June 26, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
GOP wants to paint Trump’s impeachments as meaningless even as they try to ‘eradicate both votes from history’
Just one problem.
It bears repeating that there are enough Americans in this country who are smart and informed enough to recognize the difference between meaningful attempts to hold elected officials accountable and meaningless attempts.
When the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton in 1998, it was widely seen as trivial, irrational and unnecessary. In 2019 and 2021, when the Democrats impeached Donald Trump, it was widely seen as serious, just and necessary. The outcomes were in keeping with their spirits.
There are enough Americans in this country who are smart and informed enough to recognize the difference.
For the Republicans, a meaningless impeachment yielded poor results. In the 1998 midterms, they failed to win as many House seats as they expected. For the Democrats, meaningful impeachments yielded good results. Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in 2020. In the 2022 midterms, the Republicans once again failed to win as many House seats as they expected. (The Senate did not change parties in 1998, but in 2022, the Democrats held their majority and gained one seat.)
This is important to point out.
Trump’s campaign for president has become a vengeance movement. It aims to win back power to pay back everyone who’s wronged him. And it has two distinct fronts: the campaign trail and the US House of Representatives. Republicans there have been working hard to make meaningful attempts to hold Trump accountable seem meaningless.
There are, however, enough Americans in this country who are smart and informed enough to recognize the difference between meaningful attempts to hold elected officials accountable and meaningless attempts. They know the difference, but more important than that is that Donald Trump and the House Republicans know that they know.
Yet can’t stop.
We saw steps last week in this process of making accountability seem meaningless. The House voted, along party lines, to censure California Congressman Adam Schiff for leading the first impeachment trial.
In short order, we saw inklings of future steps.
Roll Call reported Thursday that Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert succeeded in forcing a vote to send articles of impeachment of Joe Biden to the House Homeland Security and Judiciary committees.
The Hill reported Friday that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy supported a push to “expunge” Trump’s impeachments. The newspaper reported that he said “Trump’s behavior didn’t rise to a level that merited either punishment, and he would like to eradicate both votes from history.”
Punchbowl News reported today that McCarthy “plans to open an impeachment inquiry into Attorney General Merrick Garland.” The effort, we’re told, depends on “answers from the Justice Department on the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden,” the president’s son.
None of these has amounted to anything and may never amount to anything. If they do, they will be widely seen as trivial, irrational and unnecessary – as meaningless as the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Biden has done nothing impeachable. “Expungement” is a fantasy. The GOP is transparent in trying to punish Garland for Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump for mishandling government secrets.
None of these meets the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors, as the impeachment trials of Donald Trump did. He extorted a foreign ally with the intent of defrauding the American people. Then he led an attempted paramilitary takeover of the United States government.
It was meaningless to punish Clinton for lying.
It was meaningful to punish Trump for treason.
Again, it bears repeating that there are enough people who are smart and informed enough to recognize the difference between meaningful attempts to hold elected officials accountable and meaningless attempts. It bears repeating that the Republicans know that they know.
Yet can’t stop.
They can’t stop because the widespread view that the impeachments of Trump were serious, just and necessary stands in his way. They must make accountability seem trivial, irrational and unnecessary.
Just one problem.
If the impeachments were as trivial, irrational and unnecessary as the GOP says they are, why are they trying to make them seem meaningless? Why are they trying to “eradicate” both from history?
They weren’t meaningless.
And they can’t be eradicated.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.