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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




24 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.

    • 2.1
      Mark L says:

      Mr Guttman never said that President Clinton was not impeached. He only said that the President was not convicted. His comments were accurate. Your reading of them is not.

      • 2.1.1
        Jimmc says:

        Mark L – Guttman said Nixon was not impeached. That is wrong. Look up the definition of impeachment. The word means "charged" – and Nixon was charged by the drafting of the rules of impeachment done by a committee similar to a grand jury in the citizen justice system. Nixon resigned before the house could vote on the articles of impeachment. Thus, Guttman believes that impeachment did not occur. Wrong. He was impeached when the articles of impeachment were completed.

      • 2.1.2
        MarkL says:

        I concur, that Nixon was indeed impeached. My error in only reading the second paragraph go Guttman. While I do not need to look the definition of Impeachment, your rush to judgement, while accurate, was more than a bit overbearing. I stand corrected, but I still stand.

      • 2.1.3
        Tim says:

        The proceedings to impeach Nixon were in process, but since Nixon resigned before the House had the chance to vote he was technically never impeached. It's like being arrested but never actually charged with a crime.

      • 2.1.4
        Valerie says:

        Tim is right. Impeachment was in the process but Nixon resigned before it actually happened. So technically there were only two that were impeached and one resigned.

        Andrew Johnson

        Bill Clinton

  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!!!!!

    • 5.1
      michael jowan says:

      Thats ridiculous, so if a political party can seat a majority, be it by gerrymandering or whatever, you think they should be able to trump-up charges and rail-road a President, like they did Clinton. Impeach a President over a sex-act (he lied about because it was trivial and nobodies business). Because republicans are so sexually hung-up anyway, They know Nixon disgaced their party, so they want to even it out by impeaching a democrat. Thats the (childish) gist of it. How many millions did Ken Starr waste again? You believe they should be able to use political differences, bias and hatred of the other party to undo an election and unseat a duly elected American President? You are a nut.

  6. 6
    tenlover says:

    You are saying, Naomi, that someone should be punished for a crime regardless of their guilt. That is unconstitutional.

    • 6.1
      John says:

      That's not unconstitutional at all. It's a shame, but it happens all the time in our country.

  7. 7
    Dana says:

    Clinton was acquitted, he was not impeached

    • 7.1
      michael jowan says:

      Yes, thank you. I mean how can the author and other commenters, basically say Clinton WAS impeached,,, HOWEVER, the senate fell 17 votes SHORT of conviction. So he wasnt. Or he was impeached but not convicted. Not convicted of what, a crime. Must both houses concur on (all, some, one) charge[s] to impeach? If impeachment is separate from charges of a crime, I dont see how that can be when its based on the crime. And, what if criminal charges are baseless? This is why impeachment should not be used as a political ploy which republicans seem to be doing (now and in 1990's). "Everything in our power to have this Presidents (Obama) administration go down in the history books as one of the worst ever. What better way to do that than IMPEACHMENT!

  8. 8
    Jesse says:

    Actually the demise of our country began to really catch steam after the Senate failed to convict Clinton. It showed that you could lie under oath to a grand jury and get away with it. And the Senate wasn't supposed to vote on wether what he did was bad enough to lose his job they were only supposed to vote on wether he was guilty of lying under oath. So those 17 Senators were either highly incompetent or liers themselves. We all know they are liers because the whole world knows he lied and what a good example to set for our kids.

  9. 9
    Jesse says:

    Also there is very good reason to impeach obama right now I just hope we wait until we have the Senate after Nov. He lied about Benghazi. He lied that you could keep your plan. He had the IRS target his political opponents which we will soon learn much more about now that they magically found those missing emails that had been erased but wait now that they are facing a no bull judge and a federal jury and possible prison time maybe we'll finally get some answers from obamas minions. Also he's trying to rewrite immigration law by executive order which is treasonous.

  10. 10
    edpled says:

    Wrong. Clinton was impeached. He was not convicted.

  11. 11
    Peter Rutt says:

    I completely agree!

  12. 12
    Steve says:

    Isn't it true that the house voted to impeach but the senate overturned ?

  13. 13
    warrior says:

    Then all you need to impeach a president is 2/3 well lets impeach Obama !

  14. 14
    Patrick Smith says:

    Lot's of folks on here need to brush up on their constitution. Impeachment is analogous to indictment and is debated and decided by the House. Simply drawing up articles is not the same as impeachment. Think of it as a prosecutor bringing charges to a grand jury but the grand jury voting against indictment. Once impeached (indicted) the senate tries the case and votes for or against conviction. This is a political process and no punishments beyond removal from office and disqualification from federal office are allowed. If you don't think it's political, take a look at why Johnson was impeached. The President may not be charged with a crime while in office but may be once he has left office. This is why Ford pardoned Nixon even though Nixon had never actually been charged with a crime. Impeachable offences are most likely to be criminal offences but need not be. An abuse of power that does not involve a criminal offence may be grounds for impeachment. Furthermore, some crimes may not reach a level sufficient to justify impeachment. Clinton's lies to the grand jury were an certainly an indictable offence, and the House decided to impeach him, but the Senate decided (correctly in my opinion) that the offence was not sufficient to warrant removal from office. As impeachment proceedings are separate from criminal proceedings, Clinton still could have been charged with a felony after leaving office.

  15. 15
    Steven says:

    Your Both Right and wrong. President Clinton was IMPEACHED, but a president usually finishes the term and is "INCUMBENT" .

  16. 16
    Steven says:

    he was incumbent, sorry

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