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After nearly 14 hours of debate, the House of Representatives approves two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton, the second president in American history to be impeached, vowed to finish his term.
In November 1995, Clinton began an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old unpaid intern. Over the course of a year and a half, the president and Lewinsky had nearly a dozen sexual encounters in the White House. In April 1996, Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon. That summer, she first confided in Pentagon co-worker Linda Tripp about her sexual relationship with the president. In 1997, with the relationship over, Tripp began secretly to record conversations with Lewinsky, in which Lewinsky gave Tripp details about the affair.
READ MORE: How Many US Presidents Have Faced Impeachment?
In December, lawyers for Paula Jones, who was suing the president on sexual harassment charges, subpoenaed Lewinsky. In January 1998, allegedly under the recommendation of the president, Lewinsky filed an affidavit in which she denied ever having had a sexual relationship with him. Five days later, Tripp contacted the office of Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel, to talk about Lewinsky and the tapes she made of their conversations. Tripp, wired by FBI agents working with Starr, met with Lewinsky again, and on January 16, Lewinsky was taken by FBI agents and U.S. attorneys to a hotel room where she was questioned and offered immunity if she cooperated with the prosecution. A few days later, the story broke, and Clinton publicly denied the allegations, saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”
In late July, lawyers for Lewinsky and Starr worked out a full-immunity agreement covering both Lewinsky and her parents, all of whom Starr had threatened with prosecution. On August 6, Lewinsky appeared before the grand jury to begin her testimony, and on August 17 President Clinton testified. Contrary to his testimony in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment case, President Clinton acknowledged to prosecutors from the office of the independent counsel that he had had an extramarital affair with Ms. Lewinsky.
READ MORE: Why Clinton Survived Impeachment While Nixon Resigned After Watergate
In four hours of closed-door testimony, conducted in the Map Room of the White House, Clinton spoke live via closed-circuit television to a grand jury in a nearby federal courthouse. He was the first sitting president ever to testify before a grand jury investigating his conduct. That evening, President Clinton also gave a four-minute televised address to the nation in which he admitted he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. In the brief speech, which was wrought with legalisms, the word “sex” was never spoken, and the word “regret” was used only in reference to his admission that he misled the public and his family.
Less than a month later, on September 9, Kenneth Starr submitted his report and 18 boxes of supporting documents to the House of Representatives. Released to the public two days later, the Starr Report outlined a case for impeaching Clinton on 11 grounds, including perjury, obstruction of justice, witness-tampering, and abuse of power, and also provided explicit details of the sexual relationship between the president and Ms. Lewinsky. On October 8, the House authorized a wide-ranging impeachment inquiry, and on December 11, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment. On December 19, the House impeached Clinton.
READ MORE: Impeachment: Presidents, Process & History
On January 7, 1999, in a congressional procedure not seen since the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, the trial of President Clinton got underway in the Senate. As instructed in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (William Rehnquist at this time) was sworn in to preside, and the senators were sworn in as jurors.
Five weeks later, on February 12, the Senate voted on whether to remove Clinton from office. The president was acquitted on both articles of impeachment. The prosecution needed a two-thirds majority to convict but failed to achieve even a bare majority. Rejecting the first charge of perjury, 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted “not guilty,” and on the charge of obstruction of justice the Senate was split 50-50. After the trial concluded, President Clinton said he was “profoundly sorry” for the burden his behavior imposed on Congress and the American people.
What to Know About the U.S. Presidents Who’ve Been Impeached
Impeachment is very rare in the U.S.&rsquos nearly 250 years of history, and none of the three men to have faced it &mdash Presidents Bill Clinton, Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump &mdash have been removed from office. (However, after Clinton and Johnson were impeached, both of their parties lost the next Presidential election.)
To be impeached, a President or other federal official must have committed one of the violations described by the Constitution as &ldquotreason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” But history shows that if a President is to be impeached, the biggest factor may be political will &mdash whether members of a President’s own party are willing to turn against him, and whether enough members of Congress believe that trying to remove the President is worth the risk of losing popular support.
Impeachment alone isn’t the only step to take a President out of office, but is actually the first part of a two-pronged process. To impeach an official, the House of Representatives must pass articles of impeachment, which formally accuse the President of misbehavior. Once the House votes to impeach, the Senate must hold a trial to decide if the President should be removed from office.
Here’s what you need to know about the Presidents who have been impeached &mdash and why they stayed in office.
