Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California) has expressed support for GOP efforts in Congress to “expunge” former President Donald Trump’s two impeachments from his time in office, even though there isn’t any constitutional mechanism to do so.
An impeachment in the House of Representatives of a federal official is a list of formal charges against that person, which the Senate must then consider within a trial, where each member of the “upper house” acts like a member of the jury. For a president to be indicted in that trial, two-thirds of senators must vote in the affirmative.
Trump never reached that threshold, though in his second impeachment, just after the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, a bipartisan majority of senators did vote to indict him.
Trump’s first impeachment was over his attempt to coerce Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, where he demanded political dirt on Joe Biden before the 2020 presidential campaign began, in exchange for U.S. support to defend against expected Russian encroachments.
A number of Trump loyalists in the House are looking to remove from the record his two impeachments. On Friday, McCarthy expressed support for doing so as well.
“I think it is appropriate. Just as I thought before — that you should expunge it, because it never should have gone through,” he told reporters.
Although McCarthy said in the days after the January 6 attack that Trump “bears responsibility” for what happened, he has since taken to defending Trump’s actions, vastly downplaying his previous comments.
Noah Bookbinder, president of the nonprofit government watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), took note of McCarthy’s comments on Tuesday, stating that they didn’t make sense from a legal standpoint.
“Let’s talk for a moment about this business of expunging Donald Trump’s impeachment,” Bookbinder wrote on Twitter, … “constitutionally, it doesn’t mean anything” he added.
“The House can hold a vote, sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that Trump was impeached, twice, and the Senate held trials,” Bookbinder said.
Indeed, the U.S. Constitution lays out the method and conditions for impeaching federal officials and the president, but it doesn’t say how — or even if — impeachments can be expunged from the official record.
“… let’s be clear,” Bookbinder went on to say, “that the only purpose of such a vote is to cover for Trump and to downplay the severity of an effort to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power and to overturn a free and fair election, resulting in violent insurrection.”
“Anyone who votes to ‘expunge the impeachment’ is voting to endorse an attack on democracy and to disempower American voters,” Bookbinder concluded.
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