Where’s Cory? Right Next to Team Trump

As multiple news outlets have reported, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is widely expected to follow along with the wishes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump’s scurrilous legal team on all issues related to Trump’s impeachment trial underway in the U.S. Senate.

Lest there be any doubt, check out where Gardner has been seated today: He literally could not be any closer in proximity to Trump’s legal team. Gardner’s typical seat in the Senate chambers is at the back of the room; Gardner is instead squatting in the seat reserved for Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe.

U.S. Senate chambers, January 21, 2020

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New York Times Can’t Find Cory Gardner, Either

Invisible Cory GardnerOver the weekend, the New York Times published a long, comprehensive story about the curious inaccessibility and general invisibility of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

They keep expecting to see Senator Cory Gardner everywhere — on the local Fox affiliates in Colorado, on Facebook, on literature crammed inside their mailboxes. They are voters who wear tasteful crepe blouses and carry structured Kate Spade totes, who like how their 401(k)’s are performing but say they could do without President Trump’s “temperament.”

They are members of one of the most coveted groups in electoral politics: suburban women. But in their field of vision, Mr. Gardner, Colorado’s top Republican officeholder, is almost nowhere to be found…

… Unlike most Republican senators, Mr. Gardner has been largely mum on the articles of impeachment against the president and the Senate trial starting Tuesday. Early in the process, he called the impeachment inquiry a “total circus,” but notably refused to answer questions about whether the president’s conduct with Ukraine had been appropriate.

Mr. Gardner hasn’t indicated one way or the other whether he’d vote to subpoena witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, even as some other senators facing tough re-election fights, like Senator Susan Collins of Maine, have expressed an openness to doing so. Last week on Capitol Hill, he evaded reporters eager to pin down his thoughts, his handler hurrying him into the nearest elevator. On Thursday evening, when a local Colorado reporter caught him at the Denver airport, a smiling Mr. Gardner offered still no clarity. “We have a trial,” he said. “That’s where we’re at right now.”…

… “I’m confused as to why he’s not out on the stump more, because that’s what he was so good at in 2014,” said Colorado Republican operative Tyler Sandberg.

We took note last week about Gardner’s embarrassing run-in with 9News, in which he repeatedly said “We have a trial” in response to questions seeking much more substantial responses from a United States Senator about the most important political issue of the day. What the Times story also found, however, is that Gardner’s fellow Republicans are as mystified as everyone else by the Yuma Senator’s current political strategy:

Dick Wadhams, a veteran Colorado Republican operative, was not bashful about calling out Mr. Gardner’s fear of public exposure. “If I had one criticism of him,” Mr. Wadhams said, “it’s that his team keeps him locked up in a fortress.” (Mr. Gardner and his aides did not return multiple requests for comment.) [Pols emphasis]

Impeachment has served only to highlight Mr. Gardner’s silence, whether on his own record or the national issues du jour, according to other Colorado Republicans. His caginess has frustrated some Trump supporters in Colorado, whose votes Mr. Gardner will almost certainly need to prevail in November, when Democrats are likely to come out in force in the presidential election.

Sen. Cory Gardner waves as he exits Air Force One behind President Trump in Oct. 2018.

Gardner’s attempts at invisibility might not be paying off in the manner in which he might hope, as this closing paragraph from the Times elaborates:

Amy Conklin [a former Littleton City Council member who has supported Gardner in the past] conceded that Mr. Gardner had done some good work in the Senate. But what looms largest in her mind, what she says she’d be hardest pressed to forget, are a handful of photographs she’s seen of Mr. Gardner, including one from last winter, in which she described him as “smiling and waving, following Trump out of Air Force One.” [Pols emphasis]

The Senate impeachment trial against President Trump gets underway today. Gardner will hide as much as he can and is not expected to be anything but a loyal soldier for Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell and the White House (as Politico made clear in an impeachment preview today).

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Gardner Likely to Vote with Republicans on Impeachment, Say Political Observers

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This article, which originally appeared in the Colorado Times Recorder, was written by Jake Maher.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As the impeachment trial begins in the Senate today, the scrutiny on Colorado’s Cory Gardner grows.

Speculation has filled a vacuum left by the Republican senator himself, who has made few statements to the press about how he views the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, in which he is now a juror.  And Gardner himself couldn’t be reached to explain his stance.

Among experts on Colorado politics, though, the consensus is clear: Gardner can be expected to fall in line with the Republican caucus, except for the possibility of voting for some witnesses or a similar concession, if it’s done with a group of GOP senators.

In the words of Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute: “He’s a partisan.”

“I would be very surprised, at least knowing what we know now, if Gardner defects from his party’s line on the final impeachment vote,” Kyle Saunders, a professor of political science at Colorado State University, wrote in an email.

Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, wrote that he “wouldn’t expect Gardner to deviate from the Republican leadership.”

Gardner himself became a member of the Senate’s Republican leadership in 2016, and he currently serves as deputy whip.

A Possibility of a Smaller Act of Rebellion

As senator of a purple state, simply following the Republican party line may be too divisive of a political tack, and some experts saw the possibility of a smaller act of rebellion via a vote on allowing additional witness testimony—but only if the crowd is already moving that way anyway.

“If there is a vote taken on witnesses, and it appears that a majority supports limited witnesses, I could see Gardner making the calculus to support something like that, but only if it’s some sort of limited scenario,” wrote Saunders. “I don’t see Gardner supporting a free-for-all ‘as many witnesses as can be called’ scenario unless things are going very badly for Trump.”

“And it’s still not likely that it will go badly for Trump with Leader McConnell running point,” wrote Saunders.

According to Ornstein, he’s likely to follow the lead set by Senator Susan Collins of Maine and allow a few more witnesses, including Hunter and Joe Biden, and possibly reprimand the president.

But ultimately, “people don’t vote alone,” according to Seth Masket, a political scientist at the University of Denver. “[Gardner is] not going to stand that far out.”

Democratic political consultant Steve Welchert said Gardner is already “off-script” in his public communications on the Senate trial by not defending Trump more aggressively, besides calling the House impeachment vote a “total circus.”

Some experts said this tactic—maintaining a neutral public image while reliably voting along party lines—has been a characteristic of Gardner’s style of politics since the beginning of his term.

Ornstein noted that No Labels rated Gardner a “moderate” during his 2014 election, as he billed himself a solutions-oriented “problem solver” at the time.

“There is nothing in the record—no votes—to suggest he is a moderate,” he said.

A similar scenario played out during the Senate votes to repeal Obamacare in 2017, when Gardner’s noncommittal public statements cane in advance of repeated votes in favor of repeal.

Gardner “will signal open-mindedness, but is likely to vote with the rest of his caucus,” said Masket.

According to Coleman, Gardner’s voting record as a whole demonstrates his adherence to the Republican agenda at all turns, his public statements notwithstanding.

“He voted for both Trump’s Supreme Court picks, the GOP tax bill, ACA repeal, and was supportive of the President’s emergency border declaration last year,” he wrote.

“Throughout his tenure, on the big votes, he usually seems more like a senator from deep red Wyoming instead of a light blue state like Colorado,” said Coleman.

CORRECTION: Gardner remains on the U.S. Senate leadership team, currently serving as deputy whip. Due to an editing error, this post initially stated that he was no longer a GOP Senate leader.

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A Few More Words On The Romanoff/NRSC Alliance


NRSC Political Director Betsy Ankney celebrates Andrew Romanoff.

Beware Republicans bearing gifts.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Ernest Luning reports:

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff wants the state to audit a federal fund tapped by primary rival John Hickenlooper’s administration to defend the former Colorado governor against an ethics complaint.

Republicans have been demanding for more than a month that the state scrutinize use of the 16-year-old federal account by Hickenlooper, the front-runner for the nomination to challenge GOP Sen. Cory Gardner…

“Ideas are not responsible for the people who come up with them,” he said. “There might be no doubt partisan motivation if the NRSC is pushing for this, but that doesn’t mean the audit is a bad idea. [Pols emphasis] I think we all have an interest in making government as transparent and accountable as possible.”