President Clinton Impeached - HISTORY
With Articles 1 and 3, pertaining to perjury and obstruction of justice, having been approved by the House of Representatives, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott announced that President Clinton's impeachment trial would begin in the Senate on Thursday, January 7, 1999.
The televised proceedings in the Senate chamber began with formalities required by the Constitution including a formal reading of the charges and the swearing-in of all 100 senators by William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who would preside. Senators then proceeded one by one to the front of the chamber to sign an oath book pledging to do "impartial justice."
Remarkably, the partisan rancor, which had been so evident during the House proceedings, appeared at first to be somewhat diminished in the Senate as the 55 Republican and 45 Democratic senators began their solemn duties, sitting in silent judgment of Clinton with the potential outcome being the first-ever removal of an elected President.
Although this was the second impeachment trial in U.S. history, it marked the first time an elected President was faced with possible removal from office. Andrew Johnson had ascended to the presidency following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and thus was not elected. President Johnson was impeached by the House in 1868 but later acquitted by a single vote following a Senate trial.
Now, in the Senate chamber, a team of 13 Republican managers (prosecutors) from the House of Representatives, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, faced off against seven defense lawyers representing President Clinton, led by main White House Counsel Charles Ruff. Opening statements by each side lasted three days, after which individual senators were allowed two days of questioning. The senators passed 150 written queries to Chief Justice Rehnquist who read them aloud to the House prosecutors and Clinton's lawyers.
In making their case against the President, House prosecutors accused Clinton of "willful, premeditated, deliberate corruption of the nation's system of justice through perjury and obstruction of justice." Clinton's lawyers countered: "The House Republicans' case ends as it began, an unsubstantiated, circumstantial case that does not meet the constitutional standard to remove the President from office."
With opinion polls showing that Clinton's job approval rating now surpassed 70 percent despite his impeachment, and with most Americans favoring a speedy conclusion of the Senate trial, Democratic senators proposed that the impeachment case against Clinton be dismissed outright for lack of merit. The senators were also aware, following informal head counts, that there would never be enough votes in the Senate to convict the President, with two-thirds of the Senate (67 votes) needed. To obtain the 67 votes, twelve Democratic senators would have to vote to convict the President in addition to all 55 Republicans, a highly unlikely prospect.
Meanwhile, the already-shaky bipartisan pact of cooperation fell apart after House prosecutors, aided by Independent Counsel Ken Starr, met privately with Monica Lewinsky on January 24 to discuss her possible testimony in the trial.
Three days later, the Senate voted along party lines and defeated the Democrats' motion to dismiss the charges against Clinton, then voted in favor of seeking videotaped depositions from Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan, and Sidney Blumenthal.
Democrats strongly objected to calling any witnesses, claiming they were not necessary, given the voluminous House record already available. Republicans, however, claimed the Democrats were trying to stop them from presenting a thorough case against Clinton. They originally wanted to call up to 15 witnesses.
On February 1, Monica Lewinsky was questioned by House prosecutors behind closed doors for four hours, with the procedure videotaped. The President's lawyers asked her no questions and instead read her a brief statement of apology: "Ms. Lewinsky, on behalf of the President, we'd like to tell you how very sorry we all are for what you have had to go through."
Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal were questioned by House prosecutors over the next two days. But it quickly became evident that the depositions were unlikely to change any votes in the Senate. There was no 'smoking gun' or any new revelation.
On February 4, the Senate voted 70-30 against calling Lewinsky to testify in person. The vote came as a relief to many in Washington who dreaded the prospect of Lewinsky testifying in the historic Senate chamber about her sexual encounters with the President. Instead, videotaped excerpts of her February 1 deposition would be used. Thus, two days later, Americans, for the first time, saw and heard Lewinsky as 30 video excerpts were played on TV monitors in the Senate chamber during final presentations by House prosecutors and Clinton's lawyers.
The video clips mostly concerned her New York job search, affidavit in the Jones case, and the hiding of small gifts Clinton had given her, all of which formed the basis for the obstruction of justice charge against the President. Video clips of the depositions given by Vernon Jordan and Sidney Blumenthal, along with earlier footage of President Clinton's August 17 grand jury testimony, his Jones case deposition, and his emphatic denial from January 1998, were also presented. In several instances, the same video was shown by House prosecutors and Clinton's lawyers, with entirely different meanings attached, according to whomever was giving the interpretation.
