Three times in a row yesterday, Sen. Joni Ernst dodged questions about whether it’s appropriate for a president to ask a foreign power to investigate a political rival.
After a round of questions from a CNN reporter looking for a “yes” or “no” answer from Ernst, the senator walked away and talked with a few Iowans who happened to be on scene.
“I’m going to pay attention to the Iowans here,” Ernst said, before the CNN video cut off.
Ernst’s first response to the reporter’s question was: “I think we are going to have to go back, just as I said last week, we’ll have to wait. All that information is going to have to go to Senate Intelligence.”
Ernst was regurgitating a talking point she used last week during a town hall in Templeton, Iowa. There, Ernst used the same line while talking to an audience member, and again while taking questions from reporters.
The reporter clarified she wanted to know whether asking a foreign power for help investigating an opponent was appropriate.
“We again, we don’t have the facts in front of us,” Ernst said. “And what we see pushed out through the media, we don’t know what is accurate at this point.”
The reporter interjected that she “didn’t ask if it was accurate — I’m asking you if it’s appropriate for a president to ask a foreign power to investigate his domestic political rival. Yes or no?”
Ernst replied: “I don’t know if we have that information in front of us, and I’ll just stick with what I said all along … ”
The reporter cut in and asked Ernst why she wouldn’t answer the question.
“Are you concerned about retribution?” the reporter asked.
“No, I am not,” Ernst said. “What I am saying, though, is that we have a picture that’s painted by media and we don’t know what’s accurate or not, so what I would rely on is the information that’s coming forward both through the whistleblower report through any complaint that has been given and through the transcript, all of that will go through Senate Intelligence. They will sort through that in a bipartisan fashion without media interdiction, they will go through that … ”
The reporter then said: “We are not asking you to rule on it, we’re just asking you if the ask itself is appropriate?”
At that point Ernst said, “Let’s move on,” turned around, and walked away from the reporter. She started greeting Iowans gathered at the scene while the reporter continued to ask her questions.
While Ernst said she doesn’t have enough information to answer the question, President Donald Trump said on national television last week, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So, I would say that [Ukrainian] President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend they start an investigation into the Bidens.”
By Paige Godden
Photo by Julie Fleming