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News / Politics

McCarthy aims to ‘expunge’ Trump impeachments

Unprecedented move politically fraught for speaker

By Dave Goldiner, New York Daily News
Published: July 20, 2023, 5:52pm

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is planning to push to “expunge” former President Donald Trump’s two impeachments even though such a move would have no practical effect and it’s not clear he has the votes to pass it.

McCarthy reportedly promised Trump he will force votes on the measure before Congress breaks for its August recess next week as a way of giving a political boost to the ex-president as he braces for a second federal indictment in the Jan. 6 probe.

Trump, who is running for a second term in the White House, is leaning hard on McCarthy to take action quickly. But McCarthy is trying to wriggle off the hook out of fear the move will flop, causing a major political embarrassment for him, Politico reported Thursday.

“If (expungement) goes to the floor and fails — which it probably will … it will show disunity among Republican ranks,” a senior GOP lawmaker told the site. “It’s a huge strategic risk.”

The math certainly looks tricky for expungement in the House, where Republicans hold a slim 10-vote majority. That means McCarthy can only lose four GOP votes if all Democrats vote no.

Two sitting Republicans, Rep. David Valadao of California and Rep. Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside, voted to impeach Trump for his incitement of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, so they would be unlikely to vote to expunge.

Several other moderate Republicans who were elected in the midterms have been critical of Trump’s behavior and would appear to be unlikely to support such a measure.

The expungement vote would be particularly difficult for newly elected GOP lawmakers from swing districts, like the six Republicans who flipped Democratic seats in New York along with Rep. Tom Kean Jr. from suburban New Jersey.

Like many Republicans, McCarthy criticized Trump in the days immediately following the violent attack on the Capitol as Congress convened to certify Biden’s win.

McCarthy said Trump bore responsibility for egging on a huge crowd of his supporters to “fight like hell” to keep him in power despite losing the election.

But he quickly backtracked and made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump’s ring and vow his support.

Any expungement vote would come as special counsel Jack Smith is poised to charge Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack and his broader plot to overturn the election.

Although expungement would amount to a powerful vote of GOP confidence in Trump, the unprecedented move wouldn’t have any practical effect since there is no constitutional provision for reversing a duly held impeachment vote in the House.