Grassley silent after feds link Biden smear to Russian intelligence

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley has yet to comment publicly on a new document asserting that “officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story” about Hunter Biden.

The revelation came in a detention memo federal prosecutors filed on February 20, hoping to convince a court to keep former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov incarcerated pending trial. Smirnov was arrested last week and charged with lying to FBI agents about an alleged bribery scheme involving Hunter Biden and his father, when Joe Biden was vice president. The FBI memorialized those claims in an FD-1023 document, which Grassley released and hyped last year as evidence of Biden family corruption. Prosecutors now say Smirnov fabricated the allegations.

The detention memo details Smirnov’s “extensive and extremely recent” contacts with “officials affiliated with Russian intelligence,” and asserts he was planning to to meet with Russian operatives during an upcoming trip abroad. The defendant reported some of those contacts to his FBI handler before being arrested and divulged other relevant information in a custodial interview on February 14.

Grassley’s communications staff did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries this week about Smirnov’s reported contacts with Russian intelligence. The senator has regularly posted on social media as he tours northern Iowa, but has not acknowledged news related to the false bribery claims. His office has issued ten news releases about various other topics since February 20.

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Iowa House bill would mandate long list of U.S. history topics

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

House File 2544 survived last week’s funnel deadline in the Iowa legislature and is eligible for floor debate in the state House of Representatives. If I were a public school social studies teacher in Iowa and this bill were to become law, I would begin to wonder how I could continue to teach what I know about American history and government.

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A mother's perspective: How AEA reform will hurt Iowa's children

Heather Sievers is the founder of Advocates for Iowa’s Children and an Altoona mother of a child of rare disabilities. Photo of Heather with her daughter Rowan was provided by the author and published with permission.

I am speaking out to educate our communities and give voice to thousands of families across the state who are begging our Iowa legislators to stop the Area Education Agency (AEA) education reform bill from being passed into law during the 2024 legislative session.

Having spent years building my professional experience in effective health care transformation, performance and process improvement in large systems, I know we are not doing this the right way. We are not taking time to perform a credible and thorough study to determine what reform is needed before enacting a bill. A change of this magnitude cannot be rushed, or it will inevitably fail. The risk is too high to gamble on our children’s well-being and their futures. 

Any harm to our children as a result of the decisions made this legislative session will never be forgiven, nor forgotten. Our integrated AEA system works and is a national treasure. Many states aspire to implement a system like we have, and my personal story demonstrates that our system works. 

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Maintaining a democracy is not a spectator sport

Steve Corbin is emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and a freelance writer who receives no remuneration, funding, or endorsement from any for-profit business, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or political party. 

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), a German Lutheran pastor, composed a 1946 post-World War II confessional titled “First they came for the Socialists . . ..” The four-line composition explains, in straight-forward language, how the Nazis rose to power by methodically silencing German intellectuals and clergy.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum features the prose on one of its walls:

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Proposed CAFO rules won't protect Iowans or the environment

Wally Taylor is the Legal Chair of the Sierra Club Iowa chapter. He wrote this essay after attending the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ virtual public hearing about the new Chapter 65 regulations on February 19.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been revising its regulations for animal feeding operations as dictated by Governor Kim Reynolds’ Executive Order 10, issued in early 2023.

Chapter 65 of the Iowa administrative code has long contained confusing and inadequate rules, which are open to manipulation by livestock producers and the DNR.

The DNR tried to revise the regulations recently to provide more protection for Iowa’s waters in areas of karst terrain. But the governor’s “Administrative Rules Coordinator” Nate Ristow blocked the proposed rule, because it would not reduce the “regulatory burden” on livestock producers.

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German history shows dangers of electing Trump again

Gerhild Krapf is a longtime resident of Iowa City. She worked as attorney for University hospitals and served in a variety of University of Iowa administrative positions for many years, prior to retiring early. She is now real estate broker of her firm, Homes & Hearth,LLC.

I write as the daughter of German immigrants who survived Nazi Germany and came to America in the early 1950s. My father was conscripted in Germany at age 17, and fought in the German army on the Russian front. At war’s end, he was illegally captured by the Soviets and transported to a Siberian prison camp, where he almost died.

After four years of forced labor, he was sent home to Germany, now weighing only 85 pounds and too weak to labor in coal mines, build bridges and roads, and so on. His return home was a miracle to his family, who believed he was dead.

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United front needed to fight systemic barriers facing transgender people

Flag designed by Reddit user oshaboy to be compliant with the U.S. Flag Code of 1818

Alexandra Dermody is a Davenport-based Gen Z community advocate, nonprofit director, and small business owner.

