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McCarthy says he will explore expunging former President Trump's impeachment

By Sarah May on
 January 14, 2023

In a development likely to have brought a smile to the former president's face, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Thursday indicated a willingness to explore the possibility of expunging either or both of Donald Trump's impeachments, as The Hill reports.

Though McCarthy made a point of noting that the House majority he leads is currently focusing on a host of other priorities, he added that he can understand why certain members of his caucus have especially strong feelings on the subject.

“We'd look at it”

In addressing the question of a possible expungement, McCarthy came nowhere close to making any guarantees, either about outcome or process, but noted his appreciation of the reasons behind calls for such action.

“When you watch what [Trump] went through, I would understand why members would want to bring that forward,” McCarthy began, while also articulating a number of other pressing matters facing the legislature, as the Washington Examiner noted.

“Our first priority is to get our economy back on track, secure our borders, make our streets safe again, give parents the opportunity to have a say in their education, and actually hold government accountable,” he said.

“But I understand why individuals want to do it, and we'd look at it,” the speaker concluded.

Prior attempts unsuccessful

The current discussion of impeachment expungement is not the first time the issue has been raised by congressional Republicans, as a pair of resolutions designed to achieve that end were brought forth in 2022, as The Hill noted separately last year.

Then-Rep., now-Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) has introduced two separate resolutions designed to expunge Trump's impeachments, both of which were ultimately unsuccessful.

The first attempt by Mullin related to Trump's Dec. 19, 2019 impeachment over his contacts with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he was accused of encouraging investigation of Hunter Biden's business dealings in that country and using military aid as an inducement.

Mullin's second attempt at expungement related to Trump's impeachment over the Jan. 6, 2021 unrest at the U.S. Capitol and his alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In his second expungement resolution, Mullins argued that the impeachment charge of inciting insurrection “contains a subjective account of that which transpired at the Capitol on January 6, 2021” and “omits any discussion of the circumstances, unusual voting patterns, and voting anomalies of the 2020 presidential election itself.”

That resolution also took aim that the process used to impeach Trump for the second time, referencing a lack of hearings and a hasty timeline, and contending that the very fact that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was not the presiding official at the Senate trial cemented the proceedings as “nothing more than an unconstitutional exercise in futility, moot, and fantastical political theater.”

Democrats react

Not surprisingly, responses from the left to McCarthy's Thursday comments on expungement ranged from bemused incredulity to outrage, as reported.

Leader of D.C. watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics Noah Bookbinder took to social media to declare that “it is outrageous that Speaker McCarthy would consider expunging Donald Trump's impeachments.”

“Trump led a violent insurrection and tried to overturn an election he lost. Congress should have barred him from office. But the Trump wing is now ascendant,” Bookbinder added.

CNN political analyst was similarly irritated by the concept, writing that the very idea was “more evidence that whole elite GOP donor/strategist 'it's time to move past Trump' consensus after 2022 hasn't reached the House GOP.”

Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, was succinct in his condemnation of the expungement talk, as noted, musing, “not sure that's how it works.”

Whether McCarthy has any real intention of pursuing expungement of Trump's impeachment, or if his words were simply a gesture of good faith to conservatives in the GOP still skeptical of the new speaker, only time will tell.