Republican Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) says she turned down the opportunity to be Donald Trump's running mate in the 2016 presidential election because she believed her husband Gail “hated any successes I have."
“In the summer of 2016, I was interviewed by Candidate Trump to be vice president of the United States. I turned Candidate Trump down, knowing it wasn’t the right thing for me or my family," according to an affidavit filed as part of divorce proceedings. “I continued to make sacrifices and not soar higher out of concern for Gail and our family."
Ernst and her husband were married for 26 years and announced their intention to divorce last August. The divorce was finalized last month.
Ernst says she met with Trump in New Jersey at his Bedminster golf course in July 2016. The meeting was a positive one, according to a statement she gave at the time. Two days later, she said she'd turned him down, citing her needs as a freshman senator to do more work for her state: “I made that very clear to him that I’m focused on Iowa. I feel that I have a lot more to do in the United States Senate. And Iowa is where my heart is.”
Ernst alleges her husband physically attacked her after she confronted him on suspicion that he was cheating. In his own filing, Gail Ernst claims he was always supportive of his wife and her career, saying he "gave up all my aspirations and goals to be a good dad and husband so Joni could pursue her dreams." He also alleges she "has said very demeaning and vulgar comments about me" and that her behavior "becomes even more bizarre when she consumes alcohol."
Uh, the Joni Ernst divorce papers are something else... this is the most mild part of it from Gail's affidavit https://t.co/TJF0eMgMAn— Iowa Starting Line (@Iowa Starting Line)1548174088.0
The news that marital strife imperiled the likelihood that Ernst could have been on the 2016 Republican ticket has garnered quite the reaction online.
Sen. Joni Ernst divorce papers providing #Iowa with winter storm warning reading material today it seems. https://t.co/eW0SIfDWhu— Kim Painter (@Kim Painter)1548177769.0
Joni Ernst puts a lie to the myth that victims of domestic violence are weak. She's one of the toughest members of… https://t.co/Wm1qrbqI8f— Laura McGann (@Laura McGann)1548181815.0
This is actually the story of the day. So much of contemporary American social conflict and unhappiness to be mined… https://t.co/FUDJdJsTRW— John Podhoretz (@John Podhoretz)1548162325.0
Neither the Trump campaign nor the White House has responded to requests for comment.
Had Ernst taken Trump's offer, the election would have gone down in history as the first to have women on the ticket for both parties.
Hillary Clinton was the first female presidential nominee for a major party. Two women have been vice-presidential nominees for major parties: Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin.
Trump eventually chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate. Pence was on a list of finalists which included former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (who later joined the transition team) and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Ernst has been said to be in a "good" position as she prepares for re-election. She is the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress as well as the first female combat veteran to represent the Senate in any state. She won the 2014 Senate race 52.2 percent to 43.7 percent.
Ernst made headlines over a week ago when she commented on America's need for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The government shutdown, now in its 32nd day, was spurred on after President Trump declined to sign a stopgap funding bill which would have avoided a shutdown because he disagreed with Congress over the amount he'd requested in funding for the project.
"I would tend to agree that not all areas of our border need a physical barrier,” she said, noting that she agreed with the president's statements on border security. “I don’t know that we can adequately secure our border in certain places without those barriers in place,” she added.
“I do think it needs to be a comprehensive plan that allows us to make smart choices on how we spend our dollars on the border," she continued. "So when it makes sense to have a physical barrier, then we should have a physical barrier.”