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Ernst Voices Concerns Over Trump's Foreign Policy Decisions

John Pemble/IPR
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has concerns about the president's foreign policy decisions, particularly his plan to withdraw American troops from Syria.

Iowa’s junior U.S. senator is worried the president isn’t basing foreign policy decisions on the best available intelligence, and voicing concerns that he isn’t following recommendations from top intelligence officials. 

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to formally rebuke President Donald Trump for his decision to begin pulling troops out of Syria. The December announcement surprised many in Washington, and contributed to the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, NPR reportedat the time.

The vote comes the same week that Trump publicly criticized top intelligence officialswhen their assessments of international threats contradicted his stances. Despite the president’s statements that ISIS is defeated, national intelligence director Dan Coats said in the Worldwide Threat Assessment released this week that’s not the case.

Top spy chiefs testified in the report that despite leadership and territory losses, ISIS "still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world."

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who is a combat veteran and serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says withdrawing troops is premature. Speaking with reporters Thursday, she voiced concerns the president is trusting political advisors over government intelligence.

“Now I’ve spoken with the president on a couple of different occasions directly to him at the White House in the Oval Office and voiced my opposition. I will continue to do so when I believe that what we are getting from the Intelligence Committee is differing from what maybe other advisors are giving to the president,” Ernst said.

Ernst says she opposes pulling any troops out of Syria, which she suspects could encourage ISIS. Ernst pointed to a suicide bomb attack in Syria in January which killed four Americans, noting the attack came just weeks after the president's withdrawal announcement.

But she says she's doing what she can to present the president with the available evidence, and to push back against his stances. 

“I will do my part in making sure that the facts are presented to the president and that we are following through as our nation should do in protecting our own national security interests abroad,” she said.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter