GOP eyes payback, raises specter of impeaching Biden after 2020

A cynic might wonder if perhaps the recent GOP handwringing about impeachment isn't entirely on the level.
Republican Senate Candidate Jodi Ernst Campaigns Throughout Iowa
Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial isn't officially over, but ahead of Wednesday's vote, some of his loyalists, outraged by the effort to hold the president accountable for misdeeds the GOP acknowledges were wrong, are already plotting political payback.

On Fox News yesterday, for example, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said his party's counterattack would "happen in the coming weeks," and would include official investigations into Joe Biden and the intelligence community whistleblower who helped expose the White House's illegal extortion scheme.

As Bloomberg News reported, one of Graham's GOP colleagues has already broached the subject of possibly impeaching Joe Biden if he's elected.

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst warned Sunday that Republicans would immediately push to impeach Joe Biden over his work in Ukraine as vice president if he win the White House.

"I think this door of impeachable whatever has been opened," Ernst said in an interview with Bloomberg News. "Joe Biden should be very careful what he's asking for because, you know, 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 grounds for impeachment, the first-term Republican said, would be "for being assigned to take on Ukrainian corruption yet turning a blind eye to Burisma because his son was on the board making over a million dollars a year."

There's a degree of familiarity to the circumstances. Ahead of the far-right Iowan's first U.S. Senate campaign, Ernst said then-President Barack Obama had "become a dictator," and congressional Republicans had to hold the Democrat accountable, "whether that's removal from office, whether that's impeachment."

As Ernst gets ready to run for a second term, she's once again interested in impeaching an entirely different Democrat -- except this time, Biden isn't even in office and faces an uncertain electoral future.

On the surface, the absurdity of such talk should start with the simple fact that Biden didn't do anything wrong with his efforts to combat corruption in Ukraine. Literally, nothing. The former vice president's efforts were widely known and weren't the least bit controversial, and as the Washington Post's Greg Sargent noted last week, Biden's work faced zero Republican pushback on Capitol Hill at the time.

Indeed, Joni Ernst was in the Senate in 2015 and 2016, while Biden's efforts were underway, and there's no evidence of her finding the former vice president's work problematic in the least. Now she's raising the specter of impeaching Biden for his work that Republicans agreed with? Please.

Complicating matters, in order to impeach Biden -- in the event that he wins both his party's nomination and the 2020 general election -- the GOP would likely need a sizable majority in the U.S. House. By all appearances, that's not only unlikely, it's also a scenario Republican leaders themselves don't expect to see happen.

But even if we put all of these relevant details aside, consider the rhetoric Senate Republicans have peddled with dubious sincerity in recent weeks: the impeachment process, they've said, should never become a partisan political weapon. In fact, impeaching a duly-elected president is inherently dangerous, we've been told, because it overturns the will of the people.

And yet, despite the rhetoric, there's Joni Ernst, suggesting there will be "people" ready to impeach Biden "immediately" after his possible election. A cynic might wonder if perhaps the recent GOP handwringing about impeachment isn't entirely on the level.

Imagine that.

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