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

Greg Nash

Sen. Joni Ernst (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 Trump 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 Biden, ‘Please, let’s move forward,’ ” Ernst said.

The Iowa Republican’s remarks come after GOP senators such as Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Tim Scott (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 Pelosi (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 Graham (S.C.) are pressing for incoming Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (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 Murphy (Conn.), have said the top priority should be moving a large COVID-19 relief package through Congress and confirming Biden’s top Cabinet nominees.


Tags Charles Schumer Chris Murphy Donald Trump Iowa Joe Biden Joni Ernst Lindsey Graham Nancy Pelosi senate impeachment trial Tim Scott Tom Cotton Trump impeachment

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