3 Presidents, 3 Public Impeachments
Nixon, Clinton, and now Trump. This is how the story impeachment story repeats itself.
The Founders of the Constitution intentionally made it difficult for Congress to remove a sitting president
Only two U.S. presidents have been formally impeached by Congress—Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton—and no U.S. president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. In addition to Johnson and Clinton, only two other U.S. presidents have faced formal impeachment inquiries in the House of Representatives: Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. Many other presidents have been threatened with impeachment by political foes without gaining any real traction in Congress. 3 presidents, 3 impeachments playing out on national television with striking similarities.
The authors of the Constitution intentionally made it difficult for Congress to remove a sitting president. The impeachment process starts in the House of Representatives with a formal impeachment inquiry. If the House Judiciary Committee finds sufficient grounds, its members write and pass articles of impeachment, which then go to the full House for a vote. A simple majority in the House is all that’s needed to formally impeach a president. But that doesn’t mean he or she is out of a job. The final stage is the Senate impeachment trial. Only if two-thirds of the Senate find the president guilty of the crimes laid out in the articles of impeachment is the POTUS removed from office. Although Congress has impeached and removed eight federal officials—all federal judges—no president has ever been found guilty during a Senate impeachment trial. Andrew Johnson came awfully close, though; he barely escaped a guilty verdict by one vote.
Clinton was plagued by legal troubles and scandals from the moment he entered the White House. In 1993, Clinton and his First Lady, Hillary, were the subject of a Justice Department investigation into the so-called Whitewater controversy, a botched business deal from their days in Arkansas. And in 1994, Clinton was sued for sexual harassment by Paula Jones, who claimed Clinton exposed himself to her in a hotel room in 1991. Interestingly, it was a combination of both legal cases that would ultimately lead to Clinton’s impeachment. Independent counsel Kenneth Starr was appointed by the Justice Department to investigate the Whitewater affair, but he couldn’t find any impeachable evidence. Meanwhile, lawyers for Jones got a tip that Clinton had an affair with a 21-year-old White House intern named Monica Lewinsky, a claim that both Lewinsky and Clinton denied under oath.
Starr switched the focus of his investigation when he received 20 hours of taped phone conversations between Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, a former White House colleague, in which Lewinsky alludes to the affair. Starr then got the FBI to fit Tripp with a wire to meet with Lewinsky at a Ritz-Carlton hotel outside Washington, DC, when Lewinsky again admitted to a sexual relationship with the president. When the story went public, Clinton was forced to address the accusations on national television according to History.com
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