The Impeachment of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton


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Impeachment is the ultiomate punishment for a president. It is a long and complicated rout to removing a public official from office. The Constitutional process Article II, section 4 specifies the procedures to be used to remove a public official from office(CNN/All Politics). The constitution states that and president found guilty for bribery, treason, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. There has been a long debate on what should be considered a high crime. Different people in the House share different views. Ultimately it is up to the Hose to decide to drop the charges or further the investigation. If the public official is found guilty a two thirds majority vote from the Senate is necessary. The most recent president to face an impeachment hearing was Bill Clinton. A previous case involving Richard Nixon, Watergate, was held in 1974. Rather than facing an embarrassment with impeachment Nixon chose to resign in disgrace.
Both cases were very much similar yet different. In the Watergate scandal many of Nixon's dirty tactics were learned, including assorted lists of enemies,a number of which became targets of IRS tax audits, wiretapping, political sabotage, burglary, blackballing, and smear campaigns(Geriouese). Similarly, as Clinton’s case unfolded, the scandal appeared to involve more than just a sexual assault.

It was clear that the Republicans were out to get former President Clinton, when the Whitewater case emerged. Republicans were desperate to find Clinton guilty of covering up financial impropriety in his Arkansa invenvestments prior to becoming president. When speacial prosecutor Robert Fiske Jr. turned up no evidence, Republicans demanded his removal. Kenneth Starr was appointed the position. He began an open-ended inquiry into every corner of Clinton’s life. Clinton was ultimetly found not guilty.
The first major set back of President Bill Clinton arose from a series of events following the filing of a lawsuit on May 6, 1994, by Paula Jones in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas(Starr). Ms. Jones alleged violations of her federal civil rights in 1991 by President Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas and she was an Arkansas state employee. According to the her allegations, Governor Clinton invited Ms. Jones to his hotel room where he made a sexual advance that she rejected.

Clinton’s attorney’s tried to get the caes to rest until his term as president was over. The Supreme Court decide against the recommendation and the court proceeded.

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Various witnesses were subpeanoed for information regaing the Jones vs. Clinton case. On April 1, 1998 Juge Suasan Wright made the final verdict. She stated that there was not enough evidence that supported any sexual harassment towards Ms. Jones. Ms. Jones appealed the case. Before the 8th circuit court of appeals had made any decisions a settlement was made outside the courts(Starr). Clinton agreed to pay Ms. Jones $1 million, but without an apology or admission of guilt(Starr).

