Brenna Bird outdoes critics in building a case against her

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.

Attorney General Brenna Bird continues to ignore her critics, doubling down on actions that have drawn criticism. Unfortunately for Iowans, she’s picked a bad model to imitate.

This shoot-yourself-in-the-foot strategy had worked so well for Donald Trump that Bird seems to figure, “Why not give it a try?”

And she’ll likely continue that style, despite the unanimous verdict(s) against Trump in the one trial he has not managed to delay.

Bird’s approach follows Trump’s often quoted line from an Iowa campaign rally in January 2016. He used a New York City scenario to explain his anticipated success at the polls: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

He maintained that bravado in the wake of being one found guilty not of one minor felony, but of 34 related counts of falsifying his business records “to conceal a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.”

So, if you fret about friends or family who remain devoted to Trump despite your concerns, that underscores Trump’s confidence in his followers. Likewise, if you find fault with Bird, prepare for more of the same.

Bird has yet to rebut criticism of her comments at Trump’s trial locale in New York City. Minutes after the guilty verdicts were announced, she posted on X/Twitter,

Today is a dark day in American history.

Case in point why politics should have absolutely no place in prosecutions.

The American people, not a court, should decide who the next leader of the free world will be. President @realDonaldTrump deserves better.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds promptly called the unanimous verdicts a “sham.”

In line with his consistent refusal to hold Trump accountable, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley recently characterized the case against the former president as a “political lynching.” The outcome in New York was quite unlike the verdict Grassley and 42 other GOP senators rendered after Trump was impeached for inciting an insurrection in January 2021.

Bird showed up at the Manhattan courthouse to support Trump while he faced felony charges over efforts to cover up some moral indiscretions. She bashed those who believe no one should be above the law, and elected officials should be held accountable.

Iowa’s attorney general asserted that Trump’s legal problems in New York, Florida, D.C. and Georgia are all about politics, which, she declared, has no place in the courtroom. Others have noted the hypocrisy of her words and actions. Politically motivated cases were at the heart of Bird’s campaign to unseat Democrat Tom Miller in 2022. Back then she vowed, “I have news for [President] Joe Biden when I’m attorney general: I’ll see you in court.”


In addition to promising lawsuits against the Biden administration, Bird (who was the Guthrie County attorney) campaigned against Miller for supposedly being soft on crime and not being the equivalent of a county attorney for all of Iowa.

To that end, she enlisted the endorsements of 71 of Iowa’s 99 county sheriffs. Miller, she complained, spent little time in county law enforcement.

Miller served a total of 40 years as Iowa attorney general, a nationwide record for state attorneys general.

If Bird had paid more attention to what the Iowa attorney general is supposed to do, she might have read 175 words describing the office’s primary responsibilities.

The attorney general is the State of Iowa’s chief legal officer. The attorney general has general charge, supervision and direction of the state’s legal business. The attorney general is elected every four years.

The Office of the Attorney General provides legal advice and representation to most of the state’s major departments, boards, commissions, authorities, officials and institutions. The office further represents the State of Iowa in state administrative law and Iowa District Court matters, the Iowa Court of Appeals, the Iowa Supreme Court, lower federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The attorney general’s legal and support staff provide day-to-day advice to state officials and agencies. State government is a very large and complex enterprise, doing everything from providing human services, to building roads, to protecting citizens from incompetent licensed professionals and protecting the environment. Legal issues often arise in the context of the state’s work. The office guides, mediates, negotiates, drafts legal documents, and performs a wide range of other legal services to assist state agencies in fulfilling the important work of state government.

No mention of county criminal prosecutions there. Those duties are followed by a 38-word “In addition” reference to lesser chores, including six words on criminal prosecutions.

Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman detailed Bird’s “rap sheet” on putting divisive MAGA (Make America Great Again) priorities ahead of AG duties. He pointed out:

Maybe Bird believes New York prosecutors are purely political because she is. You’re never more than a few days away from another politically motivated lawsuit joined by Bird assailing the Biden administration.

