first highlighted Covarrubias’ remarks and uploaded the YouTube video recorded from the state’s official legislative channel.

Then picked up in the Huffington Post:

Covarrubias compared the fears after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack to the fears Americans have now after recent acts of terrorism, such as in Orlando, Florida, and San Bernardino, California.

“What happened prior to [the camps] that kicked all this off? I think we were attacked at Pearl Harbor,” he added. “I think we need to look at the Americans that are in fear from the terrorism and the things that we’ve seen over the last few years especially.”

Despite Covarrubias’ attempts to kill HB 1230, the bill passed the second reading and is headed to the House floor for a third and final reading before it goes to the Republican held Senate, where it’s chances of passage are slim, according to The Durango Herald.

And then the Washington Post:

“We keep hearing about how things went down with the Japanese people. For anybody that has never been in the heat of combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of that was going on, there’s no time to ask questions and find out who’s a citizen and who’s not,” Covarrubias said. “You don’t have that moment in time. You need to regroup. It’s easy to sit up here and say this stuff now. But if you’re in that moment, it looks a lot different than being able to be in a nice suit and tie.”

He continued: “I hear people saying that we need to respect other people’s rights, and I agree with that, but what about them respecting our rights and our country and our laws? Because I’m not hearing that up here.”

Later on in the hearing, Covarrubias once again seemed to defend the mass internment of Japanese American citizens by pointing out that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. That attack, he said, was “what happened prior … that kicked all this off.”

And then national NBC News:

CAPAC chair U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) called Covarrubias’ remarks unacceptable.

“It’s outrageous that we have to keep reiterating that the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was wrong,” she said Thursday in a statement. “History doesn’t repeat itself because we forget. It repeats itself because apologists like Rep. Covarrubias attempt to convince us these atrocious actions were justified.

(more…)

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Tom Tancredo Behind Racist Joe Salazar Smear?

UPDATE #2: Salzman still on the case:

For our part, we stand by our original assertion that the Salazar/ISIS graphic was made by the same person who made various graphics for Tom Tancredo shown below. This shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.

—–

UPDATE: Via Jason Salzman, Tom Tancredo denies being the source of this graphic:

So, maybe he needs to call his graphic guy.

—–

House Bill 17-1230, the Ralph Carr Freedom Protection Act, passed the Colorado House yesterday after debate turned nasty–with freshman Rep. GOP Phil Covarrubias defending the internment of Japanese-Americans as a way to disparage Democrats’ choice to name the bill after Colorado’s wartime Gov. Ralph Carr. Carr, as local history students know well, stood up for Japanese-American internees arriving in Colorado under threats of violence.

Today, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Joe Salazar was subjected to a rather shocking racist and xenophobic attack from an anonymous social media source. Pardon our reposting, which isn’t meant to endorse its objectionable message:

So, this graphic appeared on the Twitter #copolitics channel, posted by an anonymous account that seems to be devoted to attacking Rep. Dan Pabon. But if you take a look at the colors and font used to make this Photoshopped image, there’s somebody else out there posting graphics that are strikingly similar–and not anonymously at all:

You can see clearly the same typeface being used in these Photoshopped graphics, produced either by former Rep. Tom Tancredo personally or someone working for him. Also, that’s the same pic of Rep. Salazar in the image above as is Photoshopped onto the ISIS commander in the latest image. All things being equal, this is about as close to being caught red-handed as the anonymous internets allow without a court order.

As anybody who knows his history knows well, Tancredo doesn’t shy away from controversial statements–he’s made a career of them, after all. So it’s interesting to see Tancredo hiding behind an anonymous Twitter troll to lob this kind of nastiness at Rep. Salazar.

Maybe even Tom Tancredo realizes when it’s going too far? Because this latest insult against Rep Salazar certainly does.