We’ve written a few times now in this space about an ethics complaint filed by Republicans, alleging violations of Colorado’s constitutional ban on state officials receiving gifts by former Gov. John Hickenlooper. The complaint itself is relatively small potatoes, consisting of a few instances of travel that appear to either be related to his official duties as governor or exempted as coming from “a personal friend and on a special occasion.” The next hearing in the case isn’t until March, giving Republicans valuable speculative mud-slinging opportunities before the process concludes.

The weak allegations contained in the ethics complaint against Hickenlooper itself, objectively much lesser alleged violations of the state’s ethics laws than the case involving former Secretary of State Scott Gessler spending office discretionary funds on partisan political events, has given rise to a secondary “meta” line of attack. Like Gessler and other state officials who have come under investigation by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission (IEC), the state pays for legal representation for the official subject to the complaint–in Gessler’s case, well over $500,000. Hickenlooper’s defense in the present case has cost less than a tenth of that amount.

But for reasons we’re still not completely clear on, the funds used to pay for Hickenlooper’s legal defense wrongly became identified as “post-9/11 relief funds” in several media stories. We assume this was a characterization planted by Republicans pitching the story for dramatic effect. In truth, the funds were originally disbursed to states by the federal government as part of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, otherwise known as the “Bush Tax Cuts.” Given that then-President George W. Bush ran for office on a platform of tax cuts, and signed into law his first round of promised tax cuts well before 9/11–not to mention that the 2001 recession was long over by 2003–this toxic characterization of money that was mostly spent by Republican Gov. Bill Owens before Owens left office in 2007 is not just wrong but absurd.

We are regularly accused of bias in the Democratic Senate primary, much like we were in 2010 when Romanoff lost the last U.S. Senate primary to now-Sen. Michael Bennet. In reality, it’s a simple question of capacity. The 2020 U.S. Senate race in Colorado is expected to be one of the most, if not the most competitive race in the nation. The last three Senate races in the state have been decided by unexpectedly narrow margins–Bennet winning narrowly over Ken Buck in 2010 and Darryl Glenn in 2016, and Cory Gardner defeating Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall by less than two points in 2014. So far, Andrew Romanoff has only managed to raise about a quarter of the money Hickenlooper has in the time both have been in the race. Polling instantly showed that Hickenlooper would dominate the primary and go on to bury Gardner. The Democratic Senate primary before Hickenlooper’s entry was a pack of mostly (sorry, this is going to sting) unprepared, unserious candidates–which is why the door was open for his run.

With all of this in mind, we’re not actually going to conclude with the wholesale condemnation of Romanoff’s campaign we easily could. We want to put the question to our readers: is Romanoff joining forces with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) to attack the prohibitive favorite Democratic candidate acceptable to you? If your ultimate goal as a Democratic voter is to ensure that Cory Gardner does not get another term, does validating the Republican campaign organization set to attack whoever wins this primary serve that purpose?

If this wasn’t such a lopsided competition, it might be different. But without a viable path to victory for Romanoff, his supporters need to think about what the end game of this campaign looks like. The NRSC wants only one thing: to save Cory Gardner’s skin. And they know one of the only chances they have to slow the oncoming train is in this Democratic primary.

With that, we’ll turn it over to you and your conscience.

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“We Have a Trial,” Says Ridiculous Cory Gardner


Colorado Pols readers are well aware that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has taken extreme measures to avoid talking publicly about President Trump’s actions and the looming impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. Gardner regularly flees from reporters at the U.S. Capitol building by ducking out back doors and sliding into little-used elevators; journalists in Colorado just flat don’t get a response from Gardner or his staff — on any questions, really.

Gardner has given no reason to indicate that he will be anything but a loyal soldier for Trump and Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, but media outlets keep trying to press him for information about how he’ll approach impeachment discussions. And sometimes, Gardner actually gets cornered.

On Thursday, 9News had no luck (again) getting a real response from Gardner’s office on impeachment issues, but later reporter Marshall Zelinger serendipitously found himself on the same flight from Washington D.C. to Denver. That’s how 9News reporter Steve Staeger ended up waiting for Gardner at Denver International Airport and chasing him through the concourse:

We’d encourage readers to watch the entire exchange, but here’s the gist of it:

STAEGER: Are you open to hearing from more witnesses in a Senate trial?

GARDNER: We have a trial, and that’s where we’re at right now.

“We have a trial.”

Staeger later asks Gardner about Thursday’s bombshell news that the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) believes Trump “broke the law” by withholding foreign aid from Ukraine in order to coerce an investigation into a potential political opponent.

STAEGER: There was a report released today from the nonpartisan GAO that the President broke the law in withholding aid to the Ukraine. Where do you stand on that?

GARDNER: We have a trial, and I’m sure that will be part of the discussion.

“We have a trial.”

Gardner’s absurd non-response to Staeger is being picked up nationally, and rightfully so. As we’ve said before in this space, Colorado voters should be embarrassed by their junior Senator.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 16)


Happy “National Nothing Day.” We’re not sure if you are supposed to celebrate or not. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► And so it begins. From The Washington Post:

The historic impeachment trial of President Trump got underway Thursday with the arrival in the Senate of the seven House managers to formally present the two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States, is headed to the Senate later Thursday, where he is expected to be sworn in to preside over the trial focused on the president’s conduct toward Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the trial will get underway “in earnest” next week.

Fallout also continued Thursday from new allegations by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Trump knew of his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine that could benefit Trump politically. The impeachment charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — center on the allegation that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former vice president Joe Biden.

The Washington Post has more on the latest allegations from Lev Parnas that do not look good for President Trump.

 

► The Government Accountability Office says the Trump administration broke the law in attempting to restrict foreign aid to Ukraine. From the New York Times:

The Trump administration violated the law in withholding security assistance aid to Ukraine, a nonpartisan federal watchdog agency said on Thursday, weighing in on a decision by President Trump that is at the heart of the impeachment case against him.

The Government Accountability Office said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld nearly $400 million for “a policy reason,” even though the funds had been allocated by Congress. The decision was directed by the president himself, and during the House impeachment inquiry, administration officials testified that they had raised concerns about its legality to no avail.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the G.A.O. wrote. “The withholding was not a programmatic delay.”

“Trump did nothing wrong” was never a sustainable argument, but it has become downright silly now.

 

► Ahead of the Senate impeachment trial, all 100 U.S. Senators will take an “oath of impartiality” given by Chief Justice John Roberts that will go something like this:

Getty Images

 

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to run in terror from reporter questions about impeachment and President Trump, though late Wednesday he veered away from pretending to have not seen the articles of impeachment so that he could pay lip service to the idea of being “an impartial juror.” Meanwhile, it seems even some of the more unflappable Republican Senators are starting to snap under the pressure of trying to support a corrupt President:

 

► Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is getting lots of attention as one of the seven House impeachment “managers” appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday. You can read more from The Denver Post, The Colorado Sun/CBS4, Denver7, and Colorado Public Radio.

Elsewhere, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) played a part in the historic decision to transmit articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate.

 

 

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

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Time To Stop Claiming Trump “Did Nothing Wrong”


Donald Trump.

Politico with today’s major development in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump–a clear determination by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that Trump’s withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine was in violation of federal law:

President Donald Trump ordered the hold on the critical security assistance in July, a slew of senior White House officials testified to House impeachment investigators late last year. It was a move that coincided with an effort by the president and his allies to pressure Ukraine to investigate Trump’s Democratic rivals.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the GAO wrote in an eight-page report released on Thursday.

Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid, which he reversed in September after House investigators began probing the move, is at the heart of the articles of impeachment the House passed last month, and it will be a central focus in the Senate’s impeachment trial that begins later Thursday.