Environmental protection is among Bird’s favorite targets. This week [May 14], she signed on to a lawsuit to scrap higher fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles. It might push companies to use electrical vehicles that won’t need ethanol. To the ramparts! […]

Bird is among red states suing to stop Title IX sex discrimination protection from covering LGBTQ students. […]

And, of course, Bird has stopped using victim compensation fund dollars to pay for emergency contraception for rape victims in Iowa.

So, Bird has no compunction about bringing politics into court, so long as it’s her brand of politics.


Bird’s New York mission provided yet another target for her critics. There’s some poetic irony in that her dedication to Trump’s MAGA movement includes being an activist in the Republican Attorneys General Association. RAGA promotes the 27 Republican attorneys general around the country, who have filed the numerous multi-state lawsuits against the Biden administration.

RAGA reportedly paid for Bird’s travel expenses to New York, and a RAGA Political Action Committee contributed $2 million to Bird’s 2022 campaign.

Elie Mystal’s column for The Nation described the RAGA agenda as “a hatred of reproductive rights, a love of guns, and an obsession with prosecuting the LGBTQ community.”

That characterization pretty much sums up recent legislative sessions in Iowa. Reynolds and her legislative lemmings rubber-stamped a national MAGA, states’ rights agenda, including attacks on public schools. That agenda would change our national motto designed in 1776 and adopted by Congress in 1782: E Pluribus Unum – “out of many, one” to Ex Uno Multi — “out of one, many.”

This post was initially conceived to compare Bird’s record with that of her predecessors. But Bird’s record to date is so troubling that drawing such a contrast wasn’t worth the time.


Nevertheless, the careers of at least two former attorneys general warrant mention.

One was Samuel Allen Rice, a Republican who served as Iowa’s second attorney general from 1856 to 1861. He was a Civil War colonel in the 33rd Iowa Volunteer Infantry. He was then a Brigadier General when mortally wounded in the April 30, 1864, battle at Jenkins Ferry, Arkansas. He died in Iowa on July 6, 1864.

He is worth noting here because today’s divisiveness is likened to that of the Civil War and the struggle between union and states’ rights forces. Also while General Rice is among those we honor on Memorial Day, reports of Trump calling fallen service members “losers” and “suckers” still are haunting.

Another worth mentioning is Leo Arthur Hoegh, who was Iowa’s 25th AG from 1953 to 1955, then governor from 1955 to 1957. He lost his 1956 re-election bid because he saw a need to raise taxes to jump start needed improvements in Iowa public schools and roads. That alienated GOP conservatives and “handed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Herschel C. Loveless an issue to exploit,” according to Wikipedia.

That outcome 68 years ago called to mind the work of Iowa’s current legislature in seeking acclaim for cutting taxes and hoarding a budget surplus while schools, health care, and other dire needs go begging. Our state had trouble doing the right thing back then, too.

As Dorman wrote, the majority of voters “gave us the Bird” in November 2022.

It will take a few Novembers to remedy that damage.

In the meantime, if you’re in Manhattan and think Trump may be in town, it’s best to avoid Fifth Avenue.

Top photo of former President Donald Trump with Attorney General Brenna Bird was originally posted on Bird’s campaign Facebook page.

About the Author(s)

Herb Strentz

  • I am waiting with intense interest...

    …to see what Brenna Bird will do in regard to that recent oopsie chemical spill by an Iowa farm co-op that killed fifty miles of river in Iowa (the East Nishnabotna), plus more miles of that river in Missouri. The hundreds of thousands of dead fish have been assigned a monetary value by the Iowa DNR. But I’m wondering if all the killed frogs, mussels, snakes, turtles, etc. etc. etc. might turn out to be a gigantic dead freebie.

    Given Bird’s track record, it will also be interesting to see how long it takes her to make up her mind about what to do. And it will be interesting to compare what Iowa does to what Missouri does, because Missouri is not happy about Iowa generously sharing our fish-kill tradition.