Trump allies in Congress seek to expunge impeachments

Marjorie Taylor Greene and Elise Stefanik have introduced legislation for ex-president’s 2019 and 2021 impeachments

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Friday 23 June 2023 15:32 EDT

Democrats unveil two articles of impeachment against Trump

Two of Donald Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress have introduced legislation aimed at expunging the former president’s two impeachments.

Elise Stefanik, the fourth highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives Republican, and rightwing hardliner Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced a pair of resolutions that if enacted would aim to change the record “as if such articles had never been passed”.

While Republicans control the House 222-212, any such vote faces stumbling blocks. First, it would be largely symbolic as both impeachments were televised. Second, Speaker McCarthy would have to agree to bring the vote to the floor of the House. And third, many moderate and swing-district Republicans have distanced themselves from the former president thereby endangering the bill passing.

Mr Trump, who is running for re-election in 2024, was twice impeached by the then-Democratic-controlled House, in December 2019 over Ukraine and again in January 2021 for his actions ahead of and during the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

Both times he was acquitted by Senate Republicans. In the second impeachment, a bipartisan majority voted to convict the then-president but enough Republicans opposed the move to prevent it reaching the two-thirds majority needed. Mr Trump was just the third president to be impeached by the House and is the only one in US history to have been impeached twice. The effort to expunge his impeachment is without historical precedent.

George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, whose expert advice Republicans sometimes seek, noted that the US Constitution contains no provision for expunging impeachments.

“It is not like a constitutional DUI. Once you are impeached, you are impeached,” Mr Turley told Reuters.

He added that expungement could still be historically significant by declaring the earlier impeachments an error, though notes that it is the view of a different Congress at a different time.

Georgia congresswoman Ms Greene’s resolution would cover the 2019 impeachment, saying Mr Trump was “wrongfully accused of misconduct”, while New York’s Ms Stefanik would overturn his 2021 impeachment on grounds that his opponents failed to prove that he committed “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, when asked by reporters about the idea, said he supported moving forward the expungement resolutions, but also said they needed to go through committee first, making it unclear when or if it would ever come to the floor for a vote.

Democrats called the move questionable, saying it demonstrated Republican fealty to the former president.

“The legality of doing it is highly questionable. That won’t stop the Republicans from doing it, and it’s just further placating Donald Trump,” said Representative Dan Goldman, who was lead Democratic counsel in the 2019 impeachment.

With reporting by Reuters

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Professor Jonathan Turley taught at Georgetown Law. He teaches at George Washington University. This has been corrected.

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