“Iowa caucus-goers take note,” the former vice president tweeted.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Monday evening said Sen. Joni Ernst had “spilled the beans” after the Iowa Republican gleefully suggested that the Senate impeachment debate surrounding the former vice president could hinder his performance in her state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses next week.
“Iowa caucus-goers take note,” Biden tweeted. “Joni Ernst just spilled the beans. She and Donald Trump are scared to death I’ll be the nominee. On Feb. 3rd, let’s make their day.”
During its second day of oral arguments in the impeachment trial Monday, President Donald Trump’s legal defense team argued that Biden, not the president, should be investigated for corruption or abuse of power for seeking the dismissal of Ukraine’s former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, in 2016 — all while Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.
“Iowa caucuses, folks, Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening,” Ernst toldreporters in the Capitol. “And I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucusgoers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point? Not certain about that.”
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives last month and now faces the possibility of being removed from office by the Senate for allegedly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into domestic political rivals including the Bidens and for allegedly withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid until Zelensky announced those probes.
In pushing for Shokin’s ouster, Biden was advancing the interests of official U.S. foreign policy, other Western nations and anti-corruption advocates who unanimously viewed Shokin as corrupt. Shokin’s investigation of Burisma had reportedly been long dormant by the time he was forced from his post in Kiev, and there is no evidence that Joe or Hunter Biden perpetrated any wrongdoing with regard to Ukraine.
Biden remains competitive in Iowa just six days from the caucuses but is battling the ascendant Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and a handful of other Democratic White House hopefuls for a first-place finish in the inaugural nominating contest.
Ernst received swift blowback for her remarks from Democratic lawmakers and critics on social media who accused her of attempting to smear Biden and undercutting the legitimacy of the White House’s impeachment defense.
“I don’t think we should be measuring the impeachment articles and their veracity, their truth and whether they should be taken seriously on the impact it’s going to have on an Iowa caucus voter,” he said.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) did not reference Ernst by name but condemned her mention of the caucuses in an interview Tuesday with MSNBC, during which he dismissed the prospect of calling the Bidens to testify before the Senate.
“If you want to make this into a sham trial, that’s a great way to do it,” he said. “I mean, there’s been comments made already that the only reason Biden was brought up was because of the Iowa caucuses. I think that’s disgusting.”
Ernst’s comments also drew comparisons to a boast by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in 2015 that the work of the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi had diminished Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s standing in public polling. That assessment by McCarthy, now the House minority leader, was widely viewed to have thwarted his bid to replace retiring Speaker John Boehner.