‘We all need to come together’: Ernst distances herself from Trump’s weekend rhetoric

Asked Sunday on CNN‘s “State of the Union” if she was comfortable with the president’s language in recent days, given that she will be on the ballot with him in less than four months, Ernst argued there exists a “great level of frustration across the United States all the way around.”

But the senator also acknowledged that “we do have blemishes in our history and we need to come together and have some very hard discussions about our past.” She added: “The great thing about this nation is that we can learn from those blemishes, learn from those hard times in the past, and continue to evolve as a continually blessed nation.”

Pressed by host Dana Bash on whether she agreed the majority of the protests “are actually peaceful and not the way the president described them,” Ernst again seemingly broke with Trump. “Yes, I do think that there are so many peaceful protests, and that’s exactly the kind of discussion and exhibition that we want to see,” she said.

While Ernst warned that incidents of violence and the destruction of private and public property cannot be tolerated, she insisted that if Americans “want to improve our country, we all need to come together.”

Ernst also suggested Trump should approve the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an amendment authored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that would force the Pentagon to remove names, monuments and paraphernalia honoring the Confederacy from military bases over the next three years.

The president threatened last week to veto the $740 billion annual defense measure if it passed through Congress with Warren’s provision intact, but Ernst said Sunday she “would love that he would sign the bill and move forward.”

Those comments by Ernst represent the latest example of mounting unease expressed by some congressional Republicans over Trump’s erratic handling of the coronavirus pandemic and widespread racial unrest, as well as his increasingly incendiary language.

In addition to demanding the preservation of Army installations named for Confederate generals, Trump last week shared a video in which an elderly supporter could be heard shouting “white power,” and deemed the Black Lives Matter movement a “symbol of hate.”

Ernst is locked in an increasingly competitive Senate race in Iowa, a traditional swing state, against Democrat Theresa Greenfield — who led Ernst by 3 percentage points in a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll published last month.