Although the Jones vs. Clinton case the testimony in the suit brought up other Clinton affairs, and led directly to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Monica Lewinsky, who had worked in the White House in1995, was on a list of potential witnesses by Ms. Jones attorneys. During the hearing Mr. Clinton was asked if he had “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky. He had reportly denied the allegations(Hamilton).
Starr obtained tapes from Linda Tripp on January 12. In these tapes Lewinsky confided details of her feelings and the President's behavior to her presumed friend Linda Tripp. Tripp was illegally recording their telephone conversations with the intent to aid Republican persecution of the President without Monica’s knowing(Starr). On the same day Monica’s affidavit was sent by her lawyers to the Jones Lawyers in which she stated:
I have never had a sexual relationship with the President, he did not propose that we have a sexual relationship, he did not offer me employment or other benefits in exchange for a sexual relationship, he did not deny me employment or other benefits for rejecting a sexual relationship.
On January 15, Starr obtained approval from Attorney General Janet Reno, who in turn sought and received an order from the United States Court of Appeals, to expand the scope of the Whitewater probe into the new allegations. On the following day, a meeting between Ms. Lewinsky and Ms. Tripp at a hotel was secretly recorded pursuant to a court order, with federal agents then confronting Ms. Lewinsky at the end of the meeting with charges of her perjury and demanding that she cooperate in providing evidence against the President. Ms. Lewinsky initially declined to cooperate, and told the FBI and other investigators that much of what she had told Ms. Tripp was not true (Starr).
On January 17, President Clinton was deposed in the Jones lawsuit. He denied having "sexual relations" with Ms. Lewinsky under a definition provided to him in writing by her lawyers, and also said that he could not recall whether he was ever alone with her(Hamilton).
After repeated media inquiries, on January 26 President Clinton asserted in an appearance before the White House press corps: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," and denied urging her to lie about an affair.
The President's attorneys failed in efforts to block Starr's expansion of his investigation, which also included whether the President himself had lied under oath in his own deposition taken in the Paula Jones litigation. In July 1998, after being granted sweeping immunity from prosecution by Special Prosecutor Starr, Ms. Lewinsky admitted that she in fact had had a sexual relationship with the President that did not include intercourse, but denied that she had ever been asked to lie about the relationship by the President or by those close to him(New York Times).
On August 17, the President testified for over four hours before Starr's grand jury on closed-circuit television from the White House. In his testimony, he admitted the Lewinsky relationship, but denied that he perjured himself in the Paula Jones deposition because he did not interpret the conduct with Ms. Lewinsky as constituting sexual relations. On the same evening, he appeared on national television and admitted that he had an "inappropriate relationship" with Lewinsky and had misled the American people about it (Rozell).
On September 9, Independent Counsel Starr submitted a detailed report to the Congress in which he contended that there was "substantial and credible information that President Clinton committed acts that may constitute grounds for an impeachment" by lying under oath in the Jones litigation and obstructing justice by urging Ms. Lewinsky "to file an affidavit that the President knew would be false" (Starr). On September 11, the House of Representatives approved House Resolution 525 by a vote of 363 to 63 authorizing a review by the Committee on the Judiciary of the report of the Independent Counsel to determine whether sufficient grounds existed to recommend to the House that an impeachment inquiry be commenced and also approved the public release of the Starr report(Starr). On September 21, the Judiciary Committee released nearly 3,200 pages of material from the grand jury proceedings and the Starr investigation, including transcripts of the tesimony of President Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky(CNN/All Politics).
On October 8, House Resolution 581 introduced by Congressman Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was approved by the House in a 258 to 163 vote to authorize and direct the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether sufficient grounds existed for the impeachment of the President. After its staff interviewed various witnesses in private, the Judiciary Committee's public hearings commenced on November 19 with an opening statement by Congressman Hyde followed by additional hearings in which the Committee reviewed the issues and allegations of the Starr report and additional testimony provided by witnesses to its staff. The Committee also heard contrasting views from constitutional experts on the legal basis for impeachment as applied to the factual allegations pertaining to the Lewinsky matter.
A motion sponsored by Democrats to adopt a censure resolution as an alternative to the proposed impeachment was defeated on December 8. On December 11 and 12, the Committee approved four articles of impeachment for presentation to the full House, and on December 16 released its full Report supporting its recommendation. After debate, the House approved two of the Articles alleging that the President had provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury regarding the Paula Jones case and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and that he had obstructed justice through an effort to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence related to the Jones case. After the House vote, President Clinton appeared before the media at the White House, saying in part:
I have accepted responsibility for what I did wrong in my personal life. And I have invited members of Congress to work with us to find a reasonable, bipartisan and proportionate response. That approach was rejected today by Republicans in the House. But I hope it will be embraced by the Senate. I hope there will be a constitutional and fair means of resolving this matter in a prompt manner.
