The Impeachment of an American President

by Derrick G. Jeter

December 19 is a memorial date, personally—for two reasons: it’s the anniversary of my marriage and it’s the anniversary of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. I have vivid memories of both events—one full of joy and happiness and one full of terrible sadness for our country.
As a child, I remember days in 1974, after school, pleading with my mother to allow me to watch cartoons before going outside to play. During the waning school days of that year my mother planted herself in the living room, ironing, watching hearings of the Judicial Committee of the United States House of Representatives. The committee was weighing and debating whether to file articles of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon in regard to the Watergate fiasco. To a child of ten, all the talk by adults concerning the Constitution, the presidency, and impeachment was a great bore—especially when I could be watching cartoons.
Fast forward twenty-four years, and I’m the one now engrossed in watching different members of that same U.S. House committee weight and debate whether to bring articles of impeachment against another president, Bill Clinton. During those dark days in our country, I kept a journal. On this anniversary of the second impeachment of a United States President (Andrew Johnson being the first), it’s worth remembering the strength of our Constitutional system—the greatest system of government devised by the mind of man. These were some of my words then.
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Tuesday, 15 September 1998
Whenever great nations reach “the summit of grandeur,” John Adams wrote his friend, Nathan Webb, on October, 12, 1755, “some minute and unsuspected cause commonly effects their run, and the empire of the world is transferred to some other place.”
The United States, on the summit of its grandeur, finds itself embroiled in a minute and unsuspecting cause which could effect our very form of government. Some may think this a hyperbolic statement, but we in America, today, face a constitutional and ethical crisis.
In January a story broke about the president having sex in the Oval Office, with a then 21 year old intern, and possibly suborning perjury in regard to her testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit [which was filed earlier against the president when he was governor of Arkansas]. The intern’s name is Monica Lewinsky. From the time the story appeared in the news, the president denied having a sexual relationship with Miss Lewinsky; that is until August 17 [1998] when he appeared before independent counsel, Ken Starr’s grand jury. After his appearance, the president delivered a national speech stating that he “misled” the American people in regard to his relationship with Miss Lewinsky.
Last Wednesday, September 9, Ken Starr sent his finding to Congress. On Friday, the Congress published the report on the internet. The material clearly points out that the president had sex in the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky and lied about it for eight months. Lied, not only to the American people, but lied under oath—committing perjury. All weekend there has been talk of impeachment and calls for the president to resign. There has also been talk of a deal, for Congress to hand down a censure, especially if the public does not support resignation or impeachment. . . .
Tuesday, 15 December 1998
The Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives made history las Friday and Saturday. For the first time in 24 years they committee passed articles of impeachment against the president of the United States of America! History may be made this week when the full House votes on these articles. The prevailing winds today are blowing for impeachment of President Clinton. If this happens, it will only be the second time in our history—Andrew Johnson the first—that a trial will take place in the Senate with the question of removing the president from office.
Saturday, 19 December 1998
This is an historic day in the United States of America. President William Jefferson Clinton has become the second president in our history to be impeached! The House of Representatives passed two out of four articles of impeachment: perjury before Ken Starr’s grand jury and obstruction of justice. The two articles that failed were perjury during the Paula Jones civil deposition and abuse of power. The Senate will now have to take up the case for trial, if they don’t cut a deal with the president before hand.
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No deal was cut and the trial did go to the Senate. On February 12, 1999, Bill Clinton was acquitted of the impeachment charges brought by the House. The vote for acquittal for perjury was 55–45, and for obstruction of justice, 50–50. The tie was broken by Vice President Al Gore. Bill Clinton went on to finish his second term as president, but much diminished politically and diminishing the presidency in the process.