Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

Asked about Mueller, Ernst points to Barr’s ‘spying’ conspiracy theory

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/11/19, 9:38 PM ET

Barr scrambles to rewind 'spying' conspiracy theory embrace

Rachel Maddow reviews Attorney General William Barr’s frantic back-pedaling to try to re-cast his embrace of a pet Donald Trump conspiracy theory about the deep state spying on his 2016 campaign.
Rachel Maddow reviews Attorney General William Barr’s frantic back-pedaling to try to re-cast his embrace of a pet Donald Trump conspiracy theory about the deep state spying on his 2016 campaign.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) was asked by voters this week for her reaction to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and according to the Des Moines Register, part of the conservative senator’s answer was a shift in focus.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst on Wednesday suggested the federal government misused its power to spy on President Donald Trump for political reasons as part of its investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election.

“It begs the question, too, with the federal government spying on political opponents – what have we come to?” Ernst said Wednesday at a meeting of the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale. “And that seemed to generate out of the Obama administration. So I think that there are some things that need to be looked at. We need to understand, when is it appropriate to misuse power so that you’re using your federal assets to go after a political opponent? It sounds very much like something you find in Russia or someplace like that.”

This is a very unfortunate answer, because as a sitting U.S. senator really ought to know, what Ernst described did not happen in reality. The Obama administration did not spy on the Trump campaign. Federal assets were not used to “go after” anyone’s domestic political opponents.

It’s likely that the Iowa Republican is echoing what Attorney General Bill Barr kinda sorta tried to say during a recent hearing, but Barr scrambled to walk back his comments – which is all the more reason why Ernst shouldn’t have parroted them when asked about Mueller’s findings.

But stepping back, all of this is emblematic of a larger truth: Joni Ernst is on record endorsing some awfully strange conspiracy theories.

Remember when the Iowan argued that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction – more than a decade after we learned he didn’t? How about the time Ernst talked up the “Agenda 21” conspiracy theory, alleging the United Nations might force Iowans off their land and into “city centers”?

There was also the time Ernst said she likes to carry a gun with her for self-protection – “whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Is it any wonder she’s bought into the “Obama spied on Trump” theory, too?