Impeachment investigations of United States federal officials
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Numerous federal officials in the United States have been threatened with impeachment and removal from office. Most investigations did not end in convictions, but caused great controversy nonetheless.
While there have been demands for the impeachment of most presidents, only two—Andrew Johnson and William J. Clinton—have actually been impeached, and both were acquitted by the United States Senate and not removed from office. Removal requires an impeachment vote from the House of Representatives and a conviction from the Senate. Impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon made it out of committee, but he resigned before the actual debate on the floor of the House began.
The following Presidents have had resolutions introduced to initiate proceedings and many have gotten to the hearing stage.
A number of attempts to remove President John Tyler from office failed. On January 10, 1843, Rep. John Minor Botts, of Virginia introduced a resolution that charged "John Tyler, Vice President acting as President" with nine counts of impeachable offenses, including corruption and official misconduct. The resolution was defeated, 83-127.
After Tyler vetoed a tariff bill in June 1842, the House of Representatives initiated the first impeachment proceedings against a president in American history. A committee headed by former president John Quincy Adams, then a congressman, condemned Tyler's use of the veto and stated that Tyler should be impeached. (This was not only a matter of the Whigs supporting the bank and tariff legislation which Tyler vetoed. Until the presidency of the Whigs' archenemy Andrew Jackson, presidents vetoed bills rarely, and then generally on constitutional rather than policy grounds, so Tyler's actions also went against the Whigs' concept of the presidency.) Adams then proposed a constitutional amendment to change the two-thirds requirement to override a veto to a simple majority, but neither house passed such a measure.
During most of 1860, the "Covode Committee" held hearings on whether to impeach President James Buchanan. While it found no real cause, it did find that his administration was the most corrupt since the foundation of the Republic.
Several attempts were made to remove President Andrew Johnson from office. The first occurred on January 7, 1867, when Rep. James M. Ashley of Ohio, introduced a resolution accusing him of corruption. On November 21, 1867, the House Judiciary committee produced a bill of impeachment that consisted of a vast collection of complaints against Johnson. After a furious debate, a formal vote was held in the House of Representatives on December 5, 1867, which failed 57-108. Another impeachment vote the following year succeeded, and a Senate trial acquitted Johnson by one vote.
Ulysses S. Grant
Near the end of Grant's second term in 1876, Democratic congressmen looking for political advantage against Republicans in the upcoming election threatened to impeach the Republican president after a turbulent year of administration scandals. The effort began during the impeachment trial for Grant's Secretary of War, William W. Belknap, on charges of allegedly taking extortion money from a contractor in the Trader post scandal. Although no evidence bore on Grant directly, this and several political controversies had come into public view that year, including a Navy Department scandal that involved members his wife's family and the Whiskey Ring, which resulted in the indictment of Grant's personal secretary, Orville E. Babcock. Grant removed Babcock from his administration after he was subsequently indicted in the Safe burglary conspiracy.
Hoping to further discredit the president, the Democrats' impeachment attempt focused on the amount of time Grant had been absent from his presidential duties. Congressman Joseph Blackburn introduced the impeachment measure, but proceedings never began. Congress tabled the resolution after the November election.
During the 1932-33 lame-duck session of Congress, Congressman Louis Thomas McFadden twice introduced impeachment resolutions against President Herbert Hoover. The resolutions were tabled by wide margins.
Harry S. Truman
In April 1951, President Harry S. Truman fired General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Congressional Republicans responded with numerous calls for Truman's head. The Senate held hearings, and a year later, Congressmen George H. Bender and Paul W. Shafer separately introduced House bills 607 and 614 against President Truman. The resolutions were referred to the Judiciary Committee which, being run by Democrats, sat on them. However, the US Senate held extensive hearings on the matter.
Richard M. Nixon
On May 9, 1972, Congressman William Fitts Ryan submitted a resolution, H.Res. 975, to impeach President Richard Nixon. The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee. The next day, John Conyers introduced a similar resolution, H.Res. 976, and both referred to the Judiciary Committee. On May 18, 1972, Mr. Conyers introduced his second resolution, H.Res. 989, calling for President Nixon's impeachment. The resolutions were referred to the Judiciary Committee, where they died.
As the Watergate affair heated up in the summer of 1973, Rep Robert Drinan tried again, introducing H.Res. 513 on July 31, The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee, which at the time didn't really want to get involved with such a wrenching process. After the Saturday Night Massacre, however, momentum towards impeachment grew rapidly.
