Could Republicans Expunge Trump’s Impeachment?

Legal experts doubt it.

By Rachel Alexander Published on February 11, 2020

“They should, because it was a hoax,” the president responded to a journalist’s question about undoing his impeachment. “It was a total political hoax.” 

Some Republicans want to reverse President Trump’s impeachment. The Senate acquitted him, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’d been charged with two “high crimes and misdemeanors.” If the GOP takes back the House, congressmen could introduce a resolution to expunge the impeachment. Not surprisingly, Trump would like them to do this.

Also not surprisingly, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t. She declared, “Whatever happens, he has been impeached forever.”

Things Have Changed

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) says that things have changed since the impeachment proceedings. The country has found out about Rep. Adam Schiff’s improper contact with the so-called whistleblower and the effects it had on the Inspector General’s report. He also points out the illegal surveillance of the Trump campaign during the Obama administration. Those throw the legal basis of the impeachment charges into serious doubt, he says.

The GOP needs to flip 18 seats to take back the House.

GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy points out how partisan it was. “This is the fastest, weakest, most political impeachment in history,” he told The New York Post. “I don’t think it should stay on the books.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) believes the “irony” of the impeachment proceedings is American voters are going to turn the House back to the Republicans. The GOP needs to flip 18 seats to take it back. 

And GOP congressman Lee Zeldin, wants “this sham impeachment” removed. What the House Democrats did was “absolutely disgusting,” he said in a tweet. He wants them gone.

Precedent?

A few of the president’s supporters are pretty adamant about how they see it. Alan Dershowitz, a member of Trump’s legal team, suggested before the trial, “If he wins this, I think nobody should regard him as having been impeached.” Of course, the Senate acquitted President Clinton after he was impeached, and no one in America denies he’d been impeached.

The closest thing to a precedent is the experience of President Andrew Johnson. The House impeached him, as it did Trump. The Senate didn’t vote to acquit him, however. It didn’t vote to convict him either. It voted to censure him. A few years later, the Senate voted to remove the censure from the record. But that probably doesn’t provide any precedent for expunging Trump’s impeachment. 

And most legal scholars and even some of the president’s supporters don’t believe Trump can be un-impeached. Jonathan Turley, the left-leaning legal scholar who Republicans called during the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, said expunging the impeachment would be practically meaningless.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared, “Whatever happens, he has been impeached forever.”

Josh Blackman at the South Texas College of Law Houston said, “I don’t think that actually will have any legal effect. It’s not like Trump would be unimpeached.”

James Gardner, a law professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, observed, “There’s nothing in the Constitution that provides for a procedure of expungement.” It would merely be politically significant. Even Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) admitted, “I don’t know if there is a real vehicle constitutionally to get that done.” 

It’s a nice thought. It would make the president happy. If the GOP wins the House and pulls it off, the gesture won’t mean anything. Just like the impeachment itself.

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC. Follow The Stream at streamdotorg. Send tips to rachel.alexander@stream.org.

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