The Impeachment Trial in the Senate commenced on January 7, 1999, with the announcement by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the presence of the managers on the part of the House of Representatives to conduct proceedings on behalf of the House concerning the impeachment of the President of the United States. After Congressman Hyde read the Articles of Impeachment approved by the House, the Senate then adjourned, reconvening later that day with Chief Justice Rehnquist present, who was sworn in as presiding officer for the trial and who in turn swore in the 100 senators as jurors for the proceedings. The President's case was outlined in the White House Trial Memorandum submitted on January 13, which was countered by the House Rebuttal to White House Trial Memorandum. In subsequent sessions, the Senate voted to adopt a series of motions to limit evidence primarily to the previously video-taped depositions, affidavits and other documents previously introduced, and also voted to close its final deliberations to the public.
The Senate voted on the Articles of Impeachment on February 12, with a two-thirds majority, or 67 Senators, required to convict. On Article I, that charged that the President "...willfully provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury" and made "...corrupt efforts to influence the testimony of witnesses and to impede the discovery of evidence" in the Paula Jones lawsuit, the President was found not guilty with 45 Senators voting for the President's removal from office and 55 against. Ten Republicans split with their colleagues to vote for acquittal; all 45 Democrats voted to acquit. On Article II, charging that the President "...has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice"..., the vote was 50-50, with all Democrats and five Republicans voting to acquit.
Following the vote, President Clinton, in televised remarks from the White House, said:
Now that the Senate has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility bringing this process to a conclusion, I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people.
I also am humbled and very grateful for the support and the prayers I have received from millions of Americans over this past year.
Now I ask all Americans, and I hope all Americans here in Washington and throughout our land, will rededicate ourselves to the work of serving our nation and building our future together. This can be and this must be a time of reconciliation and renewal for America.
Clinton did not leave the presidency without issuing last minute oardons. He pardoned many people. Including two prison inmates that his brother-in-law had been paid to represent. Many people questioned his pardons,in disbelief. Despite, the scandals that surrounded Clinton, he was still the president with the highest public approval rating (Morris). Begginng in his seventh year of presidency Clinton’s approval ratings were over 60 percent (Gallup Pol, January 16-18,1999). Surprisingly after the scandals surrounding Clinton began the public stil remained stable in support for their president. In the weeks following the WashingtonPost/ABC News polls inidactda drop to 51 percent approval ratings (January 22-25,1998). According to the Washington Post/ABC News Polls(January22-25,19998) more than 60 percent of the the public belived that the president should resign if he lied under oath during the Jones trial. In late October Clinton’s rating began to take a plunge. The public felt that Clinton was not taking action t defend himself, proving him quilty. Hillary and Bill decided to fight back scheduling various interviews, claiming Bill’s innocence. When Bill made the statement “I did not have sexual relations with that women” in a live news coverage at a State of the Union address in front of cheering crowds, his public approval rose drasticallyto 67 percent (Gallup Poll). On December 19 the House approved two articles of impeachment, his approval ratings rose to 73 percent(Gallup Polls).
Through out Clinton’s trial with the Senate, American’s support for his job performance and their opposition for his impeachment remained unchanged. Overall, his approval ratings stayed in the low 60: support for his removal never rose above 35 percent (ABC News).
The Watergate Scandal involved a number of illegal activities that were designed to help President Richard Nixon win re-election. The scandal involved burglary, wiretapping, campaign financing violations, and the use of government agencies to harm political opponents. One of the major aspects of the scandal was to cover-up of all these illegal actions. “Watergate, however, differed from most previous political scandals because personal greed apparently did not play an important role. Instead Watergate attacked one of the chief features of Democracy – free and open elections” (Worldbook 1).
The Watergate Scandal got its name from the Watergate Complex in Washington D.C. This large office building was the home of the Democratic National Headquarters, and the site of the break-in that began the largest scandal in American Politics. However, even before the break-in, President Nixon had begun illegal operations.
President Nixon had created a special investigation unit to prevent the leaking of confidential documents to the public. He did this after a number of Defense Department papers were released to the public concerning President Nixon’s paranoia over the public’s criticism of his Vietnam War policies (Owens 1).
The “Plumbers”, as they were nicknamed, were headed by two of Nixon’s top aides, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt. In order to prevent all information leaks, the “Plumbers” investigated the private lives of Nixon’s political enemies and critics. The White House rationalized the actions of the plumbers by saying that they were protecting National Security.
The actual Watergate Scandal began on June 17, 1972, with the arrest of five men for breaking into the Democratic Party’s National Headquarters located in the Watergate Complex in Washington D.C. The five men were part of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). They were attempting to fix a broken phone tap that they had installed about a month before. The five men were charged with burglary and wiretapping. Throughout the next few months this minor break-in turned into a full blown political scandal.