On October 23, 1973, a landslide of resolutions calling for impeachment, impeachment investigations, and appointment of a special prosecutor were introduced against Nixon. The introduction of these resolutions continued for several days, but the Judiciary committee refused to start a formal investigation, especially with the Vice Presidency vacant after the resignation amid scandal of Spiro Agnew less than two weeks before.
With pressure growing and a new Vice President in place, the House passed a resolution, H.Res. 803, on February 6, 1974, that gave the Judiciary Committee authority to actually investigate charges against the President. The hearings lasted until the summer when, after much wrangling, the Judiciary Committee voted three articles of impeachment to the floor of the House, the furthest an impeachment proceeding had progressed in over a century.
With the release of new tapes — after the administration lost the case of US v. Nixon — and with impeachment and removal by the Senate all but certain, on August 9, 1974, Nixon became the first president to resign.
On March 6, 1987 Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, Democrat of Texas, introduced articles of impeachment against President Ronald Reagan regarding the Iran Contra affair, leading to the joint hearings that dominated the summer. A special prosecutor was appointed.
George H. W. Bush
On January 16, 1991, Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez introduced H. Res. 34, to impeach President George H. W. Bush for starting the Gulf War. The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it died. Gonzalez tried again with H. Res. 86 on February 21. Both bills were referred to the Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law March 18, 1992, where the efforts also died.
On November 5, 1997, Rep. Robert Barr introduced a resolution, H. Res. 304, directing the House Judiciary Committee to inquire into impeachment proceedings—months before the Monica Lewinsky scandal came to light. Foremost among the concerns Barr cited at the time was alleged obstruction of Justice Department investigations into Clinton campaign fundraising from foreign sources, chiefly the People's Republic of China. The resolution was referred to the Rules Committee for further action, which tabled the resolution.
Later, Clinton was impeached and acquitted over charges relating to the Lewinsky scandal.
George W. Bush
Due to the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, George W. Bush and other officials were targets of impeachment efforts, none of which got past the hearing stage.
In March 2012, Congressman Walter B. Jones introduced H. Con. Res. 107, calling for Congress to hold the sentiment that certain actions of President Barack Obama be considered as impeachable offenses, including the CIA's drone program in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The resolution died in the House Judiciary Committee.
On December 3, 2013, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on whether or not to impeach the President. At the hearing, there were views among Republicans that the president has not done his duty and that he abused his executive power.
On 17 May 2017, Rep. Al Green (D) of Texas called for impeachment of President Trump on the House floor.
Vice President Schuyler Colfax's name surfaced during witness testimony in a House "investigation of Crédit Mobilier scandal. Under this cloud of suspicion, on February 20, 1873, Congressman Fernando Wood introduced a resolution to investigate the Vice President's conduct. The House, however, refused to consider Mr. Wood's resolution, primarily because Colfax was leaving office in a little over two weeks. Then a second resolution was introduced by Congressman Tyner, calling for a general investigation into the witness testimony to see if anyone else warranted impeachment. This resolution was adopted and referred to the Judiciary Committee, which buried it.
In the early spring of 1973, the U.S. attorney in Maryland, investigating illegal campaign contributions and kickbacks, discovered that Vice President Spiro Agnew had been taking kickbacks from local contractors as late as December 1972. The scandal became public in the summer of that year, and as the days progressed, it appeared that an indictment was imminent. So, on the theory that a sitting Vice President couldn't be indicted, at least while an impeachment proceeding was going on, Agnew asked the House to start one in a letter dated September 15, 1973.
On September 26, 1973, the House took up debate on Vice President Agnew's request. Congressman Paul Findley offered a resolution, H. Res. 569, appointing a Select Committee to investigate the Vice President. The resolution was referred to the Rules Committee, which sat on it while Attorney General Elliot Richardson negotiated a plea bargain with the soon-to-be-disgraced Vice President.
Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973, by unanimous consent of the House, the Judiciary Committee was discharged from further investigation under House Resolution 572.
George H. W. Bush
In April 2007, United States Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) filed an impeachment resolution (H.Res. 333) against Vice President Dick Cheney, seeking his trial in the Senate on three charges. After months of inaction, Kucinich re-introduced the exact content of H. Res 333 as a new resolution numbered H.Res. 799 in November 2007. Both resolutions were referred to the Judiciary Committee immediately after their introduction and the Committee did not consider either. Both resolutions expired upon the termination of the 110th United States Congress on 3 January 2009.
