House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told a reporter this week that he is open to the idea of "expunging" former President Donald Trump's second impeachment from the record.
The former president was issued this sanction by a bipartisan vote of the House in the days immediately after the January 6 attack, on the charge of inciting an insurrection — and only narrowly escaped conviction in the Senate as several Republicans there joined with Democrats in support of removal and disqualification.
"I would understand why members would want to bring that forward," said McCarthy, adding that the House would "look at" this idea. This comes as the Speaker, who was narrowly elected after a week of obstruction by hardliners, has triggered tension among his colleagues over a potential backroom deal he might have made to get far-right lawmakers opposed to him to stand down.
The reaction from Capitol Hill lawmakers to McCarthy's remarks was muted on both sides, but some legal experts on Twitter were quick to shoot down the idea.
"It is outrageous that Speaker McCarthy would consider expunging Donald Trump's impeachments," said Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). "Trump incited a violent insurrection and tried to overturn an election he lost. Congress should have barred him from office. But the Trump wing is now ascendant."
Georgia State law professor Anthony Kreis agreed, saying, "Not sure that's how it works" — there is no precedent for an impeachment being expunged, although in 1837 the Senate did expunge a censure against President Andrew Jackson over his plan to remove funds from the Bank of the United States.
Pundits and reporters were also skeptical of the idea.
"More evidence that whole elite GOP donor/strategist 'it’s time to move past Trump' consensus after 2022 hasn’t reached the House GOP," wrote Ron Brownstein, editor for The Atlantic.
Others took a more mocking tone. The Week and Kansas City Star columnist Joel Mathis wrote, "The insurrection? Never happened. You’ll be astonished how much it never happened." And former Associated Press and St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Amanda St. Amand tweeted, "Someone needs to tell Kevvy some bells cannot be unrung #Dipstick."