Ernst, Grassley silent on reported bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan

As Donald Trump’s presidency continues to spawn scandals that would seem farfetched as a movie plot, top Iowa Republicans remain silent whenever possible on news that reflects poorly on their party’s standard-bearer.

The latest shameful example: U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have said nothing in public about reports indicating a “Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.”

Ernst’s silence is particularly striking, since she built her political brand on (and still frequently invokes) her career of service in the Iowa National Guard.

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Grassley, Ernst silent as Trump, Barr continue purge

Another Friday night has brought another irregular ouster of a federal official whose work should be insulated from politics.

Four days later, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, a self-styled warrior for oversight and accountability in Washington, has said nothing. Neither has Senator Joni Ernst, who like Grassley serves on the committee that oversees the justice system.

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Grassley postures but fails to use real leverage over Trump

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s reputation as a defender of whistleblowers and government oversight has taken a hit lately, as President Donald Trump sidelined five inspectors general over a span of two months and rebuffed the senator’s demand for an explanation.

In an escalation of sorts, Grassley announced on June 4 that he would hold up two of Trump’s nominees until the White House complies with federal law requiring that the president explain in writing why he removed inspectors general.

The senator might have some leverage if he were willing to block high-priority nominees for the administration. But the opposite is true. The same day Grassley took a stand on inspectors general, he and Iowa’s Senator Joni Ernst advanced yet another unqualified judicial nominee.

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Chuck Grassley can't quit covering for Trump on Russia

For the fourth time in less than two months, President Donald Trump has fired an inspector general who had stirred up trouble for him or his political allies.

Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley has championed whistleblowers and inspectors general for decades. Yet just like last month, he declined to condemn Trump’s retaliatory move. Grassley didn’t mention State Department Inspector General Steve Linick’s dismissal on his widely-viewed Twitter feed this weekend. Meanwhile, his office released a statement that dinged Linick for not looking into “the State Department’s role in advancing the debunked Russian collusion investigation.”

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Iowa governor didn't isolate after trip, wear mask at events with VP

The gaslighting was strong during Governor Kim Reynolds’ White House meeting on May 6 and Vice President Mike Pence’s Iowa visit two days later. Pence described Iowa as a COVID-19 “success story” on Wednesday. He elaborated in West Des Moines on May 8,

“Iowa has been leading the way with Governor Kim Reynolds […] From very early on, the strong steps and mitigation efforts have made a difference here. We grieve the loss of life here in Iowa, but the numbers speak for themselves. The outbreak in Iowa has not been like we’ve seen in other states and other metropolitan areas around the country. It’s a tribute to your early, strong steps.”

Meanwhile, Sioux City still tops a national list of “metro areas with the most recent cases and deaths, relative to their population, in the last two weeks.” Waterloo/Cedar Falls is fourth. Confirmed COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in several smaller counties where Reynolds lifted restrictions on some business activities last week.

But that’s a topic for another day.

I was struck by Reynolds’ failure this week to follow best practices for slowing the spread of the virus.

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“We the people” or “We the phonies”?

Herb Strentz: Thanks to lockdowns and self-isolation, we don’t have distractions or escape mechanisms to help us cope with COVID-19 and Trump-45. -promoted by Laura Belin

One of the “curses” or “blessings” of the novel coronavirus pandemic is that we may be reading and thinking more. Either pursuit can be unsettling, nerve-wracking, or even hopeful–but it’s the best we have going for us.

Thanks to lockdowns and self-isolation, we don’t have distractions or escape mechanisms to help us cope with COVID-19 and Trump-45. We have no “bread” — like restaurants to go to, libraries and museums to visit, performances to attend. We have no “circuses” — like televised sports, the I-Cubs at Principal Park, or similar diversions.

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