The previous impeachment process


During the first two centuries of US government, the House of Representatives conducted only two presidential impeachment proceedings.

By the time the sun set on Wednesday, he had led three in just 25 years – including two in a year and a half, against the first president to be impeached twice.

Welcome to the story.

With a House majority voting Wednesday afternoon to impeach President Trump for inciting insurgency, just 13 months after the House impeached him for abuse of power and obstructing Congress, here’s a look at what happened the previous time.

In September 2019, President Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would open an impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump.

She took that step – which she had previously resisted – in response to a phone call in which Mr. Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., then favorite of the Democratic presidential election. appointment and Hunter, the son of Mr. Biden. The call came shortly after Mr. Trump froze nearly $ 400 million in aid to Ukraine.

The resulting accusations indicated that Mr. Trump had abused his power by using government aid as leverage to persuade Ukraine to help him electorally, and that he obstructed Congress by refusing to provide documents and by telling administration officials not to testify. The House impeached him on December 18, 2019, voting 230 to 197 to approve the charge of abuse of power and 229 to 198 to approve the charge of obstruction.

After weeks of hearings, lawmakers split almost entirely along party lines: No House Republican voted for impeachment on either charge, all but two Democrats voted on the abuse of power charge, and all but three Democrats voted for the obstruction charge.

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On February 5, 2020, the Senate acquitted Mr. Trump of two counts: 52 to 48 for abuse of power and 53 to 47 for obstructing Congress. Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney joined Democrats in voting to remove him from office for abuse of power, becoming the first senator to vote to convict a president of his own party.

The impeachment process against President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, began in October 1998 in response to the revelation that he had had sex with a White House intern.

The charges were not directly about his misconduct with intern Monica Lewinsky – who was 22, almost three decades younger than Mr. Clinton at first – but the allegation that Mr. Clinton lied about it under oath and encouraged others to do the same.

“I didn’t have sex with this woman,” Clinton said in January 1998, before admitting months later that he did. “I never told anyone to lie, not once. Never.”

December 19, 1998 – 21 years to the day before a Democratic-controlled House voted to impeach Mr. Trump – the Republican-controlled House impeached Mr. Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. The votes were 228 to 206 on the perjury charge (with five Democrats voting for impeachment and five Republicans voting against) and 221 to 212 on the obstruction charge (with five Democrats voting for and 12 Republicans voting against) .

The House voted against impeachment on a second charge of perjury and on one charge of abuse of power.

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On February 12, 1999, the Senate acquitted Mr. Clinton 55-45 on the perjury charge, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats, and 50-50 on the obstruction charge, with five Republicans joining the Democrats. A two-thirds majority would have been needed to convict Mr. Clinton and remove him from office.

Congress never voted to impeach President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, only because he resigned before he could.

Much of the impeachment process stemmed from the Watergate scandal, which began in 1972 when associates of Nixon stormed into the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The break-in was part of a huge coordinated effort to influence the upcoming election, which Nixon ended up winning in one of the biggest landslides in American history.

The immediate catalyst for the decision of the House Judiciary Committee to begin the impeachment process on October 30, 1973 was the so-called Saturday night massacre 10 days earlier. It was the night that Nixon, enraged by the Watergate investigation, ordered the dismissal of the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. Two officials he ordered to fire Cox refused to do so and resigned; the third, Solicitor General Robert Bork, obeyed.

The committee finally approved three articles of impeachment – obstructing justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress – and returned them to the House floor in July 1974. The articles were approved by three separate votes, the abuse of power charge garnering the most support: 28-10, with seven Republicans on the committee joining the 21 Democrats.

But before the Full House could complete hearings and vote on impeachment, Nixon announced his resignation on August 8, 1974 – a day after Republican leaders in Congress told him his support in his own party had collapsed. and that he almost certainly would. be both charged and sentenced.

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More than any impeached president after him, Andrew Johnson was impeached not really for a specific violation of the law, but because of a broad power struggle between the White House and Congress.

Johnson – a Democrat and white supremacist who was Abraham Lincoln’s vice president and became president when Lincoln was assassinated – had spent much of his tenure clashing with Republican-controlled Congress for reconstruction. Among other things, he vetoed the Freedoms Office Bill and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which sought to give American citizenship to former slaves; Congress then overturned its veto on the Civil Rights Act.

In March 1868, the House approved 11 articles of impeachment against Johnson. The main charge was that he violated the Tenure of Office Act of 1867, which Congress had enacted in an explicit effort to prevent him from firing pro-Reconstruction officials Lincoln had appointed. The law stated that the president needed Senate approval to fire executive officials confirmed by the Senate, and Johnson defied him by sacking Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

In May 1868 Johnson was removed from office in a single vote. The Senate – then made up of 54 members, as there were only 27 states at the time – voted 35-19 in favor of the conviction, but needed 36 votes for the required two-thirds majority.

He served the remainder of his term, just under a year.


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