List of efforts to impeach presidents of the United States
The Constitution of the United States gives Congress the authority to remove the president of the United States from office in two separate proceedings. The first one takes place in the House of Representatives, which impeaches the president by approving articles of impeachment through a simple majority vote. The second proceeding, the impeachment trial, takes place in the Senate. There, conviction on any of the articles requires a two-thirds majority vote and would result in the removal from office (if currently sitting), and possible debarment from holding future office.
Three United States presidents have been impeached, although none were convicted: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Donald Trump in 2019 and 2021. Trump is the only president (and only federal officeholder) to be impeached twice. Richard Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate Scandal in 1974, after the House Judiciary Committee passed articles of impeachment but before the House could vote to impeach.
Presidents who have been impeached
Andrew Johnson (impeached Feb. 1868, acquitted May 1868)
President Andrew Johnson held open disagreements with Congress, who tried to remove him several times. The Tenure of Office Act was enacted over Johnson's veto to curb his power and he openly violated it in early 1868.
The House of Representatives adopted 11 articles of impeachment against Johnson, charging him with:
- Dismissing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from office after the Senate had voted not to concur with his dismissal and had ordered him reinstated.
- Appointing Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas as secretary of war ad interim despite the lack of vacancy in the office, since the dismissal of Stanton had been invalid.
- Appointing Thomas without the required advice and consent of the Senate.
- Conspiring, with Thomas and "other persons to the House of Representatives unknown," to unlawfully prevent Stanton from continuing in office.
- Conspiring to unlawfully curtail faithful execution of the Tenure of Office Act.
- Conspiring to "seize, take, and possess the property of the United States in the Department of War."
- Conspiring to "seize, take, and possess the property of the United States in the Department of War" with specific intent to violate the Tenure of Office Act.
- Issuing to Thomas the authority of the office of secretary of war with unlawful intent to "control the disbursements of the moneys appropriated for the military service and for the Department of War."
- Issuing to Major General William H. Emory orders with unlawful intent to violate federal law requiring all military orders to be issued through the General of the Army.
- Making three speeches with intent to "attempt to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States."
- Unlawfully, and unconstitutionally, challenged the authority of the 39th Congress to legislate, because Southern states had not been readmitted to the Union.
Bill Clinton (impeached Dec. 1998, acquitted Feb. 1999)
On October 8, 1998, the House of Representatives voted to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Bill Clinton, in part because of allegations that he lied under oath when being investigated in the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal.
On December 19, 1998, two articles of impeachment were approved by the House, charging Clinton with perjury and obstruction of justice. The charges stemmed from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Clinton by Arkansas state employee Paula Jones and from Clinton's testimony denying that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. They were:
Article I, charging Clinton with perjury, alleged in part that:
On August 17, 1998, William Jefferson Clinton swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth before a federal grand jury of the United States. Contrary to that oath, William Jefferson Clinton willfully provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury concerning one or more of the following:
- the nature and details of his relationship with a subordinate government employee;
- prior perjurious, false and misleading testimony he gave in a federal civil rights action brought against him;
- prior false and misleading statements he allowed his attorney to make to a federal judge in that civil rights action; and
- his corrupt efforts to influence the testimony of witnesses and to impede the discovery of evidence in that civil rights action.
Article II, charging Clinton with obstruction of justice alleged in part that:
The means used to implement this course of conduct or scheme included one or more of the following acts:
- ... corruptly encouraged a witness in a Federal civil rights action brought against him to execute a sworn affidavit in that proceeding that he knew to be perjurious, false and misleading.
- ... corruptly encouraged a witness in a Federal civil rights action brought against him to give perjurious, false and misleading testimony if and when called to testify personally in that proceeding.
- ... corruptly engaged in, encouraged, or supported a scheme to conceal evidence that had been subpoenaed in a Federal civil rights action brought against him.
- ... intensified and succeeded in an effort to secure job assistance to a witness in a Federal civil rights action brought against him in order to corruptly prevent the truthful testimony of that witness in that proceeding at a time when the truthful testimony of that witness would have been harmful to him.
- ... at his deposition in a Federal civil rights action brought against him, William Jefferson Clinton corruptly allowed his attorney to make false and misleading statements to a Federal judge characterizing an affidavit, in order to prevent questioning deemed relevant by the judge. Such false and misleading statements were subsequently acknowledged by his attorney in a communication to that judge.
- ... related a false and misleading account of events relevant to a Federal civil rights action brought against him to a potential witness in that proceeding, in order to corruptly influence the testimony of that witness.
