Joni Ernst seeks to walk back talk of impeaching Obama

Meredith Shiner, Yahoo News
The Iowa Senate race between Republican Joni Ernst and her Democratic opponent, Bruce Braley, is heating up as Ms. Ernst begins to pick up momentum on the campaign trail. WSJ’s Jerry Seib explains.

Iowa Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst attempted Tuesday night to walk back statements made at a January event in which she said President Barack Obama had “become a dictator” who should be “removed from office” or face “impeachment.”

In a statement provided to Yahoo News, reacting to a story published earlier Tuesday, Ernst said she does not believe that Obama is a dictator but rather that “his repeated use of unilateral action sure makes him look like one.”

“To be clear, I have not seen any evidence that the President should be impeached,” the statement read.

Ernst’s original comments came in response to a question at a Montgomery County GOP forum in which she was asked about a then-pending Supreme Court case. In the case discussed by the questioner, the Obama administration had been accused by the plaintiffs of executive overreach by filling positions on the National Labor Relations Board during a Congressional recess without the consent of Congress. In June, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, deemed Obama’s actions unconstitutional, nullifying the appointments.

In her clarifying statement, Ernst characterized the question she received at the forum as a “hypothetical” — which it was, given that the court had not yet rendered an opinion at that time. Since then, however, the Supreme Court’s decision ruling Obama’s action unconstitutional made clear that the justices believed he was out of line. Ernst’s statement Tuesday night implicitly argued that taking an action judged unconstitutional is not tantamount to an “abuse of power” obligating senators to seek to unseat him, as she suggested in January it could be.

“I was asked a question involving a hypothetical about what I thought should happen if the Supreme Court ruled that the president had committed an ‘abuse of power.’ Obviously if the Supreme Court were to ever rule that the President of the United States had abused their power, that would be a very serious charge,” Ernst said in the statement. “I responded by saying that if the court in fact made such a ruling, that the president should face the necessary repercussions. I would give the same answer about any president, Republican or Democrat.”

“I hope Bruce Braley would feel similarly about any chief executive whom the Supreme Court ruled had abused power,” Ernst added, referring to her Democratic opponent.