With the United States arguably more polarized than it has ever been at any other point in history, amid Trump’s impending trial in the Senate following his recent impeachment by the House of Representatives, we are witnessing history take place. In the past 243 years, we are only now seeing the third president to be impeached. In this article, we will take a look back on history at previous cases of impeachment, to analyze the outcomes and think about what they could foreshadow for the future of Trump’s own presidency.
The case against Andrew Johnson was due to him making politically controversial decisions - the man held highly unpopular opinions during the Reconstruction Era. Johnson was placed in a difficult position, already having to make temper a nation scarred by President Lincoln’s sudden assassination. Johnson was quarreling with Congress on the best courses of action to take following President Lincoln’s abolishment of slavery. The articles drafted in the House of Representatives targeted his dismissal of a Secretary of War that held adamant beliefs against Johnson’s policies. This violated the Tenure of Office act, as Johnson did not have approval from Congress prior to his firing of Secretary Edwin Stanton. (Interestingly, this policy was abolished by the Supreme Court nearly 100 years later.) Johnson was but one state away from being convicted in the Senate, and ultimately removed from office, but did manage to remain in office for the rest of his term. Needless to say, he failed to be nominated for another term.
Richard Nixon is an interesting case, as the man was never impeached, but left office before his the House of Representatives could vote. Nixon would undoubtedly have been found guilty by both the House and Senate, as he had played a role in covering up the “Watergate scandal” (A plot by supporters of Nixon to steal classified documents from the Democratic National Committee, in order to aid in ensuring that Nixon would be re-elected as president.) His role in covering the act up was proven by a tape recorder inside the Oval Office being subpoenaed by the Supreme Court. Neither party wanted to be associated with the man after the tapes were for the public to hear. Subsequently, Congress would have convicted him if he were to have remained in office. Nixon obviously recognized that the end was near for him, and resigned from office on his own, likely to prevent going down in history as one of the few impeached presidents.
Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 was due to his lying under presidential oath regarding having an affair with an intern of his. At first, the affair was denied by both Clinton and his intern, Monica Lewinsky. Clinton issued a public statement, assuring that public that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” However, after Lewinsky was promised amnesty if she testified truthfully about the affair, she appeared before the court and told the truth, contradicting Clinton’s public statements. Clinton later issued another statement to the public, apologizing for being untruthful, and claiming that he thoroughly regretted his actions. Although Clinton was impeached by the House, the Senate overwhelmingly voted in his favor. While many of Clinton’s opposers in Congress sought the opportunity to remove him from office, many more thought that Clinton’s impeachment was unjust. Needless to say, Bill Clinton finished his second term without further resistance, his forthright apology serving as adequate reassurance for much of the American public.