Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA): Chinese Spies “Caught in the Act”, CCP’s Intentions are Nefarious

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), the first female combat veteran elected to the US Senate and author of DAUGHTER OF THE HEARTLAND: My Ode to the Country that Raised Me, joined the Guy Benson show to discuss a bevy of topics. Included in the interview below are Guy and Ernst discussing the work from home protocols, Chinese Gate-Crashers, and the Afghanistan withdrawals.

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Guy Benson: We welcome back to the airwaves U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa. And, Senator, it’s great to have you here.

Sen. Joni Ernst: Always great to be with you, Guy. Thanks so much.

Guy Benson: I want to start with a very disturbing story that The Wall Street Journal reported just a few days ago. I think it’s getting short shrift in the news cycle because people are distracted with all sorts of other things. But this is like an eye on the ball moment. Let me just quote from the Journal and then get your reaction. Quote, Chinese nationals sometimes posing as tourists, have access to military bases and other sensitive sites in the U.S., as many as 100 times in recent years, according to U.S. officials who describe the incidents as a potential espionage threat. The Defense Department, FBI and other agencies held a review last year to try to limit these incidents, which involve people whom officials have dubbed gatecrashers because of their attempts, either by accident or intentionally to get onto U.S. military bases or other installations without proper authorization. They range from Chinese nationals found crossing into a U.S. missile range in New Mexico to what appeared to be scuba divers swimming in murky waters near a U.S. government rocket launch site in Florida. The incidents, which U.S. officials describe as a form of espionage, appear designed to test security practices at U.S. military installations and other federal sites. Officials familiar with the practice say the individuals are typically Chinese nationals pressed into service and required to report back to the Chinese government. Okay, Senator, that we know of, they say this has happened about 100 times in recent years. I can’t imagine this is accidental. What do you make of this and what’s the appropriate response?

Sen. Joni Ernst: Well, I think these are actions that we have seen by many of our adversaries over the last several decades as well. And typically, we call that probing or rehearsals or testing. And in this particular case, it’s Chinese nationals. And so it just demonstrates to us and we need to really pay attention to this, is that China is not only in our backyard, they are also in our house. So we have seen them attempt to breach these military installations. And that is a clear wake up call that we are not doing enough to push back against China. And this is just one example that you gave there with with the gate the gate crashers. And yet what we’re seeing is that the Chinese Communist Party is lecturing the Biden administration on trust building when it’s absolutely violating our sovereignty. So I think we need to be serious about this and we need a serious response from this administration.

Guy Benson: Yeah, the Chinese Communist Party denying it. They put out a statement through the embassy that was just like a typical bluster. The relevant claims are purely ill intentioned fabrications. We urge the relevant U.S. officials to abandon a Cold War mentality and stop groundless accusations. Well, it’s not groundless, right? They’ve been caught on multiple occasions, Chinese nationals trying to get into these military and federal facilities. I mean, they can kind of pound the desk all they want. This is happening. They’re obviously directing it.

Sen. Joni Ernst: It is happening. And and that’s why we can turn to the Chinese now and say, no, this is not being fabricated here. Here is the the answer to the questions that you are asking about this. We have caught these individuals in the act, and let’s just go beyond that as well. Didn’t the Chinese just have a spy balloon come across the United States, guys, earlier this year? Yeah. Aren’t they setting up shop somewhere south of Florida? Maybe a place called Cuba. Um, and we know that they’re buying up ag land around our most sensitive military installations, so. Excuse me, Chinese, you know, Chinese Communist Party. But they are not doing any of these activities with good intentions. They are nefarious when it comes to these activities. So, again, we we as a country need to stop focusing on these really outlandish ideas within our national defense, like climate, ideology and transitioning are forced to all electric vehicles. You know, why don’t we actually just make sure that we have the most lethal fighting force on the face of the planet? Then our adversaries will fear us and not continue to test us.