The experience of transgender Americans is fraught with difficulty, particularly for trans women of color, who are disproportionately targeted for violence and prejudice. Startling data from the Trans Murder Monitoring project exposes a disturbingly high number of murders of transgender individuals worldwide, with a notable portion occurring in the United States.

This violence is not haphazard but rather a direct result of pervasive discrimination present in all aspects of society—from employment opportunities to inadequate health care access. These are not isolated occurrences, but rather symptomatic of a larger societal issue that systematically deprives transgender individuals of their basic rights and humanity.

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1883 civil rights ruling “will frame mischief”

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal on October 4, 2023.

The longest writing I’ve seen by Alexander Clark appears on page 1 of this newspaper two days after Christmas 1883.

The editors give the title “CIVIL RIGHTS” with subtitle “Views of a Distinguished Colored Citizen on the Subject.”

Apparently their readers knew enough—and cared enough—about the subject to slog through two full-length columns, most of the non-advertising content of the page. His letter comes to well over 2,000 words, maybe as much as three times my column here.

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Senate bill would hurt Iowa's public sector unions and schools

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at BruceLear2419@gmail.com   

America thrives on competition. We love it when victory hangs in the balance. Super Bowl Sunday is almost a national holiday that we celebrate with parties and betting. Court TV is a guilty pleasure for millions. Local, statewide, and national elections earn attention. Whatever the result, we want the competition to be fair.

Senate File 2374, which the Iowa Senate Workforce Committee approved along party lines last week, would cripple public sector unions while once again attacking public schools.

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Iowa's revised abortion rules still more political than medical

The Iowa Board of Medicine has unanimously approved a new version of administrative rules related to a near-total abortion ban Republicans hope to enforce in the future.

The law, known as House File 732, is currently enjoined under a Polk County District Court order, which the state has appealed. If the Iowa Supreme Court eventually allows the ban to go into effect, the administrative rules would provide some guidance to physicians on how to approach the law’s (mostly unworkable) exceptions.

The revisions approved during a February 15 teleconference meeting address some objections physicians raised when the board discussed the rules in November and January. However, they do not change the reality that the rules don’t match how doctors normally interact with patients seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

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MAGA movement steeped in Christian nationalism

President Donald Trump poses with a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington on June 1, 2020. Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead.

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

For openers, please consider two quotes from centuries ago. They are relevant to today’s politics, and in particular to former President Donald Trump and his supporters among those the news media call “the evangelical right.”

The first quote is from 1792, when then Secretary of the Treasury and founding father Alexander Hamilton warned of the risks inherent in a democracy:

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Iowa legislature's clock runs out on feeding hungry kids

Interactive School Nutrition Dashboard created by the Iowa Hunger Coalition

At least four bills that would have helped needy Iowa families feed their children didn’t make it through the state legislature’s first “funnel.”

Most bills not related to taxes or spending are considered dead for the 2024 session if not approved by at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by February 16. Efforts to expand access to meals didn’t receive a subcommittee hearing, let alone consideration by a full committee. That was true even for one school lunch bill with 20 Republican co-sponsors.

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Abdul-Samad retiring, Rob Johnson running in Iowa House district 34

Left: State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad in February 2024. Right: Rob Johnson (photos cropped from their Facebook pages)

The longest-serving Black legislator in Iowa history will retire at the end of this year. State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad announced on February 15 that he will not seek another term in the Iowa House, Stephen Gruber-Miller reported for the Des Moines Register.

Abdul-Samad has represented part of the city of Des Moines since 2007. Speaking at a Black History Month event at the capitol, he explained his decision:

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Grassley unrepentant as DOJ declares explosive claims to be "fabrications"

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley did his best last year to promote what he called “very significant allegations from a trusted FBI informant implicating then-Vice President Biden in a criminal bribery scheme.”

On February 15, the Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging that informant, Alexander Smirnov, with two felonies: making a false statement to a government agent, and creating a false and fictitious record. Last July, Grassley released that document (an FBI FD-1023 form) to bolster claims President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, had accepted bribes worth $5 million. Federal prosecutors determined the events Smirnov first reported to his handler in June 2020 “were fabrications.”

At this writing, Grassley’s office has not sent out a news release about the criminal charges returned by a federal grand jury in California. But in a statement provided to Bleeding Heartland, staff claimed the indictment “confirms several points Senator Grassley has made repeatedly.”

The spin was not convincing.

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Last call: Remembering Tim Kraft

From left: State Representative Dick Myers, Chip Carter, and Tim Kraft in December 2003. Photo by Dave Leshtz, published with permission.

