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D.C. Memo: Partisan divide again over Trump’s latest indictment

Plus: Farm bill comes to Farmfest.

Former President Donald Trump arriving at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Former President Donald Trump arriving at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON — Reaction to former President Donald Trump’s third indictment, issued this week for allegations that he conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 election, predictably split Minnesota lawmakers along party lines.

But some congressional Republicans have become more muted in their defense of the former president. Others adopted a new twists in their defense of the former president, including Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District.

They said special counsel Jack Smith’s latest indictments of Trump – he formerly indicted Trump on allegations Trump blocked efforts to retrieve classified documents at his Florida residence – was an attempt to distract the public from what they say was damaging testimony this week from Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Devon Archer. Emmer said it is President Biden who should be scrutinized for wrongdoing.

“Americans are tired of the two-tiered justice system in this country,” Emmer posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. “@HouseGOP will continue fighting to hold Joe Biden’s corrupt administration accountable. Democrats’ corruption must be stopped.”

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Emmer also posted “Democrats can try and deny the facts all they want, but Devon Archer’s testimony made it very clear … Joe Biden LIED about his involvement in his son’s corrupt business dealings.”

That was not quite the takeaway from Archer’s testimony before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee this week.

Archer testified that the younger Biden “occasionally” put his father – then vice president – on speakerphone with business partners and others, including some shady foreign clients. But the conversations were never about business dealings.

Archer said Biden’s last name helped their business— there was much talk about a “Biden brand,” – and that Hunter Biden sought to give the impression he was leveraging his father. But Archer also testified that Hunter Biden knew this was deceptive.

Meanwhile, Trump’s latest indictment, filed Tuesday in a federal court in Washington, D.C., focuses on the number of ways Trump lied about mass voter fraud and his attempts to get state, local and federal officials to change results to declare him the winner of the election.

While congressional Republicans called the indictment a politically motivated miscarriage of justice, their Democratic colleagues said it was right and just.

“January 6th was an unprecedented assault on our American democracy,” Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th District, posted on X. “It is important that in our society, the legal system holds people accountable for crimes committed. That applies to a twice-impeached, now thrice-indicted ex-president. No one is above the law.”

Farm bill at Farmfest

Members of the House Agriculture Committee joined Minnesota lawmakers at Minnesota Farmfest this week for a “listening session” aimed at allowing the state’s farmers to weigh in on what they would like to see in Congress’ next farm bill.

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It was House Agriculture Committee Chair G.T. Thompson’s 51st such listening session outside the Beltway as he tries to reach an accord among competing agriculture interest who all want a larger share of the $1.5 trillion bill that will fund all of the nation’s farm programs as well as nutrition assistance programs like food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)

There was no doubt that this was a farm-friendly gathering in southwestern Minnesota. Thompson told Minnesota farmers he organized the listening session to “bring your voice to the table in Washington.” And Rep. Brad Finstad, R-1st District, said “food security is national security.”

Dairy farmers testified that they wanted the U.S. Department of Agriculture Milk program strengthened. Other farmers wanted the USDA crop insurance program expanded to better serve those who grow fruits and vegetables and to young, first-time farmers.

Thompson, R-Pa., said he would use the farm bill to address a recent Supreme Court ruling upholding a California animal welfare law that bans pork producers from penning pigs in anything less than a 24-foot enclosure.

Meanwhile, several anti-hunger advocates warned against any attempt to cut SNAP or other nutritional assistance program amid inflation-boosted food prices, the end of the pandemic-based increases in SNAP payments and the resulting record number of visits by Minnesotans to the state’s food shelves.

“We need a farm bill that strengthens and modernizes the SNAP component,” said Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland.

She said for every meal provided by a food shelf, SNAP provides nine.

Former Sens. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and George McGovern, D-S.D., established the food stamp program on a bipartisan basis in the farm bill in the 1960s. That bipartisan deal brought rural and urban lawmakers together to support the program. But now federal nutrition programs have grown to take up the lion’s share of farm bill resources and some Republicans want to pare that back.

“It is called ‘supplemental,’ it is not meant to meet all of a families’ nutritional needs,” said Thompson.

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He also indicated he may move to tighten nutrition program regulations to try to prevent abuse.

“There’s not a lot of fraud in the nutrition title, but we do see it from time to time,” Thompson said.

Finstad also indicated he might support GOP efforts to cut back on some nutrition title spending, which he said is slated to consume 82% of the farm bill’s cost.

“We need to make sure we are giving people a hand up, not a handout,” Finstad said.

Some Minnesota lawmakers who attended the listening session, such as Finstad and Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd District, are members of the House Agriculture Committee. But the others – Reps. Pete Stauber, R-8th District, Michelle Fischbach, R-7th District and Tom Emmer, R-6th District, are not.

Thompson, who has visited the state several times, jokingly asked Emmer “how many times can I come (to Minnesota) without paying taxes?”

“You come here, you pay taxes,” Emmer was quick to respond.