On Election Fraud Lies, the Iowa GOP Is All Aboard the Trump Train

Joe Biden is on track to match the 306 electoral votes Donald Trump won in 2016 — a "landslide" victory, the president declared then. Now in Iowa, the Republican reactions to his defeat range from deflective dithering to outright denial.

Wikimedia Commons/Amazon.com. Photo illustration by Gavin Aronsen/Iowa Informer

It’s been clear for days now that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the November 3 presidential election, but you’d never know it from the statements of ever-feal Iowa Republicans, whose reactions to the president’s loss have ranged from deflective dithering to outright denial.

“I’m disappointed in the current state of the race nationwide, but we’re still waiting for all votes to be tallied and for decisions to be made about disputed ballots,” Governor Kim Reynolds said Tuesday, three days after the Associated Press called the race.

“The American people deserve a fair, transparent election,” she added in an apparent nod to the baseless allegations of widespread fraud leveled by Trump and his supporters, whose votes she’ll need assuming she runs for re-election in 2022. “Everyone should want to ensure that the integrity of our election process is intact and that anyone found guilty of wrongdoing is held accountable.”

The same day, Reynolds appeared on the radio show of local conspiracy theorist Simon Conway to discuss the election and her latest half measures addressing the coronavirus pandemic. “It seems we are destined to go through this now, however, where our country is split in half,” Conway bemoaned. “And four years ago, about half the country said, ‘We don’t trust these results.’ And now, we’ve got about half the country saying, ‘We don’t trust these results.’ It’s really dangerous for the republic, right?”

“We can’t tell people that it’s fair. They have to believe it.”

“It’s really dangerous,” Reynolds agreed, “and I tell ya, that’s why it’s so important why we do everything we can to maintain the integrity of the election. We need to make sure that the process is fair, it’s transparent, it’s accountable. I think it needs to be consistent. I mean, it’s up to the states to manage it, I get that. But it has to be strict, and it has to be — I mean, again — it has to be self-evident. We can’t tell people that it’s fair. They have to believe it. They just can’t be told.”

What many Iowa Republicans believe is that the election was stolen from Trump through massive fraud, despite the absence of any genuine evidence. The examples are too numerous to quickly or thoroughly document in this article, but below are a couple that stood out.

“We and many of our friends see you as one of the very best presidents our nation has ever had,” a Monday statement attributed to the Boone County Iowa Republican Central Committee read. “We love you and are praying for your success in overcoming the most extensive voter fraud corruption in our nation’s history. You have our complete support.” The committee is led by Gary Nystrom, who also serves as secretary of the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Commission and a member of the Iowa GOP’s state central committee.

“You have had extreme difficulty getting your goals and accomplishments out to too many Americans because of negative ‘mainstream news’ coverage or no coverage,” the statement added. “Despite that, millions of us have found information sources that show what is really going on. This week, you have experienced twitter shutting down your account so that it is very difficult to get messages out to the public except for a few conservative talk show hosts and conservative news media outlets.” (The Informer previously reported that the Boone County GOP’s official Facebook page has shared content from a QAnon website and suggested before the election that Democrats would steal it using fake mail-in ballots.)

“We love you and are praying for your success in overcoming the most extensive voter fraud corruption in our nation’s history.”

Tamara Scott, who serves as one of three Iowans on the Republican National Committee alongside Steve Scheffler and state chair Jeff Kaufmann, has repeatedly posted false claims about election fraud on her Facebook profile.

Since Thursday morning alone, Scott has shared a video of an interview from a publication owned by the John Birch Society in which a retired Air Force lieutenant general baselessly alleges that software developed by the CIA switched millions of votes from Trump to Biden; an “excellent piece” penned by two sons of the late social-conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly about “an election that was evidently stolen by hundreds of thousands of fake ballots in seven battleground states”; a screenshot of a tweet from the president claiming that a voting system called Dominion “DELETED 2.7 MILLION TRUMP VOTES NATIONWIDE” (one of several posts about Dominion); a post from Trump’s official Facebook page suggesting that a video of routine election work is evidence of ballot fraud; a video featuring a prominent anti-abortion activist that’s titled, “Exposed! New Proof On Why I Am CERTAIN Trump Will Win”; and an article from conspiracy site The Gateway Pundit falsely claiming that The New York Times accidentally exposed Biden’s plot to steal the presidency. (And that’s a partial list.)

Although top elected Republican politicians from Iowa have not been so careless in their conspiracy mongering, they have played along with Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his obvious defeat. Meanwhile, courts continue to toss out bogus lawsuits alleging fraud as the president solicits contributions purportedly for “election defense” that he instead appears to be pocketing or funneling to the RNC.

