Impeachment Trials and Proceedings – Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton

Impeachment Trials and Proceedings: Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton

Legal Methods and Process



When people hear the word “impeached, impeachment, impeachable”, etc., many individuals appear to perceive that as meaning the “removal of office”. However, impeachment is bringing a charge(s) of misconduct(s) against a public official holding office and if after the trial a conviction is achieved, then the removal of office will occur. Three impeachment proceedings and/or trials that have made a lasting impression on the American people began with Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974, and William (Bill) Clinton in 1998.

Andrew Johnson Impeachment: Constitutionality, Civil War (1868)

Andrew Johnson began life as an indigent individual that taught himself trades by apprenticeships and/or learning on his own. He was known for his passion and talent for debate and his loyalty to the Union. President Abraham Lincoln admired Johnson’s loyalty and appointed him as Tennessee’s military governor. Lincoln believed he needed support for his second term running campaign, which he chose Johnson as his running mate as an effort to gain support from the “Union Democrats” (, n.d.). Johnson assumed the presidency following the assassination of Lincoln in 1865 making Johnson the 17th president of the U.S., likewise, his impeachment in 1868 entitled Johnson as the first U.S. President impeached.

Corruption would be the most severe of ethical dilemmas in any public office, especially in the offices of our President and our House of Representative members. Johnson violating the Act entitled “An act regulating the tenure of certain civil office” (, n.d.) did, in fact, remove Stanton and appoint Lorenzo Thomas during a recess and without the consent of the Senate directly and knowingly was in violation of the Act. Administrative discretion, nepotism, and administrative secrecy are synergistic in this case. To the expense of his own discretion and appointing his own replacement and enemy of the more favored individual to be the acting Secretary of the Department of War all of which were protected through confidentiality, laws enabled Johnson’s unethical choices that resulted in his impeachment. The charges for violating the Tenure of Office Act could be perceived as being either ethically or politically motivated on both sides. Ethically due to disobeying any law(s) is punishable for every individual within our country, which includes our President. Politically because Stanton was the last Radical Republican from Lincoln’s cabinet and the inside leak for the Senate. His removal from office hindered the ability for information to be known before it would happen.

Richard Nixon Impeachment: Watergate (1974)

The self-spoken words by Richard Nixon following his losses of (1) loss to President Kennedy in the Presidential elections in 1960, and (2) suffering his second political loss with the legislation for Governor by a very slight margin In 1962. Many people reminisce and will reiterate the words Nixon spoke that informed the nation that he was leaving politics and commenting, “you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore” (The History Place, 2000. , Nixon). Nixon returned to politics in 1968 to win the Presidential election to serve, or should I say, hoped to serve, as the 37th U.S. President for two full terms. A huge victory for Nixon when he achieved re-election in 1972 with a very large marginal defeat. After winning every state but Massachusetts, Nixon faced being impeached in his participation in the “scandal that changed America”, the Watergate Scandal, but became the first and only president to resign from office to avoid impeachment.

Corruption, as mentioned above, is the most severe ethical dilemmas that our governmental offices can endure. Intimidating witnesses to remain silent, bribery, theft, you name it, can all be seen in this case. Illegal wiretapping, tampering and/or destroying evidence are also observed in Watergate with the bugging of the offices of the Democratic National Committee, and all a part of corruption. Nixon used his authority and power to cheat his way to a victory for his second term in office. Nixon committed perjury by lying about his involvement, let alone, his conspiracies in planning the “bizarre” break-ins (The History Place, 2000, Nixon).

In my opinion, congressional action in the impeachment proceedings of President Nixon were ethically motivated. I say this because all the sly actions of Nixon pertinent to running for re-election revealed deceit, payoffs, and many immoral actions directed or carried out by the American President. The events taking place in Watergate could be criminally punished because the actions by our president were fully unethical.

Bill Clinton Impeachment

Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the U.S., a Yale Law School graduate, and the 1976 Attorney General of Arkansas to later become the second U.S. President to face impeachment trial proceedings and the second prosecutorial failure to convince two-thirds of the Senate our president was corrupt (, n.d.). The indiscretions made by Clinton in the Paula Jones, Monica Lewinski scandal, in my opinion, were more of a personal issue rather than a civil or criminal issue. However, perjury is punishable criminally for every individual in the U.S., and again, this includes President Clinton lying under oath by denying his infidelity.

Clinton and his Vice President Al Gore comprised the executive and legislative branches as being “held by democrats for the first time in over 12 years” (, n.d.). However, after both houses of Congress were taken by Republicans, Clinton’s personal life and personal affairs gave his opposing Party a walkway towards impeachment with the help of greedy attorney, Kenneth Starr. In my opinion, Senate was politically motivated for impeaching Clinton because of bipartisan Senate members.

Depending whomever is in the majority party seems to be the deciding factor as to a harmonious relationship between the President and the Senate. In each of the impeachment proceedings and/or trials, it was a political power trip that riddled down in history initiating distrust of the American people and their government. Pertaining to Nixon and Clinton, I believe they should be held to a higher standard than Johnson was because Johnson self-educated whereas, Nixon and Clinton were attorneys prior to becoming president. With extended education in law and taking the Oath as written in our Constitution, one would think that Nixon and Clinton should have known better.

References, (n.d.). The Impeachment of Bill Clinton. Retrieved from

Ink, E., B. (2011, November 02). MinnPost. Why President Andrew Johnson was Impeached, and Why We Should Care Today. Retrieved from (n.d.). Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment. Retrieved from (1996-2019). American Experience. The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (The Presidents). Retrieved from (n.d.). The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (1868) President of the United States.

Retrieved from

The History Place. (2000). Presidential Impeachment Proceedings: Richard Nixon. Retrieved from