McCarthy denies he promised Trump vote on expunging impeachments

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday denied making a promise to former President Trump that the House would vote to expunge his impeachments, shooting down a report that said the GOP leader pledged the vote as a way to temper tensions with the former president.

“There’s no deal,” McCarthy told reporters Thursday, “but I’ve been very clear from long before when I voted against impeachments, that they did it for purely political purposes.”

“I support expungement, but there’s no deal out there,” he added.

His comments contradict a Thursday morning report from Politico Playbook that McCarthy assured Trump that the House would vote to erase his impeachments, citing a source close to Trump and familiar with the conversation.

In the report, the vow was characterized as part of the Speaker's effort to reconcile with Trump in the wake of an interview late last month that landed him in hot water with the former president; McCarthy had said he was unsure if Trump was the “strongest” person to beat President Biden in 2024.

McCarthy launched a cleanup effort within the same day as the initial comment, telling the conservative Breitbart News in a subsequent interview that Trump is “Biden’s strongest political opponent,” sending out a fundraising blast with the same message and, according to The New York Times, calling the former president for a conversation that two sources characterized as an apology.

According to Politico, though, Trump wanted an endorsement from McCarthy following the squabble, which the Speaker was not willing to offer, as he seeks to stay neutral in the primary. Instead, a source told the outlet, McCarthy promised that the House would vote to expunge his impeachments.

McCarthy later communicated, through aides, that he would hold the vote before August recess — which is set to begin next Friday — according to Politico, but he recently told the former president's team that the vote will happen by the end of September, the outlet noted.

Either of those deadlines, however, would be difficult for McCarthy to meet. The House from now through September is working on spending bills for the annual appropriations process, with a Sept. 30 deadline looming. The process is already the source of disagreements within the GOP conference.

Even if McCarthy were to bring the expungement resolutions to the floor for a vote, it is unlikely that they would garner enough support to pass. The vote would push purple-district Republicans into a tough spot politically, and likely turn off others who are unsure if expungement is constitutionally possible.

A number of GOP lawmakers Thursday signaled hesitance to expunge the impeachments, with one House Republican — who said their views “represent a fair number of principled conservatives” — saying they would likely oppose any effort to erase the punishments.

“I have every expectation I’ll vote against expungement, and I have every expectation that I will work to bring others with me,” the lawmaker said, noting that they communicated that position with leadership.

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McCarthy voiced support for expunging both of Trump’s impeachments last month, telling reporters that one of the rebukes “was not based on true facts” and the other was “on the basis of no due process.” He said it was “appropriate” to expunge them “because it never should have gone through.”

The House — led by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in late 2019, in response to his threat to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless leaders in Kyiv launched an investigation into Joe Biden, his political opponent. No Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the punishment.

Then, in early 2021, the House impeached Trump for a second time following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, penalizing him for “incitement of insurrection.” That time around, 10 Republicans voted to impeach. Just two — Reps. Dan Newhouse (Wash.) and David Valadao (Calif.) — are still in Congress.

In both cases, Republicans in the Senate acquitted Trump.

Immediately after the Capitol riot, McCarthy took to the House floor and declared that Trump bore “responsibility” for the violence.

But when it became apparent that the Republican Party was remaining loyal to Trump, he reversed his stance, meeting with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida a few weeks later. He later claimed that Trump did not “provoke” the attack.

The renewed discourse over the expulsion resolutions came the same week that Trump disclosed that he was informed that he is a target in the Justice Department’s investigation into his efforts to stay in power after the 2020 election, including the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He said he received a “target letter” Sunday night, which is often a sign that someone could soon be charged.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) are leading the effort to expunge Trump’s impeachments; Greene sponsored the resolution relating to the first impeachment, relating to Ukraine, and Stefanik is taking the lead on the second, pertaining to Jan. 6.

This story was updated at 6:18 p.m.