To Be Or Not To Be … Impeached?!

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To Be Or Not To Be … Impeached?!

  1. Have you ever been caught doing something wrong at home or at school? If so, what were you doing?

  2. What were your consequences? How did it make you feel?

  3. Even presidents may get caught doing something wrong. If a president is accused of a wrong-doing, s/he may get impeached. What does it mean to impeach someone?

Directions: Read the information on Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton then fill in the chart below.

President Andrew Johnson


President Bill Clinton


Years in Office

Political Party of President

Events Leading to Impeachment

Majority Party in Congress

Charge/Reason for Impeachment (Articles)

Impeachment Vote

Summary of Outcome

  1. When you’re finished, assume you are a congressperson in either 1868 or 1998 and write a half page letter explaining whether or not you recommend impeaching Johnson or Clinton.

  2. Finally, create a double bubble map comparing and contrasting the impeachment proceedings of Johnson and Clinton. Then answer the following questions:

  3. Do you think these two impeachments were more alike or different? Explain.

  4. What do you believe are some possible causes for the differences? Select at least two examples and explain.

  5. Based on your analysis, what can you conclude regarding presidential impeachments and the role they play in government?

Andrew Johnson – 17th President of the U.S.

Background: Johnson came from a poor family but married well and eventually got into politics. He served as a mayor, congressman, governor and senator. Although a slave holder, he remained loyal to the Union and refused to resign as the U.S. Senator from Tennessee when his state seceded at the beginning of the Civil War. This bold move got President Lincoln’s attention. Lincoln – a Republican – chose Johnson – a Democrat – as his running mate in the 1864 presidential election and won. Johnson became President upon Lincoln’s assassination and served from 1865 - 1869.

Events Leading to Impeachment: A series of bitter political quarrels developed between Johnson and the Radical Republicans in Congress over Reconstruction. Reconstruction is the period of rebuilding the South after the Civil War. Radical Republicans wanted transformation of the Southern society and economic life. After the Civil War, the Radical Republicans were convinced that the South wanted to continue their slave system under a new name – the Black Codes, which prevented blacks from voting, serving on juries, bearing arms, holding large gatherings, and segregating schools. The Radical Republicans enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1866 in response to the Black Codes which granted new rights to native-born blacks. President Johnson vetoed this act, viewing it as an invasion of state rights. Congress overrode his veto by a single vote. This marked the beginning of a power struggle between the President and Congress.
In 1866 Congress passed the 14th Amendment which guaranteed civil liberties and rights to former slaves. Johnson opposed this as it didn’t apply to the Southern states that lacked representation in Congress. Southern states were encouraged by Johnson and refused to ratify the amendment. In the November 1866 Congressional election, anti-Johnson candidates won a 2/3 majority in the House and Senate. With these majorities, Congress overrode three consecutive vetoes by Johnson. Two of these vetoes limited Johnson’s power to interfere with Congressional Reconstruction including the change that southern military governor’s would answer to Congress not the president. Outraged, Johnson suspended the Secretary of War Stanton in August 1867 and named Ulysses S. Grant to replace Stanton.
The Senate refused to confirm Grant as the replacement so Grant voluntarily relinquished the office back to Stanton. In February 1868, Johnson challenged the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act (which required the consent of the Senate for the President to remove any officeholder originally confirmed by the Senate) by naming General Lorenzo Thomas as his new Secretary of War and ordering the military governor’s to report directly to him. Stanton refused to budge and barricaded himself in his office. Three days later the House of Representatives voted to impeach Johnson 126 – 47 on the grounds of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and asked a special committee draft the 11 articles of impeachment.

Articles of Impeachment:

Articles 1 – 8 charged Johnson with illegally removing Stanton from office.

Article 9 accused Johnson of violating the Command of the Army Act

Articles 10 – 11 charged Johnson with libeling Congress through “inflammatory and scandalous harangues.”

Consequences: The Senate trial began in March of 1868. A crucial vote took place on March 16th on Article 11 concerning Johnson’s behavior toward Congress. The Senate was one vote shy of the necessary 2/3 majority (36 of 54 Senators) needed for conviction. Johnson’s fate rested on a young Radical Republican, Edmund Ross. Despite pressure and threats, Ross voted “not guilty,” effectively ending the impeachment trial. Thus, Johnson’s impeachment was not upheld by a single vote and he remained in office.
After serving the remainder of his term, Johnson didn’t retire but instead ran for Congress in the 1872 election and lost. Two years later he ran for the Senate and won. In 1875 Johnson made his emotional return to the Senate entering the place of his impeachment trial and became the only former president to serve in the Senate. A few months later, he suffered a paralytic attack and died in 1875.

