Joni Ernst becoming public face of Trump's impeachment defense

All Republicans in the U.S. Senate are so far presenting a united front to defend President Donald Trump against any full examination of the charges against him. But more than most of her colleagues, Iowa’s Senator Joni Ernst is becoming the public face of Trump’s defense.

She is also the leading voice in Congress for a talking point Ernst floated earlier this month: Trump has more firmly supported Ukraine against Russian aggression than did President Barack Obama.

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How will the Democratic candidates reduce the risk of nuclear war?

Greg Thielmann grew up in Newton and worked for more than 30 years on nuclear weapons issues in the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Foreign Service, and the Senate Intelligence Committee. He currently serves as a board member of the Arms Control Association. -promoted by Laura Belin

When I was growing up in central Iowa during the Cold War, I sometimes found myself headed west on Interstate 80, imagining the way nuclear war would be likely to arrive in Iowa – a series of Soviet nuclear ground bursts in Omaha to destroy Strategic Air Command Headquarters, bathing Iowa in a heavy dose of radioactive fallout.

Now the Cold War is over, but not the nuclear threat. The Trump administration has abandoned the anti-nuclear deal with Iran and six other states. President Trump’s efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula have fizzled. The U.S. has pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and is dithering over Moscow’s offer to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the only remaining limit on the world’s largest nuclear arsenals. 

Meanwhile, the Trump administration proposes spending trillions of dollars to build new strategic weapons.

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Steve King won't demand that Russia stop attacking Ukraine, other democracies

The U.S. House on December 3 passed a resolution disapproving of “Russia’s inclusion in future Group of Seven summits” until that country ends “its occupation of all of Ukraine’s sovereign territory, including Crimea, and halts its attacks on democracies worldwide.”

The measure easily surpassed the two-thirds vote needed under a suspension of usual House rules, with all 222 Democrats present and 116 Republicans supporting it (roll call). Iowa’s three Democratic members–Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03)–all supported the measure. But U.S. Representative Steve King (IA-04) was among 71 House Republicans who voted no.

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Grassley pushing Ukrainian election interference narrative

While testifying before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee on November 21, former National Security Council official Fiona Hill urged Congressional Republicans not to “promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.” She was referring to the idea that “Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did.” Hill added, “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Meanwhile, “American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election,” Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg reported for the New York Times on November 22, citing three officials familiar with the classified briefing.

Nevertheless, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley persisted.

As evidence mounts that President Donald Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to boost his domestic political prospects, Grassley has advanced the narrative that Ukrainian government officials interfered in the 2016 election to support Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump.

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Highlights: How Iowa's Pete Brownell helped NRA become Russian asset

Pete Brownell, the CEO of the Grinnell-based firearms retailer Brownells, was a key target in a scheme by foreign agents who used the National Rifle Association “to gain access to American conservative organizations on behalf of the Russian Federation,” an eighteen-month investigation revealed. The report by Democratic staff on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee determined that while representing the NRA, Brownell met with sanctioned individuals in Russia in December 2015. That trip helped demonstrate to the Kremlin that Russian government official Alexander Torshin had strong American connections.

In addition, investigators found evidence Brownell went to Moscow “primarily or solely for the purpose of advancing personal business interests, rather than advancing the NRA’s tax-exempt purpose.” Maria Butina (who worked closely with Torshin and was later charged in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation) set up meetings for Brownell with Russian arms manufacturers and retailers and traveled with the Iowan for three days before the rest of the NRA group arrived.

By using the so-called social welfare organization’s resources in this way, the NRA and Brownell may have violated portions of the federal tax code relating to private inurement and excess benefit transactions.

Bleeding Heartland’s efforts to reach Brownell for comment on September 27 were unsuccessful. The media contact for the Brownells company did not return phone calls.

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Iowans engaged in reading the Mueller Report

Amy Adams reports on “Mueller book clubs” organized in Cedar Rapids and Red Oak this summer and efforts to educate Senator Joni Ernst about the special counsel’s findings. -promoted by Laura Belin

Like many others across the nation, Iowans are eager to hear what Special Counsel Robert Mueller will say in his Congressional hearing, now rescheduled for July 24. All eyes and ears will be tuned in to hear the normally tight-lipped Mueller as he is questioned by both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

The Justice Department has warned Mueller that his testimony “must remain within the boundaries of your public report.” Will he provide more answers than questions about evidence pointing to obstruction of justice by the president?

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