With today’s expected vote in the House of Representatives, Donald Trump may become the third U.S. president to be impeached and the fourth president to face impeachment.
The four U.S. presidents who have faced the impeachment process are as follows.
In December 2019, the House of Representatives — led by Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi — released two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, stemming from his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his actions afterwards. The specific charges against him are Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. The full text of the articles of impeachment can be found via NPR.
On July 25, Trump made a phone call to Zelensky in which he reportedly asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, purportedly in exchange for hundreds of dollars in military aid that had previously been withheld — a quid pro quo, as it came to be called.
When Congress began investigating that phone call, Trump refused to cooperate with the investigation. He rejected requests to hand over any documents or other evidence and forbade potential witnesses from testifying or giving depositions — although several witnesses disobeyed that order and testified anyway.
For the phone call and alleged quid pro quo, Trump was charged with Abuse of Power. For refusing to cooperate with Congress, he was charged with Obstruction of Congress.
On December 19, 1998, Bill Clinton became the second American president to be impeached. The two specific charges against him, Lying Under Oath and Obstruction of Justice, stemmed from testimony he gave in response to a civil lawsuit filed against him.
In 1994, former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones filed a civil lawsuit against Clinton for sexual harassment. The former president had hoped to have the lawsuit delayed until after he was out of office, but a Supreme Court decision ruled that the president was not immune to civil lawsuits, so the proceedings continued. During the case, it was revealed that Clinton had allegedly had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky while in office.
Clinton then allegedly began taking steps to cover up the affair, including suggesting to Lewinsky that she file a false affidavit. He also supposedly coached his private secretary, Betty Currie, to repeat those denials should she be called to testify.
In a January 1998 sworn deposition, Clinton denied the affair. In fact, he denied he was ever alone with Lewinsky. Those denials turned out to have not been true.
For those refutations — and for the alleged attempted cover-up — the House invoked the two articles of impeachment against Clinton and he was impeached by a 228-176 vote in the House. A later trial in the Senate failed to remove him from office and he went on to serve the remainder of his term.
Unlike Clinton, Johnson was not impeached for alleged actual criminal offenses, but for political missteps. The Constitution allows for Congress to impeach the president for effectively any reason — although the document’s language is vague, it doesn’t specify that the president has to have committed criminal offenses in order to be impeached.
In February 1868, Congress released 11 articles of impeachment against Johnson for various “high crimes and misdemeanors,” all stemming from his actions surrounding the removal of one Secretary of War and the appointment of another.
Johnson had clashed with other Republicans in Congress over how Reconstruction should be handled in the South following the Civil War. Johnson favored a more forgiving stance for the South, according to History.com, favoring clemency for Confederate officers and not granting voting rights to freed slaves, over the objections of Congress.
In 1867, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, intended largely to keep then-Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in his job. Johnson had vetoed the Act, but Congress overrode the veto. Johnson fired Stanton anyway and attempted to replace him with Brevet Major General Lorenzo Thomas.
Congress then alleged that Johnson had violated the Act that they had overridden and impeached the former president on March 3, 1868. A later Senate trial failed to convict him and remove him from office, so he went on to serve the remainder of his term.
Unlike the other three men on this list, Nixon was never actually impeached. Rather, he resigned before the House could vote on articles of impeachment.
In the months preceding the 1972 presidential election, various members of the Nixon administration undertook different illegal and clandestine activities to help get Nixon reelected. The biggest and most high-profile of these was a bungled break-in at the Watergate Hotel.
Nixon steadfastly denied involvement in the break-in and allegedly tried to cover it up. By 1973, however, it was clear to Congress that Nixon had been involved and an official impeachment inquiry against him was launched on May 9, 1974.
Over the ensuing weeks and months, the damning allegations — and the evidence to back them up — continued to grow. By August, Nixon had been warned by then-House Minority Leader John Jacob Rhodes that he would almost certainly be impeached and would equally likely be removed from office following a Senate trial.
Nixon tendered his resignation on August 19, 1974, becoming the only president to have resigned from office.