Iowa Republicans blame horrific murder on immigration policy (updated)

The monthlong search for University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts ended in heartbreak today. Cristhian Bahena Rivera led investigators to the victim’s body in a cornfield. He reportedly confessed to the crime and faces first-degree murder charges.

Because Rivera is from Mexico and has been living in this country without authorization for several years, Iowa’s top Republican elected officials moved quickly to blame Tibbetts’ tragic death on immigration policy.

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The 16 Bleeding Heartland posts that were most fun to write in 2016

Freedom to chase any story that captures my attention is the best part of running this website. A strong sense of purpose carries me through the most time-consuming projects. But not all work that seems worthwhile is fun. Classic example: I didn’t enjoy communicating with the white nationalist leader who bankrolled racist robocalls to promote Donald Trump shortly before the Iowa caucuses.

Continuing a tradition I started last year, here are the Bleeding Heartland posts from 2016 that have a special place in my heart. Not all of them addressed important Iowa political news, but all were a joy to write.

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Donald Trump's hilariously bad rollout of a smart VP pick

I was hoping for Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump’s “gut” wanted to go with Chris Christie, but family members and campaign chairman Paul Manafort managed to persuade the impulsive billionaire that Mike Pence was the smart pick. The Indiana governor is a strong conservative and could do the most unify the party, having endorsed Ted Cruz in April.

Trump should have been able to get a boost from his running mate choice going into the Republican National Convention. Instead, he fumbled the rollout in several ways, summarized well by Philip Bump. It must have humiliated Pence to have CNN, the New York Times, NBC News, and other media outlets focus on Trump’s last-minute doubts about the pick, instead of on what Pence brings to the ticket. Christie suffered an even greater blow at the hands of the man he endorsed in February.

I’m no graphic design expert, but the Trump-Pence logo is a disaster. I thought it was a joke the first time I saw it yesterday, when a Facebook friend shared this not-safe-for-work commentary. Gregory Krieg reported more delicately for CNN that the logo “is raising eyebrows” and “drawing titters from cheeky tweeters.” Iowa Twitter user @jbelcap pointed out that there is a “hidden negative space H” in the graphic as well.

Any comments about the Trump-Pence ticket are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: It took only one day for the Trump campaign to dump the logo and scrub all images of it from the website. The new logo is after the jump.

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Joni Ernst on Donald Trump's short list for vice president after all

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst met with Donald Trump today in New Jersey. The statement she released later said nothing about being his running mate. However, citing unnamed sources close to Trump’s campaign, CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Jim Acosta, and Sara Murray reported yesterday that Ernst “is being considered” for the vice presidential nomination.

In mid-June, Ernst told Iowa reporters she doubted she was on Trump’s short list, since no one from the campaign had reached out to her. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is now the leading candidate to be the GOP running mate, according to CNN’s sources, followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. David M. Jackson reported for USA Today that Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is also under consideration. Others have mentioned Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, or perhaps Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.

In May, both Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley endorsed the idea of Ernst as Trump’s running mate. Though some see Iowa’s junior senator as a good fit for the GOP ticket, I think Trump would do better to choose someone with more governing and policy experience.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Gingrich, for maximum Hillary Clinton blowout potential. On the other hand, being closely associated with Trump would hurt Ernst politically in the long run, despite the initial boost to her stature. So I would welcome a Trump-Ernst ticket as well.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I enclose below today’s full statement from Ernst. My favorite part referred to ensuring the U.S. remains “a strong, stabilizing force around the globe.” Trump in the Oval Office would be the opposite of a stabilizing presence. Almost every week he makes some impulsive comment that could cause an international incident if he were president.

UPDATE: Pence met with Trump on July 2, Brian Slodysko reported for the Associated Press. A spokesperson for the Indiana governor, who endorsed Ted Cruz for president a few days before his state’s primary in April, said “nothing was offered” during Pence’s meeting with the presumptive GOP nominee. Pence would be a stronger running mate than Ernst, though why someone who may have his own presidential ambitions would want to hitch his wagon to Trump, I can’t imagine.

SECOND UPDATE: Sarah Boden reported for Iowa Public Radio on July 5 that Grassley again said Ernst would be a good running mate for Trump, citing her “military and legislative experience, and her expertise as someone from a rural, agricultural state.”

THIRD UPDATE: Added below excerpts from stories by Daniel Halper and Robert Costa about Trump considering one of his advisers, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

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How much lower can Donald Trump go?

Though presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says something outrageous on almost a daily basis, I can’t get over his incredibly offensive comments this week about U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel. On Thursday he said out loud that a judge should not hear the case involving alleged fraud by one of his companies, because Curiel’s “Mexican heritage” creates “an absolute conflict.”

