US Presidents That Have Been Impeached

The Senate as a Court of Impeachment for the Trial of Andrew Johnson, one of the most dramatic events in US history.
The Senate as a Court of Impeachment for the Trial of Andrew Johnson, one of the most dramatic events in US history.

What Is Impeachment?

In the US, impeachment can occur when Congress brings charges against a public official for alleged crimes committed while in office. In some instances, charges have been brought against a government official for crimes committed before holding office. In non-governmental court proceedings, an impeachment is like an indictment. In the US, the House of Representatives impeaches and the Senate carries out the trial. Conviction requires a two-thirds vote. Impeachment proceedings generally lead to removal from office, but not in all cases. The US Congress has brought impeachment charges against several former Presidents. This article takes a closer look at this governmental practice.

On What Grounds Are US Officials Impeached?

The US Constitution lays out the guidelines for impeachment. It says that the President, Vice President, or any other public officer may be removed from office if impeached and convicted of certain crimes. These crimes include treason, bribery, perjury under oath, abuse of authority, misappropriation of resources, and misconduct (among others).

US Presidents Who Were Impeached

On several occasions, the impeachment process has been brought against US federal officials. In total, 19 federal officials have been successfully impeached. Of these, only two were Presidents: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. A movement was made to impeach ex-President Richard Nixon over the Watergate scandal, but he resigned from office before facing trial.

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson was the country's 17th President. The House of Representatives brought several impeachment charges against him, although the principal charge was that he had violated the Tenure of Office Act. The 1867 Tenure of Office Act required that the President obtain consent from the Senate before removing any Cabinet member or federal public official. This Act was specifically for individuals in positions that had previously required the Senate’s approval.

Finding a loophole, Johnson suspended Secretary of War Edward Stanton on August 5, 1867. The Suspension was not covered by the Act. He appointed General Ulysses S. Grant to replace the position left vacant by Stanton. In January of 1868, the Senate passed a resolution stating that Grant’s assignment had not been approved. Grant left office and Stanton returned. The ex-President believed the Act was unconstitutional, ignored Stanton’s return, and appointed a new Secretary of War on February 21, 1868.

A resolution was approved by the House of Representatives to impeach Johnson on charges of high crimes and misdemeanors on February 24. In this resolution, he was charged with 11 crimes. The Senate trial began in March of the same year. For each of the 11 charges, the Senate failed to find him guilty due to a lack of a two-thirds majority vote.

Bill Clinton

The second time Congress initiated an impeachment trial was in 1998 against Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the US. The House of Representatives brought charges against Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. These charges emerged as a result of two events: Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit and Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky who served as a former White House Intern.

The impeachment charges began with an independent investigation conducted by Ken Starr of the US Office of the Independent Counsel. This investigation looked into the real estate investment case, referred to as the Whitewater Scandal. Starr investigated issues surrounding firing several White House travel agents, corrupt use of FBI files, and the previously mentioned sexual harassment lawsuit. In addition, he investigated e-mails and phone calls between Clinton and Lewinsky. He turned over everything to the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary.

The House of Representative moved to impeach on two charges on December 19, 1998. On January 8, 1999, the Senate trial began. On February 12, the Senate members voted, not reaching the required two-thirds vote for a guilty verdict.

Impeached US Presidents And Other Federal Officials

RankDate of ImpeachmentAccusedOfficeAccusation(s)
1July 7, 1797William BlountUnited States Senator (Tennessee)Conspiring with Britain to for capture of Spanish territory
2March 2, 1803John PickeringJudge (District of New Hampshire)Drunkenness and unlawful rulings
3March 12, 1804Samuel ChaseAssociate Justice (Supreme Court of the United States)Promotion go s partisan political attitude and political bias
4April 24, 1830James H. PeckJudge (District of Missouri)Misuse of power
5May 6, 1862West Hughes HumphreysJudge (Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Tennessee)Supporting the Confederacy
6February 24, 1868Andrew JohnsonPresident of the United StatesTenure of Office Act violation
7February 28, 1873Mark W. DelahayJudge (District of Kansas)Drunkenness
8March 2, 1876William W. BelknapUnited States Secretary of WarCorruption/graft
9December 13, 1904Charles SwayneJudge (Northern District of Florida)Abuse of power, failure to live in his district
10July 11, 1912Robert Wodrow ArchbaldAssociate Justice (United States Commerce Court) Judge (Third Circuit Court of Appeals)Improper acceptance of gifts from litigants and attorneys
11April 1, 1926George W. EnglishJudge (Eastern District of Illinois)Abuse of power
12February 24, 1933Harold LouderbackJudge (Northern District of California)Corruption
13March 2, 1936Halsted L. RitterJudge (Southern District of Florida)Champerty/corruption, evasion of law, practicing law while being a judge
14July 22, 1986Harry E. ClaiborneJudge (District of Nevada)Evasion of tax
15August 3, 1988Alcee HastingsJudge (Southern District of Florida)Accepting a bribe, and committing perjury during the resulting investigation
16May 10, 1989Walter NixonChief Judge (Southern District of Mississippi)Perjury
17December 19, 1998Bill ClintonPresident of the United StatesPerjury and obstruction of justice
18June 19, 2009Samuel B. KentJudge (Southern District of Texas)Sexual assault, and obstruction of justice during the investigation of the charges against him
19March 11, 2010Thomas PorteousJudge (Eastern District of Louisiana)Making false financial disclosures

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