The report undercuts an oft-stated defense of Trump’s decision to hold the aid back: that it was a lawful exercise of the president’s authority. [Pols emphasis]

The defense that Trump’s actions were not a violation of federal law has been the go-to talking point for Rep. Ken Buck, Colorado’s Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, from the beginning of the impeachment process–along with his bizarre contention that every President commits impeachable offenses so why bother impeaching them at all. That’s obviously difficult to say with any credibility now, though we expect plenty of Republicans will respond by simply disparaging the GAO. At the very least it seems like it will be necessary for Republicans to fall back to the next logical defensive position, “okay you win, it’s a crime but it’s not an impeachable offense.”

As for Sen. Cory Gardner? He’s still telling reporters he hasn’t seen the articles of impeachment. Now that the articles have been formally delivered to the Senate, Gardner will need obviously to ditch that excuse–but what will he say about the GAO’s unambiguous conclusion that Trump’s actions against Ukraine were criminal?

It’s true you’ll have to catch him first. But Gardner is quickly running out of rhetorical cover.

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Reporters Still Looking for Cory Gardner’s Spine


Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was busy today firing off Tweets about trade agreements and speaking in front of an empty Senate chamber about the four corners of Colorado and…something.

What Gardner was NOT doing today is the same thing has has NOT been doing for months: Commenting in any way, shape or form on the pending impeachment trial against President Trump.

Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post has noted Gardner’s refusal to talk about the most important political subject in the entire country, but he’s not alone in trying to track down the elusive junior Senator from Colorado. As The New York Times reported today:

For Republicans in difficult re-election races — with the possible exception of Ms. Collins, who is her own brand in Maine — the political calculations are complex. Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Martha McSally of Arizona and Mr. Gardner all face tough contests in states that are not nearly as conservative as they used to be…

…The pressure on Mr. Gardner mounted on Monday when the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans that describes itself as “dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism,” targeted him in a brutal advertisement that described the Colorado senator as “just another Trump servant — weak, frightened, impotent — a small man, terrified of a political bully.”

“Colorado voters want a fair trial in the Senate and honest leadership,” the ad said. “Either do your job, or Colorado will find someone who will.”

In the Capitol on Tuesday, Mr. Gardner was making himself scarce. When Republicans wrapped up a luncheon featuring a discussion of trial procedure, he zipped out a back door and headed for a little-used elevator, avoiding a throng of waiting reporters. 

“I’m sorry, he’s got to get going,” an aide to Mr. Gardner told a reporter who followed him, as the elevator doors opened and the senator slipped inside. Then Mr. Gardner jumped in, begging off any discussion of whether he could be the elusive fourth vote who could upend hopes of a quick acquittal of Mr. Trump. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner’s, um, “spinal problem” is quite a contrast with another prominent member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation. This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) was among seven Representatives chosen to prosecute the House impeachment case in the upcoming Senate trial.

One man is standing up to fulfill the Congressional duties set forth in his oath of office. The other is hiding from reporters in elevators. If you’re embarrassed by the ridiculous charades of Sen. Cory Gardner in this critical moment in American history…well, you absolutely should be.

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) at far right of image.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 15)


Happy “Korean Alphabet Day.” Please celebrate responsibly, or whatever. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The House of Representatives will vote today to send articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the announcement today and introduced the seven House Members who will serve as “impeachment managers.” One of them is Colorado’s own Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora).

The Washington Post breaks down how Crow ended up being among Pelosi’s chosen few:

The Democrat from Colorado is in his first term as Congress. Before Congress, he served as an Army Ranger, leading combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also partner in a law firm in Colorado. According to the Almanac of American Politics, he wasn’t a prosecutor, but he “conducted internal investigations nationwide, responded to emergency events and handled a wide-range of government inquiries.” He also represents the kind of district — a suburban one in a swing state — that Democrats will need to hold onto in November to keep their majorities.

He is the only manager who does not sit on any of the impeachment inquiry committees, but he had a role in swaying Pelosi to authorize the impeachment inquiry. He was one of seven House freshmen with national security backgrounds who co-authored a Washington Post op-ed calling Trump’s actions on Ukraine impeachable, a move that signaled a significant momentum shift within the Democratic caucus. Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry a day after that published.

Crow’s selection provides a stark contrast to the impeachment involvement of another key Colorado elected official: Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). As Justin Wingerter writes for The Denver Post, Gardner just keeps ducking questions about President Trump:

Gardner’s office declined again Tuesday to answer questions from The Denver Post about whether he would support a motion to dismiss the two charges against Trump or vote to allow witnesses in a Senate trial that’s expected to begin next week. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah have said they want to keep open the option of hearing from witnesses after opening arguments.

CBS reported Monday that the White House expects at least four Republicans will vote to call witnesses in the Senate trial. That “possibly” includes Gardner, according to the report, though he has said nothing to indicate that he will. There are 53 Senate Republicans, and a simple majority of 51 votes will be needed to pass trial rules.

Silence has become the norm for Gardner on the topic of impeachment. His office previously declined to say whether witnesses should be called and whether he agrees with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “total coordination” with the White House.

The New York Times apparently wasn’t able to corner the squirrelly Senator, either:

In the Capitol on Tuesday, Mr. Gardner was making himself scarce. When Republicans wrapped up a luncheon featuring a discussion of trial procedure, he zipped out a back door and headed for a little-used elevator, avoiding a throng of waiting reporters.

“I’m sorry, he’s got to get going,” an aide to Mr. Gardner told a reporter who followed him, as the elevator doors opened and the senator slipped inside. Then Mr. Gardner jumped in, begging off any discussion of whether he could be the elusive fourth vote who could upend hopes of a quick acquittal of Mr. Trump.

 

► Evidence continues to mount against President Trump ahead of a Senate impeachment trial. As Jennifer Rubin writes for The Washington Post:

One can only imagine what evidence we have yet to see during the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. With each new tranche of evidence — including emails regarding the hold on military aid to Ukraine and now documents from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s — the conclusion that Trump abused power and obstructed the investigation becomes incontrovertible…

…Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me the new evidence is ” jaw-dropping” and “highly incriminating of both Giuliani and Trump.”

 

► Candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination met for another debate on Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa — just three weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses. Who won and who lost the big debate? Here are a few takes from The Washington Post, CNN, Politico, The New York Times, and The Des Moines Register.

 

► Today is the deadline for open enrollment for health care coverage through Connect for Health Colorado.

 

 

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

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Gardner Erases His Opposition to Obamacare from his Campaign Website

(Shaking the Etch-a-Sketch – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R), holding a Sham-Wow.

In a little-noticed change to the “Health Care” section of his new re-election campaign website, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) has removed any mention of his stance in favor repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

That’s a major shift in campaign tactics for Gardner, who made killing Obamacare a major theme of his political campaigns, first for the U.S. House in 2010 and then for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

“Cory has been a leader in modernizing our health care system, lowering costs, and improving the quality of care for Coloradans,” states the new website, which was changed sometime since November. “He understands any health care plan needs to cover pre-existing conditions and must be a part of any plan he will support.”

Contrast this to Gardner’s stance on health care when he was running against Democrat Mark Udall in 2014, when not only did Gardner’s campaign website call for repealing the “misguided” ACA, but it was the centerpiece of his entire campaign, his reason for entering the race.

“Throughout his time in Congress, Cory has voiced his strong opposition to Obamacare and the premium increases, thousands of pages in new regulations, and burdensome mandates it creates,” states Gardner’s 2014 campaign website, courtesy of the Way Back Machine. “…He supports legislation that repeals this misguided law and replaces it with a solution that allows the purchase of insurance across state lines, bolsters state high-risk pools to provide for those with pre-existing conditions, and enacts badly needed tort reform to reduce medical costs, among other ideas.”

Health care analysts believe Gardner’s campaign is trying to hide or downplay the senator’s longstanding opposition to the ACA, in light of the fact that the popularity of Obamacare was at a low point when Gardner was elected to the Senate, and it’s at a near high point now.