Guy Benson: Well, clearly, Beijing takes its threat to us extremely seriously. And you mentioned a few of the other examples. I’m glad that you brought those up in addition to the great the gatecrashers. We also see their influence efforts on college campuses in this country, the off the books, police stations that they set up in this country to intimidate Chinese nationals and basically browbeat them or coerce them into stopping dissident activities or what have you, or maybe even doing things like Gatecrashing. We see their efforts to bully often successfully, Hollywood and other institutions like the NBA and then the whole Belt and Road Initiative all over the world, economic blackmail. They are very focused on supplanting us as a global superpower. And look, they’ve got all sorts of problems as well. And their economy is faltering. And it’s not like everything’s perfect over there by any stretch, but they are taking this extremely seriously. And I worry that in the U.S., we aren’t taking it as seriously. I know a lot of people in Washington are yourself included. The committee in the House, I think is doing good work. But the American people, I think, need to be more focused on this. And these concerns often, unfortunately, in my mind, get kind of lost in the shuffle, lost in the noise of day to day politics.

Sen. Joni Ernst: Well, I absolutely agree, Guy. And I’m really glad that you bring this up, because I feel that in recent years we’ve really seen this shift of Americans towards a more isolationist policy where, you know, we don’t need to engage overseas. We don’t need to have friends and partners anywhere. You know, we’re the United States. Let’s just focus on our homeland here. And and I get that.

Guy Benson: China is eating our lunch all around the world.

Sen. Joni Ernst: Exactly. And that’s the problem, is that just because you’re not engaging somewhere else, it doesn’t mean somebody else is going to stop. It just means that we are allowing the Chinese and the Russians, the Iranians to gain a gain a greater foothold surrounding our country. So the way to engage is and America doesn’t need to be out doing absolutely everything. That’s not what I’m advocating for. What I am saying is that we should be engaged, though. And believe me, we have got a lot of friends and partners around this globe that will help us leverage our strength against the Chinese, against the Russians, against any anyone who wishes us ill. So we’ve got to really work on our friendships around the globe and we’ve got to push back on China where we can. Because, folks, just bottom line, if we’re not engaging, then don’t complain when we are completely surrounded by the Belt and Road Initiative with Chinese ports and activities, military installations surrounding the United States of America.

Guy Benson: What does that mentality, that vision that you just laid out look like vis a vis U.S. policy in Ukraine? In your mind, what should we be doing differently? What are we doing right?

Sen. Joni Ernst: Oh, I could go on and on about this. And I’m unabashedly a Ukraine supporter because Ukraine is doing all of the heavy lifting. And as they should, you know, Russia invaded Ukraine. But the way I envision this, if we don’t see a successful Ukraine, we are going to continue to see Russia and China because they’re in cahoots together, continue to advance across Europe, and just it will embolden them around the globe as well. It does have an impact to our own national security. But what can we do different? What would what would I do if I were making the call on this? I would go ahead and continue to support them with military platforms and ammunition. That’s a small part of what we are doing for Ukraine. Many of those munitions, those platforms, they are built in the United States. And what we’re doing, we’re just cleaning out the old warehouses. We’re shipping all the old stuff to Ukraine, the stuff that we don’t use anymore, which gives us an opportunity to go ahead and rebuild our defense industrial base and provide newer and better equipment for our own troops so we can ship them the old stuff. I have no problem with that. What we should not do, in my opinion, again, is be sending them humanitarian aid. Our friends and allies in Europe can provide humanitarian aid. This is something that our taxpayers don’t need to do. We don’t need to give this money to the State Department. We don’t need to ship those dollars off to USAID and in return, send those dollars to the United Nations where Russia has a controlling vote over that. We shouldn’t do that. So let’s scale back on what we are providing to Ukraine and make sure it is worth the fight and make sure that the Ukrainians will win. We can do that by being that they are.

Guy Benson: And no U.S. boots, right? No U.S. boots on the ground.

Sen. Joni Ernst: No U.S. boots on the ground. And this is the important part of that is that they are fighting the fight. We are not engaging in our blood and sweat.

Guy Benson: That’s right. I want to ask you on foreign policy, one other question before we turn to Washington, D.C. matter is Afghanistan. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the recent statements at some of these hearings and field hearings from Gold Star families just furious and angry and heartbroken over the way that the Afghanistan withdrawal went, the bloodshed, the terrorist attack that killed 13 Americans. Something in the two-year anniversary that just passed that this administration barely wants to ever talk about. No one was fired. No one was demoted. No one resigned. It was just called a success, an extraordinary success by the president. And then I guess the political plan is out of sight, out of mind as you think back to two summers ago. What comes to your mind?

