A Brief History
On May 26, 1868, US President Andrew Johnson was acquitted at his impeachment trial by the narrowest of margins, one single vote. Johnson had been charged with 11 counts of “high crimes and misdemeanors” by the US House of Representatives and tried by the US Senate, the first time any US President had been impeached.
The next time a US President was impeached was when President Bill Clinton made the blunder of lying to Congress about his sexual relationship with intern, Monica Lewinsky. President Clinton was charged by the House of Representatives with 2 counts in 1998, perjury (lying) and obstruction of justice. The Senate acquitted President Clinton by a vote of 50-50 (67 needed for a finding of guilty) on the perjury charge, and by a vote of 45 guilty to 55 not guilty on the obstruction charge.
Today, the specter of possible impeachment of President Donald Trump is raising its ugly head, with murmurs of the chance President Trump may have obstructed justice by attempting to interfere with the FBI investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. The fact that President Trump has taken the highly unusual steps of firing the main players involved in the investigation and possible prosecutions of Trump campaign workers and possibly even President Trump himself has caused an uproar among Democrats and scholars. The fired people include the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, after she warned the President about his National Security Advisor, General Flynn, having lied about contacts with Russians. Trump then fired US Attorney Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for New York that was responsible for investigating and possibly prosecuting anyone involved in irregularities in the Trump campaign in Trump’s headquarters city of New York.
The icing on the proverbial cake came on May 8, 2017 when President Trump fired the Director of the FBI, James Comey, the man mainly responsible for the Russia/Trump investigation. While these firings on the face of it are legal, they become illegal if the intent of President Trump was to impede the investigation and possible prosecutions involved in the Russia/Trump connection. Conflicting statements by Trump administration personnel and the President have led the public and member of Congress to start considering the possibility that the President is indeed trying to obstruct justice. The President himself told the public that he was firing Comey in part because the “Russia thing with Trump is a made-up story.” This can be interpreted to mean he fired Comey to short stop the investigation, a potential crime. The most damning revelation came when Mr. Comey revealed that the President specifically asked Comey to drop the investigation into Gen. Flynn’s Russia connections. If this last bit of information is credible, we may well see impeachment proceedings begin.
Question for students (and subscribers): Is President Trump going to be impeached? Tell us what you think is going to happen and why in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Lichtman, Allan J. The Case for Impeachment. Dey Street Books, 2017.
Schippers, David P. Sellout: The Inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment. Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2000.
Stewart, David O. Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy. Simon & Schuster, 2010.