“Gardner is trying to erase his history of voting to repeal the ACA in 2017 and well before,” said Adam Fox, Director of Strategic Engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “He knows that Coloradans will not look favorably on it, and it damages his chances of re-election. He’s just trying to obscure the way he consistently votes, because it’s politically inconvenient for him.”

Gardner’s office did not return a call asking if he no longer wants to kill Obamacare and/or if he plans to remove references to repealing the ACA from his Senate website.

(more…)

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Hickenlooper Posts Massive Fundraising Haul


Former Gov. John Hickenlooper

Democrat John Hickenlooper released some jaw-dropping fundraising numbers today in the race for U.S. Senate, with $2.8 million raised in the last three months of 2019.

According to a press release:

Ninety-three percent of contributions the campaign received were $200 or less, and the average grassroots contribution was $26.

This quarterly total sets a record for Senate campaigns in Colorado in the off year. In 2019, Hickenlooper received contributions from each of the state’s 64 counties and $0 from corporate PACs.

Hickenlooper for Colorado heads into the election year with $3.2 million cash on hand.

Hickenlooper’s $2.8 million quarter in Q4 (2019) is easily the best quarterly fundraising period for an off-year election in Colorado — particularly for a non-incumbent candidate. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) raised $2.4 million in Q3 last year with the power of incumbency and a Republican Senate Majority in his favor.

Hickenlooper’s Q4 bests his initial fundraising haul of $2.1 million in Q3, which itself was more than four times the amount raised by his closest Democratic competitor (Andrew Romanoff).

We’re still waiting to see what Gardner raised in Q4. For comparison’s sake, Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally raised more than $4 million in Q4 but still trailed Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, who hauled in an incredible $6.3 million.

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Cory Gardner Smokescreens Crucial Impeachment Question


CBS News reported last night, and politicos coast to coast took note:

The White House is preparing for some Republican senators to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, which could get underway in the coming days.

Senior White House officials tell CBS News they increasingly believe that at least four Republicans, and likely more, will vote to call witnesses. In addition to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado, [Pols emphasis] the White House also views Rand Paul of Kentucky as a “wild card” and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as an “institutionalist” who might vote to call witnesses, as one official put it…

Gardner and Alexander have both said the Senate trial should be fair and impartial. Paul has said the president should be able to call his own witnesses, including the whistleblower whose complaint about Ukraine sparked the impeachment inquiry in the first place.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

The possibility that Sen. Cory Gardner might break with the White House and vote to call witnesses in the Senate trial, such as Gardner’s admirer and Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, would be a noteworthy move for Colorado’s vulnerable incumbent Republican Senator–a change from what has been steadfast support for the President and disdain for the impeachment process up to now.

But as The Hill reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not interested in calling witnesses. And as readers know, Mitch McConnell outranks Cory Gardner:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday knocked talk of calling additional impeachment witnesses, arguing that Democrats want the Senate to go “fishing” during the soon-to-start impeachment trial.

“If the existing case is strong, there’s no need for the judge and the jury to reopen the investigation. If the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place,” McConnell said from the Senate floor…

Democrats are planning to force votes on calling four witnesses, including Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. They need four GOP senators to successfully call a witness.

McConnell, however, argued on Tuesday that demands for additional witnesses “do not show confidence” in the House case. [Pols emphasis]

McConnell’s opposition to witnesses in the Senate trial of President Trump blatantly contradicts his vote in 1999 to call Monica Lewinsky and other witnesses to testify in the trial against former President Bill Clinton–and like all questions about the hypocrisy of Republicans who voted to convict Clinton shamelessly covering for Trump twenty years later, there’s not even really an attempt by Republicans to justify it.

But if McConnell has decided that there will be no witnesses against Trump, and it comes down to a single deciding Republican vote to allow this crucial step in the trial to take place, we’ll wager hard money that deciding vote will not be Cory Gardner. Based on Gardner’s long record of misdirection ahead of important votes, whatever Gardner is saying now to create uncertainty is subterfuge ahead of what he does in almost every such case: toeing the party line.

If Gardner does defect on this specific question, it’s still most likely just a feint to reduce the damage from his near-inevitable vote against conviction. But it would nonetheless show further weakening among Republicans as the day of reckoning approaches, and that would be significant.

In the end, though, the last thing Gardner needs right now is a negative Tweet from the boss.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 14)


Happy “Feast of the Ass” day. Please celebrate responsibly, or whatever. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The House of Representatives will vote on Wednesday on the issue of sending articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate in advance of a Senate trial on President Trump’s misconduct. Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, says he still opposes the idea of calling witnesses in a trial — yeah, read that sentence again — as word leaks that some Republican Senators might support such an idea. From The Hill newspaper:

McConnell on Tuesday knocked talk of calling additional impeachment witnesses, arguing that Democrats want the Senate to go “fishing” during the soon-to-start impeachment trial.

“If the existing case is strong, there’s no need for the judge and the jury to reopen the investigation. If the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place,” McConnell said from the Senate floor…

…A small number have suggested they are open to calling witnesses midtrial, but they’re getting public pushback from their conservative colleagues, who warn that if Republicans support calling former national security adviser John Boltonthey also have to support calling witnesses Trump might want such as Hunter Biden or the whistleblower at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.

Democrats are planning to force votes on calling four witnesses, including Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. They need four GOP senators to successfully call a witness.

CBS News reported late Monday that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) might be among those Republican Senators who are supportive of calling witnesses in a Senate trial — though the odds are long that Gardner will do anything other than whatever McConnell tells him to do. A recent poll from Quinnipiac University found that 66% of Americans support the idea of witness testimony from former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Elsewhere, James Hohmann of The Washington Post ponders 10 questions now that the House is poised to send impeachment articles to the Senate.

 

► A Republican group called “The Lincoln Project” absolutely blasted Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) with a new advertisement on Monday. A subsequent “Truth Test” from 9News was equally brutal.

Says 9News anchor/reporter Kyle Clark: “Calling Senator Gardner a weak, impotent, small man? Let’s assume they’re speaking figuratively, and label that opinion.”


► Candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination (most of them, anyway) will debate once again tonight in Des Moines, Iowa — just three weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

 

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

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Trump Keeps Digging on Iran; Colorado GOP Getting Buried


Clockwise from top left: Cory Gardner, Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn, and Scott Tipton.

The House of Representatives voted last week on a resolution to restrict President Trump’s ability to attack Iran without provocation. The vote was split along party lines among Colorado’s delegation, with all four Democrats in approval and all three Republicans voting “NO.”

Colorado’s three Republican Members of Congress — Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Ken Buck (R-Greeley), and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) — may soon be looking for avenues to walk this vote back. As Aaron Blake explains for The Washington Post, President’s Trump’s ever-changing rationale for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani “has utterly fallen apart”:

Trump has said in recent days that Soleimani was planning to “blow up” the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and also that he was going after “four embassies.”

But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper revealed on talk shows Sunday that the idea that Soleimani was about to attack four embassies wasn’t based on intelligence. Instead, he said it was simply something Trump and others “believed” to be the case.

Here’s Esper trying to explain Trump’s comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” over the weekend:

“What the president said was, he believed it probably could have been. He didn’t cite intelligence.”

“He believed it probably could have been.”

Trump administration officials are scrambling to understand and explain Trump’s Friday comments. Members of Congress who were briefed last week on the Iran strike said this was the first they had heard about a potential attack on American embassies. If there was such intelligence indicating this type of attack, nobody bothered to alert any of the embassies that would have theoretically been at risk.

Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote on a similar War Powers Resolution as soon as this week. Though Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) hasn’t yet had to cast that vote, he is in a worse spot than his Colorado colleagues after he came out last week in full-throated defense of the killing of Soleimani. Said Gardner:

“I commend the administration for taking decisive action last week in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists planning an imminent attack on American targets. The administration’s action, with regard to Qassem Soleimani, was not only decisive, but necessary and legal under longstanding presidential authority to protect American lives from imminent attack.”