Bill Clinton – 42nd President of the U.S.

Background: In 1992, Democratic candidate Bill Clinton defeated incumbent Republican President George Bush amid a slumping U.S. economy. He easily won re-election in 1996 over Republican Bob Dole despite several controversies and served as president from 1993 – 2001.
Clinton attended Georgetown University earning his Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs then studied at Oxford College in 1968. After leaving Oxford, he attended Yale Law School where he met his future wife, a law student named Hillary Rodham. Both were politically active, working on George McGovern’s unsuccessful 1972 presidential campaign. After Yale, Clinton returned to Arkansas to teach law and in 1974 he ran unsuccessfully for Congress, losing by 800 votes.
Hillary meanwhile had gone to Washington D.C. where she worked as a junior lawyer on the impeachment inquiry staff for the House Judiciary Committee in the 1974 hearings of President Nixon. After Nixon’s resignation, she moved to Arkansas to marry Bill. Clinton was then elected the Attorney General of Arkansas, then Governor at 32, becoming the youngest governor in U.S. history.
As the democratic presidential candidate in 1991, Clinton successfully fended off nagging allegations of marital infidelity, pot smoking, and draft dodging. He was elected president with 43% of the popular vote, becoming the youngest president (at age 46) since JFK. After the election, Clinton promised to lead the “most ethical administration in history.”

