Republican Sen. Joni Ernst warned Sunday that the GOP could swiftly move to weaponize the impeachment process if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020, proclaiming "this door of impeachable whatever has been opened."
Specifically invoking former Vice President Joe Biden, Ernst told Bloomberg News in an interview that "we can have a situation where if it should ever be President Biden, that immediately, people, right the day after he would be elected would be saying, 'Well, we're going to impeach him.'"
The Iowa Republican, who has said she plans to vote to acquit President Donald Trump this week, claimed Biden could be impeached "for being assigned to take on Ukrainian corruption yet turning a blind eye to Burisma because his son [Hunter Biden] was on the board making over a million dollars a year."
Critics said Ernst's comments, which came on the eve of the Iowa Democratic caucuses, lay bare the emptiness of GOP complaints that the impeachment of Trump represents an effort to overturn the will of voters.
"For all that talk about 'overturning the will of the voter,' Senate GOP seems pretty okay with impeaching a future president... as long as that president is a Democrat," tweeted Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic presidential primary.
"OK, so impeachment is only 'overturning the will of the voters' if a Republican is elected. Got it," wrote Indivisible co-founder Leah Greenberg.
In a separate interview Sunday on CNN 's "State of the Union," Ernst defended Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his Democratic political rivals while conceding that perhaps "he could have done it through different channels."
Senate Republicans largely united late Friday in voting down a motion to allow witnesses to testify in Trump's impeachment trial, a move Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups decried as an "abhorrent dereliction of duty." Every other Senate impeachment trial in U.S. history has included witnesses, according to an analysis released last week by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
"This is a crisis of democracy," By the People executive director Alexandra Flores-Quilty said following the Friday vote.