Michael Bennet dropped out of the presidential race on February 11, 2020. This page is no longer being updated.
Bennet has pitched himself as a pragmatic lawmaker with a progressive voting record. He was first appointed to the US Senate in 2009 and subsequently elected in 2010 and 2016.
Wesleyan University, B.A., 1987; Yale Law School, 1993
November 28, 1964
Halina, Anne and Caroline
Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, 2005-2009; Chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, 2003; Managing director, Anschutz Investment Company, 1997-2003; Special assistant to the US attorney for Connecticut, 1997; Counsel to the US deputy attorney general, 1995-1997
BENNET IN THE NEWS
'A national government that did nothing to protect' a generation: Colorado senator calls for gun reform in powerful speech
Updated 9:41 PM ET, Wed Mar 24, 2021
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet on Wednesday called on the Senate to act in the wake of a mass shooting at a supermarket in his state, asserting in an impassioned speech from the chamber floor that his colleagues have a moral obligation to a generation of young Americans who have lived through dozens of such attacks. "Boulder will heal but this scar will always be there -- my daughter's generation will always bear the burden of a national government that did nothing to protect them. They and the children that I used to work for at the Denver Public Schools, they carry a burden that we didn't carry," the Colorado Democrat said, referencing his previous work as superintendent of the school district. "They have grown up with a reasonable fear that they will be shot in their classrooms or in their schools or at a movie theater or in any public place. I didn't grow up in an America with more gun-related deaths than virtually any country in this world, and we can't accept it for their America," he continued. The at-times emotional speech from a senator whose state previously witnessed the Columbine and Aurora massacres comes at a time of heightened debate over guns on Capitol Hill following seven mass shootings in seven days around the country, including in Boulder, Colorado, and a rampage in Atlanta. But despite Democratic control of the House, Senate and White House, potential gun reform faces an uphill battle, with Senate Democrats divided over House-passed measures including expanded background checks. The 21-year-old suspect in Monday's massacre at the Boulder supermarket -- which left 10 dead including a store manager and a police officer -- faces 10 counts of murder in the first degree, police said Tuesday. The motive in the attack isn't immediately known, and the investigation will take a long time, authorities said. Bennet stressed Wednesday that gun violence has been a longstanding issue for both his state and the country, speaking to the current political climate in calling for gun regulations. "I'm not asking anybody here to show the courage that (Boulder shooting victim) Officer Talley showed, or the other men and women of law enforcement who constantly have to deal with the inability of this place's capacity to deal with these issues," Bennet told his fellow senators. "I'm just asking us to show just an ounce of their courage by doing whatever we can to keep weapons of war out of our communities, to pass universal background checks, to limit the size of magazines, to address the epidemic crisis of mental health in this country. It seems like that would be the least that we could do." Lawmakers' failure to act, he said, "has helped create these conditions, and we can't wait any longer. The Senate needs to act. There's nobody else to act but the United States Senate." The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed two bills on March 11 that would expand background checks on all commercial gun sales. While the first of the two recently passed bills, H.R. 8, has bipartisan support in the House, it needs a supermajority in the Senate -- which it does not currently have. Bennet also referenced the Columbine High School shooting, which occurred in Colorado in 1999, as a benchmark for the many such massacres punctuating the young adulthoods of an entire generation of Americans, including his daughter. "The shootings at Columbine High School happened right before my oldest daughter was born, Caroline Bennet," Bennet said. "She's 21 years old, and her entire generation has grown up in the shadow of gun violence, something none of us had to do." Bennet, a moderate Democrat and former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, is up for reelection in 2022. While the seat is not seen as particularly vulnerable in light of Colorado having trended blue, Democrats are still monitoring the race, which could potentially see gun control emerge as a key issue. While speaking on the Senate floor, Bennet also read remembrances of the 10 victims' lives, including Officer Eric Talley, the first Boulder police officer to arrive at the shooting. "I've spent the past day learning about the victims of this terrible crime and I want America to know what extraordinary human beings we've lost in my state," Bennet said, tearing up while recounting one woman's account of how grateful she was that her father, who was killed in the shooting, could walk her down the aisle at her wedding last year. "Officer Talley and these other folks represent the best of Colorado, and we certainly owe Officer Talley a debt of gratitude we'll never be able to repay," Bennet said, adding that "my heart goes out to all of the families and the entire community of Boulder. We have endured too many tragedies as a state. So many other states are the same, here."