Decisive? Only in that Soleimani is definitely dead, since the threat from Iran is probably stronger now than ever before (according to polling from Quinnipiac University, most Americans polled now think that we are less safe as a result of Soleimani’s death).

Necessary and legal? Was it necessary and legal to kill an Iranian General and bring the United States to the brink of war based on something that “probably could have been” a threat? That’s almost a rhetorical question now.

Gardner has long portrayed himself as something of a foreign policy expert in the U.S. Senate, but now Democratic Senate candidates can tee off on Gardner as uninformed and dangerous when it comes to dealing with foreign threats. Much of what Jennifer Rubin writes about Trump for The Washington Post today could also apply to Gardner:

The ever-shifting explanations for Trump’s conduct are emblematic of how his utter lack of credibility in the national security realm has come back to haunt him. He has gone from smearing the intelligence community, to praising it, to inventing intelligence. The media too often pretend that there is credence to his assertions or that maybe there is some super-secret intelligence that cannot be shared with them.

Trump has a consistent pattern of misleading the public and out-and-out lying. He has ignored uncontroverted intelligence, hyped false allegations and now given what seems like false justification for launching offensive military action without congressional authorization.

Colorado’s Republican Members of Congress bizarrely decided to take Trump’s word on Iran when they came to his defense. Now they’ll need to decide on which Iran story to take seriously from here on out.

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George Conway’s Lincoln Project Rips Cory Gardner



The Lincoln Project, a group of dissenting high-profile Republicans led by attorney George Conway along with longtime GOP strategists Rick Wilson and Steve Schmidt, fired off its first volley against a fellow Republican–with blistering minute-plus video spot slamming Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado for “putting Trump ahead of Colorado every time.”

Last month the Lincoln Project’s principals laid out their red-on-red mission in a New York Times op-ed:

Over these next 11 months, our efforts will be dedicated to defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box and to elect those patriots who will hold the line. We do not undertake this task lightly, nor from ideological preference. We have been, and remain, broadly conservative (or classically liberal) in our politics and outlooks. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain, but our shared fidelity to the Constitution dictates a common effort.

The 2020 general election, by every indication, will be about persuasion, with turnout expected to be at record highs. Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don’t enable or abet Mr. Trump’s violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House…

[Trump] has neither the moral compass nor the temperament to serve. His vision is limited to what immediately faces him — the problems and risks he chronically brings upon himself and for which others, from countless contractors and companies to the American people, ultimately bear the heaviest burden.

But this president’s actions are possible only with the craven acquiescence of congressional Republicans. They have done no less than abdicate their Article I responsibilities.

Today, Conway said of Sen. Gardner in particular:

When he ran for the Senate six years ago, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) promised that “when my party is wrong, I’ll say it.” Now Gardner is so scared of Donald Trump, he won’t even say it’s wrong for a president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival.

If Sen. Cory Gardner can’t do his job, and can’t comply with his oath of office by considering the impeachment charges against Trump on their merits, then he should go.

We haven’t heard the size of the ad buy for this compelling spot, but we expect it to be widely circulated even without much money behind it. This is a message aimed directly at Trump-averse unaffiliated voters who joined with Democrats in 2018 to punish Colorado Republicans at all levels in a clear referendum against the President.

With Gardner fighting a rear guard action to keep the Republican base behind him by backing Trump at great cost to his own credibility, Colorado’s majority anti-Trump coalition has no incentive to split their ticket.

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Cory Gardner Praises Dear Leader’s Glorious Targeted Killing


President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

9NEWS reports, Sen. Cory Gardner is not just backing President Donald Trump’s recent aggressive actions in the Middle East–while fellow Republican Senators denounce the administration’s arrogance in consultation with Congress as “insane” and “demeaning”–he’s laying it on thick:

“The president made the right call at the right time to neutralize the threat and to save American lives. Imagine having done nothing, having done nothing and allowing the attacks to proceed,” Gardner said. “At yesterday’s classified briefing, General Milley and our national security personnel made it clear — the death of General Soleimani saved lives.”

The briefing Gardner referred to was a classified briefing on the airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, held by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and other high ranking security officials on Wednesday.

“I commend the administration for taking decisive action last week in Baghdad against Tehran-backed terrorists planning an imminent attack on American targets. The administration’s action, with regard to Qassem Soleimani, was not only decisive, but necessary and legal under longstanding presidential authority to protect American lives from imminent attack,” Gardner said.

As we noted yesterday, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah was incensed by the high-handed treatment of U.S. Senators by administration officials in an earlier briefing, where it was suggested that even questioning the President’s war powers would be seen by the administration as “emboldening the enemy.” As a result, a deeply offended Sen. Lee and fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul say they will vote in favor of a resolution passed by the House to limit the President’s authority to strike Iran. As for proving that the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was a defensive action in response to an “imminent” attack, as Vox reports:

“The president has not supplied convincing evidence that his strike stopped an imminent attack on US forces. Nothing we’ve seen has changed my mind,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who has proposed a bill to withhold funding for an Iran war unless Trump seeks congressional authorization, said on the Senate floor after the briefing.

Paul referenced claims by O’Brien, Trump’s top national security aide in the White House, who has said the 2002 authorization for war with Iraq supported the legal rationale for killing Soleimani — an Iranian — in Baghdad. “That is absurd, that is an insult,” he said.

And according to a Democratic Senate aide, the briefers didn’t touch on anything that would provide evidence of an “imminent” attack. [Pols emphasis] “There was no way they could know for sure,” the aide said after speaking with their boss on what happened inside the room. “There was nothing specific they could point to.”

No problem for Sen. Gardner, who seems to have heard only what the White House wanted him to hear and not a word more. Gardner has learned in the last three years to talk his way around even the worst foreign policy mistakes by Trump, and follow the proselytized MAGA base’s lead in effusively praising the President no matter how poorly that praise may age–like when Gardner praised Trump for holding a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and then watched helplessly as Trump’s engagement with North Korea devolved into the usual insults and renewed missile tests.

The moral of the story? If you want honesty, you won’t get it from Gardner–even when fellow Republicans are no longer restrained.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (January 10)


The First Son-in-Law is 38 years old today. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to limit President Trump’s ability to take unilateral military action without Congressional approval. As CNN reports:

The vote was 224-194. Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Francis Rooney of Florida crossed party lines to vote in favor while Democratic Reps. Max Rose of New York, Ben McAdams of Utah, Anthony Brindisi of New York, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma and Stephanie Murphy of Florida voted against the resolution.

Now that the resolution has passed the House it will next go to the Senate.

Freshman Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst and senior Defense Department official, is the sponsor of the resolution, which calls on the President “to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran” unless Congress declares war or enacts “specific statutory authorization” for the use of armed forces.

You read that correctly — Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz voted IN FAVOR of the resolution.

Of course, the Senate is where all good things go to die; it is unlikely that Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell will even entertain a vote on the matter if he can avoid it. Some Republican Senators have expressed support for a “War Powers Resolution” after a disastrous White House briefing on Iran earlier this week.

Meanwhile, President Trump may have decided to kill Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani to perhaps appease Republican Senators whose support he needs in a coming impeachment trial.

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her chamber may send impeachment documents over to the U.S. Senate as soon as next week. From the New York Times:

In a letter to colleagues Friday morning, the speaker moved to end a weekslong impasse over the impeachment process that had left the president’s fate in limbo. She did not announce the members of the team she will ask to manage the case, but said the House should be ready to vote to appoint them sometime next week.

“I have asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate,” Ms. Pelosi wrote after lawmakers departed the Capitol for the weekend. “I will be consulting with you at our Tuesday House Democratic Caucus meeting on how we proceed further.”

