A few facts on the two previous presidential impeachments

In 1868 Andrew Johnson faced an impeachment trial in the Senate of the 40th Congress that was 57-9 Republican, according to the Senate’s website.  At the time, immediately after the Civil War,  the Republican party was united in its advocacy of Civil Rights for the freed slaves and its commitment to federal enforcement of those rights.   Johnson, a fierce opponent of Reconstruction, and an intemperate racist given to insulting his critics, was impeached by Radical Republicans.   His removal from office failed 35-19, one vote short of the required two thirds majority, (and apparently, every one of the 54 senators, not 66 as the Senate website has it, voted yay or nay).    Below is the gist of the case against Johnson (outside of violating the later invalidated Tenure of Office Act when he fired his Secretary of War without Senate advice and consent).   [1] 

Impeachment Articles ten and eleven against Johnson have great resonance for today’s impeachment of Mr. Trump, though nothing like them is contained in the two articles the Democratic House recently passed:

Ten:  Making three speeches with intent to “attempt to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States”.

Eleven:  Bringing disgrace and ridicule to the presidency by his aforementioned words and actions.

As one would expect, there was evidence of chicanery on both sides of the Senate vote that narrowly acquitted the nonetheless disgraced Mr. Johnson. [2]

The 1998 Senate impeachment trial of Bill Clinton took place in the 105th Congress, the composition of which (according to the official, yet unreliable, U.S. Senate website) was 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats.  On Article One, Clinton’s perjury during a deposition about receiving oral sex from a White House intern, ten Republicans, and all Democrats, voted to acquit.   On Article Two, obstruction of justice, Clinton seeking the intern’s help in keeping their sexual relationship secret in an unrelated sexual harassment civil suit against the president, five Republicans voted with the Democrats to acquit.

I think is it interesting, and worthing noting,  that neither time, even with an overwhelming party majority, was either presidential malefactor removed from office.   It’s hard to get one of these creatures out by impeachment.   To paraphrase one of the legal masterminds who got OJ off the hook for double murder (the Juice is still out their looking for the real killer):  If the shit don’t fit, you must acquit.   



[1] Wikipeida:

Though a Democrat from Tennessee, Johnson had been a fierce critic of the Southern secession. Then after several states left the Union, including his own, he chose to stay in Washington (rather than resign his U.S. Senate seat), and later, when Union troops occupied Tennessee, Johnson was appointed military governor. While in that position he had exercised his powers with vigor, frequently stating that “treason must be made odious and traitors punished”.[5] Johnson, however, embraced Lincoln’s more lenient policies, thus rejecting the Radicals, and setting the stage for a showdown between the president and Congress.[6] During the first months of his presidency, Johnson issued proclamations of general amnesty for most former Confederates, both government and military officers, and oversaw creation of new governments in the hitherto rebellious states – governments dominated by ex-Confederate officials.[7] In February 1866, Johnson vetoed legislation extending the Freedmen’s Bureau and expanding its powers; Congress was unable to override the veto. Afterward, Johnson denounced Radical Republicans Representative Thaddeus Stevens and SenatorCharles Sumner, along with abolitionist Wendell Phillips, as traitors.[8] Later, Johnson vetoed a Civil Rights Actand a second Freedmen’s Bureau bill; the Senate and the House each mustered the two-thirds majorities necessary to override both vetoes,[8] setting the stage for a showdown between Congress and the president.

[2] Wikipedia:

After the trial, Butler conducted hearings on the widespread reports that Republican senators had been bribed to vote for Johnson’s acquittal. In Butler’s hearings, and in subsequent inquiries, there was increasing evidence that some acquittal votes were acquired by promises of patronage jobs and cash cards. Political deals were struck as well. Grimes received assurances that acquittal would not be followed by presidential reprisals; Johnson agreed to enforce the Reconstruction Acts, and to appoint General John Schofield to succeed Stanton. Nonetheless, the investigations never resulted in charges, much less convictions, against anyone.[37]

Moreover, there is evidence that the prosecution attempted to bribe the senators voting for acquittal to switch their votes to conviction. Maine Senator Fessenden was offered the Ministership to Great Britain. Prosecutor Butler said, “Tell [Kansas Senator Ross] that if he wants money there is a bushel of it here to be had.”[38]Butler’s investigation also boomeranged when it was discovered that Kansas Senator Pomeroy, who voted for conviction, had written a letter to Johnson’s Postmaster General seeking a $40,000 bribe for Pomeroy’s acquittal vote along with three or four others in his caucus.[39] Butler was himself told by Wade that Wade would appoint Butler as Secretary of State when Wade assumed the Presidency after a Johnson conviction.[40]

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