Bennet has said he doesn’t support the Green New Deal, the broad plan to address renewable-energy infrastructure and climate change proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Instead, he has released his own five-principle plan, which would significantly increase the protection of public lands. “I think it is great that we have a bunch of bold proposals out there,” Bennet said in May 2019. “We are going to have a competition of ideas.” Bennet has set a target of 100% net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, although he has not detailed how he would reach this goal. He also said he would create a $1 trillion “climate bank” to invest in infrastructure and, he hopes, spur private investment in green energy innovation. Bennet says the plan would create 10 million jobs over a decade related to what he calls the “zero-emission economy.”Bennet has said he would keep the US in the Paris climate agreement, a landmark 2015 deal on global warming targets that Trump has pledged to abandon. More on Bennet’s climate crisis policy
Bennet has not signed on with congressional Democratic efforts to pass a $15 minimum wage. According to his campaign, he favors an increase to $12 per hour. He’s also introduced legislation to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and overhaul and expand the child tax credit, which currently provides families with a credit of up to $2,000 for each dependent under 17. Under Bennet’s plan, families would get a $300 monthly credit for each child under 6 and $250 a month for each child under 17. He has actively opposed some of Trump’s trade actions. With Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, Bennet filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to reverse the President’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and he has opposed Trump’s trade war with China, specifically because of the negative impact on American farmers. But he has also said Trump “was right to call China out.” More on Bennet’s economic policy
Bennet unveiled a plan in September 2019 pledging that by 2028, “every child born in this country, regardless of circumstance, will be at the center of a community that offers them a real chance to flourish personally and prosper financially,” according to his campaign. The plan calls for a federal-state partnership to establish free nationwide preschool, support for school districts that establish longer school days and school years, free community college for all Americans, increases to teacher pay and more funding for schools in rural areas and “high-poverty and otherwise underserved schools.” As Denver schools superintendent, Bennet was deeply involved in shaping merit-pay plans for teachers. As a presidential candidate he has called for taking steps to raise teacher pay. “We have to pay teachers as the professionals that they are. And that’s not just a little bit more. That is a lot more,” he said at a CNN town hall. More on Bennet’s education policy
Bennet has voted to ban high-capacity magazines and supports universal background checks. While he did not co-sponsor the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, Bennet says he would support banning so-called assault weapons. He did not endorse the recent legislation because it “was overly drawn and allowed the manufacturers to avoid the ban,” he told CNN in May 2019.
Bennet is not in favor of plans that would eliminate private insurance. He co-sponsored a plan known as “Medicare-X” that would let individuals and small businesses buy government-backed insurance policies, known as a public option, on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. The plan would also allow the government to negotiate prescription drug prices. Bennet says Americans should still have choice when it comes to health insurance. “We need to get to universal health care,” he said during the first Democratic debate. “I believe the way to do that is by finishing the work we started with Obamacare and creating a public option.” In July 2019, he introduced a rural health care plan that would harness technology to provide medical services in rural communities, including allowing doctors to see patients via video chat and remotely monitor patients. The plan would provide up to $10,000 a year in loan forgiveness and repayment support for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who choose to work in rural areas. And it would invest $60 billion to combat substance abuse, including building more treatment centers. More on Bennet’s health care policy
Bennet has compared Trump’s separation of families at the border to his Jewish mother’s experience being separated from her own parents as a child in Poland during the Holocaust. “When I see these kids at the border, I see my mom,” Bennet said during the first Democratic debate. He has called for overhauling the asylum process and restoring aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to reduce the flow of migrants north. He’s a co-sponsor to a Senate bill called the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act. Bennet has said he still stands by the last major bipartisan immigration package, negotiated in 2013, which included a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. He also co-sponsored the DREAM Act of 2009, some of which was eventually put into effect through Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting from deportation some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as minors.
