GOP Sen. Joni Ernst: 'Whistleblowers should be protected'

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate Farmers: New Trump ethanol proposal reneged on previous deal Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate MORE said Thursday that she believes "whistleblowers should be protected," aligning herself with fellow Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyState cites 38 people for violations in Clinton email review Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings GOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate MORE, who has defended the intelligence community whistleblower at the center of an impeachment inquiry against President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE.
 
"Whistleblowers should be protected, thank you very much. Whistleblowers should be protected, please let folks out there know," Ernst said during a town hall in Iowa. 
The comments from Ernst, who is up for reelection in 2020, come as Trump has repeatedly lashed out at the whistleblower and demanded to know the individual's identity. The complaint, related to Trump's actions toward Ukraine, led directly the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. 
 
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Trump, asked on Monday if he knows the person's identity, told reporters that the White House is "trying to find out."

Trump doubled down in a tweet on Tuesday, reiterating that he wants to meet the whistleblower.

"Why aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about the Whistleblower, and also the person who gave all of the false information to him," he tweeted.

Grassley broke with Trump on Tuesday, saying the individual deserves to be "heard out and protected." 

“This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality," said Grassley, who is the chairman of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus.

The Iowa town hall comes hours after Trump publicly encouraged China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Graham: 'Stupid' for Trump to ask China to investigate Biden Romney: Republicans don't criticize Trump because they fear it will help Warren MORE and his son, Hunter Biden.
 
Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he also called for a probe of the Bidens, triggered the whistleblower complaint. 
 
Asked during the town hall about whether Trump should be "threatening" whistleblowers and urging other countries to investigate potential 2020 rivals, Ernst replied, "I would say to that, corruption no matter where it is, it should be ferreted out." 
 
When the same attendee pressed her on if it was "OK for our president to extort other countries," Ernst indicated it was time to move on but added that "we can't determine that yet." 
 
"We have information that will be presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee and they will call in the witnesses as necessary and it will be done in a bipartisan manner. In a fair process and they will evaluate that. So, not jumping to any conclusions. We don't have the story yet, but once we do then we can make that determination," she said.