On February 8, closing arguments were presented with each side allotted a three-hour time slot. On the President's behalf, White House Counsel Charles Ruff declared: "There is only one question before you, albeit a difficult one, one that is a question of fact and law and constitutional theory. Would it put at risk the liberties of the people to retain the President in office? Putting aside partisan animus, if you can honestly say that it would not, that those liberties are safe in his hands, then you must vote to acquit."
Chief prosecutor Henry Hyde countered: "A failure to convict will make the statement that lying under oath, while unpleasant and to be avoided, is not all that serious. We have reduced lying under oath to a breach of etiquette, but only if you are the President. And now let us all take our place in history on the side of honor, and, oh, yes, let right be done."
With closing arguments completed, the Senate began three days of closed-door deliberations on the two articles of impeachment, with each senator limited to 15 minutes of speaking time. Senate Democrats had attempted, but failed, to open this process to the public via television.
On Friday, February 12, television cameras were once again turned on inside the chamber and senators gathered in open session for the final roll call. With the whole world watching, senators stood up one by one to vote "guilty" or "not guilty." On Article 1, the charge of perjury, 55 senators, including 10 Republicans and all 45 Democrats voted not guilty. On Article 3, obstruction of justice, the Senate split evenly, 50 for and 50 against the President.
With the necessary two-thirds majority not having been achieved, the President was thus acquitted on both charges and would serve out the remainder of his term of office lasting through January 20, 2001.
About two hours after his acquittal, President Clinton made a brief appearance in the White House Rose Garden and stated: ''Now that the Senate has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility, bringing this process to a conclusion, I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people."
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The Impeachment Inquiry-Turned-Resignation Of President Richard Nixon, 1973-74
Twitter President Richard Nixon cried “witch hunt” when the Senate’s Watergate hearings got too close for comfort.
Technically, President Richard Nixon’s Watergate saga didn’t end in impeachment, since he resigned before it could get to that point, but by the time Nixon resigned, the House and the Senate had collected enough evidence to move forward with the impeachment process.
Nixon’s impeachment proceedings largely stemmed from his complicity in the June 17, 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D. C. The Nixon administration tried at every step to prevent any cooperation with the House, spawning a constitutional crisis.
But it turned out that Nixon had secretly tape-recorded private conversations in the Oval Office, and that some of those recordings explicitly showed Nixon himself trying to use his presidential powers to halt the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate break-in.
On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court finally forced Nixon to turn over the tapes. The tapes were damning, and if Nixon had stuck around long enough to proceed to an impeachment trial, then he would have had to contend with a majority-Democratic House and Senate. It was clear Nixon would be impeached, and soon.
While many were considered, the three articles of impeachment that were approved by the House Judiciary Committee were obstruction of justice (related to the Watergate break-ins and its attempted coverup by Nixon and his staff, as well as withholding the infamous Nixon White House Tapes), abuse of power, and contempt of Congress.
But the full House wouldn’t get to vote on impeachment, as Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974. “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body,” Nixon said in a televised speech that attempted to spin his presidency as a win for the U.S. “To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal sense of kinship with each and every American. In leaving it, I do so with this prayer: May God’s grace be with you in all the days ahead.”
Wikimedia Commons President Richard Nixon’s resignation letter. Aug. 9, 1974.
At noon the next day, he gave the reins of the presidency to Vice President Gerald Ford. Ford pardoned Nixon just a month later, protecting him from potential criminal indictment or prosecution.
Was President Bill Clinton Impeached?
In the history of the United States, three presidents have fully gone through impeachment proceedings, as of 2019. Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both successfully impeached Richard Nixon also went through impeachment proceedings but resigned before he was removed from office. No president has been removed from office because of impeachment.
Why Was President Bill Clinton Impeached?
P resident Clinton was impeached based on charges referred to as “high crimes and misdemeanors.” This was in part from his affair with Monica Lewinsky and the scandal that followed, in addition to a lawsuit against Clinton by Paula Jones, who claimed she had been sexually harassed by Clinton. Counsel
Ken Starr wrote a report on behalf of the House Judiciary Committee. That report, known as the Starr Report, was the basis for Clinton’s impeachment trial.
Why Did Clinton Remain in Office?
P resident Bill Clinton was formally impeached on December 19, 1998, by the House of Representatives. After his impeachment, arguments were then heard on the United States Senate floor. The process was overseen by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The Senate
voted to acquit Clinton of the charges. It did not have the two-thirds vote needed to remove him from office.
