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Ernst Says 'Whistleblowers Should Be Protected'; Axne Says She'll Protect The Constitution

Katie Peikes
At a town hall in Templeton, Sen. Joni Ernst said "whistleblowers should be protected" and corruption "should be ferreted out."

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst has joined her colleague, Sen. Chuck Grassley in defending the whistleblower whose complaint has sparked the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. 

Ernst's comment that "whistleblowers should be protected" came during a town hall meeting with constituents in Templeton Thursday afternoon.  Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne also addressed a comment about the topic at a separate meeting.

The topic of the whistleblower report and impeachment inquiry into President Trump came up just once during the Ernst town hall. 

The U.S. House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry into President Trump last month after a whistleblower’s complaint surfaced alleging he pressured Ukraine to help him investigate former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.

At Ernst’s meeting, Amy Haskins of Manning spoke of news that broke Thursday about Trump saying China should also investigate the Bidens.

“How is that helping anybody?” Haskins asked, to applause from others at the town hall.

“Where is the line? When are you guys going to say ‘enough’ and stand up and say ‘I’m not backing any of this.’? Haskins asked. “Because we constantly have everybody ‘oh well it’s not this, it’s not that, or everything else, but yet you still stand there silent. And your silence is supporting him and not standing up.”

Haskins, an independent, pressed Ernst on the subject further. She asked the senator about her position on whistleblowers, to which Ernst responded that she stands with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley in saying that whistleblowers should be protected.

“Whistleblowers should be protected. Please let folks out there know,” Ernst said.

Haskins followed up, asking “And our president shouldn’t be threatening them and he also should not be encouraging other countries to investigate his political rivals?”

“I would say to that, corruption no matter where it is, should be ferreted out,” Ernst said.

Haskins said she believes the impeachment inquiry has been a long time coming. But she didn’t feel Ernst fully answered her questions.

“I wish she would’ve taken a stand,” Haskins said to media after the meeting. “Because it’s going to take all of the Republicans taking a stand until something gets changed.”

Later Thursday, Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne met with constituents in Creston.

Gary Leffler of West Des Moines, who drove a tractor with patriotic decorations around the parking lot before the event, was the only person there who asked Axne about her support for the impeachment inquiry into the president.

“We have 97 percent employment in the state of Iowa. We have our country moving again economically. We’ve seen tremendous things,” Leffler said. “Why in the world…how do you come up with the premise that we’re going to impeach the president of the United States? It’s ludicrous. It’s just absolutely ridiculous. Especially for you from the 3rd District, where you have so many people that support our president.”

Axne is a first-term representative for southwest Iowa and the Des Moines metro. Her seat is rated a toss-up, and the district went for Trump in 2016.

Axne announced her support of the impeachment inquiry last week.

“If the facts point that the president did put our country in jeopardy and violated the constitution, then we need to move forward,” Axne said Thursday. “I want to represent this district as well as I possibly can. But my number one responsibility, and that I swore an oath, is to protect the country and the constitution.”

Axne said if congressional investigations find evidence of wrongdoing by Trump, she would support moving forward with impeachment proceedings, even if it means losing her seat in 2020.

“If it’s the right thing to do, I will always do the right thing,” Axne said.

She added a lot of people in her district already support the inquiry, and she believes more Iowans will move in that direction if the evidence leads them there.

“There are people here who agree with you,” said Creston resident Shannon Smith as Axne was leaving the event.

Smith, a Democrat, said she favors Axne’s approach of supporting an impeachment inquiry into Trump asking foreign governments to investigate political rivals.

“If he continues to be able to do this without any consequences, I don’t know where this country will be,” Smith said. “I’m really worried about that, and I think it needs to be dealt with.”

After Sen. Ernst's town hall in Templeton, Democrat Dawn Lorenzen of Manning said she supports the inquiry. 

“I think his behavior is the behavior of someone who is guilty,” Lorenzen said. “The Mueller report showed there were concerns about obstruction of justice with him.”

Republican Gene Langel of Templeton said he’s not surprised to see the inquiry come about, but said there are more pressing issues like trade.

“The Democrats are trying to drive him out, and between that and the press, I don’t know, most presidents wouldn’t be able to stand all the pressure,” Langel said.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.
Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter