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The Impeachments of Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton


Sep. 30 2019, Published 8:18 p.m. ET

Impeachment inquiries are highly rare. President Trump is only one of four presidents to have had an impeachment case actually processed. And, if he is impeached, he will be only the third president to have done so. Andrew Johnson was the first impeached president followed by Bill Clinton. Nixon was never officially impeached as he resigned before the proceedings took place.

Here’s a brief look into past presidential impeachments: 

Andrew Johnson 1868


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President Andrew Johnson came into his presidency at the end of the American Civil War. Succeeding President Abraham Lincoln, Johnson had plans to continue Lincoln’s policy of reunification. Johnson, a Democrat, often butted heads with the “radical Republicans” who wanted there to be more rules regarding unification. In short, Lincoln’s plan would allow the Confederate states to rejoin if they agreed to an oath and followed all federal laws pertaining to the newly freed slaves. 

While Johnson was in office, and feuding with the opposing party, Congress created a new piece of legislation called the Tenure of Office Act, which wouldn’t allow the president to fire officials without the consent of Congress. Johnson felt this law unconstitutional so he went against it to bring the issue to court. He fired the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, who at the time had issues with both Lincoln and Johnson. This became the reason behind his impeachment, which occurred on February 24, 1868. 

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Richard Nixon 1974


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Richard Nixon was not formally impeached, but very much forced into his resignation. Elected in 1968, Nixon stepped into the Presidency at a very difficult time. It was the peak of the Vietnam War and the public was angry about his chosen courses of action. In 1970, he grew our involvement by sending additional troops to Cambodia after saying the war was nearly finished. But, while this made the public’s unrest higher, it was not what led to his resignation. 

In June of 1972, five men broke into Watergate, an office complex that was home to the Democratic National Committee. There was found to be a correlation between the break in and Nixon’s administration. There was then an official inquiry in July of 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles for impeachment including obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. Prior to the official hearings, a leaked recording was found to have officially tied Nixon and his administration to the break in. He knew he had lost support in the Congress and would likely be impeached, therefore he resigned.

Bill Clinton 1998


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Bill Clinton was impeached in December of 1998. Soon to be the central topic of the hit series American Crime Story, Clinton’s impeachment inquiry followed his scandal with the White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. The then 49-year-old president was caught having an inappropriate relationship with the then 22-year-old intern. During a hearing in 1998, he denied any and all sexual relations with Lewinsky. It was also alleged that Clinton urged her to lie about it, even under oath. 

In August of that same year, however, he admitted to them having an inappropriate relationship. An official inquiry was taken out that following October for perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. He was officially impeached in December of 1998. 

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