Why Was Bill Clinton Impeached?
The Monica Lewinsky Scandal
The Monica Lewinsky scandal was the primary reason for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky was a 22-year-old White House intern when she began an affair with Clinton, who was then 49 years old and serving as the President of the United States.
The affair became public knowledge when a former coworker of Lewinsky’s, Linda Tripp, recorded conversations in which Lewinsky discussed her relationship with Clinton. Tripp then turned these recordings over to independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who was investigating allegations of impropriety by Clinton.
Clinton initially denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, but he later admitted to it during a grand jury testimony. Clinton’s denial of the affair and subsequent admission were at the center of the perjury charges against him.
The Lewinsky scandal received significant media attention and dominated political discourse in the late 1990s. It also contributed to a decline in Clinton’s approval ratings and damaged his legacy as President.
Perjury and Obstruction of Justice Charges
As a result of the investigation into the Monica Lewinsky scandal, President Bill Clinton faced two articles of impeachment: perjury and obstruction of justice.
The perjury charge stemmed from Clinton’s denial, under oath, of having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. The obstruction of justice charge was related to Clinton’s efforts to conceal the affair and hinder the investigation. Specifically, Clinton was accused of encouraging Lewinsky to lie under oath and trying to influence the testimony of other witnesses in the investigation.
The House of Representatives approved both articles of impeachment in December 1998, with the perjury charge passing by a vote of 228-206 and the obstruction of justice charge passing by a vote of 221-212. Clinton became only the second U.S. president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868.
Clinton’s impeachment trial was held in the Senate in early 1999. While the perjury charge received a majority of votes in favor of conviction, it fell short of the two-thirds majority required for removal from office. The obstruction of justice charge also failed to receive the necessary votes for conviction. Clinton was acquitted of both charges and remained in office for the remainder of his term.
The Impeachment Process in Congress
The impeachment process in Congress involves two stages: the House of Representatives determines whether to bring impeachment charges, and the Senate holds a trial to determine whether to remove the impeached official from office.
In the case of President Bill Clinton, the House of Representatives was controlled by Republicans when the impeachment proceedings began in 1998. The Judiciary Committee of the House first held hearings and then voted to recommend impeachment charges to the full House. The House then debated and voted on the articles of impeachment.
If a simple majority of the House votes in favor of impeachment, the impeached official is then tried in the Senate. In Clinton’s case, the Senate trial was presided over by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The House of Representatives appointed managers to present the case for impeachment to the Senate, while Clinton was represented by a team of lawyers.
The Senate trial of President Clinton lasted for five weeks, during which time both sides presented their arguments and witnesses were called to testify. After the trial concluded, the Senate voted on the articles of impeachment. As mentioned earlier, while the perjury charge received a majority of votes in favor of conviction, it fell short of the two-thirds majority required for removal from office. The obstruction of justice charge also failed to receive the necessary votes for conviction, and Clinton was acquitted of both charges.
The Senate Trial and Acquittal
After being impeached by the House of Representatives, President Bill Clinton faced a trial in the Senate to determine whether he should be removed from office. The trial began in January 1999 and lasted for five weeks.
During the trial, both sides presented their arguments and witnesses were called to testify. Clinton was represented by a team of lawyers, while the House of Representatives appointed managers to present the case for impeachment to the Senate. Chief Justice William Rehnquist presided over the trial.
The perjury charge against Clinton received a majority of votes in favor of conviction, with 45 senators voting “guilty” and 55 senators voting “not guilty.” However, this fell short of the two-thirds majority required for removal from office. The obstruction of justice charge also failed to receive the necessary votes for conviction, with 50 senators voting “not guilty” and 50 senators voting “guilty.”
Clinton’s acquittal marked the end of the impeachment process. He remained in office for the remainder of his second term as President. The impeachment and subsequent trial had a significant impact on Clinton’s legacy and public opinion of him, however. While some defended his actions as private and consensual, others saw them as an abuse of power and betrayal of the public trust.
Legacy and Impact of Clinton’s Impeachment
The impeachment of President Bill Clinton had a lasting impact on American politics and society. While Clinton was acquitted of both impeachment charges and remained in office for the remainder of his term, the scandal damaged his legacy and reputation.
The impeachment proceedings also had a polarizing effect on the public, with opinions divided along partisan lines. Clinton’s approval ratings dropped during the scandal, but rebounded after his acquittal.
In addition, the impeachment of Clinton set a precedent for future impeachment proceedings. The Constitution’s impeachment clause allows for the removal of a president who engages in “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Clinton impeachment established that perjury and obstruction of justice were grounds for impeachment, even if the underlying offense was not a criminal act.
The impeachment of Clinton also had broader implications for the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government. Some critics saw the impeachment as an abuse of power by Republicans in Congress, while others argued that it was a necessary check on presidential authority.
Overall, the legacy and impact of Clinton’s impeachment remain a topic of debate and analysis in American political history.