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Colorado's senior senator astonished by Trump and Russia

May 19, 2017 Updated: May 20, 2017 at 8:20 am
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Sen. Michael Bennet fields questions during his visit to the Gazette newsroom Tuesday, January 15, 2013. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

DENVER - Colorado's senior U.S. senator, Michael Bennet, said Friday evening he's having a hard time keeping up with news about President Donald Trump and the Russians.

"You can't turn around for 10 minutes," he said in an astonished tone to a full sanctuary at Denver's Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in his third town hall meeting of the day. "It's going to drive us all crazy."

Bennet was passionate and animated, frequently interrupted by applause and even once having to stop himself and apologize for letting slip a mild swear word ("hell" as in "We should be doing a hell of a lot better job" taking care of veterans).

The Washington Post reported Friday that the investigation into coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives to sway the November election includes a member of the president's inner circle of White House advisers.

The New York Times reported Friday that Trump allegedly told Russian officials in a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office that firing FBI director James Comey the day before would take the pressure of the investigation off the president.

A Hillary Clinton ally, Bennet said he had been concerned since the campaign, when Trump was deferential to Vladimir Putin and critical of the European Union and NATO, positions the Russian leader might support.

"I found it absolutely shocking from the point of view of our national security and the security of our allies," Bennet told the supportive crowd.

"Can you imagine if President Obama did any of this stuff? And it's a reflection of the double standard we have here, and we've got to apply not a double standard but an American standard."

Bennet fielded questions about Republicans' American Health Care Act to replace Obamacare and Trump's immigration proposals.

He said the Republicans' health care plan, which the House passed quickly this month, must die in the Senate. The senator cited an $880 billion cut to Medicaid that would, instead, go to tax cuts for the wealthy.

"If you set out to design a piece of legislation less responsive to the needs of Colorado, you couldn't do it better than this bill," Bennet said.

He recalled his work with the "Gang of Eight" to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate in 2013, turning to House Republicans and Trump's immigration policies.

"And if (Speaker) Paul Ryan would have had the guts to do what the American people wanted him to do, it would have passed in the House of Representatives, and we wouldn't have to go through the agony of what the Trump administration is doing," Bennet said.

To open the hourlong discussion of his concerns and the perceived failures and threats from the Trump presidency, Bennet spoke of optimism.

"I'm as optimistic as I've ever been in the fate of the republic," he said.

Bennet held town hall meetings in Fort Collins and Boulder earlier Friday.

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