How Does Impeachment Work?
T o impeach a sitting president, impeachment proceedings take place in the House of Representatives. This body decides either to impeach or not to impeach. Afterward, if the House votes for impeachment, the process then moves to the Senate. In the Senate, impeachment works like a criminal trial. The Senate acts as jurors. The Chief Justice presides like a judge. The only way to remove a sitting president from office is to have the Senate vote with a two-thirds majority for removal.
What Are Impeachable Crimes?
T he House of Representatives can begin impeachment proceedings if a sitting president is charged with bribery, treason, or high crimes and misdemeanors. In the case of President Clinton, he was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors because of his affair and accusations of sexual misconduct.
What Happens If a President Is Impeached by the Senate?
I f both the House and the Senate impeach a sitting president, punishment must be decided. There are two types of punishment: one that removes the president immediately from office, and another that prevents him or her from ever holding another government position. The Senate must vote on these two punishments separately. Since no president has ever been removed from office, these punishments have never come to a vote.
What Else Can the Senate Do During Impeachment?
B ecause the Senate has the power to try impeachments, it can also
change the rules before the trial. If the Senate wanted to, it could throw out the two-thirds majority rule in favor of a simple majority to find a president guilty of impeachment. It could also dismiss the case before trial if it wanted to. However, while the Senate has the power to do this, this has never happe ned.
Was Bill Clinton Impeached?
Bill Clinton was indeed impeached by the House of Representatives, but the senate did not come to the necessary 2/3 majority agreement to fully process it, so he was acquitted.
Initially, four impeachment articles were brought against president Clinton: two perjury charges, one charge of abuse of power and one of obstruction of justice. Only the one perjury impeachment article and that of obstruction of justice passed, and he had to stand trial in front of the Senate on these two charges. This made him only the second U.S. president after Andrew Johnson (in 1868) to be impeached.
The Clinton Impeachment
In May of 1994 Paula Jones, a secretary working for the Arkansas state government, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton, alleging that he had harassed her while serving as Governor of Arkansas. In preparing their case, her lawyers interviewed female government employees who had been subordinate to Clinton, in an attempt to establish a pattern of workplace misbehavior on his part. Quite a few women told stories of inappropriate sexual advances, and Clinton denied them all.
One of the women deposed by the Jones legal team was a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky, who had had a sexual affair with the President quite literally in the Oval Office. Understanding how damaging this workplace affair could be to his defense in a sexual harassment lawsuit, President Clinton went to extremes in his attempts to cover it up. With assistance from United States Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, the Jones legal team was able to prove that President Clinton’s denials about Monica Lewinsky were false, and in 1998 the President was impeached by Congress on the grounds that he had perjured himself, and tampered with witnesses and evidence, to cover up the Lewinsky affair.
The reason President Clinton was impeached is that he tried to deny Paula Jones her fair day in court, in a nation where the principle of “Equality before the Law” is supposed to be sacred. But don’t expect to hear that in a college history class.
The Party Line
When the President was impeached before the US Senate, he was acquitted on a party line vote. On both the perjury charge and the obstruction of justice charge, every Democrat in the Senate voted “not guilty.” It is to be hoped that at least a few of those Senate Democrats felt some embarrassment two years later when President Clinton admitted that he had lied under oath (committed perjury) while giving his deposition in the Paula Jones case.
Senate Democrats are not alone in letting partisanship color their perceptions of the articles of impeachment against President Clinton. College professors overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party with their votes, their stated party affiliation, and their campaign contributions and this partisan outlook colors the way history professors and textbook writers portray the Clinton Impeachment.
The standard history textbook portrayal is that vindictive Republicans, who had been looking for some excuse to impeach a popular and powerful Democrat, persecuted President Clinton over a private sexual relationship. It might not be a coincidence that this view matches precisely the characterization that Clinton’s aides and supporters were promoting before and during the impeachment proceedings.
In the textbook Give Me Liberty, for example, author Eric Foner portrays Independent Counsel Starr as a political opportunist who pried into Clinton’s sex life because he couldn’t find anything else to use against the President: “In 1993, an investigation began of an Arkansas real-estate deal known as Whitewater, from which (President Clinton) and his wife had profited…In 1998, it became known that Clinton had carried on an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. Kenneth Starr, the special counsel (sic) who had been appointed to investigate Whitewater, shifted his focus to Lewinsky. He issued a lengthy report containing almost pornographic details of Clinton’s sexual acts with the young woman and accused the president of lying when he denied the affair in a deposition for the Jones lawsuit.”
