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Were U.S. Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton impeached?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: December 11, 2012 
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Impeachment. … Is it correct to say that Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and William J. Clinton were impeached?

Thank you


? ? ?

Dear WP,  

Technically, only two presidents were ever actually impeached, though it was the one who wasn't who ended up more in disgrace than the other two. After President Andrew Johnson dismissed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and replaced him with Lorenzo Thomas, without Senate approval, Radical Republican senators called for his impeachment on charges centering around violating the Tenure of Office Act. Impeachment proceedings began on March 5, 1868, but three Senate votes in a row fell one short of the 2/3 majority necessary for a conviction. On December 19, 1998, President Bill Clinton faced impeachment charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with his sexual dalliances (abuse of power having been dropped), but was acquitted on February 12, 1999, the Senate having fallen 17 votes short of conviction.  

Richard M. Nixon also seemed likely to weather out the accusations surrounding the Watergate break-in until August 5, 1974, when one of the tape recordings he had grudgingly surrendered revealed that he had known about the attempted burglary all along—the so-called "smoking gun." Advised of the likelihood of both impeachment and conviction, Nixon avoided both by resigning on August 9. On September 8 the new president, Gerald R. Ford, issued him a "full, free and absolute pardon." Ironically, though he was never actually impeached, the fact that Nixon was "pardoned," as opposed to "acquitted," implied guilt for crimes for which he was neither tried nor convicted—thus arguably leaving his reputation in worse shape than those of the two presidents who were impeached.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History




5 Responses to “Were U.S. Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton impeached?”

  1. 1
    Tanya Hutchins says:

    So, if you are not convicted, are you not impeached? I thought you had to be convicted in order to be impeached.

  2. 2
    Brian T. says:

    Mr. Guttman is wrong. Impeachment in the United States is an expressed power of the legislature that allows for formal charges against a civil officer of government for crimes committed in office. The actual trial on those charges, and subsequent removal of an official on conviction on those charges, is separate from the act of impeachment itself. Yes, Clinton was impeached.

  3. 3
  4. 4
    Howard Roark says:

    Johnson and Clinton were impeached. Nixon was not (quite).

    Impeachment is not the same thing as removal from office, though it probably should be.

  5. 5
    Naomi Flynn says:

    I do believe that once a president is impeached that president should be removed from office immediately!! Otherwise the office of theppresidency is disgraced!!!!!! Do the crime take the consequences,and don'tbbring reproach upon our nation!!!!!

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