Government and Politics


Why was President Clinton impeached?

Some believe the proceedings were nothing more than a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” a term coined by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (1947-) early in 1998. Still, others—including enough members of the U.S. House of Representatives to bring 11 counts of impeachment against President Clinton in December 1998—felt the nation’s chief had perjured himself and obstructed justice. Many also believed he had jeopardized the authority of the U.S. presidency. Accused of having an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton vehemently denied it. Upon continued investigation, conducted by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s office, the allegations proved to be true. Since the president had been so adamant in his statements to the contrary, evidence began to accumulate that he had lied about his relationship with the young woman and that he had tried to cover up the matter.

Many believed the charges against Clinton did not constitute the high crimes and misdemeanors called for by the U.S. Constitution to remove a president from office. Nevertheless, in January 1999 the U.S. Senate organized itself to hear the charges against the president. When the trial concluded in February, Clinton was acquitted of both perjury and obstruction of justice. He served out his second term and left office with high approval ratings, despite being the subject of the longest criminal investigation of a president in history.

The Clinton impeachment was the first time the federal legislature had convened itself as a court in more than 130 years—since the impeachment hearings of President Andrew Johnson (1808–1875) in 1868.


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