Secretary of War William Belknap
He was impeached by a unanimous vote of the House of Representatives shortly after he had resigned for allegedly having received money in return for post tradership appointments. Speaker of the House Michael C. Kerr wrote to the Senate that Belknap resigned "with intent to evade the proceedings of impeachment against him." Belknap was tried by the Senate, which ruled by a vote of 37-29 that it had jurisdiction despite the resignation. The vote on conviction fell short of the two-thirds required, with 35 to 37 votes for each article and 25 votes against each. Two of those voting for conviction, 22 of those voting for acquittal, and one who declined to vote said they felt that the Senate did not have jurisdiction due to Belknap's resignation.
Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty
In 1922, there the House Judiciary committee held hearings on whether to impeach Attorney General Harry Daugherty. Despite evidence of wrongdoing, impeachment articles weren't reported to the full House.
However it was his alleged knowledge of a kickback scam involving bootleggers (operated by his chief aide Jess Smith) that led to his eventual resignation on March 28, 1924. As the subject of a U.S. Senate investigation begun the year before, spearheaded under the direction of Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana, Daugherty, was eventually found not guilty in the investigation.
Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon
In January 1932, Rep. Wright Patman and others introduced articles of Impeachment against Andrew Mellon, with hearings before the House Judiciary Committee at the end of that month. After the hearings were over, but before the scheduled vote on whether to report the articles to the full House, Mellon accepted an appointment to the post of Ambassador to the Court of St. James, and resigned, thus rendering further action on the issue moot.
Secretary of the Treasury William Woodin, Eugene Meyer, Andrew Mellon and Federal Reserve Board
On On May 23, 1933 Rep. Louis Thomas McFadden introduced articles of Impeachment against Eugene Meyer, Secretary of the Treasury William Woodin, two former Treasury Secretaries (Andrew Mellon and Ogden L. Mills); J. F. T. O'Connor (Comptroller of Currency); John W. Pole (former Comptroller of Currency); four members and three former members of the Federal Reserve Board; twelve Federal Reserve Agents; and one former Federal Reserve Agent. There was a hearing on the subject before the House Judiciary committee, but nothing became of it.
Francis Perkins – Labor Secretary, James Houghteling – Immigration and Naturalization Commissioner and Gerard Reilly – Solicitor of the Department of Labor
On January 24, 1939, Rep. J. Parnell Thomas offered an impeachment resolution against the above federal officials. The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee  where it died a quiet death.
Congressional conservatives were angered with Secretary Francis Perkins when she had refused to deport Harry Bridges, the head of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Bridges, an Australian longshoreman who came to America in 1920, was accused of being a Communist.
Griffin Bell – Attorney General of the United States
On February 6, 1978, a resolution, H. Res. 1002, was introduced authorizing Judiciary Committee to investigate Attorney General Griffin Bell. The resolution was referred to the Rules Committee. A week later, Rep Philip Crane, introduced H. Res. 1025. It was also referred to the Rules Committee. and both never saw the light of day again.
Donald Rumsfeld – Secretary of Defense of the United States
On June 20, 2004, angered by the War in Iraq, Rep. Charles Rangel and four co-sponsors introduced H.Res 629 which sought impeachment hearings by the Judiciary Committee against Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It was referred to the HJC's subcommittee on the Constitution, where it died.
Alberto Gonzales – Attorney General of the United States
On July 7, 2007, Rep. Jay Inslee and 31 co-sponsors introduced H. Res. 589 which sought impeachment hearings by the Judiciary Committee against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. It was referred to the Rules Committee instead. While there were no hearings, pressure mounted, and Gonzales resigned less two months later.
Eric Holder – Attorney General of the United States
On November 7, 2013, Rep. Ted Yoho announced that he and some colleagues were going to introduce a resolution impeaching Attorney General Holder. On Nov. 12, it was leaked to the press that Congressman Pete Olson(R-TX) and co-sponsors Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Randy Weber (R-TX) and Roger Williams (R-TX). had written a detailed set of articles which were introduced as H.Res 411 The resolution was referred to the Judiciary committee, where it was never heard from again.
The Federal Reserve Board
The three attempts to remove all or part of the Federal Reserve Board failed.
On February 12, 1917, Rep Charles Lindbergh, Sr., father of "Lucky Lindy", offered articles of impeachment against five members of the Federal Reserve Board. The articles were referred to the Judiciary Committee for investigation. On March 3, the Judiciary Committee submitted its report, H.R. Rep. 64-1628, finding insufficient evidence to support impeachment.
On March 7, 1985, Rep. Henry Gonzalez introduced an impeachment resolution, H.R. Res. 101, against Fed Chairman Paul Volcker and ten other members of the Federal Open Market Committee and H.R. Res. 102, against Volcker alone.The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee., where it was never heard of again. However, not to be deterred, Gonzalez introduced the bill in each of the next two congresses, and they met the same fate.
