Hagedorn faces questions about climate change, trade in southern Minn. town hall

U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn speaks at town hall in La Crescent, Minn.
First District U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn answers questions at a town hall in La Crescent, Minn. on Sept. 30, 2019. Catharine Richert | MPR News
Catharine Richert | MPR News

Updated: 8:06 p.m.

In his first town hall since the U.S. House of Representatives launched its impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Minnesota 1st District GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn said his position hasn’t changed.

In La Crescent Monday, Hagedorn told a crowd of constituents in a half-filled event center that the Democrats’ inquiry into whether the president should be impeached is unfounded.

“What the Democrats are doing in the House is political recklessness. I think it’s divisive for the country. I don’t think it’s warranted. I think they are trying to take out a duly elected president of the United States for reasons that are not sufficient,” Hagedorn said.

Hagedorn’s views on the matter follow his party’s line on the impeachment inquiry that started with a whistleblower complaint after a call between Trump and the Ukranian president in which Trump said he wanted an investigation of his potential Democratic opponent Joe Biden and a member of Biden’s family.

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Hagedorn won the Minnesota 1st District by a razor thin margin in 2018, and it’s expected to be closely watched as election season heats up for 2020.

Lewis Reiman of Utica said he supports his Hagedorn’s policies, and agrees that the inquiry is unnecessary.

“Democrats are spinning in the wind and they’re going to hurt themselves in the end,” Reiman said.

Steve Gund of La Crescent describes himself as a progressive who generally disagrees with Hagedorn’s views. But he’s not sold on the impeachment inquiry because he’s worried it will backfire on Democrats in the 2020 election.

“I think it’s going to give Republicans the chance to run with that unless it’s really solid,” he said.

Gund is concerned about tariffs and trade wars that have hurt farmers in southern Minnesota.

Hagedorn has supported Trump’s efforts to cut new trade deals with foreign countries like China — even if it’s meant inflicting financial pain on farmers for the time being.

But at Monday’s town hall, Hagedorn said he’s pushing the administration to move quickly on various deals that he said will improve and expand markets for Minnesota farmers.

“I keep the pressure on. And I tell the president every time I see him or his people, ‘Do it as fast as possible.’ It’s been tough for our farmers,” Hagedorn said.

In the 1st District, farming and environmental concerns often butt heads. Large livestock operations are often met with resistance from area residents who worry farming practices are contributing to water pollution.

Ruth Nissen of La Crescent challenged Hagedorn on whether he supports Trump’s efforts to get rid of Obama-era clean water regulations.

“They’re making it easier to put stuff into the streams,” Nissen said.

Hagedorn responded that the rules in question were a burden for farmers and other businesses.

When asked about carbon pollution and climate change, the congressman answered he approved of Trump’s efforts to expand fossil fuel production.

“Just because we want to support energy independence, and expansion and exploration of oil and gas which is critical for our economy, doesn’t mean we are for more pollution,” Hagedorn said.

Town hall attendee Janette Dean said that those policies won’t stop climate change.

“We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What you’re doing is increasing them,” she said, as Hagedorn answered, “Not true.”

Hagedorn now has a Democratic challenger for his seat. Dan Feehan, who ran for the seat last year, announced his decision to run for the 1st District on his campaign website and released a campaign video.

Correction (Oct. 1, 2019): A previous version misspelled Janette Dean’s name. The above story has been fixed and updated.