Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, says she was interviewed by then-candidate Donald Trump to be his runningmate, but "turned down" the chance because of her strained marriage with her husband, who "hated" her success, according to court records in her divorce case.
Ernst, considered a rising star in the Republican Party, made the claim in an affidavit filed in ugly divorce proceedings with her husband of 26 years, Gail. The NBC News affiliate WHO-TV, in Des Moines, Iowa, obtained a copy of the filings before they were sealed on Tuesday.
"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," Ernst said in the affidavit, which was filed in October of last year. "I continued to make sacrifices and not soar higher out of concern for Gail and our family."
In 2016, Ernst spent the Fourth of July holiday with Trump at his Bedminster golf course in New Jersey. She told USA Today that she and Trump had a "good conversation," but days later suggested to Politico that she was not interested in the job.
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“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," she said. Trump ultimately tapped Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Ernst was elected to the Senate in 2014, thanks in part to an unconventional and attention-grabbing ad campaign. "I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I'll know how to cut pork," she said in her ad, entitled "Squeal."
Her win gave Republicans control of the Senate, and she was the first woman elected to federal office in Iowa's history. Ernst, who served in Kuwait and as a company commander in the Iraq War, was also the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate.
The divorce filings were first reported by Cityview, a Des Moines newspaper, on Monday.
Ernst said in the court papers that as her profile grew, her already-troubled marriage deteriorated.
"Meanwhile, he hated any successes I had and would belittle me and get angry any time I achieved a goal," she said of her husband.
Gail Ernst rebuffed the accusation in court documents, saying he was supportive and abandoned his own goals for his wife.
"I gave up all my aspirations and goals to be a good dad and husband so Joni could pursue her dreams," he said.
WHO-TV reported a dissolution of marriage decree was filed in the case on January 3, meaning the couple is now officially divorced. NBC News has reached out to Ernst's office for comment.