Congress

Man accused of dumping water on Steve King could face federal assault charge

If found guilty, 26-year-old Blake Gibbins could face year in prison

Investigators are probing whether a man who allegedly dumped water on Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King at a restaurant because he was a congressman should face federal assault charges. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A man who allegedly dumped a cup of water on Rep. Steve King at a restaurant in Iowa in March could face federal charges for assaulting a congressman, which could put him in prison for up to a year.

Blake Gibbins, 26, an Iowa native who now lives in Colorado, has been accused of approaching King’s table at the Mineral City Mill and Grill in Fort Dodge, Iowa, asking the Republican congressman who he was, and then dispensing the contents of his water cup onto him. The water splashed onto at least one other person at the table, according to reports of the incident.

Gibbins was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct, both simple misdemeanors under Iowa law. Gibbins has pleaded not guilty. But his Webster County court trial, slated to begin next week, was postponed after the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa began probing the incident to see if Gibbins had assaulted King because he was a congressman, the Des Moines Register reported Thursday.

“Under that federal statute, that means [the state] case needs to be put on hold until the federal case is resolved,” Webster County Attorney Darren Driscoll told the Register on Thursday. He did not comment on what would happen after the federal probe.

King has received considerable public attention for his racist comments and actions over the last few years.

The full House voted 421-1 on a resolution earlier this year meant to rebuke King for making racist comments to the New York Times.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said, according to the New York Times.

“Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” he is quoted as asking.

Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush, the only member who voted against the resolution rebuking King, said it didn’t go far enough to condemn the Iowa congressman's behavior.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republican Steering Committee stripped King of his committee assignments after the episode.

When someone at a town hall in his district earlier this week asked King to resign so that the people of Iowa’s 4th District could vote for a representative who sits on committees, King declined and restated his position that the Times mischaracterized his comments about white nationalism.

“The New York Times misquoted me ... I cannot let that stand,” King told the crowd, the Sioux City Journal reported.

King narrowly won reelection to Iowa’s 4th District seat in the 2018 election, edging out Democrat J.D. Scholten by 3 points, 50.3 percent to 47 percent. President Donald Trump carried the district by 27 points in the 2016 presidential election.

Republican state Sen. Randy Feenstra has mounted a promary campaign against King and has gathered backing from the state’s GOP establishment.

Iowa Democrats are urging Scholten to run again, multiple outlets have reported.

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