Donald Trump has the distinction of being the only president to be twice impeached, yet some of his most loyal followers have sought to take the unprecedented step to expunge the record – essentially un-impeaching him. It was in June that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) first expressed support for what would be a largely symbolic resolution that would remove the former president’s two impeachments from the House record.
The house speaker told reporters he would back House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in their effort to expunge both impeachments.
However, McCarthy added that those resolutions would still need to go through the committee process first before getting a vote on the floor.
The House, then controlled by Democrats, first voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in 2019 after encouraging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to dig up political dirt on then-White House rival Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign — while Trump was withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine as it faced Russia. Trump faced a second impeachment in 2021 for inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol Building.
He was cleared in both Senate trials.
Rewriting History on Donald Trump
Even if this were to move forward, it is unclear exactly what it would accomplish – as it is still questionable whether the House could actually erase the Senate trial from Trump’s record, while it puts into question what impact (if any) it would have on the historical record.
Salon.com cited how in the 1830s after one Senate majority censured President Andrew Jackson for undermining the Second Bank of the United States, a successor majority later “uncensured” him. Yet, as historian Joshua Zeitz explains, history still remembers “Jackson’s role in usurping congressional authority to kill the bank, and they remember Jackson as the first president to face congressional rebuke for his conduct.”
This isn’t George Orwell’s “1984” where a Ministry of Truth can try to rewrite history to make the past go away. In Soviet Russia under Joseph Stalin, it was common for those who fell out of political favor to be removed from photos and for their contributions to be erased from the official record.
Perhaps that is what Greene and Stefanik would like to see happen with Trump’s impeachment, but it happened. It simply can’t “unhappen” even by the power of Congress. In a state where the media was tightly controlled, the past was not rewritten – and it would be less so today, where everything lives forever online.
It would just be political theater, yet be entirely meaningless in the historical record.
Risky Move for the GOP
Moreover, the bigger question to ask is whether McCarthy would even have the votes to see this through. The GOP has just a five-seat majority. As Politico.com reported, several moderate House Republicans “are loath to revisit Trump’s impeachments” — most notably the charges stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. In fact, it could also become a political hot potato that some in swing districts might seek to avoid.
Voting against it could be as damaging as voting for it, and many moderate Republicans are pushing back against the calls – pointing to the polls that suggest most Americans disapprove of Trump’s actions on January 6. Reps. David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) had voted to impeach Trump, and thus are unlikely to support expungement.
That leaves a razor-thin majority for McCarthy.
Not being able to win the votes could look especially bad for Trump. That is why even those who still support the former president have expressed concern that an expungement vote would not only serve to expose divisions in their ranks, but it would serve to embarrass Trump if the efforts come up for a vote yet fails to pass.
“I’m for Trump,” one senior GOP member told Politico’s Playbook. “The problem is: If you have an expungement, and it goes to the floor and fails — which it probably will — then the media will treat it like it’s a third impeachment, and it will show disunity among Republican ranks. It’s a huge strategic risk.”
Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was quite vocal as well about any attempts to ‘un-impeach’ Trump.
“Kevin (McCarthy) is, you know, playing politics,” Pelosi said in an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union last week. “It’s not even clear if he constitutionally can expunge those things. If he wants to put his members on the spot, his members in difficult races on the spot, that’s a decision he has to make. But this is not responsible.”
Of course, this is not simply about clearing Trump.
Many of the same Republicans who now seek to have Trump un-impeached have also suggested that President Joe Biden should be impeached.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.