Ernst Defends Biden Remark: ‘Just Pointing Out That Iowa Has Very Smart Voters’

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks during a news conference following a weekly policy luncheon on April 2, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

During an interview on CNN Sunday morning, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) responded to the backlash she received for her remark last week regarding whether the Trump legal team’s Biden-focused arguments would influence Democratic Iowa caucusgoers.

“Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening,” Ernst said to reporters last Monday. “And I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus-goers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?”

When Tapper asked if she’s “focused on Biden because you think he poses the greatest threat to Trump,” Ernst blamed the House managers for supposedly bringing up the Bidens excessively.

“No, I think that in that conversation we were having with reporters the other day, it was quite evident the House managers brought up Vice President Biden and his son Hunter and Burisma over 400 times in their opening argument — 400 times in their opening arguments,” Ernst said, before adding that “the Democrats did that” and “the White House counsel spent a number of hours laying out the situation with Burisma.”

Ernst then argued that she was “just pointing out that Iowa has very smart voters, very educated caucus-goers” and that “if they’re paying attention to all the dynamics with the candidates, that might be something that they would take into consideration.”

When pressed by Tapper about whether her remarks undermine the GOP argument that Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign had nothing to do with electoral politics nor Biden’s campaign, Ernst said, “I don’t think it undermined at all.”

“I think that, again, what we have seen is the Democrats presenting their case. And I think it just really did show that there was something of concern with Burisma,” Ernst said. “And so I think that the Democrats can can follow that. They will make that decision as they go to the caucuses tonight.”

After Ernst insisted that “there is a corruption issue in Ukraine,” Tapper asked to clarify that this is “not necessarily about the Bidens” but a corruption issue in general, and Ernst agreed.

“And, of course, the President honed in on that and took that issue on,” Ernst said. “But, again, you know, we want to see how this influences our caucus-goers tomorrow evening as they head out to their polling places.”

Tapper then went back to pressing Ernst on how her remarks “seem to undermine the argument that this wasn’t about electoral politics,” given the lack of evidence behind any illegal activity regarding the Bidens and Ukraine.

After Tapper pointed out that “Joe Biden was carrying out U.S. policy” and that Ernst’s remarks “does seem to suggest that you think that this could have an effect” on the election, Ernst said she “thinks this does” because “whether that was the intention or not, now everything is tied together.”

Watch Ernst’s remarks below:

Latest News
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: