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Joni Ernst: Punish 'dictator' president, maybe with impeachment

Joni Ernst -- the Sarah Palin-endorsed GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa -- has been calling for the president’s impeachment since before it was cool.
State Sen. Joni Ernst waves to supporters at a primary election night rally, June 3, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa.
State Sen. Joni Ernst waves to supporters at a primary election night rally, June 3, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Joni Ernst -- the Sarah Palin-backed Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa -- has been floating calls for President Obama's impeachment for some time.

“I do think that yes, he should face those repercussions, and whether that's removal from office, whether that's impeachment,” Ernst said in January at a Montgomery County Republican forum, when asked about the president’s recess appointments and use of executive authority, according to a video flagged by Yahoo News on Tuesday. Ernst agreed with the questioner, saying she felt the president had overstepped his authority with the appointments.

The Supreme Court has since decided the case, ruling that the president overstepped his authority in making the appointments while the Senate was in recess.

The news of Ernst's comments emerged just as Palin led the Obama impeachment charge in an op-ed for Breitbart.

Ernst, who is running to replace retiring Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin, made a splash with her promise to make Washington "squeal" like the pigs she castrated as a farmer; her folksy charm—reminiscent of Palin’s 2008 vice presidential run—has endeared her to both far-right conservatives and the GOP establishment, eager to add more women to the party.

“As a U.S. senator, though, we have to push that issue, we can’t be silent on things like that,” Ernst said in the video. “And unfortunately we have a number of legislators right now that simply let these things happen. They’re not speaking up against these actions. They’re not speaking out against the president when he oversteps his bounds, when he makes those appointments, when he’s appointing czars, when he is producing executive orders in a threat to a Congress that won’t do as he wishes. So he has become a dictator.”

“He is running amok,” she concluded.

Ernst sought to walk back her remarks in a statement provided to msnbc.  

"To be clear, I have not seen any evidence that the president should be impeached," she said. "I obviously do not believe the president is a dictator, but his repeated use of unilateral action sure makes him look like one. I hope Bruce Braley would feel similarly about any chief executive whom the Supreme Court ruled had abused power."

"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. 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," she continued.

Ernst's opponent, Democrat Bruce Braley, leads in the polls by just four points; Ernst has been closing Braley's early lead for months — in March, he lead by double digits.