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Trump impeachment: Republicans say they want to expunge record if they retake the House

Senate has voted to acquit Trump, but legal experts say expungement would likely mean little

Clark Mindock
New York
Wednesday 05 February 2020 22:33 GMT
Senate acquits Donald Trump of obstruction of Congress 53 to 47

Republicans are reportedly plotting a way to expunge Donald Trump’s impeachment should they regain control of the House of Representatives in 2020.

The idea comes on the heels of a months long process that Democrats began last year in the House, and has now led to the acquittal of Mr Trump after he became the third president to be impeached in US history.

Now, though, after being taunted by House speaker Nancy Pelosi that “impeachment lasts forever”, it appears that minority leader Kevin McCarthy wants to rewrite history should he take the gavel from the Democratic leader.

“This is the fastest, weakest, most political impeachment in history,” he told the New York Post, echoing a talking point he and other Republicans have used previously nearly word-for-word.

He continued: “I don’t think it should stay on the books.”

The comments came just before the Senate voted to acquit Mr Trump on both articles of impeachment he faced, with just one senator breaking ranks during the vote, Mitt Romney.

It is not clear that expunging Mr Trump’s impeachment will have much impact, according to constitutional law experts. While there may be some precedent — Republicans have noted that the House voted to expunge the censure of Andrew Jackson in 1837 — experts say any effort on that front would be largely symbolic.

“There’s nothing in the Constitution that provides for a procedure of expungement,” James Gardner, a law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, told The Independent.

“It would be of no significance. Certainly of no legal significance,” Mr Gardner said. “It might be of political significance.”

In an email, lawyer Jonathan Turley — the lone impeachment witness called by Republicans during the House trial last year — said a future expungement can only go so far.

"Expungement is more cathartic than constitutional. The President was impeached the minute a majority voted on Article I," he said. "Resurrection is a biblical not a constitutional concept. The House can express the view of that House as to the basis for impeachment, nothing more. It will create a record of its own but not alter the record of the prior Congress. "

Should the president’s record be expunged during the next Congress, it would likely mean that he also won re-election in the coming November elections.

Republicans have also promised to immediately begin impeachment proceedings against Joe Biden should be elected president.

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