Pence calls for continued support for Ukraine

Former Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday in Des Moines that America should continue its support of Ukraine, despite growing reluctance from some members of the GOP.

“I must tell you the war in Ukraine is not a territorial dispute. It is a Russian invasion,” Pence said. “And I believe the United States of America needs to continue to demand that of the free world, too.”

About 1 in 5 GOP senators and 1 in 4 GOP representatives have voted against aid to Ukraine, according to congressional votes on Ukraine aid packages.

Pence was participating in a forum in Des Moines at the Bastion Institute, a new foreign policy think tank. Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also spoke Saturday and the event was moderated by Sen. Joni Ernst and opened by Rep. Zach Nunn.

Ernst and Pence emphasized throughout the discussion how important it was for America to be a leader in the world and how the Biden administration is showing signs of weakness to its adversaries.

Pence said the U.S. can support democracy overseas as well as attend to domestic issues.

“I know some people say that we can’t take care of getting our economy moving again, securing our borders, taking care of things here at home,” Pence said. “But that’s a pretty small view of the greatest nation on Earth. We could do both. We could revive this country. Secure this country. Prosper this country.”

But audience member Rich Evenson of Indianola said he shares some Republicans’ skepticism of major spending in Ukraine.

“Well, I’m not a big fan of spending as much money as we are in Ukraine,” Evenson said. “I think there should be some accountability and I think Europe needs to take the lead because that’s their backyard.”

Other audience members at the forum included House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, Rep. Eddie Andrews, and David Oman, former chief of staff to Govs. Bob Ray and Terry Branstad.

Oman expressed concern about trade under the Democratic administration. “We have to show that we’re willing to do what we need to do to make sure that our security is upheld and that we are allowed to have a good trading relationship,” Oman said. “[The Biden administration] is going to put that all at risk if the Chinese continue the steady approach that they’re making in the Asia-Pacific world.

Former President Donald Trump, in Iowa last week, cited his administration’s achievements, including his tariffs on Chinese imports. Pence on Saturday also touted the trade achievements of the Trump-Pence administration, pointing out that impossible priorities for the Trump administration, such as a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, were possible non-priorities for the Biden administration, therefore hurting the American people.

Hogan pointed to the impact of state-level global engagement.

“You know, there’s decisions on foreign policy that are being made in Washington by our federal leaders, but every governor in America is deeply involved and affected by the decisions that are made on foreign policy,” Hogan said. “So we actually carry those things out on the front lines in our states that impact our economies and invest in a number of jobs in our state.”

Hogan also emphasized the importance of trade in foreign policy and said America needs to completely shift its trade from adversaries like China to allies including Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Japan.

Ernst raises concern about foreign land acquisition

Ernst highlighted concerns about Chinese ownership of land, a topic gaining momentum in Washington and Des Moines.

Both Hogan and Pence agreed with Ernst that foreign ownership of wide swaths of land was too far of a reach for other nations to have in America. Many of Iowa’s legislators, both statewide and nationally, have sponsored or introduced bills to ban foreign, especially Chinese, ownership.

Ernst cited a Chinese company’s purchase of property near a North Dakota air base to emphasize the need for increased protections.

Pence also focused attention beyond Russia and China to the Middle East. He said the strategy used during the Cold War with the Soviet Union should be the same strategy used in relations with Iran.

“Just as Ronald Reagan did during the days of the Soviet Union, and 40 years ago this month, described the Soviet Union as the evil empire,” Pence said. “We need to make sure that word continues to reach the Iranian people, that we are with you in your call in your hope for democracy and we are prepared once you throw off these tyrants and the mullahs in Tehran. We are ready to stand with you and build a free democratic and non-nuclear Iran.”

However, Pence said China was America’s biggest threat and that peace through strength, like during the Reagan era, was the best strategy.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: info@iowacapitaldispatch.com. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

In Iowa, Pence characterizes potential Trump prosecution as ‘politically motivated’

Former Vice President Mike Pence, in Des Moines on Saturday, said “no one is above the law,” but he also characterized a potential indictment against former President Donald Trump as “politically motivated” and “troubling.”

“Well, here we go again. Another politically charged prosecution of the former president of the United States,” Pence said.

Pence spoke Saturday at a foreign policy event with Sen. Joni Ernst, sponsored by the Bastion Institute. Afterward, he responded to questions from reporters about Trump’s possible indictment and arrest by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump reportedly may be indicted for an alleged hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

When asked if Trump should be prosecuted if he broke the law, Pence said the investigation and possible indictment and arrest were politically motivated.

“The idea of indicting a former president of the United States is deeply troubling to me as it is to tens of millions of Americans and, particularly, happening in what appears to be a politically charged environment in New York where the Attorney General and other elected officials literally campaigned on a pledge to prosecute [former president Trump],” Pence said.

A reporter asked again, “But if he broke the law?”

Pence said, “No one is above the law. I’m confident President Trump can take care of himself. My focus is going to continue to be on the issues that are affecting the American people today.”

In a post on Truth Social, a conservative social media site, Trump said he expected to be arrested and indicted Tuesday.

Trump also called on supporters to protest.

In response to Trump’s call for his supporters to protest the legal proceedings, Pence said Americans have the right to peacefully protest, but denounced any violent action.

Ernst also emphasized the need for protests to avoid violence. “They need to be peaceful. What we don’t want to see is violence. Protests are okay when they’re done in the right way.”

Pence was making his second trip to Iowa this year ahead of the 2024 Iowa Republican caucuses. He rallied Republicans in Cedar Rapids last month during an appearance with Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Asked whether he has a timeline for a possible announcement of a presidential bid, Pence said he and his wife, Karen, expect to have a decision by “springtime.”

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: info@iowacapitaldispatch.com. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.