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

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBill to shorten early voting period, end Election Day early in Iowa heads to governor's desk We know how Republicans will vote — but what do they believe? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending 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 TrumpProsecutors focus Trump Organization probe on company's financial officer: report WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend 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."

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“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 BidenSenate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill Rural Americans are the future of the clean energy economy — policymakers must to catch up WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year MORE, ‘Please, let’s move forward,’ ” Ernst said.

The Iowa Republican's remarks come after GOP senators such as Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonScarborough tears into 'Ivy League brats' Cruz, Hawley for attacking 'elites' Judiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination Juan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP MORE (Ark.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottThis week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback Lobbying world Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears 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 PelosiRepublican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote Clinton, Pelosi holding online Women's Day fundraiser with Chrissy Teigen, Amanda Gorman What good are the intelligence committees? 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.

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“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 GrahamJuan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP Portman on Trump's dominance of GOP: Republican Party's policies are 'even more popular' Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission MORE (S.C.) are pressing for incoming Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerFirst Black secretary of Senate sworn in Republican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote The bizarre back story of the filibuster 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 MurphyAmazon manager sues company over racial discrimination, harassment allegations Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster 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.