Foner then goes on to put the impeachment story in perspective, quoting from one of his favorite philosophers:
Karl Marx once wrote that historical events occur twice – first as tragedy, the second time as farce. The impeachment of (President) Andrew Johnson in 1868 had revolved around some of the most momentous questions in American history – the Reconstruction of the South, the rights of the former slaves, relations between the federal government and the states. Clinton’s impeachment had to do with what many considered a juvenile escapade. Polls suggested that the obsession of Kenneth Starr and members of Congress with Clinton’s sexual acts appalled Americans far more than the president’s (sic) irresponsible behavior. Clinton’s continued popularity throughout the impeachment controversy demonstrated how profoundly traditional attitudes toward sexual morality had changed.
Foner barely mentions Paula Jones, and doesn’t seem to think much of the concept of Equality before the Law.
The college textbook Nation of Nations, 1 goes even further in defending Clinton and attacking Kenneth Starr. President Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Jones lawsuit, but Nation of Nations literally does not mention Paula Jones in its depiction of the impeachment!
By four years into the Whitewater investigation, Special Prosecutor (sic) Kenneth Starr had spent $30 million and produced only the convictions of several of the president’s former business partners…Then in January 1998, Starr hit what looked like the jackpot. Linda Tripp, a disgruntled federal employee with ties to the Bush administration and to a conservative literary agent, produced audiotapes of phone conversations in which a 21 year old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, talked of an intimate relationship with the president.
In addition to editing Paula Jones’ name out of a legal case that she initiated, the authors of this history textbook are distorting history when they say that Linda Tripp, a White House secretary, had “ties to the Bush administration.” It is true that Tripp had worked in the White House while George H.W. Bush was President (and retained her job, like most White House employees, when the new President took office). But it is less than honest to imply that she had a cozy relationship with the senior President Bush or his supporters. It is widely believed that she went to the press with accusations of adultery against President Bush while he was President, and that the Bush family bears a grudge against her for the betrayal.
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And the Law Won
Ultimately President Clinton was forced to accept the fact that he was not above the Law. He ended up admitting guilt and paying Paula Jones an $850,000 settlement He was also stripped of his license to practice law, and ordered to pay a separate settlement to Jones’ lawyers for illegally undermining their case. It is unlikely that Ms. Jones would have been thus vindicated if Independent Counsel Starr had not gotten involved in the case. The attorneys she had hired did not have the resources that a US Independent Counsel has, and without Kenneth Starr’s involvement they might not have been able to get justice for their client.
As with so many political issues, the portrayal of the Jones case in mainstream history books says more about the agenda of the authors than it does about the issues involved. If President Clinton had been a member of the party that college professors oppose, instead of being a member of the party they support, the depictions of his impeachment would probably be very different.
1 Davidson, Gienapp, Heyrman, Lytle, and Stoff Nation of Nations
The Clinton Impeachment
President Clinton was impeached by the House, but acquitted by vote of the Senate. The House approved two articles of impeachment against the President stemming from the President’s response to a sexual harassment civil lawsuit and to a subsequent grand jury investigation instigated by an Independent Counsel. The first article charged the President with committing perjury in testifying before the grand jury about his sexual relationship with a White House intern and his efforts to cover it up891 the second article charged the President with obstruction of justice relating both to the civil lawsuit and to the grand jury proceedings.892 Two additional articles of impeachment had been approved by the House Judiciary Committee but were rejected by the full House.893 The Senate trial resulted in acquittal on both articles.894