Sen. Joni Ernst: I’m heartbroken. And I always want to start by thanking those that served in Afghanistan, those that served during the global war on terrorism. And I just want to reiterate to everyone who wore boots during that conflict that it mattered. It mattered to the American people. And that 20 years that we engaged it kept our country safe. So it was and it was for something, because I think the way this administration left it left many families that lost their loved ones in Afghanistan or Iraq left them thinking that we did it all for nothing. But I want to push back on that, because God bless them all. They gave us freedom. They gave us freedom from fear of being attacked by those horrible terrorists while we took the fight to them. So I do feel very heavy hearted when I think about the way we left Afghanistan, and we can have a whole debate on whether we should have stayed, how long we should have stayed. We can debate all of that and we can study it up one side and down the other. But the way Biden laughed, he laughed, not following the advice of his senior military commanders. And we left our country in the lurch. It’s much worse off now than it was before. One of the young men that was killed at the Abbey gate, the the 13 that were killed in those final days of Afghanistan. That young man is from my home county, Montgomery County, Iowa, southwest Iowa. And I knew his mother growing up. I’m very good friends with his mother, his grandmother and their families. And they will never have their son back. Dagon will he will never walk through their doors for Christmas again. It’s. A really heavy, heavy situation for these families to carry knowing those deaths didn’t have to occur.

Guy Benson: No, they were appointed, Ben professionals. So much of that, so much of that disgrace and so much of the terrible legacy was avoidable and choices were made not to avoid the disaster that then ensued. Senator Ernst, I want to ask you just quickly, we have a few minutes left. There is another deadline. Seems like we have these all the time. A cliff coming on funding of the government, potential partial government shutdown looming. What do you think the plan of action should be for Congress to avoid this? What do you hope to see?

Sen. Joni Ernst: Oh, my gosh. Well, I know that McCarthy is talking about a short term continuing resolution, what we call a C.R. And if that is necessary, then if he has got the votes, I think it would likely be supported in the Senate. But bottom line, we’re facing this once again, and it’s because we’ve got all this reckless borrowing and spending. And we see the the cause and effect of this is that we are driving as a federal government with all this spending. We’re driving up the prices of everyday goods and services that our constituents rely upon. And so I think we will be able to get something negotiated. But, you know, when are we going to start coming to terms with this and understanding that we can’t continue spending and borrowing the way we are? I think that that really needs to be the question and the time. I think we can prevent a government shutdown, but we’ve got to face the future. And how do we stop engaging in this really harmful spending behavior?

Guy Benson: Senator, lastly, I saw earlier the little press gaggle, you were right over his shoulder. Leader McConnell was back in front of the cameras and microphones addressing a number of topics, including his health. He didn’t answer some of the questions. He said he’s not going anywhere. He intends to serve out his term as leader and in the Senate. What do you make of that? How is he? How do you think he did publicly? How is he in private? Do you support his decision to continue on as leader?

Sen. Joni Ernst: Well, I wish him well. And as you probably saw during the press conference, I was with him last night at the leadership meeting. He is sharp as ever. And he spent all of August raising money. And, you know, I don’t know if I can publicly disclose how much he raised, but it is more I think we have seen in any month to support our Senate candidates. He is continually engaging in the policy. So it it seems that he is well now. And he was fully cleared by the Senate physician, Dr. Moynihan. And so that’s what we have to operate on, is that he has been cleared. But what I would say to all of these reporters, while they’re questioning the Senate minority leader, who is not actually driving any of the policy here, why are we not questioning the man that actually has his finger on the nuclear buttons.

Guy Benson: The chief executive that they actually seem to exist to protect in a lot of cases in the press? I think it’s a fair point to make. We got to leave it there up on a break. Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa on the Guy Benson Show. Senator, thank you as always.

Sen. Joni Ernst: Yeah, Thanks, Guy.