Nov 9, 2020 | Historical Data
Votes for presidential impeachment in the United States senate in 1868, 1998 and 2020
Article One of the U.S. Constitution states that only the House of Representatives has the power to impeach a president, and if an overall majority votes in favor of impeachment, charges are then brought before the Senate where a two third majority is needed to convict the president and, most likely, remove them from office. In the history of the United States, attempts of impeachment were made against several sitting presidents, however only three were ever impeached; these were Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump (although Nixon was also sure to have been impeached and removed from office, had he not resigned before votes could be taken).
Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson ascended to the presidency in 1868, following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Although Lincoln was a Republican, he chose the Democratic Party's Johnson as his vice president; as a symbol of cross-party unity during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era that followed. As president, Johnson often clashed with his Republican opponents and vetoed many of the Reconstruction policies they were trying to enact. When the Senate voted against Johnson's replacement of Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, Johnson vetoed this and proceeded with the change regardless. Three days later, the House of Representatives voted 126 to 47 in favor of impeaching the President, bringing forward eleven articles of impeachment relating to his unconstitutional dismissal of Stanton and his personal conduct against the Senate. Three of the eleven articles of impeachment were voted on by the Senate, and 36 guilty votes were required to achieve a two thirds majority, which would have resulted in Johnson's removal from office. Johnson's presidency survived by a single vote in each of the three charges, and he remained in office for the remainder of his term (though as a 'lame duck' with very little influence). Johnson is regarded by many historians as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.
Impeachment of Bill Clinton
On December 19. 1998, President Clinton was impeached and two charges were brought before the Senate. The origins of the charges came from a 1994 lawsuit that accused Clinton of sexually harassing a state employee while he was the Governor of Arkansas, and the subsequent investigations exposed details of an extramarital affair between Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton denied this affair in a sworn testimony, however the Starr Report found evidence to the contrary, while further evidence emerged of Clinton coaching his staff to lie under oath. The House of Representatives voted 228 to 206 to impeach Clinton for perjury (lying under oath), and 221 to 212 to impeach him for the obstruction of justice (ordering aides to commit perjury). In the Senate, 67 guilty votes were needed for a two third majority, however Clinton was acquitted as he received just 45 and 50 guilty votes respectively, and remained in office for the remainder of his term. During the trial, Clinton still had a public approval rating of more than seventy percent, and in subsequent polls he is most often ranked in the top fifty percent of all US presidents.
Impeachment of Donald Trump
Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 18, 2019, and was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, with a vote of 229 to 197 in favor of impeachment, making Trump the first Republican President to have been impeached. These charges stemmed from Trump's attempts to coerce the President of Ukraine into investigating his political opponents (Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden) in exchange for military aid that had been promised to the Ukrainian government. By doing this, Trump had solicited foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, which was determined as an abuse of power by the House of Representatives, and the subsequent instructions to his staff to ignore subpoenas for documents and testimonies led to a second charge of obstruction of Congress. The Senate trial officially began on January 16, 2020, however Senate Republicans voted against allowing any witnesses or subpoenas, significantly damaging the Democratic attempts to overthrow the President. On February 5, 2020, Trump was acquitted of both charges, with almost complete partisan division in the results (although Bernie Sanders and Angus King are independents, their votes in the Senate generally align with those of the Democratic Party). Mitt Romney became the first Senator to ever vote against their party, when he voted to charge the President with abuse of power in a move that drew considerable backlash from the president and other Republicans. Trump then became the first impeached president to seek re-election in 2020; despite losing this election, as a result of Trump's actions in the lead up to the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, House Democrats have introduced articles of impeachment for the second time, this time charging the president with incitement of insurrection.