WASHINGTON ― Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) says she’ll be watching the upcoming Iowa caucus results to see if Democratic voters sour on former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential contender, after the arguments presented by President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team on Monday.
“I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?” Ernst, a member of GOP leadership, asked at a press conference Monday.
During the day’s proceedings in the Senate, Trump’s lawyers painted Biden and his son Hunter as corrupt actors worthy of investigation. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, in particular, zeroed in on the younger Biden for his role serving on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father oversaw Ukraine policy as vice president of the United States.
“Every witness who was asked about Hunter Biden’s involvement at Burisma agreed there was a potential appearance of a conflict of interest,” Bondi said Monday, describing House testimony.
There has been no evidence of corruption on the part of the former vice president or his son. Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, testified in the House impeachment inquiry that he saw no validity to Trump’s allegations of corruption on the Bidens’ part.
Democrats slammed the strategy on Monday, describing it as an attempt to use the Senate trial proceedings to smear one of Trump’s top 2020 rivals ― again.
“It’s so clear they want us to become complicit in helping the administration continue to destroy the Bidens,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters on Monday. “I’m not going to be a party to the same scheme that the president’s been impeached for.”
But Ernst, who is also up for re-election this year, said it was “entirely appropriate” for the president’s defense team to attack the Bidens. She said the information aired about them on Monday might be useful to the voting public.
“It really, I think, opened the eyes, maybe of not just the folks in the Senate, but maybe those folks at home that were watching this afternoon,” she said. “And with the Iowa caucuses coming up next Monday night, maybe it will influence some of those voters as well.”
Biden’s campaign pushed back in a statement, arguing that Republicans are targeting the former vice president because they are afraid he will become the Democratic presidential nominee.
“Senator Ernst just said the quiet part out loud: Republicans are terrified that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee, defeat Donald Trump, and help progressives gain seats in the House and take the Senate,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said. “We are in a battle for the soul of this nation, and the GOP can’t stop revealing that Vice President Biden is the best candidate to win it.”