The History of U.S. Presidential Impeachments — Mistakes Were Made

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The U.S. House of Representatives announced they will seek a formal inquiry against President Trump for Impeachment. With all the talk of the Impeachment process this week, I thought it would be helpful to look at past impeachment attempts against former Presidents.

There have only been two presidents that have been impeached in U.S. History. Many more have had inquires made against them, but those never lead to a full-blown impeachment hearing. Neither of the presidents that were impeached was convicted by the Senate nor removed from office.

Andrew Johnson:

Johnson was the 17th President of the United States. In 1867, there was a law passed called the Tenure of Office Act. The law required Senate approval before a President could remove any member of his cabinet who had been confirmed by the Senate. Johnson, a republican canned his Secretary of War. The secretary in question was a radical republican named Edwin M. Stanton. Three days after Johnson fired Stanton, The House of Representatives voted to impeach him. Johnson had repeated run-ins with his own Congressional party members, and the firing of Stanton was the last straw. The run-ins were over how the Reconstruction process was being handled after the Civil War. The Republican House felt that Johnson was being too “Sympathetic” to former slaveholders. Congress was outraged that Johnson vetoed legislation that would have protected the rights of freed slaves. It always comes back to slavery, right?

In the Senate, The Republicans held more than 2/3 of the seats in the chamber, so removal was imminent, right? The Senate failed to convict Johnson! Johnson was spared conviction by 1 vote. The non-acquittal didn’t mean the Senators were on Johnson’s side or supported him. They wished to protect the Office of the President and preserve the constitutional balance of powers.

Of all the possible impeachment situations, Johnson should have been removed. If he had, it would have changed how Reconstruction went, and U.S. history would have been a lot different. Just imagine if former slaves had been treated fairly. At, last one single vote.

Bill Clinton:

William Jefferson Clinton was our country’s, 42nd President. He was impeached by the House of Representatives, on December 19, 1998. What was Clinton impeached for? Well for those of you who weren’t alive in the 90s, too young to pay attention or just somewhere living under a rock; Clinton was impeached for lying about having an extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky. Formally the Charges were Perjury and obstruction of Justice and then persuading others in his office to lie about it.

Clinton was acquitted of both charges by the Senate on February 12, 1999. Clinton would go on to complete his second term in office. Clinton just had to give a heartfelt or maybe not so heartfelt apology admitting to the affair.

U.S. elected officials had been messing around on their significant others since forever. Clinton had the unfortunate circumstances of being President when the cable news era was coming of age and also when the public was becoming obsessed with the bedroom affairs of the President. I, for one, think the affair was a personal matter between Bill and his wife Hillary and never should have advanced to the stage of Impeachment. The Republicans saw an opening and a chance to take Bill down a peg and took their shot with the Impeachment. Ironically, in the next presidential election in 2000, “family values,” would become a big issue in the election.

Other Impeachment attempts:

Richard Nixon was destined to be our first President not only impeached but removed over the Watergate Scandal. Nixon resigned before the process, and prosecution could take place. That is the only reason he was not impeached.

John Tyler, the 10th President, came dangerously close to being impeached. Congress got upset after he vetoed one of their bills and initiated the impeachment proceedings. The initiative failed, and Tyler was never impeached.

There were rumblings of Impeachment talk for George W. Bush for his handling of the Iraq war. Impeachment talks against Barack Obama were discussed for his administration’s handling of Benghazi and other scandals. None of those talks rose to the level of an impeachment vote.

As we’ve seen today, two U.S. Presidents were impeached; however each avoided conviction and removal. A lot of democrats are giddy about the possibility of impeaching and removing Trump. Our current Senate has a Republican majority. This means that if Trump is Impeached, the chances of him being convicted and removed are slim to none. It makes for good talking and news fooder, however. Democrats should focus on beating Trump in the upcoming Presidential election, instead of putting all their eggs in the impeachment basket.

Originally published at on September 30, 2019.

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