‘There must be consequences’: Rep. Cindy Axne calls for Trump’s removal while Iowa’s Republicans in Congress avoid criticizing him

Trump supporters gesture to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington D.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. KCCI in Des Moines later confirmed the man in the Q sweatshirt as Des Moines’ Doug Jensen. — AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

All four members of Iowa’s House of Representatives delegation and both of its senators issued statements condemning the actions of the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. But only one of them actually addressed Donald Trump’s responsibility for inciting an insurrection aimed at stopping the certification of the Electoral College votes and preventing the formal declaration of Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Unsurprisingly, it was Rep. Cindy Axne, the lone Democrat in Iowa’s Congressional delegation, who was willing to speak forthrightly about Trump. The others avoided mentioning Trump’s role in fomenting the riot at the Capitol, his weeks-long campaign of lies about the presidential election.

That isn’t surprising either. Whether it is out of a sense of genuine admiration of Trump, because they are afraid of the president and his supporters, or for some other reason, Iowa’s Republican leaders have been unswervingly pro-Trump for the past four years. Nine weeks of Trump attempting to overturn the results of an election repeatedly shown to be free and fair didn’t cause them to lessen their support for the president, and so far, Wednesday’s insurrection hasn’t either.

The only Republican member of the Iowa delegation who has ventured any sort of public criticism of Trump is Sen. Chuck Grassley, who said late Thursday afternoon that Trump had “displayed poor leadership” on Wednesday.

Rep. Cindy Axne

Cindy Axne immediately made her position clear after the violence began in Washington D.C. The second-term member of Congress who represents Iowa’s 3rd District was clear about Trump’s responsibility in her first tweet during the insurrection: “These people are attacking Congress at the invitation of @realDonaldTrump”

In an interview with WOI-TV’s Sarah Beckman while the pro-Trump mob was still in the Capitol building, Axne said, “the destruction of property, the violence against other Americans, the coup that is being thrown against American government by its own citizens — which is exactly what this is — orchestrated by the president and supported by about 150 House Republicans and a dozen Senators is what caused this.”

Asked if what happened on Wednesday could have been prevented, Axne said yes.

“This absolutely could have been prevented,” she said. “When the president called for the Proud Boys to ‘stand down but stand by’ in one of his last debates with our duly-elected next president, Joe Biden, he sent a very clear signal to this country to fight. Fight. And that word was used over and over when the president addressed this crowd earlier today.”

“He wants them to fight.”

On Thursday afternoon, Axne joined a growing number of Democratic lawmakers, and one Republican — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — in calling for Trump to be removed from office immediately.

The violence, insurrection, and unfortunate loss of life that we witnessed yesterday is unacceptable, and there must be consequences for both those that attacked the Capitol and those who incited their actions in the first place.

President Trump invited and induced these acts of treason. And through his four years in office, he has undermined the integrity of our institutions, elections, and the very foundation of our democracy. Even as the mob continued looting our nation’s capitol yesterday, President Trump used his position of power to praise and thank those acting in his name.

The President’s words and actions have grown increasingly dangerous and erratic, and I believe he poses a critical danger to our citizens and to our Constitution. It is not safe for him to retain the powers of commander in chief for two more weeks. The 25th Amendment must be immediately invoked to remove him from office.

To use the 25th Amendment would require Vice President Mike Pence and at least eight members of Trump’s cabinet to certify the president is no longer fit to hold office. So far there’s been no indication that Pence or any member of the cabinet are willing to do that.

Rep. Ashley Hinson

Ashley Hinson, who was sworn in on Sunday to represent Iowa’s 1st District after unseating Democrat Abby Finkenauer, issued a statement on Thursday afternoon in which she said she “strongly condemn[s] the violence that occurred at the Capitol yesterday.” The statement, however, doesn’t mention Trump at all.

Hinson did appeal to Trump in a tweet on Wednesday, while the mob of his supporters were still rioting in the Capitol. She said the president should issue a televised call for calm.

“I think it’s time now that the president goes on television nationally and leads this nation,” said in video posted on Twitter. “We need an end to this chaos and violence happening on the U.S. Capitol complex today.”

Beth Malicki of KCRG interviewed Hinson on Wednesday afternoon as the representative waited in her office for Congress to resume its duties.

“What consequences, if any, should the president face” for the comments he made on Wednesday that incited his supporters? Malicki asked.