Once the House votes and the articles are transmitted, the Senate’s proceeding, only the third impeachment trial of a sitting president in American history, will begin promptly — as soon as Wednesday based on Ms. Pelosi’s timeline.

 

► If you thought that Republican lawmakers in Colorado might be more reluctant to embrace their lunatic right-wing base after last year’s string of recall failures…well, we know you probably didn’t think that. The GOP still loves itself some lunatics.

Meanwhile, Colorado Republicans made it very clear during Thursday’s “State of the State” address that they have zero fucks to give about immigrants or refugees in Colorado.

For more on Gov. Polis’ “State of the State” speech, check this recap from The Denver Post or this annotated version of the entire speech via The Colorado Sun.

 

► Don’t miss the first 2020 episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast, featuring an in-depth interview with House Majority Leader Alec Garnett.

 

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

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: More Smarter Legislating



In the first 2020 episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast, we kick off the Colorado legislative session from the State Capitol with House Majority Leader Alec Garnett. We also discuss Iran and impeachment (and how Sen. Cory Gardner is screwed on both), and Rep. Garnett faces off against Ian Silverii in the world’s best worst game, “Duke or Donald.” 

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

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Republican Senators Furious Over “Demeaning” Iran Briefing


THURSDAY UPDATE #2: Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) expanded on his comments in an interview with National Public Radio. Greg Sargent of The Washington Post singles out one of the more distressing pieces of that interview: Trump administration officials wouldn’t acknowledge a single hypothetical scenario in which they would consult Congress prior to taking significant military action.

As Sargent writes for the Post:

Our system is now functionally that one person makes these extraordinarily consequential decisions. Plainly, the person in question is not fit to do so.

Indeed, in this case, you’d think the starkness of the situation would get Congress — or, more precisely, congressional Republicans, since virtually all Democrats will do the right thing this time — to reassert its authority…

…Trump has threatened war crimes, has boasted about the size of his missiles and just ordered an assassination of a senior military leader in a sovereign country without alerting Congress or seeking its approval, based on intelligence that is dubious at best and on rationales that have fallen apart.

But Trump’s tweet calling on “all House Republicans” to vote against the new war powers measure now means that being loyal to Trump is synonymous with giving him unconstrained warmaking authority, despite all the madness we’ve seen. And so it shall be.

—–

THURSDAY UPDATE: Um, what?

Vice President Mike Pence said today the White House didn’t actually tell Congress any significant information about the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. From The Washington Post:

Appearing on the “Today” show, Pence said the Trump administration actually did not share some of the most important information, because of its sensitivity…

…So to recap: The White House is now saying the information provided to lawmakers indeed might not have been as compelling as it could have been, but that Congress and the American people just need to trust that it’s there.

As The Post’s Shane Harris noted, that’s difficult to swallow. Even if an administration doesn’t share all the information widely with Congress for fear of leaks, it generally shares highly classified information with a smaller group of high-ranking lawmakers who are experienced in intelligence matters.

If the goal of the White House is to make supporters like Sen. Cory Gardner look like complete idiots…it’s working.

Remember that this Tweet came after Gardner had already praised the earlier briefing.
—–

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee unloads on Trump administration officials today after a “demeaning” briefing on military action in Iran in which they were told not to question White House decisions.

Today may have been a singularly important moment for America during the Trump administration — the day that unquestioning support from Republican Senators finally started to crack. As The Hill newspaper reports:

GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) ripped the administration over a closed-door briefing on Iran on Wednesday, announcing they will now support a resolution reining in President Trump‘s military powers. 

Lee, speaking to reporters after a roughly hourlong closed-door meeting with administration officials, characterized it as “the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue.”…

…Lee said the officials warned that Congress would “embolden” Iran if lawmakers debated Trump’s war powers.

“I find this insulting and demeaning … to the office that each of the 100 senators in this building happens to hold. I find it insulting and demeaning to the Constitution of the United States,” Lee said.

Both Senators Paul and Lee made it clear that they would now be supporting the War Powers resolution sponsored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, which would limit the President’s ability to use military force in Iran. Senator Lee noted that he had been undecided on this decision until today’s briefing.

It’s difficult to get a full sense of the fury emanating from Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee unless you listen to his remarks in full. Take a look:

Here’s just a brief snippet of Lee’s rant in front of members of the media this afternoon:

“It is not acceptable for officials within the Executive Branch of government — I don’t care if they’re with the CIA, with the Department of Defense, or otherwise — to come in and tell us that we can’t debate and discuss the appropriateness of military intervention against Iran. It’s un-American. It’s unconstitutional. And it’s wrong.” [Pols emphasis]

From what Lee and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul are saying, today’s Iran briefing seemed to be largely about Trump administration officials telling U.S. Senators to just shut up and accept whatever foreign policy decisions are being made by the White House. Obviously, this was not well received by independent-minded Senators.

Of course, some Republicans are still not willing to question the Trump administration. Here’s Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) unashamedly parroting talking points from the very same briefing that incensed his colleagues:


In a 2014 campaign ad, Gardner infamously looked into the camera lens and claimed, “when my party is wrong, I’ll say it.”

But when it came time to “say it,” Gardner was nowhere to be found — despite Republican colleagues giving him all the cover in the world to pretend to challenge President Trump.

For Colorado voters in 2020, what Gardner didn’t say today says plenty.

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Throwback Thurs: Gardner Once Promised to Hold “Town Meetings” so Voters Could Hold Him “Accountable”


(You’ve come a long way, Cory – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

When he was first running for Congress in 2010, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) promised that voters could hold him “accountable once the election is over” by, among other things, attending his “town meetings.”

But Gardner hasn’t held a town meeting in over two years.

In a 2010 interview with the Franklin Institute, a few months prior to entering Congress with his defeat of Democratic U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, Gardner said he looked forward to constituents who would “hold our feet to the fire, who will attend our town meetings, who will contact the office, email us, call us, when they see us on the streets, making sure we’re doing what we said we would do.”

By being accessible in these ways, Gardner said he’d be “accountable for [his] actions once the election is over.”

A call to Gardner’s office asking about his promise to be accountable to constituents was not returned.

This isn’t the first time Gardner has gone over a year without holding a town hall meeting.

Colorado’s Republican senator went from the spring of 2016 until August of 2017 without holding a town hall, drawing sharp questions from reporters for dodging the public for so long.

Over a thousand of Gardner’s constituents were so upset that they held a town hall meeting in February, 2017, without Gardnerdirecting questions to a cardboard cutout of the senator.

Cardboard Cory: Folk Hero

The Gardner cutout, dubbed “Cardboard Cory,” went on to become a folk hero among Gardner’s opponents and others, appearing on Twitter, Facebook, and at events all over Colorado.

As pressure mounted, Gardner finally surprised political observers by announcing he’d hold not one but three in-person town hall meetings on the same day, apparently trying to dilute the expected onslaught from the public. He started in Colorado Springs in the morning, then moved to Greeley and Lakewood (Colorado Christian University).

A Denver Post headline summarized the string of town halls this way: “On a ‘rowdy day’ of three town halls, Cory Gardner is shouted down by crowds.”

Now, Cardboard Cory is again holding meetings while Gardner is not. Activists even featured the cutout on a statewide bus tour last year.

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Gardner Enables McConnell’s Impeachment Trial Sham


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

As Politico reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he has the votes to plow ahead with rulemaking for a Senate impeachment trial that completely ignores the input of Democratic Senators calling for witness testimony as part of a trial:

McConnell said Tuesday hehas locked down sufficient backing in his 53-member caucus to pass a blueprint for the trial that leaves the question of seeking witnesses and documents until after opening arguments are made.

That framework would mirror the contours of President Bill Clinton’s trial and ignore Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s demands for witnesses and new evidence at the outset…

…McConnell’s strategy has key backing from the handful of Republican swing votes heading into the trial, though many senators, like Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), had hoped Schumer and McConnell could come to an agreement.

