At his third public town hall meeting in as many days, Sen. Chuck Grassley speculated that Dr. Anthony Fauci will resign rather than face a Senate Health Committee chaired by Sen. Rand Paul.
“You ought to see Dr. Paul fighting with Dr. Fauci, right on television and making a big deal out of it,” Grassley said in response to a man who questioned who runs the CDC and why they made their pandemic recommendations. “I bet you if Senator Paul becomes chairman of that committee, that Dr. Fauci will be resigning. He won’t want to put up with that, to get the truth.”
Paul has already promised an investigation of Fauci and the National Institute of Health. Grassley echoed many of Paul’s concerns about Wuhan lab funding during the forum in Burlington this morning.
“I think you ought to be more concerned about the NIH … giving money to the Wuhan lab in China, that’s what we’re most frustrated about,” Grassley said. “And if there’s a change in Congress … there’s doctors like Dr. Paul of Kentucky, he’s already said if he gets to be chairman of the Health Committee, he’s going to investigate Dr. Fauci, he’s going to investigate the CDC. And try to make some clarity, where does their authority begin and end?”
Grassley fielded slightly more than usual conspiracy-tinged and internet-outrage questions at his town hall in Burlington. One local man repeated Putin-like talking points and questioned what Grassley knew about biolabs and Nazis in Ukraine, as well as “pedophilia that goes on in Ukraine, Putin’s there stopping it, but our news doesn’t bring it up.”
The senator seemed unclear about the background on the biolab accusation, but rebuffed the Nazi insinuation.
“It just seems to me an anomaly that a president of that country is Jewish, and knowing how the Jews were treated in World War II, that you would say there’s Nazism,” Grassley said. “I think he’s a very brave president.”
Asked by Starting Line after the event if he’s surprised or concerned about Iowans believing some of those conspiracy theories, Grassley questioned if they really believe the underlying narratives.
“Anybody’s going to give some thought to almost everything you hear. How much do you believe it? I think by those people asking questions doesn’t mean they believe in it,” Grassley said.
A topic that came up at multiple stops was the prosecution of people who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection—specifically, several Iowans’ concerns that they were being treated unfairly.
An audience member at a town hall in Waukon on Monday asked Grassley about “what you’re doing about January 6 detainees,” saying that “the ones who busted stuff up should be prosecuted,” but asserted “many of them really never did anything.”
The audience member also mentioned the conditions inside prisons those charged are being held in, and said Grassley and others weren’t “doing (anything) about it.”
“Well, last week, a judge freed a whole bunch of people, and it might affect (other) people, just because there’s evidence come in that (US Capitol) police actually opened the doors for people to come to the Capitol building,” Grassley replied.
Grassley’s office said the senator was referring to the acquittal of Matthew Martin of New Mexico of the four charges he faced on April 6, as well as the acquittal of another on the most serious charge, as was reported in the Wall Street Journal.
Grassley was asked to clarify his remarks the next day, after a town hall in DeWitt.
“I said it could be used as an argument for other people,” Grassley said. “If this judge looks at it that way, maybe the others—they won’t be before the same judge, there’ll be judges all over the country. But some defense lawyer might make that argument, and if they do, there’s a possibility they could get off the same way as the two that did get off.”
When asked if he felt the argument itself had merit, Grassley replied, “Well, I can’t question a judgment of that, I just have to accept his judgment.”
The judge who acquitted both on that argument was Judge Trevor McFadden, a pick of President Donald Trump. McFadden acquitted Martin in his non-jury trial after video evidence showed two police officers standing near the Rotunda doors, appearing to allow Martin and others to enter.
Despite the argument being repeated by defense attorneys in other Jan. 6 cases, it is the first time it has led to an acquittal.
Capitol police were outnumbered and unprepared for the events of Jan. 6. Some rioters broke glass windows and doors as alarms blared, trashed offices and used weapons to injure or kill officers. Grassley and other US senators and representatives, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, were quickly ushered out of the building or into locked offices during the melee.
More than 770 people have been charged with federal crimes in conjunction with the events, with more than 240 pleading guilty and 140 sentenced so far.
Grassley was again asked by a different man at his Burlington event, “Are we going to get some justice for the Jan. 6 people?”
“Who knows, maybe that argument will work for some others,” Grassley said, referring again to the police opening doors.
Later in Burlington, Grassley was pressed on former President Donald Trump’s involvement in Jan. 6.
“The only thing I’m going to direct you to, because I’m not going to say it a second time, because I might say it a little bit different than I did at that time and somebody’s going to parse my words, I’m going to point you to whatever public statement I made at that particular time,” Grassley replied.
In previous comments, Grassley has said the events of Jan. 6 were “an attack on American democracy itself,” and that “those who break the law should be prosecuted.”
“Today’s violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attack on American democracy itself,” Grassley tweeted Jan. 6. “I condemn today’s violence in the strongest terms & perpetrators deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I also thank Capitol Police for protecting our Capitol & staff.”
By Amie Rivers and Pat Rynard
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