ELECTION 2020

Grassley, Ernst: Trump bears some responsibility, displayed poor leadership

Miller-Meeks claims Democrats had ignored summer violence

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President, W
President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Both of Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators said Thursday that President Donald Trump displayed poor leadership and bears some responsibility for the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol a day earlier.

“Everyone must take responsibility for their destructive actions yesterday, including the president,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said in the statement his staff provided to The Gazette in response to questions of whether the senator believes Trump should be held accountable for Wednesday’s violence.

“As the leader of the nation, the president bears some responsibility for the actions that he inspires — good or bad,” Grassley said.

In a similar statement, Ernst said that “the president did not display good leadership, and I do think he bears some responsibility for what happened.

“The responsibility also lies with the violent mob who stormed the Capitol, and they should be held accountable to the full extent of the law,” the statement continued. “It’s time everyone tone down the rhetoric, and we work to bring our nation together.”

The comments came after Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined a growing chorus of legislative colleagues in calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump and put himself in power until President-elect Joe Biden assumes office on Jan. 20.

But Taylor Foy, a spokesperson for Grassley, said the 25th Amendment is “reserved for when a president is incapacitated.”

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“So it’s not designed to address concerns about a president’s actions in office,” Foy said. “Also, under our system of government, there is no role for members of Congress in determining whether the president should continue in office based on ‘confidence.’”

Grassley and Ernst, who campaigned for Trump, did not specify just how the president should “take responsibility.”

Iowa Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne did, demanding the 25th Amendment “be immediately invoked to remove him from office.”

“The president’s words and actions have grown increasingly dangerous and erratic, and I believe he poses a critical danger to our citizens and to our constitution,” Axne said in a statement. “It is not safe for him to retain the powers of commander in chief for two more weeks.”

In talking more broadly about those who perpetrated Wednesday’s violence, Axne urged “consequences for both those that attacked the Capitol and those who incited their actions in the first place.”

“President Trump invited and induced these acts of treason,” she said. “And through his four years in office, he has undermined the integrity of our institutions, elections, and the very foundation of our democracy. Even as the mob continued looting our nation’s capitol yesterday, President Trump used his position of power to praise and thank those acting in his name.”

Trump for months has spread baseless claims of voter fraud that have been shot down by judge after judge. Before Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol, Trump urged supporters to “fight” for him and said, “You will never take back our country with weakness.”

Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who joined Congress provisionally this week while her election is being contested, said Thursday she thinks Trump should finish out his term. Removing him, she said, wouldn’t help “heal our nation.”

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“To go through another impeachment process, I think, would create a bigger wedge and divide in our country,” she said. “It is time for compassion. It is time for understanding.”

Although condemning the mob violence, Miller-Meeks echoed Trump’s claims of “fraud” in the election — without offering evidence — and said, “There is plenty of blame to go around to all of us.”

She suggested if Democrats weren’t blamed or held accountable for summer violence tied to racial injustices, Trump and Republicans shouldn’t be blamed for the Capitol riot.

“Just as over the summer when we saw social unrest and violence and destruction of public and private property and encampments in various cities, the Democrats did not demand that this action stop,” Miller-Meeks said — ignoring widespread condemnation, including from Biden, of the street violence.

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, a western Iowa Republican, did not respond to The Gazette’s questions of whether Trump should be held accountable.

Newly-elected U.S. Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson condemned Wednesday’s violence and, as events unfolded in real time, called on Trump to address the nation. But Hinson on Thursday also told The Gazette, in response to questions about Trump’s accountability, that she wants to focus instead on moving forward.

“Further dividing our country right now I don’t think will serve anybody,” she said. “Especially not people who I’m hearing from. They’re saying to me, ‘Hey, we want you to come together right now and help solve the challenges that we’re facing.’”

Plus, Hinson said, the Biden administration will begin in two weeks and Trump already is being held accountable as members of his Cabinet move to distance themselves from him.

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“We’ve seen Cabinet secretaries already started to resign,” she said. “And we’re moving forward with the Biden administration, and my job is to get things done.”

When asked whether she’s hopeful the country will be able to forge ahead together and make progress in the wake of such massive rifts, Hinson said she is.

“Even though we have some disagreements within our party about the results of the election, everybody agrees that election integrity is important,” she said. “Everybody on both sides of the aisle I think agrees that’s important. And so I think that’s something we can unite on. … And I’ve already been having meetings this week on election integrity policy.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

Tom Barton from the Quad City Times contributed to this report.

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