Events Leading to Impeachment: Widely considered the most investigated president ever, the Clinton administration was dogged by controversy from the beginning. Controversial events within the Clinton administration as well as his personal conduct eventually provided the opportunity for his opponents to damage him and Hillary politically.
The first major scandal involved the White House travel office and came to be known popularly as “Travelgate.” In May 1993, seven long-time employees in the travel office were abruptly fired and replaced with Clinton’s friends from Arkansas. The FBI investigated the fired employees, leading to allegations that the investigations were conducted under pressure from the White House to justify the firings.
Next, in July, a personal tragedy for Clinton occurred as Vince Foster, the Deputy White House Counsel and life-long friend of the president, was found shot dead in a park from an apparent suicide. A huge controversy emerged five months later when it was revealed that federal investigators were denied access to Foster’s White House office but Clinton’s aides had entered the office within hours of his death. Speculation rose that documents relating to Whitewater might have been removed.
The Whitewater controversy eventually sparked a federal investigation of the President and First Lady that would ultimately lead to the first-ever impeachment of an elected President. Whitewater began in 1978 when the Clinton’s, along with two Arkansas acquaintances, James and Susan McDougal, borrowed $203,000 to purchase 220 acres of riverfront land then formed Whitewater Developing Company with the intention of building vacation homes. In 1982 James McDougal purchased a small savings and loan, and named it Madison Guaranty. By the mid-1980s, Madison Guaranty attracted the attention of federal regulators who questioned the loaning practices and financial stability. By 1989 after a number of failed loans, Madison Guaranty collapsed and was shut down by the federal government which then spent $60 million to bail out the business. In 1992 a Federal Resolution Trust Corporation, during the investigation of the causes of the failure, named Bill and Hillary Clinton as “potential beneficiaries” of alleged illegal activities. This referral was sent to the Justice Department.
Political pressure for an independent investigation into the Whitewater-Madison Guaranty issue surged. In 1994 to avoid continued criticism, Clinton asked Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint a special counsel. Reno chose former U.S. Attorney Robert Fiske, a moderate Republican. In August, Fiske’s tenure as special Whitewater counsel abruptly ended amid charges from conservatives that he was not aggressive enough in his investigation of the Clinton’s. Fiske was replaced by Republican Kenneth Starr, a former Justice Department Official in the Reagan administration and a Federal Appeals Court Judge and Solicitor General in the Bush administration. Thus began a four-year long Starr investigation of Clinton.
Amid all of the media attention paid to the Starr investigation of Whitewater, allegations by a young woman from Arkansas went nearly unnoticed. In February 1994 Paula Jones appeared at a Washington gathering and alleged in 1991, then Arkansas Governor Clinton committed sexual harassment. The White House aggressively responded to Jones’ charges and attempted to undermine her credibility, calling her “trailer park trash.” In May 1994 she filed a civil lawsuit against the president in federal district court of Arkansas, seeking $700,000 in damages along with a personal apology from Clinton. The president’s lawyers engaged in a series of legal maneuvers seeking to put off the case until after Clinton’s term concluded but failed. For the first time in history, a sitting president was subject to a civil lawsuit.
The Jones case focused media attention on various old allegations of infidelity of Clinton. It was at this time, in the midst of the Jones controversy, that Clinton began an affair with 22-year old White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The affair lasted 18 months where nervous White House staffers kept a wary eye on Lewinsky’s inordinate amount of time around the President. In 1996 she was transferred against her will to the Pentagon, removing her from close proximity to the President. At the Pentagon, Lewinsky befriended Linda Tripp and confided intimate details of her relations with Clinton, which was ongoing. Tripp began secretly tape-recording the Lewinsky phone conversations.
As the Jones case proceeded to trial, her lawyers attempted to establish a pattern of sexual misconduct by the President, questioning other women who alleged encounters with Clinton. By this time, Jones’ lawyers had received anonymous tips regarding Lewinsky and subpoenaed her. Tripp provided Starr investigators with over 20 hours of tape recordings. Starr investigators then learned Clinton friend Vernon Jordan provided assistance to Lewinsky on the president’s behalf, seeking a private-sector job after Lewinsky was listed as a potential witness in the Jones case. Jordan helped her find a lawyer to swear an affidavit where she denied sexual relations with the president. The focus of the Starr investigation shifted into Clinton’s personal conduct.
In January 1998 Starr investigators had Tripp lure Lewinsky to a meeting where she was intercepted by FBI agents and pressured to cooperate with the Clinton probe. The next morning, President Clinton, in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling that he had to cooperate, arrived at his lawyer’s office to give a pre-trial deposition (which was videotaped) in the Jones case. The President was questioned for six hours and surprised when he was asked about sexual relations with Lewinsky. Under oath, Clinton denied having relations with Lewinsky according to the definition provided by Jones’ lawyers. These denials would later be used as the basis for the articles to impeach.
By January 21st, media speculation regarding Clinton and Lewinsky swept the Internet and airwaves. Clinton repeatedly denied allegations to his Cabinet. On January 26th, Clinton stood alongside the First Lady and his Vice President to say on television: “I want to say one thing to the American people… I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie… These allegations are false.” On April 1, 1998, the Arkansas U.S. District judge dismissed the Jones case because it didn’t meet the definition of sexual harassment.
In July 1998 Starr granted full immunity to Lewinsky in exchange for her cooperation. Ms. Lewinsky provided a piece of clothing with Clinton’s DNA to prove her story. On August 6th, Lewinsky made the first of two appearances before Starr’s federal grand jury criminal investigation concerning Clinton’s actions. The President was questioned at length but declined to answer specific questions regarding sexual encounters. That night on television, the President admitted “Indeed, I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate… I know my public comments and silence gave a false impression. I misled people…”
In September 1998 Starr delivered his 453-page report and 36 boxes of evidence to the House of Representatives citing 11 impeachable offenses allegedly committed by Clinton. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives began releasing the report via the Internet. The prestige of the presidency declined as Clinton was mocked. The process moved forward and Clinton became only the third U.S. President to be seriously faced with the threat of impeachment. In October, the House of Representatives voted 258 – 176 to authorize an open-ended impeachment inquiry.
The Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde sent 81 questions to Clinton asking him to admit or deny in his responses. On November 27th Clinton denied that he lied under oath. The Republicans on the Judiciary Committee drafted four articles of impeachment. At the same time, Clinton ordered a series of military air strikes against Iraq when leader Saddam Hussein refused to comply with United Nations weapons inspectors. The timing drew criticism.
On December 18, 1998 the House of Representatives gathered for the first time in 130 years to consider impeaching the president. The House voted on four articles, needing only a simple majority (218 votes) for approval.

Articles of Impeachment:

For “high crimes and misdemeanors” of

Article 1 – Perjury before Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s grand jury

Article 2 – Perjury in the Paula Jones civil case

Article 3 – Obstruction of justice related to the Jones case

Article 4 – Abuse of power by making perjurious statements to Congress in answers to the 81 questions Congress posed by the Judiciary Committee.

Consequences: Articles 1 and 3 were approved so the televised impeachment trial began in the Senate on January 7, 1999. Opinion polls showed Clinton’s job approval was at 70% despite the impeachment with most Americans favoring a speedy conclusion. The Senate was aware they did not have enough votes to convict with a 2/3 majority (or 67 votes). After evaluating evidence throughout the trial, the Senate deliberated. On February 12th, the final roll call was televised with each senator voting “guilty” or “not guilty.” For Article 1 regarding perjury, 55 senators voted “not guilty.” For Article 3 on obstruction of justice, the vote was split 50/50. With a 2/3 majority not achieved, the President was acquitted on both charges.

*Lesson idea & excerpts from

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