Dave Leshtz is the editor of The Prairie Progressive.

The first sentence of Tim Kraft’s obituary in the Albuquerque newspapers last month labeled him as the manager of Jimmy Carter’s 1976 Iowa caucus campaign and, later, “a top aide to President Carter.”

Not a bad legacy for a kid from Noblesville, Indiana. It gives a hint of the extraordinary, suggesting that the deceased man was smart, talented, and deserving of recognition for helping to elevate a nationally unknown politician and farmer from the South to the presidency.

For those of us who have worked the caucuses or on campaigns, we know just how remarkable of a feat that was—and why, almost 50 years later, it’s worth the lede in his obituary. We also know just how far out of the norm it is for the person who orchestrated that win to be so humble and down to earth.

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Voting is about values

Bill Bumgarner is a retired health care executive from northwest Iowa who worked in rural hospital management for 41 years, predominately in the State of Iowa.

The other day, just for fun, I took pencil to paper to assess the “hit rate” over the years for when my first-choice Democratic presidential candidate went on to win the party nomination.

Ugh. In ten election cycles—not counting years when there was an incumbent Democratic president—my success rate was an unimpressive 44 percent. Prior to 2016, it was an even more dismal 28 percent. Are you old enough to remember Mo Udall? 

However, my first-choice futility contributed to a better understanding over time—as I view it anyway—of what my vote represents.  

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A constructive proposal to improve Iowa's AEAs

A mother of a child with disabilities speaks to members of an Iowa Senate subcommittee on January 31 about Governor Kim Reynolds’ plan to overhaul Area Education Agencies. (photo by Laura Belin) The full Iowa Senate Education Committee is scheduled to consider an amended version of the governor’s bill on February 14.

David Tilly is a former deputy director of the Iowa Department of Education. He emailed this text to all 150 Iowa legislators on February 3. His previous messages to lawmakers about proposed changes to AEAs are available here and here.

Dear Iowa State Senators and State Representatives:

My name is David Tilly. I am the parent of a child with a disability, a school psychologist and for the last 8+ years of my career I worked as the Deputy Director at the Iowa Department of Education. I’d like to use my time today to begin discussion of how we might use the energy that has been generated by the AEA bills toward a positive result.

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Discriminating against transgender people does not make anyone safer

Laura Hessburg is Director of Public Policy for the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This commentary is slightly adapted from comments she delivered at the public hearing on House File 2389 on February 12.

The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) urges legislators to reject House File 2389, a bill permitting and enabling discrimination against trans individuals. We believe this bill is harmful, unnecessary, and appalling for a variety of reasons. Our remarks address the harmful impact it will have on ensuring crime victims have equal access to support services and emergency shelter.

ICADV supports 22 local victim service provider agencies across Iowa, including eight domestic violence shelters, providing support services to victims of violent crime (domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, human trafficking, homicide). The largest source of funding for this work comes from federal grants. As a condition of receiving federal funding, agencies are required to ensure equal access to accommodations and services as per non-discrimination provisions in federal law under the Violence Against Women Act, the Fair Housing Act, and HUD equal access regulations. This bill puts agencies in direct conflict with federal grant obligations and state law—and for many victims, this confusion creates another barrier to accessing support services.

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Refreshments of the season

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal on September 20, 2023. Above: Detail from Clark’s law-school graduation photo, 1884.

In my previous column I quoted the long report about lawyers and judges inducting Alexander Clark into their fraternity, but I did not tell nearly everything readers might want to know.

Muscatine Journal, June 24, 1884: “The members of the Muscatine Bar met at Delmonico’s as per invitation of their newly elected brother, Alexander Clark, Esq. at eight o’clock last evening.”

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Proposed library bill is another attack on ideas

Photo by Bruce Lear of the public library in Alden, Iowa.

UPDATE: None of the bills that threatened to undermine the independence of public libraries made it past the Iowa legislature’s first “funnel” deadline on February 16. Original post follows.

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and has been connected to Iowa’s public schools for 38 years. He taught for eleven years and represented educators as an Iowa State Education Association regional director for 27 years until retiring. He can be reached at BruceLear2419@gmail.com   

Most Iowa towns have a few things in common: a gas station, a bar, a sprinkling of different church flavors, and a public library.  

Now, almost all of Iowa’s 500 public libraries are governed by a board of trustees. The library trustees make policy and oversee the collection. They are volunteer boards that function independently but are appointed by city councils.

That all could change if House Study Bill 678 becomes law. 

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