An ongoing quarrel between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and former President Donald Trump is proving to be one of the most divisive dynamics within the Republican Party.
McCarthy is walking the thin line between endorsing Trump for his 2024 presidential bid and getting on the former president’s wrong side. The House Republican leader has not yet expressed his official support for Trump’s bid.
According to a new report, McCarthy has promised Trump to hold a House vote that could expunge his two impeachments from 2019 and 2021 as a way to compensate for his lack of support for Trump’s presidential bid.
Trump and McCarthy’s relationship has been on a slippery trajectory in recent weeks after the House speaker said on live television that he was unsure whether Trump would be the “strongest” candidate to win the election.
McCarthy apologized to Trump following his late June comments and on Wednesday defended the former president in the context of an ongoing probe into Trump’s actions around the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“I don’t see how he could be found criminally responsible,” McCarthy said to journalists.
According to a source close to Trump quoted by Politico, McCarthy answered to pressure coming from Trump by promising the House would hold a vote to expunge Trump’s impeachments before the August recess.
Yet according to the most recent account, McCarthy has pushed back the vote until the end of September.
Only two other presidents have been impeached in U.S. history: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton was impeached by the House on two articles including lying under oath and obstruction of justice, in relation to the Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sex scandal of 1998.
Clinton was acquitted, meaning the prosecution failed to prove he was guilty beyond any reasonable doubt after a Senate vote didn’t reach the two-thirds supermajority necessary for his conviction and removal from office.
Trump’s two impeachments were also acquitted, as the Senate didn’t reach a supermajority in both cases, meaning that Trump is not formally banned from running for office again. Still, House Republicans are pushing to expunge the impeachments in an effort to clear Trump’s name ahead of the upcoming election.
In late June, GOP Reps. Elise Stefanik and Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced a resolution to formally expunge Trump, calling the impeachments “unconstitutional” and “politically motivated.”
“It’s clear that President Trump’s impeachment was nothing more than a witch hunt that needs to be expunged from our history,” said Greene in a statement.
According to Politico, moderate House Republicans pushed back on the resolution, in fear that any expungement efforts would hurt Trump’s possible election outcomes in districts that lean toward supporting Biden.
An expungement vote could prove to be an unnecessary risk and a strategic mistake on the Republican side. If such a vote were to be rejected by the floor, it could further expose the GOP’s internal divisions and hurt Trump’s public reputation on the matter.
Trump and his team reportedly continue to pressure McCarthy to stay true to his promise.
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