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Why the push to ‘expunge’ Trump’s second impeachment is so odd

A group of House Republicans first launched an effort to "expunge" Donald Trump's first impeachment. Now they're taking aim at his second.


No one was surprised in early 2020 when Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial wrapped up in his favor. It would’ve taken a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict the then-president, and the Republican simply had too many partisan loyalists in the chamber to reach such a threshold.

What was surprising, however, was something he said two days after the Senate trial ended. “Should they expunge the impeachment in the House?” Trump asked rhetorically, suggesting that was precisely what he wanted to see.

As we’ve discussed, it was striking to see the Republican, just 48 hours after his trial was finished, despite several Republican senators conceding that Trump’s illegal extortion scheme toward Ukraine was indefensible, already talking about ways to invalidate his impeachment after the fact.

The appeal did not go unnoticed among some of his allies. In fact, a couple of months ago, Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin — who also happens to be a U.S. Senate candidate in Oklahoma — introduced a resolution that would declare Trump’s first impeachment “expunged.”

For the most part, even GOP lawmakers shrugged with indifference. As of this morning, the measure has picked up an underwhelming eight cosponsors, and even many of the former president’s highest profile allies didn’t bother to add their names to the effort.

This week, however, Mullin decided to go a step further, taking aim at Trump’s second impeachment, and this time, the Oklahoman has picked up quite a bit of additional support. Fox News reported:

House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and more than two dozen of her colleagues are supporting a resolution to “expunge” former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment — as pro-Trump Republicans push to rally voters ahead of the midterms. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., is leading the resolution, which would apply to Trump’s 2021 impeachment in the wake of the attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

Mullin’s resolution to undo Trump’s first impeachment received effectively no support from members of the House GOP leadership. This week, however, Stefanik extended her enthusiastic backing to the measure, as did House GOP Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson.

The number of cosponsors for “expunging” Trump’s second impeachment is triple the number for undoing his first impeachment.

Stefanik, who used to be a relative moderate who was reluctant to say Trump’s name out loud in her district, argued yesterday, “The American people know Democrats weaponized the power of impeachment against President Donald Trump to advance their own extreme political agenda.... [I]t is past time to expunge Democrats’ sham smear against not only President Trump’s name, but against millions of patriots across the country.”

Circling back to our earlier coverage, history buffs might recall that a related effort happened nearly two centuries ago. Lawmakers censured then-President Andrew Jackson in 1834, only to have his allies “expunge“ the censure from the record in 1837 after control of the Senate switched party hands.

The point at the time was for partisans to say that the congressional action happened, but for the sake of the historical record, it didn’t really count. Trump’s acolytes appear to have similar intentions now.

That’s not encouraging.

That said, there are a couple of angles to keep in mind. The first is that the GOP effort to rewrite history is ridiculous. Stefanik’s justification is itself bizarre: Democrats held Trump accountable to advance their political agenda? The second impeachment was on Jan. 13, 2021 — a week before Democrats took control of both the White House and both chambers of Congress. Whether the then-president was impeached or not had literally no bearing on Democratic governing.

What’s more, note that the House Republican Conference chair characterized Trump’s second impeachment as a purely partisan exercise, which is also wrong: 10 House Republicans — including Stefanik’s predecessor in the GOP leadership — voted for the resolution, and seven Senate Republicans voted to convict. It was easily the most bipartisan impeachment effort in American history.

All of which leads to the second point: Instead of accepting and dealing with their leader’s wrongdoing, too many Republicans, who tolerated his dangerous misconduct, now want to pretend that Trump’s misdeeds didn’t happen — or in the case of the “expunging” resolution, that his offenses shouldn’t count.

In a Democratic-led House, such a measure stands no chance of success. In a Republican-led House, it’s easy to imagine this becoming an actual GOP priority.