House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, tried to insist that a standard to impeach the president existed that limited when Congress could take such action.
Speaking on Fox News about the matter of President Donald Trump’s impending impeachment, McCarthy stated that it was improper for Congress to impeach any president until they had a second term in office.
“In modern history, we’ve never gone after impeaching a president in the first term,” McCarthy said, according to a report from The Week.
McCarthy then misquoted a line from a Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Al Green, claiming that impeachment was a mechanism to go after the president in order to ensure he wouldn’t be re-elected.
“Remember what Al Green said. He said ‘we have to impeach him because we cannot beat him,'” McCarthy claimed.
"In modern history, we've never gone after impeaching a president in the first term" — Kevin McCarthy argues that there's a precedent against impeaching presidents before their second term 😂 pic.twitter.com/lPJMJGlIQy
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 9, 2019
In fact, Green didn’t say those words. His actual statement, which has been misquoted several times by Republicans in Congress and by Trump himself, discussed what the president might say if he wins re-election:
“I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected,” Green said. “If we don’t impeach him, he will say he has been vindicated. He will say the Democrats had an overwhelming majority in the House and they didn’t take up impeachment. He will say that we have a constitutional duty to do it if it was there and we didn’t. He will say that he has been vindicated.”
As far as McCarthy’s insinuations that the president shouldn’t be impeached in his first term, that standard doesn’t exist in any federal statute or within the Constitution itself. Only two presidents have been impeached or threatened with articles of impeachment in the past 50 years — President Richard Nixon, who resigned before impeachment could be voted on, and President Bill Clinton — both which happened in their second terms.
Another president, Andrew Johnson, was impeached in the 1860s during his first term — providing context to McCarthy’s qualifier of the “modern history” of impeachment.