A number of legal issues surfaced during congressional consideration of the Clinton impeachment.895 Although the congressional votes on the different impeachment articles were not neatly divided between legal and factual matters and therefore cannot be said to have resolved the legal issues,896 several aspects of the proceedings merit consideration for possible precedential significance. The House’s acceptance of the grand jury perjury charge and its rejection of the civil deposition perjury charge may reflect a belief among some members that perjury in the criminal context is more serious than perjury in the civil context. Acceptance of the obstruction of justice charge may also have been based in part on an assessment of the seriousness of the charge. On the other hand, the House’s rejection of the article relating to President Clinton’s alleged non-cooperation with the Judiciary Committee’s interrogatories can be contrasted with the House’s 1974 “acceptance” of the Judiciary Committee’s report recommending897 a similar type of charge against President Nixon, and raises the issue of whether the different circumstances (e.g., the relative importance of the information sought, and the nature and extent of the responses) may account for the different approaches. So too, the acquittal of President Clinton on the perjury charge can be contrasted with convictions of Judges Hastings and Nixon on perjury charges, and presents the issue of whether different standards should govern Presidents and judges. The role of the Independent Counsel in complying with a statutory mandate to refer to the House “any substantial and credible information . . . that may constitute grounds for an impeachment” occasioned commentary.898 The relationship of censure to impeachment was another issue that arose. Some members advocated censure of President Clinton as an alternative to impeachment, as an alternative to trial, or as a post-trial means for those Senators who voted to acquit to register their disapproval of the President’s conduct, but there was no vote on censure.899
Finally, the Clinton impeachment raised the issue of what the threshold is for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” While the Nixon charges were premised on the assumption that an abuse of power need not be a criminal offense to be an impeachable offense,900 the Clinton proceedings—or at least the perjury charge—raised the issue of whether criminal offenses that do not rise to the level of an abuse of power may nonetheless be impeachable offenses.901 The House’s vote to impeach President Clinton arguably amounted to an affirmative answer,902 but the Senate’s acquittal leaves the matter somewhat unsettled.903 There appeared to be broad consensus in the Senate that some private crimes not involving an abuse of power (e.g., murder for personal reasons) are so outrageous as to constitute grounds for removal,904 but there was no consensus on where the threshold for outrageousness lies, and there was no consensus that the perjury and obstruction of justice with which President Clinton was charged were so outrageous as to impair his ability to govern, and hence to justify removal.905 Similarly, the almost evenly divided Senate vote to acquit meant that there was no consensus that removal was justified on the alternative theory that the alleged perjury and obstruction of justice so damaged the judiciary as to constitute an impeachable “offense against the state.”906
Footnotes891 Approved by a vote of 228–206. 144 C ONG. REC . H12,040 (daily ed. Dec. 19, 1998). 892 Approved by a vote of 221–212. 144 C ONG. REC . H12,041 (daily ed. Dec. 19, 1998). 893 An article charging the President with perjury in the civil sexual harassment suit brought against him was defeated by a vote of 229–205 another article charging him with abuse of office by false responses to the House Judiciary Committee’s written request for factual admissions was defeated by vote of 285 to 148. 144 CONG. REC . H12,042 (daily ed. Dec. 19, 1998). 894 The vote for acquittal was 55 to 45 on the grand jury perjury charge, and 50 to 50 on the obstruction of justice charge. 145 C ONG. REC . S1458–59 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999). 895 For analysis and different perspectives on the Clinton impeachment, see Background and History of Impeachment: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 105th Cong., 2d Sess. (1998) and Staff of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 105th Cong., Impeachment: Selected Materials (Comm. Print 1998). See also M ICHAEL J. GERHARDT, THE FEDERAL IMPEACHMENT PROCESS : A CONSTITUTIONAL AND HISTORICAL ANALYSIS (2d ed. 2000) R ICHARD A. POSNER, AN AFFAIR OF STATE: THE INVESTIGATION, IMPEACHMENT , AND TRIAL OF PRESIDENT CLINTON (1999) LAURENCE H. TRIBE, 1 AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW 181–202 (3d ed. 2000) and Michael Stokes Paulsen, Impeachment (Update), 3 E NCYCLOPEDIA OF THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION 1340–43 (2d ed. 2000). Much of the documentation can be found in Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, H.R. R EP. NO . 105–380 (1998) Staff of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 105th Cong., 2d Sess., Impeachment Inquiry: William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States Consideration of Articles of Impeachment (Comm. Print 1998) and Impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton: The Evidentiary Record Pursuant to S. Res. 16, S. Doc. No. 106–3 (1999) (21-volume set). 896 Following the trial, a number of Senators placed statements in the record explaining their votes. See 145 C ONG. REC . S1462–1637 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999). 897 Note that the Judiciary Committee deleted from the article a charge based on President Clinton’s allegedly frivolous assertions of executive privilege in response to subpoenas from the Office of Independent Counsel. Similarly, the Committee in 1974 distinguished between President Nixon’s refusal to respond to congressional subpoenas and his refusal to respond to those of the special prosecutor only the refusal to provide information to the impeachment inquiry was cited as an impeachable abuse of power. 