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Developing: State Rep. Defends Japanese-American Internment

UPDATE: Release from Colorado House Democrats on today’s debate:

In the first real floor fight of the session, the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act by Reps. Joe Salazar and Daneya Esgar earned initial approval from the House on second reading this morning. The bill protects Colorado state agencies from being forced to participate in overreaching federal programs targeting religious or ethnic communities…

Through several attempted amendments, the House Republicans tried to weaken or alter the bill and to exempt undocumented Coloradans from the protections under the Ralph Carr Act. Had the amendments passed, it would have been a stark departure from settled law that establishes that the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution apply to everyone in the country, regardless of immigration status.

“The reason that we, the USA, are a beacon of hope for the rest of the world, is because the rights of the United States apply to everyone,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver. “Every single amendment in the Constitution applies to everyone in the United States of America.”

Close to the end of the debate, Rep. Phil Covarrubias, R-Brighton, seemed to excuse the internment of Japanese Americans, including U.S. citizens, during World War II. “We keep hearing about how things went down with the Japanese people—for anyone that has never been in the heat of combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all of that was going on—there’s no time to ask questions and find out who is a citizen and who’s not,” he said.

The Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act prohibits state and local governments from giving information about a Coloradan’s race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or religious affiliation to the federal government unless it is for a legal and constitutional purpose.

—–

We’re monitoring debate today on the floor of the Colorado House over House Bill 17-1230, the Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act, a bill to protect “Colorado residents from federal government overreach based on a person’s status.” The bill draws its name from Gov. Ralph Carr, the Republican governor of Colorado who stood up for the welfare and dignity of Japanese-American internees during World War II, and gained new urgency after President Donald Trump began making good on his threats to ban travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim nations and rounding up immigrant mothers.

Debate on this bill today in the House has been fierce and ugly. Republicans have led a drive to pull Gov. Carr’s name off the bill, and to insert language from Rep. Dave Williams’ failed bill to penalize so-called “sanctuary cities”–both actions that Democrats found highly objectionable given the bill’s intentions and namesake.

And then freshman Rep. Philip Covarrubias, Republican of Adams County, took it a step beyond:

“We keep hearing about how things went down with the Japanese people. For anybody who has never been in the heat of combat, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and all of that was going on, there’s no time to ask questions about who’s a citizen and who’s not.

“You don’t have that moment in time. You need to regroup. It’s easy to sit up here and say this stuff now. If you’re in that moment, it looks a lot different than being able to be in a nice suit and tie. I hear people saying that we need to respect other people’s rights, and I agree with that. But what about THEM respecting OUR rights, our country and our laws? Because I’m not hearing that up here.”

 

You heard that correctly. That’s Rep. Phil Covarrubias defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

And then a little while later, he did it again:

“I’m wondering why the need for the Ralph Carr to explain Japanese-Americans [sic]. What happened prior to this that kicked this all off? I think we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. We need to look at the Americans that are in fear from terrorism, and all of things that we’ve seen over the last few years especially.

“Everybody’s talking about the ‘immigrants’ being in fear, or the other people being in fear. But what about our own people? What about Florida? What about San Bernardino? What about the things that we need to protect and we hold dear here in our own country? We need to take care of our home here and realize that we have plenty of citizens that are in fear. Yes, do we need a better path? Maybe so. But for right now today the way that the law is and the way that it stands, this is where we’re at. I want to protect us. Thank you.”


And with that, Gov. Carr can fairly be said to be rolling in his grave.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 10)

Fifty. That’s how many days Donald Trump has now been in the White House. Let’s go ahead and see if we can 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…

► Congressional Republicans are nervously awaiting the results of a Congressional Budget Office assessment of Trumpcare. As Politico reports:

The fate of Obamacare may lie in the hands of a number-crunching Republican appointee whose bottom line might single-handedly blow up the GOP quest to repeal and replace it.

Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall was handpicked two years ago by top Republicans in Congress — including now Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price — to lead a nonpartisan office that will soon release its estimate of how many Americans the Republican health care bill will cover and whether it shrinks or balloons the federal deficit…

…Hall, in the post for two years, has already signaled that his office won’t soft-pedal the coverage assessments. If a health plan doesn’t have comprehensive benefits, it won’t count as coverage. Fearing a bad CBO “score,” Republicans facing backlash in their drive to gut Obamacare are turning the budget agency and its team of professional economic analysts into a punching bag as they try to discredit it. [Pols emphasis]

Republican leaders, meanwhile, are finding that it is difficult to enact new healthcare legislation at the same time that President Trump is sowing widespread confusion with differing remarks on a potential compromise policy.

 

► Colorado business leaders (and the Denver Post editorial board) are praising a potential legislative compromise that could place a tax increase for infrastructure improvements on the November ballot. As the Denver Business Journal reports, that doesn’t mean some conservative Republicans won’t continue to oppose the idea:

Conservative politicians and organizations savaged a bipartisan transportation-funding bill Thursday as offering a burdensome tax hike without commensurate spending cuts, while liberal groups gave it better reviews, despite the proposal containing less transit funding than they had sought.

The reaction — particularly a statement from state House Republican leaders that they will “aggressively oppose” the plan — showed that House Bill 1242, introduced late Wednesday, will have tough roads to travel even to get onto the November statewide ballot.

That path is difficult enough, in fact, that the Colorado Contractors Association, one of the primary supporters of this and past road-funding measures, will go ahead and file its own tax-increase ballot measure on Friday as a back-up plan in the event that the Legislature kills HB 1242.

The Denver Post has more on the predictable knee-jerk reaction from conservative Republicans who don’t have a solution of their own to Colorado’s transportation problems but simply oppose any effort to raise taxes for any reason whatsoever.

 

► Politico takes a look at the prospects for President Trump’s border wall with Mexico, which may or may not end up being built out of Legos:

Trump is claiming that the ambitious — and hugely controversial — construction plan is “way, way, way ahead of schedule,” but in reality, there is growing evidence that Trump’s central campaign pledge is in political peril…

…As the issues mount, several prominent Republicans are making their concerns more explicit.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told constituents during a telephone town hall Wednesday that “billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed” to secure the border, according to audio obtained by POLITICO on Thursday. “I don’t support a tariff to pay for any kind of wall.”…

…”We shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done,” Gardner said.

Federal budget gurus are trying to figure out the most cost-effective material for a wall, but they still haven’t even begun to deal with the “eminent domain” problem that could skyrocket the potential price tag.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

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“Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act” Answers New Trump EO

Gov. Ralph Carr (R).

A press release from the Colorado House Democratic majority late today, but still in time for the same news cycle as President Donald Trump’s revised executive order barring travel to the United States by persons from several Muslim majority nations–announcing the introduction of House Bill 17-1230, Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act:

Reps. Joe Salazar and Daneya Esgar introduced a bill this afternoon that protects Coloradans against federal overreach targeting various Colorado communities and ensuring the state never has a repeat of its tragic history regarding Japanese internment during World War II.

“The Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act protects Colorado’s state rights by ensuring Colorado does not aid or assist any federal overreach that would set up a registry for Muslims or other religious groups, create internment camps, or attempt to identify individuals by their race, religion, nationality, or immigration status and ethnicity—all of which go against our American and Colorado values and our U.S. and state Constitutions,” said Rep. Salazar, D-Thornton. “We’re not going to allow Colorado communities to be terrorized by federal overreach.” [Pols emphasis]

HB17-1230 is named after Republican Colorado Governor Ralph Carr, who in response to the 1942 Executive Order signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt vigorously opposed the creation of the Japanese internment camps in Colorado. He is remembered for courageously stating: “An American citizen of Japanese descent has the same rights as any other citizen…. If you harm them, you must first harm me.”

“The Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act builds upon Carr’s legacy of using states’ rights to protect citizens from federal overreach,” said Rep. Esgar, D-Pueblo. “It was not that long ago that 7,318 Coloradans—mostly American citizens of Japanese descent—were forcibly imprisoned right here in our state. We cannot repeat that shameful period and we must reject any attempt to create a religious registry, create internment camps, or attempt to identify individuals by their race or ethnicity.”

In addition to the obvious message, what this legislation appears to be about is giving Colorado state and local governments a defense to avoid complicity in the commission of illegal acts–to include acts with the force of law that are not constitutional. President Trump’s new executive order, which may or may not have been sufficiently tailored to be “court proof,” makes this bill most timely–but it’s certainly not the only context in which it might apply. Depending on where you get your analysis, some of the possibilities are rather unpleasant to say the least.

With that said, the bill is certain to provoke lively debate on the way to passage in the Colorado House. In the GOP-controlled Senate its prospects are less certain, of course, but given the number if civil libertarian-minded Republicans out there who are increasingly reluctant to go along with the new party line, anything could hypothetically happen.

For today, it’s enough to observe that Gov. Ralph Carr (R) would be proud to see this bill.

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Cardboard Cory: The Most Popular Cardboard Cutout Ever


Cardboard Cory.

Denver7’s Oscar Contreras reports from Friday night’s “town hall” for Sen. Cory Gardner at Byers Middle School in Denver–an event that Sen. Gardner declined to attend, but was nonetheless headlined by…we’ll let Denver7 explain:

Hundreds of Coloradans have wanted to speak with Sen. Cory Gardner since the beginning of the year. Friday night, he finally granted them that wish – sort of – as a cutout of the Republican senator made an appearance at a local middle school.

About 1,500 people showed up to an “in absentia” town hall meeting at Byers Middle School, where constituents hoped to talk about pressing issues currently affecting them.

“Over 14,000 people have signed a petition requesting a meeting; hundreds of people have either called or protested outside his office requesting the same. But so far, Senator Gardner has said no,” said Katie Farnan, a lead organizer with Indivisible Front Range Resistance, a progressive group.

That’s right–over 1,500 people showed up on a Friday evening at an urban Denver public school with horrible parking (Washington Park, after all) to share their concerns with a cardboard cutout of Sen. Cory Gardner. And as the Denver Post’s Hayley Sanchez reports, the crowd knew it all along:

“I am not a paid protester,” [Christine Robinson of Parker] said while waiting in line, which wrapped around the block of the middle school. “We’re here to send a loud message — to listen to us. He does not want to.” [Pols emphasis]

Robinson said she thinks many Coloradans oppose some of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet selections — including Betsy DeVos, for secretary of Education, and Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency — but Gardner is voting against his constituents’ wishes.

Here’s the two-hour “town hall” in its entirety, with the main event starting just about 20 minutes in:

Gardner did issue a statement about this event Friday, in which he studiously ignored its existence and praised himself for the generally nonpublic appearances he has made in the past week of congressional recess. It was something for the media to print, but nobody who attended this event, or several other Gardner-less “town halls” held this week will find it very satisfying.

What can we add about the bizarre spectacle of over 1,500 people who turned out to talk to a cardboard cutout? Well, it’s a clever way to point out Gardner’s very deliberate lack of accessibility to his Colorado constituents–a point that has been driven home by huge protests outside his offices, and a dramatic confrontation on video this week as Gardner tried and failed to slip into an office building in Interlocken to meet with somebody “more important” than the constituents waiting for him in the lobby.

There’s no question at this point that Gardner has become the local face of developments in GOP-owned Washington, D.C., and the perception that he doesn’t want to answer for what’s happening to the constituents who elected him is politically very damaging. It has begun to stand out among national political observers that Gardner is well out of step with the desires of Colorado voters. It’s true that Gardner will not be up for election until 2020, the same year President Donald Trump will be up for election again. That extra padding of time for Gardner may give him, even after a difficult week like this one, hope that he can triangulate his way through.

But if thousands of people are willing to show up to put “Cardboard Cory” on notice, that’s a bad sign.

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