The first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry that aired on TV screens across the US on Wednesday marked only the fourth time in history that Congress has considered removing a president from office.
The last time was in 1998, when Republicans brought charges against then-Democratic President Bill Clinton.
They also were also launched against Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 before the House issued its indictment, and Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House in 1868 but acquitted by the Senate by a single vote.
Clinton lied under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, triggering the impeachment inquiry in the lower chamber.
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” Clinton said on Jan. 26, 1998.
Like now, the parties were split at the time over whether the president’s actions represented what the Constitution deems to be “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
And just like today, the minority party argued that the opposition had been looking for a way to take down the president for years.
“He lied about sex, not an admirable thing, but really not an activity that shook the foundations of the Constitution and the democracy,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said, according to CBS News.
“The president of the United States should be held to the highest standard of anybody in the country,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
Both lawmakers were — and still are — members of the House Judiciary Committee, which handles impeachment.
“It was a heck of a lot of work. The Judiciary Committee got all of Starr’s evidence dumped on us with a few days’ notice,” Sensenbrenner said, referring to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
“This is not a joyful experience for anyone engaged in it, but it’s an obligation that we have given the facts that have been discovered so far,” Lofgren said.
Clinton famously said the process was beyond his control.
“It’s not in my hands; it’s in the hands of Congress and the people of this country — ultimately, in the hands of God. There is nothing I can do,” Clinton said in 1998.
President Trump has called the current process a “witch hunt” by the “Do Nothing Democrats.”
The House ultimately voted to bring impeachment charges against Clinton on two charges, but he was later acquitted by the Senate with some Republicans crossing party lines.
Sensenbrenner predicts the same outcome for Trump.
“The president is not going to be removed from office, I think everybody realizes that,” he said.
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