Mueller's findings on Sam Clovis and a top Chuck Grassley staffer

The U.S. Department of Justice on April 18 released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election.” I’ve posted the full document after the jump. You can download it here or look through a searchable versions here or here.

Dozens of reporters and analysts have posted valuable takes on various aspects of the findings and Attorney General Bill Barr’s brazen lying about the Mueller team’s conclusions. This post will focus on angles of particular interest to Iowa readers: the roles of Sam Clovis, a former statewide candidate here who became a top foreign policy advisor for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and Barbara Ledeen, a senior staffer for U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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When politicians become assignment editors

For many years, the Des Moines Register regularly published dispatches from Washington on what the Iowans in Congress were doing. Coverage deteriorated after the newspaper laid off Jane Norman in 2008. To my knowledge, no Iowa-based news organization has had a correspondent in the nation’s capital since the Register let Philip Brasher go in 2011.

In a wide-ranging review of the Register’s political reporting four years ago, I commented, “If a member of Congress didn’t brag about it in a press release, conference call, or social media post, the Register’s readers are not likely ever to learn that it happened.”

The newspaper’s recent coverage of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley illustrates that problem.

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Iowans rally to release full Mueller report

Amy Adams is an organizer with Progress Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

On Thursday, April 4, Iowans rallied in four locations across the state (Indianola, Red Oak, Cedar Rapids, and Dubuque) as part of a nationwide day of action to demand a full release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Attorney General William Barr has released only a four-page summary of more than 400 pages submitted to the Department of Justice regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives.

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10 years of marriage equality in Iowa

Ten years ago today, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously held in Varnum v Brien that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act “violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.”

Justice Mark Cady wrote the opinion, which cost three of his colleagues (Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice David Baker, and Justice Michael Streit) their jobs in the 2010 judicial retention elections. Assigned the task of writing by random drawing, Cady “strongly believed the court should speak in one voice” on such a controversial matter, Tom Witosky and Marc Hansen wrote in their 2015 book Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality. In fact, Cady “was convinced there was no room for even a concurring opinion–an opinion in agreement with the court’s conclusion but not its reasoning.” (pp. 134-5)

Thousands of Iowans have enjoyed a better quality of life since our state became the third to give LGBTQ couples the right to marry. Lambda Legal, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of six Iowa couples, has posted a timeline of key events in the case. State Senator Zach Wahls wrote today about the Supreme Court decision’s impact on his family.

I wanted to mark this day by sharing highlights from Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of that historic event. My deepest condolences go out to the friends and relatives of former Supreme Court Justice Daryl Hecht. The Iowa Judicial Branch announced today that Hecht has died. He stepped down from the bench in December 2018 while battling melanoma. Of the seven justices who joined the Varnum opinion, only Cady, Brent Appel, and David Wiggins still serve on the high court.

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59 senators defended the constitution. Not Chuck Grassley or Joni Ernst

President Donald Trump will soon cast his first veto. The U.S. Senate approved on March 14 a resolution disapproving of Trump’s declaration of emergency powers. All 47 members of the Democratic caucus and twelve Republicans voted for the resolution (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were among the 41 Republicans to oppose terminating Trump’s power grab.

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Grassley, Ernst can show they're serious about executive overreach

The U.S. House voted on February 26 to terminate President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build a wall that Congress repeatedly declined to authorize or fund. All 232 Democrats present, including Iowa’s Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03) backed the resolution, joined by thirteen House Republicans (roll call). Representative Steve King (IA-04) was among 182 Republicans who opposed the joint resolution.

In statements enclosed in full below, Finkenauer, Axne, and Loebsack highlighted the need to defend the checks and balances prescribed by the U.S. Constitution, which grants spending power to Congress.

The National Emergencies Act requires a U.S. Senate vote within eighteen days on any House-approved joint resolution to terminate a presidential declaration. Three Senate Republicans have already pledged to vote for the resolution. More than half a dozen others criticized Trump’s decision and seem open to formally rejecting it.

Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are not seen as potential supporters of this bipartisan effort. They have never defied the Trump administration and had little to say about the president’s power grab. But given their stature in the Republican caucus and their forceful denunciations of President Barack Obama’s executive actions, Iowa’s senators have an excellent opportunity to show some principles matter more to them than political loyalty.

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