When first questioned about the situation in early 1973, Nixon denied all allegations that either he or any White House official was linked to the break-in. Later that year evidence was uncovered that linked several White House officials to the break-in, and or the cover-up and concealment of the evidence. This information indicated that White House officials had attempted to involve the CIA and FBI in the cover-up (Worldbook 2).
In April of 1973, special prosecutor Archibald Cox was appointed to handle the case. Presidential Council John W. Dean III became the chief witness against President Nixon in the court hearings. In the trial Dean admitted that he was a major part of the scandal and that Nixon did in fact know of the illegal activities being committed by his administration. Dean also testified that Nixon’s Administration had planned to use the IRS and other government agencies to punish people who the White House had placed on so called “enemies-lists” (Worldbook 2). Dean served four months in prison for his part in the Watergate Scandal, but through his testimony a new door was opened into the scandal.
Through further investigation it was discovered by Alexander P. Butterfield, that President Nixon had made tape recordings of conversations with White House officials. When asked to release the tapes Nixon refused, saying that he had a constitutional right of executive privelege to keep the tapes.

In 1974, the House of Representatives began formal investigations into the possible impeachment of the President. The House Judiciary Committee voted 27 to 11 on July 27, 1974 to recommend the first article of impeachment against the President: obstruction of justice. Then on July 29 the second article, abuse of power, was passed and on July 30 the third, contempt of Congress, was also passed.

In August, a previously unknown tape was released for June 23, 1972, recorded only a few days after the break-in, in which Nixon and Haldeman formulated the plan to block investigations by raising fictional national security claims. The tape was referred to as a "smoking gun".

After being told by key Republican Senators that enough votes existed to convict him, Nixon decided to resign, which he did on August 9, 1974. Ultimately, Nixon was never actually impeached or convicted, since his resignation voided the issue. He was succeeded by Gerald Ford, who on September 8 issued a pardon for Nixon.

Overall, Nixon’s approval ratings over two terms were only 49 percent (Burnes 1998). In the summer of 1974 just before Nixon resigned his approval rtaings stood at 24 percent(Gallup Poll, July 1974). Both the Republicans and the Democrats were pushing for his removal at this point. The public was wary of his claim of innocence with a 50% majority believing that President Nixon was involved in the cover-up of the scandal(Gallup 117). With the general public viewing President Nixon as a crook, he could not effectively ensure his policies and laws passing through Congress. There was a 24.2% decline in Nixon’s presidential victories on votes in Congress directly following the Watergate scandal(Ornstein 185). Also, in the judiciary, many unprecedented court suits were brought forth against the president following the Watergate scandal; the courts weakened Nixon’s presidency by claiming that many of his policies were unconstitutional, such as the impoundment of funds.

After the scandal, the governments integrity as a whole was reduced as exemplified by a poll showing that 58% of people polled after the Watergate scandal felt that they lost confidence in the federal government as an institution(Gallup 117).

On July 27, 1974 the House Judiciciary Committee of the 92nd Congress passed the first three articles of impeachment aginst Richard Nixon. His public approval at this point was an ultimate low of 26 percent approval. Nixon ultimately resined. Almost 25 years later, on December 12, 1998, the House Judicuray od the 105th Congress passed four articles to impeach President Wikllain Jefferson Clinton on a party-line vote. A day after his impeachment his approval rating were at 68 percent (Gallup Poll,1998).

Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body formally levels charges against a high official of Government. As we have seen through history, impeachment does not necessarily mean removal from office; it is only a formal statement of charges,and is only the first step towards removal. Many people still till this day have different opinions on the severity of the Watergate scandal and the Monica Scandal. However, there is common point among the discusson, which is; Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton served the United States of Aerica proudly and ulimately very successful through their terms in office.


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