898 The requirement was contained in the Ethics in Government Act, since lapsed, and codified at 28 U.S.C. § 595(c). For commentary, see Ken Gormley, Impeachment and the Independent Counsel: A Dysfunctional Union, 51 S TAN. L. REV . 309 (1999). 899 For analysis of the issue, see Jack Maskell, Censure of the President by Congress, CRS Report for Congress 98–843. 900 According to one scholar, the three articles of impeachment against President Nixon epitomized the “paradigm” for presidential impeachment—abuse of power in which there is “not only serious injury to the constitutional order but also a nexus between the misconduct of an impeachable official and the official’s formal duties.” Michael J. Gerhardt, The Lessons of Impeachment History, 67 G EO. WASH. L. REV . 603, 617 (1999). 901 Although committing perjury in a judicial proceeding—regardless of purpose or subject matter—impedes the proper functioning of the judiciary both by frustrating the search for truth and by breeding disrespect for courts, and consequently may be viewed as an (impeachable) “offense against the state” (see 145 C ONG. REC. S1556 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999) (statement of Sen. Thompson)), such perjury arguably constitutes an abuse of power only if the purpose or subject matter of the perjury relates to official duties or to aggrandizement of power. Note that one of the charges against President Clinton recommended by the House Judiciary Committee but rejected by the full House—providing false responses to the Committee’s interrogatories— was squarely premised on an abuse of power. 902 The House vote can be viewed as rejecting the views of a number of law professors, presented in a letter to the Speaker entered into the Congressional Record, arguing that high crimes and misdemeanors must involve “grossly derelict exercise of official power.” 144 C ONG. REC . H9649 (daily ed. Oct. 6, 1998). 903 Some Senators who explained their acquittal votes rejected the idea that the particular crimes that President Clinton was alleged to have committed amounted to impeachable offenses (see, e.g., 145 C ONG. REC . S1560 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999) (statement of Sen. Moynihan) id. at 1601 (statement of Sen. Lieberman)), some alleged failure of proof (see, e.g., id. at 1539 (statement of Sen. Specter) id. at 1581 (statement of Sen. Akaka)), and some cited both grounds (see, e.g., id. at S1578–91 (statement of Sen. Leahy), and id. at S1627 (statement of Sen. Hollings)). 904 See, e.g., 145 C ONG. REC . S1525 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999) (statement of Sen. Cleland) (accepting the proposition that murder and other crimes would qualify for impeachment and removal, but contending that “the current case does not reach the necessary high standard”) id. at S1533 (statement of Sen. Kyl) (impeachment cannot be limited to wrongful official conduct, but must include murder) and id. at S1592 (statement of Sen. Leahy) (acknowledging that “heinous” crimes such as murder would warrant removal). This idea, incidentally, was not new one Senator in the First Congress apparently assumed that impeachment would be the first recourse if a President were to commit a murder. IX D OCUMENTARY HISTORY OF THE FIRST FEDERAL CONGRESS, 1789–1790, THE DIARY OF WILLIAM MACLAY AND OTHER NOTES ON SENATE DEBATES 168 (Kenneth R. Bowling and Helen E. Veit, eds. 1988). 905 One commentator, analogizing to the impeachment and conviction of Judge Claiborne for income tax evasion, viewed the basic issue in the Clinton case as whether his alleged misconduct was so outrageous as to “effectively rob[ ] him of the requisite moral authority to continue to function as President.” Gerhardt, supra n.817, at 619. Under this view, the Claiborne conviction established that income tax evasion by a judge, although unrelated to official duties, reveals the judge as lacking the unquestioned integrity and moral authority necessary to preside over criminal trials, especially those involving tax evasion. 906 Senator Thompson propounded this theory in arguing that “abuse of power” is too narrow a category to encompass all forms of subversion of government that should be grounds for removal. 145 C ONG. REC . S1556 (daily ed. Feb. 12, 1999).
4. President Grover Cleveland's Illegitimate Son
The public was outraged when it was discovered that Grover Cleveland had an illegitimate son. Image credit: wikimedia.org
Even back then, in the 19th century, it was not so unusual for a presidential campaign to revolve around a scandal. A scandal happened to President Grover Cleveland during his first presidential campaign in 1884. The information broke out that he had an illegitimate ten-year-old son. Cleveland admitted it, and even though it caused a public scandal, he was still elected president. In fact, he was elected again in 1892, making him the only president in U.S. history who served two non-sequential terms.
Donald Trump &mdash Second impeachment
Nine months after his acquittal, Mr. Trump lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden . But the president refused to concede.
