Rep. Cindy Axne and the White House spiraled down a classic he-said-she-said argument this week over Axne’s omission from the president’s guest list as he toured an ethanol facility in her district on Tuesday.
Axne, a Democrat representing Iowa’s 3rd District, has claimed that the White House rescinded its invitation for her to join President Donald Trump on his tour of the facility. The White House has said Axne was never invited to join Trump on the tour in the first place, but rather to attend his remarks after the tour as a guest.
The Des Moines Register, which first reported this story, has reviewed emails between administration officials and Axne’s office that show the White House had indeed invited Axne to visit the facility. But the documents do not refer to any tour with the president, a privilege reserved only for statewide officeholders in Iowa and Nebraska, a White House official later told Axne spokeswoman Madeleine Russak, the Register reported.
Axne complained in a letter to Trump on Tuesday that his administration “chose politics over progress” by inviting only Republican officials to join him on the tour and “excluding the sole Democrat.”
But she also offered Trump an olive branch, requesting a meeting with him to discuss how his administration’s tariff policies against China are affecting Iowa’s agriculture industry.
A senior White House official denied Axne’s characterization of the original invitation the congresswoman received from the White House and that.
“Congresswoman Axne was invited to attend the president’s remarks in [Council Bluffs, Iowa,] today, and such invite was never rescinded. It’s unfortunate that she is choosing to spend her time in the D.C. swamp while the president shows true leadership and appreciation for our nation’s agriculture community in Iowa,” the official said.
Last May, the Trump administration finalized a rule that would allow expanded sales of higher ethanol gasoline, even as the oil industry prepares to challenge the change in court.
The rule opening up year-round sales of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15, would deliver a lifeline to soybean farmers hit hard by the president’s tariff war with China and by recent flooding in the Midwest that deluged farms.
In the past, the EPA has restricted the use of the higher ethanol fuel between June 1 and Sept. 15 because it has found that E15 contributes more to summer smog than the more commonly sold gasoline with 10 percent ethanol.
Earlier this week, Axne applauded the president’s decision to lift the ethanol restrictions on car gasoline and to sign a disaster aid bill that will provide billions of dollars in disaster aid to Iowa after widespread flooding this year damaged Midwestern infrastructure.
Axne was not the only House member this week with a gripe against the president’s record on congressional hospitality.
The White House did not allow Rep. Steve King to join Trump on Air Force One as he flew to Iowa for the ethanol facility tour.
The Iowa Republican was stripped of his committee assignments earlier this year for racist comments he made to the New York Times about white supremacy and white nationalism. King has a long history of controversial remarks and associations with fringe white nationalist groups.