What Chuck Grassley didn't want Donald Trump to hear about his acquittal vote

As anyone could have predicted, Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators voted this week to acquit President Donald Trump on charges that he had abused his power and obstructed Congress. Bleeding Heartland covered Senator Joni Ernst’s explanation for her votes here. Senator Chuck Grassley laid out his reasoning in a fifteen-minute floor speech and news release on February 3. Two days later, he submitted a longer rebuttal of the impeachment charges for the Senate Record.

Grassley’s February 5 statement mostly covered the same ground in greater detail, with one exception: it included a mild rebuke of Trump. Iowa’s senior senator avoided expressing those sentiments on camera.

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What Joni Ernst said (and didn't say) about acquitting Donald Trump

President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial ended on February 5 with U.S. Senate votes to acquit on both counts: 52-48 for “not guilty” on abuse of power and 53-47 for “not guilty” on obstruction of Congress. Republican Senator Mitt Romney joined the 47 members of the Democratic caucus to convict on the abuse of power charge; the other vote fell along straight party lines.

Public comments from Iowa’s Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley over the past several months indicated that neither would seriously consider convicting Trump under any circumstances. Both opted not to subpoena documents the White House refused to provide during the House investigation, and voted not to hear any testimony from witnesses the president sought to keep quiet. So yesterday’s votes were no surprise.

Nevertheless, it’s worth taking a closer look at Ernst’s public explanation for her vote. A separate Bleeding Heartland post will cover Grassley’s justification for voting to acquit.

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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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Joni Ernst: Trump withholding Ukraine aid "moot," no need to hear witnesses

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst has brushed off as “moot” a new finding that the Trump administration broke federal law by withholding security assistance to Ukraine during the summer of 2019.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a January 16 report that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld funds from the Defense Department. “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.”

Ernst has long advocated increasing our country’s military support for Ukraine. But speaking to Iowa media this morning (audio), she suggested the GAO findings were not relevant, since Ukraine eventually received the assistance Congress approved.

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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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Joni Ernst locked into Trump's talking points on impeachment

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst repeatedly insisted today that she will evaluate any evidence about President Donald Trump’s wrongdoing as a “jurist.” But in her first conference call with Iowa reporters since mid-September, Ernst didn’t sound like a juror with an open mind about the case.

On the contrary, the senator expertly echoed White House talking points, from denouncing a “political show” and unfair process to using Trump’s derisive nickname for a key House committee chair.

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