In the two months after the election, Mr. Trump insisted he won the race and spread false conspiracy theories about election fraud. His legal team filed dozens of challenges to the election results, all of which were shot down in court. His falsehoods set off a "Stop The Steal" movement of supporters who wrongly insisted the election was rigged and sought to overturn the results.
Mr. Trump held a "Save America" rally on the National Mall on January 6, 2021, the day Congress met for its ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes confirming Mr. Biden's victory. The president told his supporters about 20 times to "fight" the election results, and said they should "demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated." He urged supporters to walk down to the U.S. Capitol and said he would go with them, but he didn't go.
Thousands of supporters from the rally then marched to the U.S. Capitol, and hundreds broke through police lines and stormed the building to disrupt the vote count. Capitol Police evacuated Congress members as the rioters assaulted officers, ransacked offices and chanted for the deaths of lawmakers, including Vice President Mike Pence, whom Mr. Trump falsely claimed could overturn the election results.
The insurrection led to five deaths, including a Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, who died from injuries sustained in the attack.
During the Capitol assault, Mr. Trump posted a video on Twitter telling supporters, "We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You're very special." He still claimed the election was "fraudulent" and did not explicitly denounce any of the violence.
After several hours, the rioters were cleared from the Capitol, and Congress reconvened to the complete the vote count &mdash the final step in confirming Mr. Trump's defeat.
What did the impeachment articles say?
Lawmakers in both parties blamed Mr. Trump for fueling the violence. Just five days after the attack, the Democrat-controlled House introduced an article of impeachment for incitement of insurrection .
The article condemned Mr. Trump for his remarks before the riot as well as his earlier efforts to subvert his election loss, including a call to Georgia's secretary of state asking him to "find" votes to flip the state for Mr. Trump.
"In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government," the article states. "He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government." It said Mr. Trump would be "a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office," even though he only had a few days left.
The House voted 232-197 to approve the article on January 13, one week before the end of Mr. Trump's term. Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the vote, making it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in U.S. history. It was also the highest vote tally ever in support of an impeachment article &mdash breaking the previous record from Mr. Trump's first impeachment.
This second impeachment raised the unprecedented questions of whether a former president could even face a Senate trial, and what kind of punishment he would get if convicted. The Constitution does not directly address these issues, but most constitutional scholars agreed that officials can face impeachment trials even after they have left office.
The primary historical example is William Belknap, the secretary of war under President Ulysses S. Grant, who in 1876 handed in his resignation and burst into tears just minutes before the House was set to vote on impeaching him for a kickbacks scandal. The House still unanimously approved five impeachment articles, and the Senate held a trial, where Belknap was ultimately acquitted on all charges.
With Mr. Trump already removed from office through an election, Democrats said they could ban him from running for office again, which would have required a separate vote after his conviction.
What was the outcome?
The Senate trial began February 9, and wrapped after just five days &mdash a swift end for the fastest impeachment process on record. On the trial's first day, the Senate decided in a 56-44 bipartisan vote that the trial was indeed constitutional.
Democratic impeachment managers relied heavily on video evidence for their arguments. They played never-before-seen footage from the Capitol attack, showing how close lawmakers had come to facing a violent mob, along with videos of Mr. Trump encouraging violence during his presidency and campaign rallies. Mr. Trump's defense focused largely on challenging the process of trying a former president, and argued against directly connecting him to the Capitol violence.
On the trial's final day, the Senate voted to allow witnesses and more evidence &mdash a move that could have prolonged the trial for weeks or months. But just two hours later, impeachment managers and Mr. Trump's lawyers reached an agreement to proceed to the trial's conclusion. One impeachment manager, Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado, later told CBS News' "Face The Nation" that he believed more witnesses "would not have made a difference" for most Republican senators.
In the end, the Senate acquitted Mr. Trump with a vote of 57 "Guilty" to 43 "Not Guilty" &mdash 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction. Seven Republicans voted against Mr. Trump &mdash Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. It is the highest number of senators to vote for convicting their own party's president, breaking another record from Mr. Trump's first impeachment.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Mr. Trump but still blamed him for the Capitol riot in a scathing speech immediately afterwards, saying there was "no question" the former president is "practically and morally responsible" for the riot. The Kentucky Republican said his acquittal vote came from his decision that the Senate did not have constitutional grounds to convict an ex-president.
McConnell, however, said Mr. Trump was not immune from being punished by the country's criminal and civil laws.