Henry A. Smythe – Collector, Port of New York
On March 22, 1867, three resolutions were introduced calling for various types of action against the allegedly corrupt Henry A. Smythe. Rep. Hulburd introduced a resolution calling for the President to remove Smythe from office. Mr. Stevens offered an impeachment resolution against Smythe and called upon the Committee on Public Expenditures to draft articles of impeachment. Finally, Rep.Samuel Shellabarger of Ohio introduced a resolution requesting the Committee on Public Expenditures investigate Smythe's conduct.
The next day, the House resumed debate over these three resolutions. A different resolution was ultimately adopted which did not call for Smythe's impeachment, but rather his immediate removal from office by the President. A copy of the resolution was sent to President Andrew Johnson, who ignored it. Smythe left office in 1869 with the change in administration.
Charles Francis Adams, Ambassador to the Court of St. James, and William E. West, American Consul at Dublin
On December 2, 1867, Rep. William E. Robinson of New York introduced a resolution to investigate Charles Francis Adams, Sr. and William E. West, and why they hadn't tried to get some American citizens out of jail there. The resolution was then referred to the Foreign Relations Committee, where it died.
Oliver B. Bradford, consular clerk of the United States, assigned to Shanghai, China, and postal agent of the United States there
In a resolution introduced by Rep. William M. Springer, of Illinois, Bradford was accused of fraud, embezzlement and numerous other charges in relation to the building of a Cross China railroad. While all agreed it was criminal, it wasn't agreed whether or not the office was high enough to warrant impeachment.
George F. Seward, Minister plenipotentiary to China
On March 3, 1879, as part of the regular order of business was the report of the Committee on Expenditures in the State Department, Rep Springer proposed articles of impeachment against George F. Seward for bribery and theft. The articles were sent to the Judiciary committee, where they died.
Lot Wright, United States marshal
On December 2, 1884 Rep. John F. Follett, of Ohio introduced a point of privilege demanding that Wright be impeached for using armed deputies to fix an election. The proposition was held to be out of order.
Clarence Chase – Collector of Customs, Port of El Paso, Texas
Chase was implicated in a Senate hearing before the Committee of Public Lands and Surveys as part of the Tea Pot Dome investigations. The Senate, on March 25, 1924, adopted a resolution, S. Res. 195, referring the matter to the House of Representatives for such proceedings as might be appropriate against Chase. The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee. The next day, Chase resigned from office, and no further action was taken by the House.
H. Snowden Marshall--U.S. District Atty., Southern District of NY
On December 14, 1915. Rep. Frank Buchanan of Illinois demanded the impeachment of H. Snowden Marshall, United States District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, for alleged neglect of duty and subservience to "the great criminal trusts," The Chicago Tribune claimed it had been In an effort to stop the grand jury investigation into the activities of Labor's National Peace council.
About a month later, on Buchanan again offered a resolution, H.R. Res. 90, to investigate Marshall. This time the resolution was adopted and referred to the Judiciary Committee for further action.
On January 27, 1916, the House passed a resolution, H.R. Res. 110, granting the Judiciary Committee authority to subpoena witnesses and to use a Subcommittee. A few days later, a Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee was organized to take testimony. On April 5, the HJC reported its findings, H.R. Rep. No. 64-494, to the House. The Judiciary Committee recommended a Select Committee be appointed to further investigate Marshall. Rep. Kitchins offered a resolution, H.R. Res. 193, to adopt the Judiciary Committee's recommendations. The resolution passed and the Select Committee was formed. The Select Committee report was read into the record on April 14. The report found Marshall guilty of a breach of the privileges of the House and in contempt of the House of Representatives and recommended he be brought to the bar of the House to answer the charges.
On June 20, a resolution, H.R. Res. 268, was submitted which charged Marshall with violating the privileges of the House of Representatives and calling the Speaker to issue a warrant for Marshall's arrest. The resolution was adopted. On June 22, the Speaker signed the warrant.
When Marshall was arrested by the Sergeant at Arms on June 26, he served the Sergeant at Arms with a writ of habeas corpus. The HJC voted to end the investigation on July 16. Marshall's writ eventually went to the United States Supreme Court where Chief Justice White issued the opinion of the court on April 23, 1917. The Court granted the writ and released Marshall from custody. [Marshall v. Gordon, 243 U.S. 521 (1916)].
The Judiciary Committee submitted its last report, H.R. Rep. 64-1077, concerning impeachment efforts against Marshall on August 4, the report, which recommended against impeachment, was referred to the House Calendar.