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Mar-a-Lago -- and its owner -- have long caused concerns for US intelligence
Updated 3:57 PM ET, Sun Aug 14, 2022
Revealing an airstrike over "beautiful" chocolate cake. A trespasser from China carrying flash drives and electronics. Cellphone photos of the "nuclear football" briefcase. And now, classified documents recovered during an FBI search. Mar-a-Lago, the stone-walled oceanfront estate Donald Trump labeled the "Winter White House," has long been a source of headaches for national security and intelligence professionals. Its clubby atmosphere, sprawling guest-list and talkative proprietor combined into a "nightmare" for keeping the government's most closely held secrets, one former intelligence official said. Now, the 114-room mansion and its various outbuildings are at the center of a Justice Department investigation into Trump's handling of presidential material. After an hours-long search of the property last week, FBI agents seized 11 sets of documents, some marked as "sensitive compartmented information" — among the highest levels of government secrets. CNN reported Saturday that one of Trump's attorneys claimed in June that no classified material remained at the club -- raising fresh questions about the number of people who have legal exposure in the ongoing investigation. In many ways, Trump's 20-acre compound in Palm Beach, Florida, amounts to the physical embodiment of what some former aides describe as a haphazard-at-best approach by the former President to classified documents and information. "Mar-a-Lago has been a porous place ever since Trump declared his candidacy and started winning primaries several years ago," said Aki Peritz, a former CIA counterterrorism analyst. "If you were any intelligence service, friendly or unfriendly, worth their salt, they would be concentrating their efforts on this incredibly porous place." When Trump departed office in January 2021, it was Mar-a-Lago where he decamped, sore from a loss he refused to acknowledge. The club, with its paying members and large oil paintings of Trump as a younger man, was a welcome refuge. It was also the destination for dozens of cardboard boxes, packed in haste in the final days of his administration and shipped in white trucks to Florida. People familiar with Trump's exit from Washington said the process of packing was rushed, in part because the outgoing President refused to engage in activities that would signal he'd lost the election. When it became clear he would need to leave the White House, items were quickly stowed away in boxes and shipped south without a clearly organized system. "Trump kept a lot of things in his files that were not in the regular system or that had been given to him in the course of intelligence briefings," said John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser. "I can easily imagine in the last chaotic days at the White House, since he didn't think he was going to leave until the last minute, they were just throwing things in boxes, and it included a lot of things he had accumulated over the four years." Some boxes, including some containing classified documents, had ended up at the club after Trump's presidency concluded. When federal investigators -- including the chief of counterintelligence and export control at the Justice Department -- traveled to Mar-a-Lago in June to discuss the classified documents with Trump and his lawyers, they voiced concern the room wasn't properly secured. Trump's team added a new lock onto the door. But FBI agents returned to Mar-a-Lago last week to execute a search warrant on the property that identified three possible crimes: violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and criminal handling of government records. The items taken away after Monday's search included a leather box of documents, binders of photos, "miscellaneous top secret documents" and "Info re. President of France," according to the search warrant. Trump and his allies have claimed he used his presidential prerogative to declassify the documents before leaving office, though haven't provided any evidence of a formal process taking place. "My only surprise was that there wasn't even more taken to Mar-a-Lago," Bolton said. A habit of defying norms Last week was not the first time federal intelligence officials worried about how Trump was keeping the government's secrets. Nearly as soon as he took office, Trump demonstrated a willingness to flaunt protocols for guarding sensitive information. In 2017, he spontaneously revealed highly classified information about an Islamic State plot to a group of Russian visitors, including the foreign minister, that the US had received from Israel. It caused deep anger in both countries' intelligence services. When he was briefed by intelligence officials in 2019 about an explosion in Iran, he later tweeted out a highly classified satellite photo of the facility -- despite having heard officials' concerns beforehand that doing so could reveal American capabilities. Trump preferred to receive intelligence updates electronically, according to his third chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, though he sometimes asked to keep physical documents from classified briefings. "From time to time the President would say, 'Can I keep this?' But we had entire teams of people to make