Trump doubled down in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper yesterday. Media Matters posted the partial transcript, and I’ve enclosed excerpts below. Trump repeatedly asserted he has been “treated very unfairly” by Judge Curiel, because “I’m building a wall” along the Mexican border. He called Curiel “Mexican” even though the judge is a native-born U.S. citizen and repeatedly said the judge is “proud of his heritage,” as if that should be disqualifying. He also claimed the case involving Trump University should have been over two years ago–but if that’s the case, what does the wall have to do with it? Trump only started talking about the border wall last year, as a presidential candidate.

I’ve never heard Republican strategist Ana Navarro sound as angry as she did while talking about these comments on CNN yesterday. Her kicker: “what he is doing is disgusting. I am livid about it, and if this is his strategy to win over Hispanics, he’s got a hell of a wake-up call coming to him come November.”

In early 2013, the Republican National Committee published its Growth & Opportunity Project, better known as the so-called “autopsy” on Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential campaign. A key point in that document concerned the need for Republicans to do a better job appealing to Latino voters. It’s hard to conceive of a candidate more alienating to that demographic than Trump. This week, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns reported for the New York Times that Ruth Guerra is resigning as head of the RNC’s Hispanic media relations because she did not want to work for Trump. Adrian Carrasquillo reported for Buzzfeed that Guerra’s replacement Helen Aguirre Ferré has been “very critical of Trump in a multitude of Spanish-language interviews” and wrote in now-deleted Tweets that she was #NeverTrump.

Every Iowa Republican who has promised to support Trump should be held accountable for the GOP standard-bearer’s bigoted view of a federal judge. Let’s start with Senator Chuck Grassley, who is preventing President Barack Obama from filling a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy in the hope that Trump will be able to name Justice Antonin Scalia’s successor. Does Grassley think whole ethnic groups should be disqualified from hearing certain kinds of cases?

UPDATE: Several prominent Republicans have condemned Trump’s remarks about Curiel, Dan Balz reported for the Washington Post. One of them was Newt Gingrich: “I don’t know what Trump’s reasoning was, and I don’t care, […] His description of the judge in terms of his parentage is completely unacceptable.” Maybe a Trump/Newt ticket isn’t the perfect match I thought it would be. LATER UPDATE: On June 6 Trump said on Fox News, “as far as Newt is concerned, I saw Newt, I was surprised at Newt, I thought it was inappropriate what he said.”

SECOND UPDATE: Grassley didn’t condemn Trump’s remarks during his meetings in meetings in three towns on June 3 as part of his 99-county tour. Asked to comment by Pat Rynard, Grassley said, “It would help him very much to be elected President of the U.S. if he would be a little more mild in his demeanor.” In other words, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee has nothing to say about the substance of Trump’s beliefs about a federal judge’s ethnicity as disqualifying. But Grassley wishes Trump would display a different “demeanor” to improve his chances of winning the November election. Weak.

At Grassley’s Humboldt even, he dodged a question from someone else about Trump’s comments: “And the other point your brought up about what he says about a judge, I’ve already answered that–there’s a process for anybody that doesn’t like the judge you have, you think that judge isn’t going to be fair, you can file a petition. And if you file a petition that a judge should get out, and that judge says you shouldn’t get out, then you’ve got a right to appeal that to a higher court and get fair judgment that way.” Again, he did not address the central issue: the Republican candidate believes a judge whose parents came to this country from Mexico cannot be impartial.

Meanwhile, Trump refused to back down during a June 5 appearance on the CBS show “Face the Nation.” Now he says it’s “common sense” that being “proud of his heritage” is why Judge Curiel “not treating me fairly.” Furthermore, Trump told John Dickerson, it’s “possible” that a Muslim judge also would not be able to treat him fairly in court.

THIRD UPDATE: Added below some of Governor Terry Branstad’s outrageous comments on the story.

FOURTH UPDATE: Grassley spoke further about the subject to Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman. Excerpts are below.

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Six reasons Newt Gingrich would be a perfect running mate for Donald Trump

Former U.S. Representative Greg Ganske has a guest column in today’s Des Moines Register making the case for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as Donald Trump’s running mate. Gingrich has been unofficially auditioning for the job lately. Ganske argues that Newt has the qualities that Trump has said he’s looking for: someone with “a strong political background, who was well respected on the Hill, who can help me with legislation, and who could be a great president.”

Although Governor Terry Branstad is pushing Senator Joni Ernst to be Trump’s running mate, several well-known Iowa Republicans would probably be as thrilled with a Trump-Gingrich ticket as Ganske. Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer was Gingrich’s first high-profile endorser here in 2011, when she was Iowa House majority leader. State party chair Jeff Kaufmann also supported Gingrich before the 2012 caucuses, when Kaufmann served as Iowa House speaker pro-tem. In December 2011, Gingrich picked up support from several more GOP state lawmakers, including then Speaker Kraig Paulsen and rising star Chris Hagenow, who is now House majority leader.

While Gingrich has never struck a chord with me, he seems like a perfect match for Trump, and not only because he has the policy knowledge the presumptive Republican nominee lacks.

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