“We’ve gotten so snarled up with debate over witnesses that the two leaders haven’t been able to come to terms on this first phase so it looks like we’ll go forward with a Republican [package],” said Murkowski, who said she would support McConnell’s proposal.

So-called moderate Senators like Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins are the names most often mentioned today as reluctantly siding with McConnell’s power play, but as local reporters have figured out, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner should be on this same list.

As Colorado Pols readers well know, Gardner has been ducking and dodging for months on questions about President Trump’s impeachment. On Monday, The Denver Post and other reporters called Gardner out on his persistent obfuscation on the subject. Gardner, meanwhile, responded to new questions with a silly “But…Nancy Pelosi!” retort.

Key witnesses — such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton say they are willing to testify, and some Senate Republicans have paid lip service to the idea of allowing witnesses in a Senate trial (no doubt partly because they understand that the evidence against Trump is going to keep piling up either way). Gardner, however, isn’t even pretending that he will do anything other than whatever McConnell tells him to do.

Cory Gardner is completely in the tank for President Trump. Colorado reporters have figured that out, and their national counterparts won’t be far behind.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 7)


Merry Christmas, Russia! Please celebrate responsibly. 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Colorado legislature kicks off its 2020 session on Wednesday. Right-wing nutcases are descending on the State Capitol in preparation.

State Sen. Lois Court (D-Denver) will not be joining her colleagues in the Senate chambers. Court announced on Monday that she was resigning her seat after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease known as Guillain-Barré syndrome. From The Denver Post:

Court will step down Jan. 16, and her job will be filled by a Senate District 31 vacancy committee, the caucus said. Court’s seat is up for election this year, and she previously said she would not seek another term.

State Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, declared in October that he’d run for the seat, but he says now that he’ll seek appointment to the seat via the vacancy committee. Another announced candidate for Court’s seat, Maria Orms, also plans to seek appointment via the committee. If Hansen is tabbed to replace Court in the Senate, another committee would have to meet to fill his House seat.

Elsewhere in pre-session preparation news, House Democrats announced new committee assignments and Republicans say they want to focus on transportation funding legislation. The Colorado Sun previews the session with a Top 10 list.

 

As CNBC reports, there is still much confusion about whether or not the United States has agreed to withdraw military forces from Iraq:

Iraq’s Prime Minister said that the U.S. military sent a letter regarding American troop withdrawal from the country, Reuters reported on Tuesday, further deepening confusion over plans for troops in the region.

It’s the latest in a messy string of events sparked by a U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s top general.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said that his country received an English and Arabic version of the letter but that they were not identical. Therefore, Iraq requested clarifications on U.S. plans.

The news comes on the heels of the Pentagon’s admission that the letter informing Iraq’s Defense Ministry that U.S.-led coalition troops would leave Iraq “was a mistake.”

This headline from New York Magazine sums up the entire mess nicely:

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to avoid talking about pretty much anything. We recapped the last three months in the world of #NoCommentCory. As Megan Verlee of Colorado Public Radio notes, reporters have caught on to Gardner’s persistent obfuscation.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo says that Gardner’s silence on impeachment is precisely the reason journalists should keep asking him questions:

Take Cory Gardner. Is he going to come out for a real trial? Probably not. But he’s hiding in the background now because he wants to be able to present himself as independent-minded and moderate next November. It’s folly to give him that chance. Democrats should be focusing on him nonstop, making clear in Colorado and nationally that it really is all up to him. It’s not about some vague thing called Republicans or the Senate GOP caucus. It’s about him. He could change the equation himself, very quickly.

As Politico reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing to move ahead on setting rules for an impeachment trial without the input of Senate Democrats.

 

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

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No Comment Cory: Three More Months of Silence


Invisible Cory GardnerIt’s been a few months since we last checked in with our running series, “No Comment Cory.” We probably should have updated this sooner, because there has been a whole lot of dodginess from Gardner lately.

The Denver Post, in fact, is so fed up with the invisibility routine from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) that it devoted an entire story on Monday to his ducking and dodging:

Gardner’s silence dates back months. His public appearances, never numerous in 2019, were rarer still this fall. He has avoided conservative talk radio, once a political safe space, along with most news media. His office agreed to arrange an interview with The Denver Post in Washington, D.C., during the House impeachment process, but later said he was unavailable and instead emailed a statement criticizing that process.

Asked last week whether Gardner believes Trump cabinet members should testify during the trial and whether he agrees with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to work in “total coordination” with the White House, Gardner’s spokeswoman sent the same statement, answering neither question…

…The last time the senator spoke with a significant contingent of Colorado reporters was Oct. 10, when he made national headlines for refusing to say whether it’s inappropriate for an American president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival. Gardner declined to answer the question a dozen times that day.

That press gaggle on October 10th was absolutely BRUTAL for Gardner. It wasn’t because reporters asked gotcha questions — it was because Gardner just wouldn’t answer any questions. Sometimes Gardner dodges questions, or declines comment, or literally runs away. Sometimes he just goes completely silent on issues that were once of utmost importance to him.

As we’ve been documenting, it’s virtually impossible to get Colorado’s junior Senator to provide his opinion on anything…which is why we take the time to point out just how often Gardner and his office duck and run from reporters. We can’t be sure that this is a complete list of all of the times that Gardner (or his office) refused to comment about something important over the past three months, but we’ve done our best to keep track.

Let’s get to it. Unless otherwise noted, all emphasis below is ours.

 

October 18, 2019

Brandon Thompson of Fox 21 News in Colorado Springs experienced the Gardner silent treatment firsthand:

Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman wondered about Gardner’s plans to attend a big Trump fundraiser in New York City:

Spokespeople for Gardner’s campaign and the NRSC didn’t respond to a request for comment.

 

October 25, 2019

From 9News:

9NEWS again asked Gardner if he feels it’s appropriate for a president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival. His team did not respond.

October 26, 2019

The Hill newspaper wondered about Gardner’s position on a prescription drug pricing bill that at one point had the support of President Trump:

Gardner’s office did not respond to a request for comment on whether he supports the bill.

Ditto for The Colorado Times-Recorder.

 

October 31, 2019

The Christian Science Monitor profiled a handful of Republican Senators on the issue of impeachment and President Trump’s troubles:

Mr. Gardner has refused to comment on impeachment before, as he puts it, all the facts are in. He’s also repeatedly declined to say whether or not he thought it was appropriate to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival, even walking away from an interview to avoid the question earlier this month.

Still, he’s been a vocal critic of the House investigation, calling it a partisan exercise, and he quickly signed on to the resolution attacking the inquiry.

 

November 5, 2019

What say Sen. Gardner about President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate accord? Not much, finds the Colorado Springs Gazette.

 

November 7, 2019

The Colorado Independent was on-hand for a discussion about immigration policy featuring Gardner and Sen. Dick Durbin. A reporter tried to follow up after the event:

He declined to comment after the event when asked by The Colorado Independent whether he’d support the “American Dream and Promise Act,” a bill that passed the U.S. House in June. The legislation would offer protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and others who are currently without permanent legal status.

He directed the question to his spokeswoman, who asked the Independent to follow up via email. She did not respond to an email requesting comment. 

 

November 13, 2019

Does Sen. Gardner think it is appropriate for the President of the United States to enlist a foreign government for help in an election? Westword tried (again) and failed (again):

It remains unclear what additional information Tiegen and other Republicans — including Senator Cory Gardner, who has refused to comment on Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine until he gets “all the facts” — expect to be revealed…

Gardner’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

 

November 21, 2019

Gardner won’t even talk to the sycophants on right-wing radio in Colorado:

KNUS 710-AM’s Steffan Tubbs explained to his listeners Wednesday that he texted Gardner’s press office Tuesday morning to request an interview with Gardner on Thursday or Friday to discuss the “impeachment inquiry, campaign, and Thanksgiving plans.”