State Senator Randy Feenstra was elected to serve Iowa’s 4th Congressional District after defeating notorious conspiracy peddler Steve King in the June Republican primary. But Feenstra campaigned hard in the deep-red district on his devotion to Trump and on Monday tweeted that “we must count every legal vote and every legal challenge from @realDonaldTrump must be heard!”

“Millions of us have found information sources that show what is really going on.”

“Well, he’s ahead right now,” Senator Chuck Grassley told The Des Moines Register Thursday, referring to Biden. “So that’s all I can say. But when you’re going through a recount of five million votes in Georgia and he’s only up [0.3 percent], I think it’d be foolish for me to say that he’s got it sewed up.” Serious observers don’t expect recounts to change Biden’s margins of victory in key swing states including Georgia, which are in the tens of thousands. But that didn’t stop Grassley from comparing the presidential results to the tally in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, where a recount is underway to determine if Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ lead of just over three dozen votes will hold against Democratic rival Rita Hart.

On Monday, Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley echoed his grandfather. “I think we have to wait and see what the outcome is … once all the votes have been counted and certified,” he told reporters. “I think we’re potentially facing a situation where there could be legal challenges and other things that are going on.”

The next day in Washington, Senator Joni Ernst ignored a question from reporters about Biden’s victory, which she has yet to acknowledge. “I don’t believe so,” she responded when asked if she thought there was evidence of fraud in her state’s elections. “Iowa has a really great election system and I trust the integrity of our process.” Asked to weigh in on unsupported allegations of fraud in other states, Ernst replied, “I can’t speak to that.”

Ashley Hinson, a former local TV news anchor who upset incumbent Democrat Abby Finkenauer in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, tweeted a similar reaction last Friday: “I spoke to @Mike_Pence yesterday. The country could learn a thing or two from how we do elections here. The IA Secretary of State, auditors across the state, and poll workers here are a great example of the correct way to conduct an election.”

“I think it’d be foolish for me to say that he’s got it sewed up.”

Kim Reynolds also employed this narrative during her Tuesday interview on Simon Conway’s radio show. She praised Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate for how he handled the election, and for his recent successful push for a voter ID law — which Pate has previously defended with a winking reference to George Soros conspiracy theories and by warning of the “radical zealot who thinks he can get away with voting multiple times to cancel out your vote.”

The unmistakable implication in elevating Iowa’s electoral system this way is that there’s reason for suspicion about the processes in states where Biden overtook Trump’s early lead as mail-in ballots continued to be tallied. In Georgia, this was manifested when the president reportedly pressured the state’s two incumbent US senators into demanding the resignation of the secretary of state — a fellow Republican who faces no credible accusations of election misconduct. The late counting of ballots, in some cases, was by design as warnings that it could sow confusion went unheeded.

After joking that people even “need an ID to get shoes at the bowling alley,” Conway cut to commercial before welcoming his next guest, Republican state Representative Steven Holt, a retired Marine Corps sergeant, in recognition of the branch’s 245th anniversary.

“Hey, man, I got COVI— I got the ‘rona right now while I’m talking to you!” Conway shouted excitedly as Holt explained how his wife, Denison High School government teacher Crystal Holt, wouldn’t be cooking a special dinner to mark the anniversary this year because she was “still in recovery mode” from contracting the coronavirus at the same time she had bronchitis and pneumonia. Conway announced his own COVID-19 diagnosis two days after the election in a tweet with the hashtag #HydroxyChloroquineWorks, claiming his doctor prescribed him the unproven drug despite its coronary risks and his recent history of heart attacks.

“People need to go to jail for a very long time!”

Along with his posts describing how he was coping with “the ‘rona,” Conway promoted several baseless allegations of election fraud. “People need to go to jail for a very long time!” he exclaimed on November 5, sharing a tweet from Maryland Republican Kimberly Klacik that included a video of election workers remarking legal ballots that counting machines failed to scan. Klacik, who falsely claimed that the video showed evidence of “illegal” activity, was a congressional candidate and is now alleging that her opponent cheated to win despite beating her by nearly 50 points.

The Holts appear to have similar views about the integrity of Biden’s victory. Crystal Holt has remained fairly active on Twitter even though she was still taking oxygen at night to treat her COVID-19 symptoms, according to what her husband told Conway on Tuesday.

“Wow! Just wow!!!” she remarked last Saturday, reacting to a tweet with a photo of a “WORLD KNOWS TRUMP WON #MAGA” banner flown above a football stadium in Liverpool, England. The tweet was posted by Jack Posobiec, a high-profile conspiracy theorist with white supremacist ties who currently works as a correspondent for the pro-Trump One America News Network.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.