The Impeachment Proceedings That Came Before
In the first two centuries of the United States government, the House of Representatives conducted only two presidential impeachment proceedings.
By the time the sun set on Wednesday, it had conducted three in just 25 years — with two of them in the past year and a half, against the first president ever to be impeached twice.
Welcome to history.
With a majority of the House voting on Wednesday afternoon to impeach President Trump on a charge of inciting an insurrection, just 13 months after the chamber impeached him on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, here is an overview of what happened the previous times.
Donald Trump, 2019
In September 2019, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would open an impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump.
She took that step — one she had previously resisted — in response to a phone call in which Mr. Trump had pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., then a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Mr. Biden’s son Hunter. The call came shortly after Mr. Trump had frozen nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine.
The resulting charges stated that Mr. Trump had abused his power by using government aid as leverage to persuade Ukraine to help him electorally, and that he had obstructed Congress by refusing to provide documents and telling administration officials not to testify. The House impeached him on Dec. 18, 2019, voting 230 to 197 to approve the abuse of power charge and 229 to 198 to approve the obstruction charge.
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 for the abuse of power charge, and all but three Democrats voted for the obstruction charge.
On Feb. 5, 2020, the Senate acquitted Mr. Trump on both charges: 52 to 48 on abuse of power and 53 to 47 on obstruction of Congress. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, joined Democrats in voting to remove him from office on the abuse of power charge, becoming the first senator ever to vote to convict a president of his own party.
Bill Clinton, 1998
The impeachment process against President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, began in October 1998 in response to the revelation that he’d had a sexual relationship with a White House intern.
The charges pertained not directly to his misconduct with the intern, Monica Lewinsky — who was 22, nearly three decades younger than Mr. Clinton, when it began — but to the allegation that Mr. Clinton had lied about it under oath and encouraged others to do the same.
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” Mr. Clinton said in January 1998, before admitting months later that he had. “I never told anybody to lie, not a single time. Never.”
On Dec. 19, 1998 — 21 years, almost to the day, before a Democratic-controlled House would vote to impeach Mr. Trump — the Republican-controlled House impeached Mr. Clinton on charges of 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 it) 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 perjury charge and on an abuse of power charge.
On Feb. 12, 1999, the Senate acquitted Mr. Clinton 55 to 45 on the perjury charge, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats, and 50-50 on the obstruction charge, with five Republicans joining Democrats. A two-thirds majority would have been required to convict Mr. Clinton and remove him from office.
Richard Nixon, 1973
Congress never voted to impeach President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, but only because he resigned before it could.
The Trump Impeachment ›
From Riot to Impeachment
The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and at the ongoing fallout:
- As this video shows, poor planning and a restive crowd encouraged by President Trump set the stage for the riot.
- A two hour period was crucial to turning the rally into the riot.
- Several Trump administration officials, including cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao, announced that they were stepping down as a result of the riot.
- Federal prosecutors have charged more than 70 people, including some who appeared in viral photos and videos of the riot. Officials expect to eventually charge hundreds of others.
- The House has begun proceedings on an article of impeachment. It accuses the president of “inciting an insurrection” that led to the rampage by his supporters.
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