GOP senator questions constitutionality of an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US MORE (Iowa), a member of the Senate Republican leadership who won reelection in November, said Tuesday that she doesn’t think it would be constitutional to try President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE on an impeachment charge after he leaves office.

“My overall question is: Why are we doing this when the president is out of office tomorrow?” Ernst told reporters in the Capitol.

Asked if she thought it would be constitutional to try Trump once he is out of office, Ernst replied: “I don’t think it is."


“I’ve read arguments on both sides, but he’s not our president after tomorrow. So the only reason I can see is that Democrats want to further divide the nation. And [I’m] asking President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenFormer Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building Saudis picked up drugs in Cairo used to kill Khashoggi: report Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting MORE, ‘Please, let’s move forward,’ ” Ernst said.

The Iowa Republican's remarks come after GOP senators such as Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOvernight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military Media continues to lionize Anthony Fauci, despite his damning emails MORE (Ark.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottKerry Washington backs For the People Act: 'Black and Brown voters are being specifically targeted' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain Black Republican advocates his case for CBC membership MORE (S.C.) have either questioned the constitutionality of an impeachment trial for a former president or warned that such proceedings would further divide the country.

“We just have to move forward, and they could have done other types of procedures in the House," Ernst said. "They chose to move forward with impeachment. We need to start healing, I don’t think this does that."

While there is precedent for holding an impeachment trial after a public official has left office, the Senate has never held a trial for a former president.

Ernst said she would still consider the arguments presented by House impeachment managers if Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNew Mexico Democrat Stansbury sworn into Haaland's old seat Greene apologizes for comparing vaccine rules to Holocaust Overnight Health Care: Biden pleads for more people to get vaccinated | Harris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety | Novavax COVID-19 vaccine shown highly effective in trial MORE (D-Calif.) sends the lone article of impeachment to the Senate. Under the chamber's rules, the Senate would need to immediately commence an impeachment trial upon receiving the article.


“Always listen to the arguments. We should always do that. The bottom line, is it constitutional?” Ernst said.

Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate confirms Garland's successor to appeals court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema GOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans MORE (S.C.) are pressing for incoming Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerIn Congress, what goes on behind closed doors? Senate Judiciary begins investigation into DOJ lawmaker subpoenas America needs a stable Israeli government MORE (D-N.Y.) to hold an immediate vote on dismissing the article of impeachment to spare the Senate from holding a trial.

“The impeachment power exists to protect the Nation from the harm that an incumbent president might inflict upon the Nation were he to remain in office, not to vindicate political grievances after a president has left office,” Graham wrote in a letter to Schumer over the weekend.

Some Democrats, such as Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill Rising crime rejuvenates gun control debate on campaign trail MORE (Conn.), have said the top priority should be moving a large COVID-19 relief package through Congress and confirming Biden’s top Cabinet nominees.