Guest Columnist

Republicans wonder if Joni Ernst will stand for the truth

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined from left by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Majority Whip John Thune,
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined from left by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, tells reporters he has secured enough Republican votes to start President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and postpone a decision on witnesses and documents Democrats want, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 7, 2020. The trial could start as soon as this week if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi releases the articles of impeachment. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Since we were children, we were told that you are judged by the “company you keep.”

Remember: “Birds of a feather, flock together.”

People often ask me, as a Republican former Member of Congress, why does Senator Joni Ernst align herself with Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell?

Against a backdrop of many years of abuse of power and avoidance of the laws, by Trump and those who “fly with him,” will there be any Republicans who will stand for the truth?

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“She seems so down to earth—why doesn’t she step up when they’re obviously breaking the law?”

It’s time to separate the glad-handing campaigner from the person elected to maintain honesty and integrity in our government. When our democracy is at risk, actions and votes speak louder to us than party loyalty.

So, what will Senator Ernst do? Vote to include witnesses and newly released evidence in the Senate impeachment trial, or be a follower?

This Senate trial will be a defining moment for Ernst and the so-called Republican Party.

It comes against a backdrop of ongoing abuses of power and disregard for America’s laws by Trump’s entire administration.

Here are just a few examples:

•If Mr. Trump cannot count on your blind loyalty—“you’re fired!” Remember how he asked for the loyalty of the previous FBI director, James Comey, and pressured Comey to “let this go” regarding the agency’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is now a convicted felon?

•Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified that Trump has committed multiple crimes. Specifically, Trump directed him to make hush-money payments to a woman with whom he had an affair. Photos of the check payments and a recording of the president apparently discussing the payments were presented under oath. These are criminal acts for which Cohen is now in prison. Trump is not.

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•Why didn’t the Republican Senate call on the president to disclose his liability to Cohen on his financial disclosure forms — just as he has not disclosed the free legal services he has received from his current “fixer” and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. Isn’t that a federal crime?

•President Trump has also ordered his cabinet officials to break the law. Congress requested copies of the president’s tax returns from the Treasury Department, which is clearly authorized by law. But his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused. The House has been litigating that case for months. Clearly the president has willing participants in his obstruction, and has convinced his cabinet that he, and they, are above the law.

•The State Department has a well-defined procurement process designed for fairness and efficiency. The president ignored it and gave his own flagging Doral resort in Miami a multimillion-dollar contract to host the June 2020 meeting of the Group of Seven world leaders. Under immense public outrage at this blatant self-dealing, he ultimately backed down.

•Similarly, when Republicans secured the White House, Senate and House in 2016, the first House bill introduced by Republicans eliminated the House Ethics Committee. Here too, thanks to the ever-attentive media, the Republican House backed down from this blatant attempt at legitimizing corruption.

•Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway has now amassed more than 50 violations of the Hatch Act just in the last year— despite a letter from the Office of Special Counsel in June recommending she be fired for repeated and flagrant violations of the law.

These abuses of power are constant and numerous!

Yet, there are only two articles of impeachment being considered in the Senate trial are both related only to the Ukraine scandal, for which proof of Trump’s illegal actions are well-documented, such as in Trump’s own official call summary with the Ukrainian president and a recent GAO legal memo detailing the laws that Trump broke.

Against a backdrop of many years of abuse of power and avoidance of the laws, by Trump and those who “fly with him,” will there be any Republicans who will stand for the truth?

This is your only opportunity to define yourself as a politician or a public servant, Sen. Ernst.

You can fly with Donald Trump and his, ahem, associates, but like so many others in Trump’s circle, the “fall from grace” is unpredictable and could be imminent.

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David Emery is a former Republican Member of Congress and a member of of Republicans for Integrity.

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