March 05, 2021

GRASSLEY: Trump’s comments after U.S. Capitol attack ‘didn’t help’

U.S. Sen. talks with Newton residents on censorship, COVID-19, stimulus checks

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Monday, Jan. 11 he’s received emails asking him the same question a Newton man had asked during an afternoon Q&A in the Hotel Maytag ballroom: Do you hold the president accountable for the insurrection at the Capitol Building?

“We’ve heard some people in Congress wanting to take the president to justice, or, at least, hold him accountable for his part as being the catalyst of this insurrection,” the Newton man said, alluding to Donald Trump’s comments for allegedly inciting the riots. “Do you hold our president accountable?”

Although Grassley did not outright respond “yes” or “no” during the public Q&A, the senator did release a statement one day after the Jan. 6 attacks — which resulted in five deaths — saying everyone must take responsibility for their destructive actions, including Trump.

“As the leader of the nation, the President bears some responsibility for the actions that he inspires – good or bad,” Grassley said in the Thursday, Jan. 7 statement. “Sadly, yesterday he displayed poor leadership in his words and actions, and he must take responsibility.”

Right now, however, Grassley said he’s spending his time contemplating how he will work with the new president, Joe Biden. Meanwhile, House Democrats are developing action — in the form of an impeachment — to hold Trump accountable.

Will the U.S. House pass an article of impeachment against Trump? Grassley thinks it could, but he has “every indication” it won’t come to the U.S. Senate very soon, saying it could upset Biden’s agenda. Either way, Grassley said by Jan. 20 “there’s no Trump around anymore.”

History is going to judge what Trump has done, Grassley added.

“What happened on Wednesday (Jan. 6), being part of the leadership I got out of there very fast. So I saw it mostly how you did: on television. But that sort of insurrection is uncountable. And the president’s comments didn’t help the matter any and made it worse.”

Trump released a video the day of the attack falsely claiming he had won the 2020 presidential election against Biden before eventually telling the rioters — many of which wore the outgoing president’s name on their clothing — to “go home now” and that “we have to have peace.”

“We love you. You’re very special,” the president said in the video which has since been removed from his social media platforms. Trump defended the attack in a tweet, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously (and) viciously stripped away…”

Several social media websites, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, have since suspended or disabled Trump’s accounts.

GRASSLEY SUGGESTS ONLINE CENSORSHIP IS COMPLICATED

Jon Dunwell, the Republican candidate who lost the Iowa House District 29 race in to incumbent Wes Breckenridge in November, called these acts of censorship and de-platforming — which are well within the rights of the aforementioned tech companies — an “assault on free speech.”

Dunwell told Grassley, “The reality is: we’re still dependent upon them getting the information out. We’ve seen some unbelievable censorship happening in recent days and moves by those companies to silence voices they disagree with. How in the world do we begin to address this complex issue?”

Grassley is in favor of making changes, but don’t ask him what those changes are just yet, he said. “It’s an odd situation,” Grassley said. Part of the issue involves Section 230 in the Communications Act, which provides immunities and legal protections in the removal or moderation of published third-party material.

Even if said user material is constitutionally protected free speech.

Grassley says lawmakers of both parties are split on the matter. On one hand, there are those that say the United States ought to do away with Section 230 or dramatically modify it. Others want to leave it alone because it is developing a great communication system and has proved itself, even with censorship.

GRASSLEY ASSURES COVID-19 VACCINES ARE ROLLING OUT

Even with a COVID-19 vaccine already being dispersed, social distancing restrictions and mask recommendations still apply. The Newton stop in Grassley’s 99-county tour was no different.

Almost one year has passed since Iowa was declared a pandemic. Back then, folks wanted to know when things would come back to normal. Now, residents want to know when they can get in line for the vaccine.

“I’d like to get a COVID shot,” one man said to Grassley. “What’s the timeframe?”

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, the vaccine has been available since December 2020. However, doses will be distributed in limited amounts that will increase throughout 2021. Grassley said vaccine will be distributed to health care providers and those living nursing homes.

When those people are taken of, people over age 65 will eventually start to receive it by mid-January, Grassley added. The Republican senator said there seems to be an equal number of Modern and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines in Iowa.

LESSONS LEARNED WITH STIMULUS CHECKS PROCESS

Grassley voted for the $600 stimulus checks, but he would not have voted for the $2,000 stimulus checks initially proposed by Trump. However, Grassley suggested he think differently depending on the state of the economy in the coming months. Grassley explained his stance further:

“The main reason for voting against the $2,000 was you could give that $2,000 up to people that had $350,000 income; whereas, when we did it in March, you couldn’t have more than $75,000 per person or $150,000 for both. And if you got over $75,000 it’d phase out at $90,000,” Grassley said.

Congress should target its stimulus checks “more to people in need,” he said.

Dunwell asked Grassley how that could be done, particularly those who are “underemployed” rather than unemployed. The senator said 22 million people lost their jobs during the pandemic. Small businesses and hospitality services likely took the biggest hits.

By mid-March 2020, lawmakers were beginning to the see the impact of the virus and decided to shut down the economy, Grassley said. One week later, there was a scramble to figure out what to do. Lawmakers were faced with a challenge they had never come across before.

Next came the $2 trillion stimulus package in March 2020, amounting to about $1,200 per person.

Grassley said lawmakers needed to “show the 300 million people in this country that the government did something that we felt we had to do.”

“Now, did we learn some lessons from that in the last eight months? Yeah! We wouldn’t do exactly the same way again. But at that point we didn’t know what to do.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com