The GOP-controlled House may expunge former President Trump’s two impeachments, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy telling the US media earlier this week that he is open to the idea.
Former President Donald Trump was impeached twice by the Democratic-led House of Representatives in 2019 over alleged abuse of power during a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and in 2021, over alleged “incitement of insurrection” followed by the January 6 Capitol breach. Both times Trump was acquitted.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has made it clear that he would consider expunging one or both of former President Trump’s impeachments. According to the US media, a number of House Republicans back the idea and want to “give serious consideration to exonerating” Trump.
Even though the US Constitution does not provide a roadmap for expunging an impeachment, GOP lawmakers started to look into the possibility last year.
On March 29, 2022, then-Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) introduced a resolution to wipe the former president’s 2019 impeachment away. The document said that the impeachment was “an unimaginable abuse of our Constitution.”
In his March resolution, Mullin presented detailed explanation as to why he and his fellow Republicans believe that “the facts and circumstances upon which the Articles of Impeachment were based did not meet the burden of proving the commission of ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ as set forth in Section Four of Article II of the United States Constitution.”
“[B]y so flippantly exercising one of the gravest and most consequential powers with which the House of Representatives is charged, Democrats have committed the sin about which the Founding Fathers of the United States warned, that being the use of presidential impeachment in a partisan fashion to settle political scores, and relitigate election results with which they disagree, in this case, the 2016 Presidential election of Donald Trump,” the lawmaker underscored at the time.
In May 2022, Mullin presented a second resolution to expunge Trump’s 2021 impeachment. The new bill referred to 2020 presidential election irregularities, arguing that the Democratic-led House had failed to prove at the time that the former president had committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” or engaged in an insurrection.
“[As] further indication of the partisan political motivations behind the Resolution, once the Article of Impeachment was passed by the House of Representatives and transmitted to the Senate, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court refused to serve as the presiding officer for the trial, as required by section 3 of article I of the Constitution, and instead the Senate President pro tempore, Senator Pat Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, and a reliably partisan politician, served as the presiding officer, perfecting the entirety of the process as nothing more than an unconstitutional exercise in futility, moot, and fantastical political theater,” the bill read.
Neither of the resolutions was passed in the House of Representatives, given that the Democratic Party held a majority in the lower chamber at the time.
Previously, Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were formally impeached by the House of Representatives, but neither of them was convicted by the Senate.
US conservative media has drawn attention to the fact that even though no president or other elected official has ever had their impeachment expunged, the Senate did expunge a censure of then-Democratic President Andrew Jackson in 1837. Jackson planned to remove government funds from the Bank of the United States, which was “not conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both.”
On March 28, 1834, Jackson was censured by the Senate. Three years later, when the Democratic Party gained the majority in the upper chamber, the Senate voted to reverse its earlier censure. On January 16, 1837, the secretary of the Senate made a record, saying that Jackson’s censure was “Expunged by order of the Senate.”
However, given that currently the Senate majority is in the hands of the Dems, it is unlikely that the GOP resolutions seeking to expunge Trump’s impeachments would be passed by US senators.