(This June 23 story has been corrected to change Turley’s affiliation to George Washington University from Georgetown University in paragraph 5)
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two of Donald Trump’s staunchest allies in the U.S. Congress have introduced legislation aimed at expunging the former president’s two impeachments, a legislative maneuver without precedent in U.S. history.
Representative Elise Stefanik, the No. 4 House of Representatives Republican, and hardline Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced a pair of resolutions that if enacted would aim to change the record “as if such articles had never been passed.” Republicans control the House 222-212.
Trump, who is running for reelection in 2024, was twice impeached by the then-Democratic-controlled House, in December 2019 over Ukraine and again in January 2021 for his actions ahead of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.
Both times he was acquitted by Senate Republicans. Trump was just the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House and is the only one in U.S. history to have been impeached twice. The effort to expunge his impeachment is without historical precedent.
George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, whose expert advice Republicans sometimes seek, noted that the U.S. Constitution contains no provision for expunging impeachments.
“It is not like a constitutional DUI. Once you are impeached, you are impeached,” Turley said in an email.
Turley said expungement could still be historically significant by declaring the earlier impeachments in error. “However, that is the view of a different Congress at a different time,” he said.
Greene’s two-page resolution would expunge the 2019 impeachment, saying he was “wrongfully accused of misconduct.” Stefanik’s six-page measure would overturn his 2021 impeachment on grounds that his opponents failed to prove that he committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Democrats called the move questionable, saying it demonstrated Republican fealty to the former president.
“The legality of doing it is highly questionable. That won’t stop the Republicans from doing it, and it’s just further placating Donald Trump,” said Representative Dan Goldman, who was lead Democratic counsel in the 2019 impeachment.
But Greene insisted the move was necessary, calling Trump’s impeachments “a witch hunt,” one of the former president’s favorite terms for the various legal probes he faces.
He is the first sitting or former U.S. president to face criminal charges, with prosecutors in New York charging him over hush money payments to a porn star and a federal special prosecutor charging him with unlawfully keeping national security documents after leaving office.
Greene has separately introduced articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden, two members of his Cabinet, FBI Director Christopher Wray and a U.S. attorney prosecuting participants in the assault on the U.S. Capitol.
On Wednesday, House Republicans censured Democratic Representative Adam Schiff over his leading role in the 2019 Trump impeachment.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, told reporters that overturning the 2019 impeachment had merit, alleging that Schiff had lied about Trump’s wrongdoing.
Democrats reject Republican allegations against Schiff, saying he was instead targeted for partisan retribution.
The legislation followed an effort by hardline Republican Representative Lauren Boebert to force an impeachment vote against Biden on Wednesday, a move that her own party sidelined by sending the resolution to two congressional committees.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis)