A second Senate Republican just broke with Trump on the Ukraine whistleblower

A second Senate Republican just broke with Trump on the Ukraine whistleblower
SINGAPORE (June 3, 2016) Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sits for a meeting with Sen. John McCain, Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Joni Ernst, Sen. Cory Gardner, and Sen. Daniel Sullivan in Singapore, June 3, 2016. Carter is in Singapore attending the 15th International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Summit. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee)(Released)

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa took a stand at odds with President Donald Trump on Thursday, defending protections for whistleblowers as the White House fights back a scandal sparked by alarms raised in the intelligence community.


Trump has engaged in outright attacks on the whistleblower who alerted officials about the president's efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his potential political rival Joe Biden. He has called the intelligence community member partisan, suggested that the person and those that provided the information in the complaint are guilty of treason and could deserve the death penalty, and said that he is trying to uncover the whistleblower's identity.

As NBC News reported, Ernst joined Sen. Chuck Grassley, the other Iowa Republican in the Senate, who stood up for the whistleblower earlier in the week.

"Whistleblowers should be protected," Ernst said at a town hall in her home state on Thursday. "I stand with Chuck Grassley on this. We have laws in place."

When pressed on why she wasn't standing up more vigorously to Trump, she told a constituent that "the president is going to say what the president is going to do. It's up to us as members of the Congress to continue working with our allies making sure that we remain strong in a face of adversity."

Of course, this is a shameful dodge. The president is constrained by Congress, and now more than ever, Senate Republicans have significant leverage over him as impeachment looms. If she wanted to demand that he stop intimidating witnesses like the whistleblower — actions which may, in fact, constitute crimes in themselves— or to stop pressuring foreign governments to investigate his rivals, she has real power to do that and back it up with a credible threat.

It's good that, like Grassley, Ernst didn't follow Trump down the path of attacking the whistleblower. But that alone is far below the minimum standard for members of the president's party when he is demonstrating clear disregard for the law and democracy.

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