# Federal Government



Hearing obliterates Grassley's excuses for Trump on pressuring DOJ

Senator Chuck Grassley has not been following the work of the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021, he told Dr. Bob Leonard of KNIA-KRLS Radio this week.

He should have watched the televised hearings on June 23. The focus was how President Donald Trump tried to use the U.S. Department of Justice to help him subvert the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election. The key elements of that conspiracy have been known since the Senate Judiciary Committee investigated that angle last year. But witnesses and exhibits provided many new details.

The testimony from former administration officials and Trump attorneys obliterated the alternate reality Grassley promoted last year, in which the president “did not exert improper influence on the Justice Department.”

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Three Iowans among first to have sentences commuted by Biden

President Joe Biden issued three pardons on April 26 and announced commutations for 75 people convicted of nonviolent federal drug offenses.

In a written statement, Biden said he was using his clemency powers during “Second Chance Month” to pardon “three people who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities.”

I am also commuting the sentences of 75 people who are serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses, many of whom have been serving on home confinement during the COVID-pandemic—and many of whom would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today, thanks to the bipartisan First Step Act. 

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Violence Against Women Act reauthorized in big spending bill

President Joe Biden has signed into law a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill, which funds the federal government through September 30. The president’s action on March 15 ends a cycle of short-term continuing spending resolutions that kept the government operating on spending levels approved during Donald Trump’s administration.

The enormous package combines twelve appropriations bills covering portions of the federal government, as well as an additional $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine and several unrelated pieces of legislation. One of those reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act through 2027, a task that had remained unfinished for years. Congress last reauthorized the 1994 legislation addressing violence against women in 2013, and that authorization expired in 2019.

Iowa’s Senator Joni Ernst was a key negotiator of the final deal on the Violence Against Women Act and celebrated its passage this week.

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Federal auditors reviewing CARES Act funds for governor's staff salaries

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General is reviewing documentation provided to justify Governor Kim Reynolds’ use of federal COVID-19 relief funds to compensate staff in her office, Deputy Inspector General Richard Delmar told Bleeding Heartland on March 14.

The State Auditor’s office concluded in November and reaffirmed this month that Reynolds used $448,449 in CARES Act funds to pay part of the salaries and benefits of 21 permanent staffers between March and June 2020 in order to “cover a budget shortfall that was not a result of the pandemic.” State Auditor Rob Sand called on Reynolds to return the money to Iowa’s Coronavirus Relief Fund before the end of 2021. The governor’s office has insisted its use of COVID-19 relief funds for staff salaries was justified.

When the State Auditor’s office published its findings in November, Delmar told Bleeding Heartland his office “has not initiated an audit of the Governor’s Office salaries and awaits resolution of this matter between the Iowa State Auditor and the Governor’s Office.”

Asked this week about the impasse between Reynolds and state auditors, Delmar confirmed via email, “We have requested documentation of the uses from the State Auditor’s Office and are in the process of reviewing it.”

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Bobby Kaufmann telling new story about obscene gesture

State Representative Bobby Kaufmann gained extensive media coverage in January for raising his middle fingers at the end of a speech to a conservative audience at the Iowa capitol. At the time, Kaufmann told reporters he was trying to convey widespread frustration with federal government policies and national problems.

But the Republican lawmaker told a different story at a recent meeting with constituents. Now he is claiming his “double-finger” was directed at specific individuals who have supposedly threatened his family.

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Governor will struggle to justify CARES Act funds for staff salaries

Governor Kim Reynolds used $448,449 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to cover a shortfall in her office budget without documenting that 21 of her staffers were “substantially dedicated” to the pandemic response, a state audit determined.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General asked state auditors in January 2021 to review whether the spending complied with rules governing the use of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds. Bleeding Heartland was first to report in September 2020 on CARES Act payments supporting the governor’s permanent staffers, and reported exclusively last December on how documents were altered to make a “FY 2020 Shortfall” in the governor’s office budget appear to be “COVID-19 Personnel Costs.”

State Auditor Rob Sand warned the Reynolds administration in October 2020 that without adequate documentation, COVID-19 relief funds used to pay governor’s staff salaries might need to be repaid to the federal government. The report issued this week advised the governor to return the money to Iowa’s Coronavirus Relief Fund “for other eligible and supported uses prior to the December 31, 2021 deadline.”

The governor’s spokesperson Alex Murphy told reporters the office is “now working with Treasury to provide them documentation” to support the CARES Act spending.

That’s easier said than done.

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