Phillip Forman – U.S. Attorney for District of New Jersey
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Fredrick Fenning – Commissioner, District of Columbia
On April 19, 1926, articles of impeachment against Commissioner Frederick A. Fenning were read on the floor of the House, and a resolution, H.R. Res. 228, to investigate the validity of the charges was adopted. The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee. On May 4, 1926, the Judiciary Committee submitted a report, H.R. Rep. No. 69-1075, recommending a complete investigation. A resolution adopting the committee report was passed by the House on May 6, 1926.
On June 9, 1926, Mr. Rankin submitted a brief to the investigating committee supporting Fenning's impeachment. Then on June 16, 1926, after Fenning answered the charges, Mr. Rankin submitted a reply brief.
Two committees were involved in the impeachment investigation of Fenning. A preliminary report of a Special Subcommittee of the Committee on the District of Columbia was submitted to the House on June 30, 1926. Then on July 1, the final Judiciary Committee report, H.R. Rep. No. 69-1590, was submitted to the House and later referred to the House Calendar. The proceedings ended with his resignation.
Liam S. Coonan, Special Crime Strike Force Prosecutor for the United States Department of Justice
Richard Helms – Ambassador to Iran
On July 29, 1975, Rep Robert Drinan introduced an impeachment resolution, H.R. Res. 647, against Ambassador Richard Helms for actions taken as Director of the CIA The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee. When nothing happened, Fr. Drinan introduced another impeachment resolution, H.R. Res. 1105, against Ambassador Helms on March 24, 1976. This resolution was also sent to the Judiciary Committee., where it also died.
Jonathan Goldstein U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, and Bruce Goldstein, principal assistant DA
On Nov. 20, 1975, Rep Henry Helstoski introduced an impeachment resolution, H.R. Res. 881, against the Goldsteins, for gratuitous persecution in relation to their investigation of the congressman, which had led to his indictment a month before. It was sent to the HJC, where it died.
Paul Rand Dixon, a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission
Andrew Young – Ambassador to the United Nations
On October 3, 1977, Rep. Lawrence P. McDonald introduced an impeachment resolution, H.R. Res. 805, against Ambassador Andrew Young. The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee for action.
Young had met secretly for meetings, in violation of American law, with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which culminated in Carter asking for Young's resignation. Jimmy Carter denied any complicity in the Andrew Young Affair.
McDonald waited until July 13, 1978, to introduce a second impeachment resolution, H.R. Res. 1267, against him, and this time the resolution was tabled on the House floor.
Kenneth W. Starr, an independent counsel of the United States appointed pursuant to 28 United States Code section 593(b)
On Sept.18, 1998 Rep. Alcee Hastings, who himself had been impeached and removed as a federal judge, introduced H.RES.545 impeaching Kenneth Starr, whose investigation was leading to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Two days later, the House voted to table the bill 340 - 71.
Several weeks later, Hastings introduced H.RES.582, authorizing an investigation to see whether Starr should be impeached. This was referred to the Rules committee, which buried it.
Regina McCarthy, Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency
On September 11, 2015, Rep Paul A. Gosar and 25 cosponsors introduced H.RES.417 Impeaching Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, for high crimes and misdemeanors. These were entirely claims of alleged perjury. This was referred to the House Judiciary, where it died.
John Koskinen, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service
After the Justice Department notified Congress in October 2015 that there would be no charges against Lois Lerner or anyone else in the IRS, 19 Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee led by the Committee's Chairman, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), filed a resolution to impeach Koskinen. Those sponsoring the impeachment resolution to remove Koskinen from office accused him of failing to prevent the destruction of evidence in allowing the erasure of back-up tapes containing thousands of e-mails written by Lois Lerner, and of making false statements under oath to Congress. In a statement released by the Committee, Chaffetz said Koskinen "failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled. Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress." The IRS said on October 27 that it did not have an immediate comment on the impeachment resolution. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), the committee's top Democrat, said in a statement: "This ridiculous resolution will demonstrate nothing but the Republican obsession with diving into investigative rabbit holes that waste tens of millions of taxpayer dollars while having absolutely no positive impact on a single American. Calling this resolution a 'stunt' or a 'joke' would be insulting to stunts and jokes."
The resolution was referred to the House Judiciary committee, who held hearings on the matter on May 23  and June 22, 2016. The House leadership decided not to proceed any further which led to a discharge petition, which was supposed to be acted upon in September but was delayed until after the election. On December 6, 2016, the House voted to send the question back to the Judiciary Committee,  after which it was too late to do anything about it.
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