sure those documents didn't get left behind, didn't get taken up to the residence. He would use them. That was his right as the President of the United States," Mulvaney said. Still, the tracking of records was not a priority for Trump, according to several former officials. When he asked to keep sensitive documents, officials sometimes became concerned at what would happen to the material. When he traveled, aides often followed close behind toting cardboard boxes where they'd collected stacks of papers Trump had left behind. Mixing business with pleasure At Mar-a-Lago, worries about Trump revealing top government secrets — accidentally or otherwise — were amplified. The facility acts as a pool club, spa, restaurant and clubhouse for its members and their guests; the gold-trimmed Donald J. Trump ballroom can be rented for weddings and other events. While the Secret Service screens visitors for weapons and checks their names against a list, they are not responsible for protecting secret documents or guarding against potential interference. Members flocked to Trump's club when he was in town as President, and rules enacted early in his tenure against taking photos in the dining room were not always strictly followed. That became evident in February 2017, when Trump hosted the late then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan for dinner on the patio. After a North Korean missile launch interrupted the meal, Trump and Abe huddled with their national security aides in full view of other diners, who picked away at wedge salads with blue cheese while snapping photos of the leaders' impromptu crisis talks. Later, Trump's aides insisted he had ducked into a secure room -- known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) -- to receive updates on the launch, and that he and Abe were simply discussing the logistics for their press statements. Yet the flood of photos posted to social media by Mar-a-Lago members showed the two leaders poring over documents at their dinner table, along with aides working on laptops and Trump speaking on his cellphone. At one point, staffers used the flashlights on their cellphones to illuminate documents the leaders were reading. Soon after, some new rules went in effect to limit who could be at the club when Trump was there. Reservations were required two weeks in advance, and new limits were placed on the number of guests that members were permitted to bring. Trump returned to the Mar-a-Lago SCIF in spring 2017 to discuss launching an airstrike on Syria; at the time, he was hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping for dinner. Later, he said he returned to the table to inform Xi of his decision as they ate the "most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen." One of the concerns Trump's aides had at Mar-a-Lago was their relative inability to discern who exactly he was speaking with while he was there. Compared to the White House, with its strict access lists, it was sometimes unclear even to Trump's senior-most advisers who he'd come into contact with at the club. Trump's second chief of staff, John Kelly, worked to limit who had access to Trump at Mar-a-Lago, though there was little expectation he or any other aide would be able to fully restrict the President's conversations with friends and paying Mar-a-Lago members. Kelly told associates at the time he was more interested in knowing who Trump was speaking with than preventing the conversations from happening. Kelly also worked to implement a more structured system for the handling of classified material, though Trump's cooperation in the system was not always guaranteed. Managing a variety of risks While at Mar-a-Lago, Trump did not always use his SCIF when viewing classified documents, according to one person familiar with the matter. And his penchant for sharing what he knew with his interlocutors was a source of constant frustration. "He was a difficult president to support in terms of trying to give him the information he needed while still protecting the way we collected it so that he wouldn't accidentally or otherwise speak off-the-cuff and mention something that an adversary could use to track down where we had an agent," said Douglas London, a former CIA counterterrorism official who served during the Trump administration. London said it was ironic Trump kept classified documents since the former President "wasn't much of a reader." Keeping classified information from Mar-a-Lago's members was one thing; keeping out potential security threats proved to be its own challenge. In 2019, a 33-year-old businesswoman from Shanghai was arrested for trespassing on the grounds of Trump's club. At the time of her arrest, Yujing Zhang had in her possession four cellphones, a laptop, an external hard drive and a thumb drive. Prosecutors said they also found a trove of additional electronics -- including a signal detector to detect hidden cameras -- and thousands of dollars in cash in her hotel room. Another Chinese national, Lu Jing, was also accused of trespassing at Mar-a-Lago later that year. Officials said during the incident, Lu was asked to leave by security before returning to the premises and taking photos. It was never determined what either woman's motives were in trying to access the club. Lu was found not guilty; Zhang was eventually sentenced to eight months in prison.