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Republicans aim to expunge Trump impeachment if they retake the House

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 2/5/2020 Anthony Leonardi
Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise are posing for a picture © Provided by MediaDC: Washington Newspaper Publishing Company, Inc.

Republicans hope to expunge the House's impeachment of President Trump if they retake the House in 2020.

As the Senate impeachment trial of Trump reaches its end on Wednesday with a likely acquittal, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the GOP lawmakers in the lower chamber will try to wipe Trump's record clean.

“This is the fastest, weakest, most political impeachment in history. I don’t think it should stay on the books," McCarthy told the New York Post on Wednesday. If Republicans retake the House, McCarthy said investigating the Democrats' handling of impeachment would be among their top priorities in the next session on Congress.

“We have to get to the bottom of it,” the California Republican said, adding that he wants to explore lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff's potential ties to the whistleblower, whose complaint prompted the House's impeachment investigation.

The House voted in favor of two articles impeachment against Trump late last year, with no Republicans voting in support of the charges of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

Alan Dershowitz, a member of the president's legal defense team, argued during the Senate trial that the articles of impeachment do not fall under the Constitution's criteria of high crimes and misdemeanors. The Harvard Law School professor emeritus claimed the House's abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles are so broad that they would have led to the impeachment of many presidents, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Sarah Binder, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and professor of political science at George Washington University, agrees such a motion would simply be "cosmetic."

"If a future Republican House were to vote to expunge the House-passed impeachment resolution, it would be a purely symbolic, even cosmetic move," Binder told the Washington Examiner. "This current House agreed to H.Res. 755. And while a future House could adopt a resolution that says it is striking the adoption from the Record, that doesn't undo the fact that the current House agreed to those two articles of impeachment."

However, there is what Binder refers to as "rough precedent," going all the way back to a motion to censure President Andrew Jackson in 1834. After Democrats gained control of the Senate in 1837, they directed the secretary of Senate to expunge a censure put on Jackson in 1834.

"We still count Andrew Jackson as the only censured president," Binder said.

This outlook echoes what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during an interview with HBO host Bill Maher in January. "And you're impeached forever! No matter what the Senate does, it can never be erased," the California Democrat then told Maher.

On Dec. 18, 2019, the House made Trump the third president to have been impeached, along with Presidents Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868. The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to acquit the president of all charges on Wednesday.

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