Hinson began her reply, “What I’d first say is violence is never the answer, and people who wanted to come to the Capitol wanted to have their voices to be heard, and I think that was the intent behind the march today on the Capitol.” She then moved on to discuss the importance of peaceful protest. She did not, however, actually answer Malicki’s question.

Malicki tried again: “Do you feel he is not culpable at all?”

Hinson reiterated: “I think violence is never the answer.”

“I don’t speak for the president,” the freshman Congresswoman went on to say. “I speak for myself.” She concluded by repeating “violence is not the answer.”

Malicki moved on to other aspects of Wednesday’s events, but returned to Trump in her final question.

“If we had a different president right now, would today have happened?” she asked.

“I can’t speak to that,” Hinson replied.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks

Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who has been provisionally seated as the representative for Iowa’s 2nd District, took questions from reporters via Zoom while she waited in her office for the Capitol to be cleared of rioters.

Miller-Meeks was asked if the president needed to do more than post a message on social media calling on his supporters to be peaceful, and if he bore any responsibility for Wednesday’s violence.

“Well, I certainly think it is incumbent upon the president and the vice president to ask people to disperse, to leave the Capitol grounds, to decry and denounce any violent activities that are going on on the Capitol grounds and over the summer they did similar things,” she replied.

Miller-Meeks was also asked if the violence in Washington had changed her strong support for President Trump.

“I think I issued a statement yesterday on, uh, to certify the electors on the basis what I believe is constitutional principles, both in Article I, Section Two, both in Amendment 12, both in the Electoral College Act of 1887. And I will continue to support that the electors should be certified and that would install Vice President Joe Biden — or President-Elect Joe Biden — as our president on Jan. 20,” she replied. “And again would encourage both the president and the vice president to come out, condemn any violence, ask people to peaceful protest and just disperse from the Capitol grounds so the business of the people can take place.”

On Thursday morning, Miller-Meeks spoke to Iowa Public Radio about Wednesday’s events. IPR’s Charity Nebbe asked the representative how she would describe President Trump’s role in encouraging his supporters.

Miller-Meeks replied by talking about the importance of unity, but did not mention Trump or his actions.

Nebbe then asked Miller-Meeks if she supported the growing calls for removing Trump from office.

“I think that we have to reflect upon this past year, or 2020 since we’re now into 2021, as a very tumultuous, very difficult year, very challenging year for our nation,” Miller-Meeks said. “There has been a great deal of suffering, there has been a great deal of sacrifice.”

She then talked briefly about the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and referenced the protests against police violence and racial injustice that occurred across the country during the summer.

“And I think that our country needs to heal and needs to unify,” Miller-Meeks concluded. “Going through another impeachment process I don’t think heals a nation. I think with two weeks remaining, and the president having said that there will be a peaceful transition to President-Elect Biden, it’s time to try to unify our nation, bring us together and help us to heal.”

Rep. Randy Feenstra

Randy Feenstra, who replaced Steve King as Iowa’s 4th District congressman, kept his tweeted statements brief.

Brevity was probably the best choice for Feenstra, because when he had a chance to speak at greater length to KCRG on Wednesday, he called the rioters a “wonderful group” that “got carried away.”

“We had just a wonderful group over the last 24 hours to protest peacefully. Obviously, in the last four to six hours, that changed dramatically and that’s just tragic and unfortunate,” Feenstra said. “We live in this free country that we have freedoms and liberties, freedom of speech specifically, and this group got carried away. And it’s sad, it’s a very sad day for our country.”

Feenstra’s office issued a statement on Thursday claiming that he “clearly delineated those who were peaceful from those who were violent,” despite what the congressman said during the recorded interview.

Sen. Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst incorporated comments condemning the violence at the Capitol into her statement on the certification of the Electoral College votes, and tweeted a briefer version of those comments on Wednesday. As she often does, Ernst mentioned her military service. She did not mention Trump.

Sen. Chuck Grassley

Chuck Grassley did issue a short formal statement on Wednesday, the substance of which was summarized in a tweet on his official Twitter account. It did not mention Trump.

Late Thursday afternoon, Grassley issued the toughest statement regarding Trump that any of Iowa’s Republican leaders have so far made public.

“As the leader of the nation, the president bears some responsibility for the actions that he inspires — good or bad,” Grassley said. “Sadly, yesterday he displayed poor leadership in his words and actions, and he must take responsibility.”