Tubbs sent his text again to Gardner’s office Wednesday morning and got a response saying, “Hey Steffan, taking a look at schedule and will circle back.”

Gardner’s office eventually texted Tubbs, “Unfortunately at this point the schedule is packed Thursday and Friday at that time. Sorry about that, and thanks for the invitation!”

Tubbs read Gardner’s response on air and then played audio of cricket noises.

 

December 5, 2019

After a new TV ad began airing that was critical of Gardner’s policy history on abortion and women’s health matters, reporters had questions.

From The Hill newspaper:

An ad airing in Colorado argues that Gardner doesn’t “care about women’s health.” We reached out to the Tillis, McSally and Gardner campaigns for comment, but only heard back from McSally. 

Not even Fox News could get a response from Gardner:

Representatives for Tillis and Gardner did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment.

 

December 6, 2019

Gardner appeared at an event with Armed Services Committee Chair Jim Inhofe and was asked a few questions afterward by the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Gardner sat to the right of Inhofe during these remarks, and did not address them during the meeting. When asked afterward whether he agreed that the military is used to advance social goals, Gardner responded, “I’m not sure what he is referring to, so you’d have to ask him.”

 

December 10, 2019

The Colorado Springs Gazette sought comment from Gardner after Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) joined the chorus of Democrats calling for the resignation of White House adviser Stephen Miller on account of the fact that he is ridiculously racist.

An e-mail sent to the office of U.S. Cory Gardner was not returned, asking if he had an opinion on Miller’s employment or his ideology as characterized by the Democratic senators.

December 11, 2019

The Colorado Sun wondered if Gardner might ever remove his nose from the derriere of the President:

Gardner is mostly mum on how and why his stance on the president has evolved over the past three-plus years, but political math provides important context as to why he may not have a choice, politically speaking, when it comes to his support for Trump…

In a recent interview, Gardner declined to answer questions about his views on Trump and instead attacked Democrats.

 

December 14, 2019

In mid-December, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised plenty of eyebrows when he said that he would be working closely with the frigging White House on a potential Senate impeachment trial. The Washington Post had some questions:

When asked to react to McConnell’s plans to take his cues from the White House counsel, spokespeople for GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Mitt Romney (Utah) never responded.

December 17, 2019

Is it appropriate for the President of the United States to enlist a foreign government for help in an election? The Washington Post tries again:

The Colorado Democratic Party, for instance, has counted 19 times that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) has declined to directly answer whether it was appropriate for Trump to ask the president of Ukraine to look into former vice president Joe Biden’s role in the country.

“Republican Senators have shown they don’t have the courage or independence to stand up to the White House, and this is another example of their failure,” Lauren Passalacqua, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement, echoing the very argument Republicans are making about House Democrats and their leaders.

Wait for it…

A spokesman for Gardner did not respond to a request for comment.

Laura Litvan of Bloomberg News has a similar experience:

 

December 20, 2019

How about President Trump’s border wall money grab taking funds away from military projects in Colorado? The Wall Street Journal asked…and got nothing.

 

December 22, 2019

The National Journal got THISCLOSE to getting Sen. Gardner to explain his position on a bill meant to lower prescription drug prices:

“We’ve got to do something to drive down prices; I hope that we can do something that has full bipartisan support,” Gardner said earlier this month when asked by National Journal if the bill should be placed on the floor for a vote. He added at the time that he had not had a chance to read the most recent version of the legislation, and he declined to say if he supported the bill.

 

December 25, 2019

All the New York Daily News wanted for Christmas was a comment from Gardner after Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was critical of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for publicly declaring that he would work directly with the White House on impeachment issues.

Spokespeople for Romney, Gardner and Collins did not return requests for comment on Wednesday.

 

December 26, 2019

Colorado Public Radio wondered why the U.S. Senate doesn’t ever seem to pass any legislation:

Gardner didn’t give an opinion on the pace of legislation when asked.

Joey Bunch of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman is never shy about praising Gardner for any reason, but he couldn’t get a comment for his column:

Gardner has been mum about impeachment, and his campaign did not immediately reply to a request for a comment from Colorado Politics about the new billboard Thursday.

This blog will be updated if Gardner weighs in.

Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

 

And, finally, we have arrived back at the present day:

January 6, 2020

What does Gardner think about news that former National Security Adviser John Bolton is willing to testify in an impeachment trial? Squirrel!

 

We don’t pretend to understand the political or strategic calculations behind Gardner’s consistent dodginess, but there’s simply no denying that inaccessibility is the Gardner brand.

 

 

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Gardner BFF John Bolton Ready To Testify


UPDATE: As the New York Times’ Emily Cochrane reports, Sen. Cory Gardner is a-bobbing and a-weaving:

Better ask him a few dozen more times.

—–

John Bolton.

A big development to kick off the news week/year in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump, as the New York Times reports:

John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, said on Monday that he was willing to testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial if he was subpoenaed…

The development is a dramatic turn in the impeachment proceeding, which has been stalled over Democrats’ insistence on hearing from critical witnesses Mr. Trump blocked from testifying in the House inquiry into his pressure campaign on Ukraine. Mr. Bolton is a potential bombshell of a witness, with crucial knowledge of the president’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill out key blanks in the narrative of the impeachment case.

His willingness to tell the Senate what he knows ratchets up pressure on Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, who has refused to commit to calling witnesses at the impeachment trial, to change his stance. It is unclear how the White House will respond to Mr. Bolton’s declaration, but his statement strongly suggested that he would testify regardless of whether Mr. Trump sought to prevent him. [Pols emphasis]

The meat of ex-national security adviser and by-choice scary looking man John Bolton’s statement today:

The House has concluded its Constitutional responsibility by adopting Articles of Impeachment related to the Ukraine matter. It now falls to the Senate to fulfill its Constitutional obligation to try impeachments, and it does not appear possible that a final judicial resolution of the still-unanswered Constitutional questions can be obtained before the Senate acts.

Accordingly, since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study. I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.

Readers will recall that last September’s sudden exit by Bolton from the Trump White House was followed just days later be donations from Bolton’s PAC to a clutch of key Republican Senators who allegedly possess “remarkable understanding and knowledge of the threats we face” globally, prominently including Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado. Gardner has been dead silent on impeachment in recent weeks after joining Republicans in condemning the process wholesale, but Bolton being called to testify against Trump is one of a few scenarios in the upcoming impeachment trial that could make it much harder for Gardner to stay under the radar.

Bolton’s potential testimony in the Senate trial against Trump is now one of several points of contention between GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer the two leaders are haggling over in advance of the impeachment articles being formally delivered by the House. But either way, whenever Sen. Gardner gets cornered next an update on the Gardner/Bolton mutual admiration society is definitely in order.

For Gardner’s sake, hopefully it’s something the boss will like on Twitter.

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‘No Labels’ Group Doesn’t Plan to Support Gardner Again


(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Cory Gardner, “Problem Solver.”

A national organization called “No Labels,” which calls for a bipartisan approach to solve political problems, has no plans to support U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) again this year, as it did during Gardner’s 2014 campaign for Senate.

“We are not looking to do the seal of approval again this cycle, but there is a lot of time between now and the election,” No Labels Executive Director Margaret White told the Colorado Times Recorder last month.

No Labels turned heads during Colorado’s 2014 U.S. Senate race when it gave a “Problem Solver Seal of Approval” to Gardner.

White insisted that her organization did nothing to support Gardner in 2014 besides issue a news release.

But RealClearPolitics reported at the time that No Labels was participating in get-out-the-vote efforts in support of Gardner, during the final days of the close election.

Informed of the spending for Gardner, White said through a spokeswoman that in 2014 her organization “did not donate to the Gardner campaign or direct any outside efforts on his behalf, other than, as has been publicly reported, a few interns doing some canvassing.”

But federal campaign-finance records show that No Labels did, in fact, spend about $4,000 in 2014 in support of Gardner.

(more…)

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