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Report: McCarthy Promised to Expunge Trump’s Impeachments

The U.S. Constitution doesn’t include a process for expunging a former president who has been impeached.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters during a news conference in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on July 19, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

A new report suggests that Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy (R-California) promised Donald Trump that he would hold a vote on the House floor to expunge the former president’s two impeachments — an action he cannot legally take as it is not included in the U.S. Constitution.

Politico reported on the promise, citing a source with knowledge of the situation. McCarthy, who has stated that he supports pursuing an expungement of Trump’s impeachments, has claimed that the reporting is inaccurate and mischaracterizes his statements to Trump.

According to the source, Trump, angry with McCarthy after the House speaker said he might not be the strongest GOP option to run for the White House next year, demanded that his staff secure an endorsement from McCarthy right away. McCarthy, who has said he will be neutral during the primary process, sought to appease Trump, who could use his substantial influence in the Republican Party to call for a vote to oust him from the speakership if he becomes unhappy with McCarthy’s job performance.

Per Politico’s report, McCarthy’s pledge to Trump was “made reflexively to save his own skin.” McCarthy has denied making the promise.

“There’s no deal…I support expungement, but there’s no deal out there,” McCarthy told NBC News.

According to a Capitol aide, McCarthy didn’t promise Trump he would pursue a vote, but said he would discuss the matter with the GOP caucus.

Expungement isn’t something the House can legally do — the Constitution lays out the process for how a president can be impeached, but doesn’t include a process for how to remove an impeachment from the record or indicate whether such a move is possible. The House could pass a formal resolution saying Trump was never impeached, but that wouldn’t have any legal consequences.

Even so, the idea of pursuing an expungement of Trump’s two impeachments over the course of his presidency — one over his trying to coerce Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for political dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. support for defense against Russian border encroachments, the other for his role in instigating the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 — is causing friction among moderates and swing district Republicans in the House, who believe that the process could hurt their chances in the election cycle if it’s even attempted.

Several of these Republicans expressed doubts about expunging Trump’s impeachments directly to Politico.

“It doesn’t make sense to me, because if you’re found not guilty, what do we expunge?” asked Rep. Don Bacon (R-Nebraska). “I think it’s silly. We should be moving forward, not backwards.”

“What is there to expunge? He was acquitted at [the U.S. Senate] trial,” said Rep. Mike Lawler (R-New York). “I don’t really see the purpose of it.”

Although most of the GOP caucus would likely support pursuing the matter, the moderate or swing district Republicans (who number around a half dozen lawmakers, according to Politico) would make it difficult for McCarthy to hold a vote on the issue, as the House is divided among Republicans and Democrats (who would likely oppose the measure) by a mere five seats.

Last month, Noah Bookbinder, president of the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said that holding a vote on expungement would be frivolous.

“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.

He added:

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.

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