Donald Trump set the record by being impeached in the House of Representatives twice, both times for very good cause. The first of those impeachments came when Trump attempted to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into providing false claims about Joe Biden in exchange for military support. The second after Trump tired of threatening other nations and directly attempted to overturn the results of a U.S. election.
Now Republicans want to get out the Wite-Out and “expunge” at least one of Trump’s impeachments—both would be better—and Kevin McCarthy is there for it.
In laying out all the critical challenges the House faces, McCarthy didn’t seem sure how they would fit this in between investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop and pretending to build a wall, but as The Washington Post reports, the modern record-holder in losing votes for the House speakership expressed “sympathy” for the idea of giving Trump a clean slate because of all Trump “went through” during investigations into his connections to Russia.
This might not be the best time to pretend that withholding military assistance from Ukraine had nothing to do with Trump’s ties to Russia, and McCarthy might want to revisit the nation’s most overlooked document, the report produced by a Republican-led Senate committee showing Trump’s numerous, substantial, and dangerous connections to Russia. But hey, none of that really matters because none of this has anything to do with reality.
Even on the surface, McCarthy’s suggestion that Trump get a do-over because people had been mean to him is ridiculous. There are few judges on Earth willing to accept “I was having a bad day” as an excuse for a crime of any size. Trump’s elaborate efforts to secure false statements from Ukraine to help him defeat Joe Biden in the election weren’t a matter of a few statements in one very much not “perfect” phone call. As the investigators showed during his impeachment trial, Trump’s attempts to wring arms in Ukraine extended back over months, and included false stories funneled through Rudy Giuliani that were handily published by The New York Times. The threat posed by this attempt is currently being vividly illustrated just north of Bakhmut.
When it comes to the second impeachment, the evidence for that impeachment is still visible in damage to the building where Congress sits. It’s also still very much on the minds of Americans. As Kerry Eleveld wrote today, Americans remain intensely aware of the damage done to the nation through the Jan. 6 insurrection as well as Trump’s involvement. That connection was not only confirmed in the impeachment investigation, but underlined by the findings of the Jan. 6 select committee. The voting that took place in November can be seen as a verdict on how America feels about the former seditionist-in-chief.
… the Jan. 6 panel's ingenuity in making Trump central to the story and indicting him in the court of public opinion was the key to making his endorsees utterly toxic on the campaign trail.
Neither of Trump’s impeachments was over a trivial matter. They were historic abuses of power that went well beyond the crimes of any recent leader, including Richard Nixon. Neither of those impeachments were partisan, except in the sense that the modern Republican Party would not indict Trump for anything, no matter how terrible.
What did the holder of the limp gavel think about Trump’s actions following Jan. 6? As Rebekah Sager reported in April, McCarthy was a bit less willing to give Trump a pass at the time. In fact, McCarthy and other Republican leaders believed that “Trump was directly responsible for the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol” and reportedly told other Republicans in Congress that they would ask Trump to resign. But that was, of course, before McCarthy touched base with his funders, checked in with the most radical faction of his party, or surrendered the House to people who think he’s a dunce.
Now the only real question is … can they? Can House Republicans actually hand Trump a clean record?
Not in any practical sense, of course. What Trump did, the impeachments that it generated, and the way that Mitch McConnell used his control of the Senate to protect Trump from conviction are already a part of the public record. Donald Trump was impeached in the House, twice, and nothing is going to change that.
That doesn’t mean that Republicans can’t still show their infinite loyalty to Trump and once again shove America’s collective nose into the idea that justice has any meaning for those at the top of the pyramid. It just means it would be worse than pointless.
There is no mechanism in the Constitution that allows an impeachment to be expunged. Yes, say Republicans, but there’s also nothing in the Constitution that says an impeachment can’t be expunged. So there.
This is true, precisely because the authors of the document likely recognized the boneheaded uselessness of any such expungement. Any impeachment is, by necessity, an expression of the will of the sitting House of Representatives in the current Congress. A new Congress can certainly issue a statement disagreeing with the opinion of a past House, but that new statement in no way invalidates the opinion of the House that issued the impeachment in the first place.
They cannot make it as if this never happened. It happened. It will literally be in the history books … assuming those books are edited by Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott.
The fact that Republicans are even talking about this makes it likely that they’re going to try it. In fact, Republicans put even more pointless bills before the House twice already that would have expunged both impeachments, even though they knew those bills would go nowhere. Because this isn’t about justice. It’s about show.
Letting the Republicans once again show that protecting Donald Trump’s ego is their highest priority? Sure. Let them.