- ... made false and misleading statements to potential witnesses in a Federal grand jury proceeding in order to corruptly influence the testimony of those witnesses. The false and misleading statements made by William Jefferson Clinton were repeated by the witnesses to the grand jury, causing the grand jury to receive false and misleading information.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist presided over Clinton's Senate trial. Both articles of impeachment failed to receive the required super-majority, and so Clinton was acquitted and was not removed from office.
First impeachment (impeached Dec. 2019, acquitted Feb. 2020)
After a whistleblower accused President Donald Trump of pressuring a foreign government to interfere on Trump's behalf prior to the 2020 election, the House initiated an impeachment inquiry. On December 10, 2019, the Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment (H.Res. 755): abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. On December 18, 2019, the House voted to impeach Trump on two charges:
- Abuse of power by "pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals ahead of the 2020 election while withholding a White House meeting and $400 million in U.S. security aid from Kiev."
- Obstruction of Congress by directing defiance of subpoenas issued by the House and ordering officials to refuse to testify.
On January 31, 2020, the Senate voted 51–49 against calling witnesses or issuing subpoenas for any additional documents. On February 5, 2020, the Senate found Trump not guilty of abuse of power, by a vote of 48–52, with Republican senator Mitt Romney being the only senator—and the first senator in U.S. history—to cross party lines by voting to convict, and not guilty of obstruction of Congress, by a vote of 47–53.
Second impeachment (impeached Jan. 2021, acquitted Feb. 2021)
Trump was impeached for a second time after he was accused of inciting a deadly insurrection against the United States by attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election results after his loss to Joe Biden. On January 13, 2021, the House voted to impeach Trump for "Incitement of Insurrection".
Although Trump's term ended on January 20, the trial in the Senate began on February 9. On February 13, the Senate found Trump not guilty of incitement of insurrection, by a vote of 57 for conviction and 43 against, below the 67 votes needed for a supermajority. In previous impeachment proceedings, only one senator had ever voted to convict a president of their own party. This time, seven Republican senators found Trump guilty, making it the most bipartisan impeachment.
As Trump was no longer president, the president pro tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy presided over Trump's second trial. As the article of impeachment failed to receive the required super-majority, Trump was acquitted.
President subjected to an impeachment process who resigned before it ended
Richard Nixon (initiated Oct. 1973, resigned Aug. 1974)
The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon for obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress for his role in the Watergate scandal.
On October 30, 1973, Nixon ordered the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, precipitating the Saturday Night Massacre. A massive reaction took place, especially in Congress, where 17 resolutions were introduced between November 1, 1973, and January 1974: H.Res. 625, H.Res. 635, H.Res. 643, H.Res. 648, H.Res. 649, H.Res. 650, H.Res. 652, H.Res. 661, H.Res. 666, H.Res. 686, H.Res. 692, H.Res. 703, H.Res. 513, H.Res. 631, H.Res. 638, and H.Res. 662. H.Res. 803, passed February 6, authorized a Judiciary Committee investigation, and in July, that committee approved three articles of impeachment. Before the House took action, the impeachment proceedings against Nixon were mooted when Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. A report containing articles of impeachment was accepted by the full House on August 20, 1974, by a vote of 412–3.
Presidents who, after a formal investigation, were not impeached
James Buchanan (1860)
In 1860, the House of Representatives set up the United States House Select Committee to Investigate Alleged Corruptions in Government, known as the Covode Committee after its chairman, Rep. John Covode (R-PA), to investigate President James Buchanan on suspicion of bribery and other allegations. After about a year of hearings, the committee concluded that Buchanan's actions did not merit impeachment.
Andrew Johnson (1867)
On January 7, 1867, the House of Representatives voted to approve an impeachment inquiry run by the House Committee on the Judiciary, which initially ended in a June 3, 1867 vote by the committee to recommend against forwarding articles of impeachment to the full House. However, on November 25, 1867, the House Committee on the Judiciary, which had not previously forwarded the result of its inquiry to the full House, reversed their previous decision, and voted in a 5–4 vote to recommend impeachment proceedings, however, the full House rejected this recommendation by a 108–56 vote. Johnson would later, separately, be impeached in 1868.
Presidents who the full House of Representatives voted against holding an impeachment inquiry into
On January 25, 1809, Rep. Josiah Quincy III (a Federalist from Massachusetts) introduced resolutions which would launch an impeachment inquiry into President Thomas Jefferson, by then a lame duck who was scheduled to leave office on March 4, 1809. Quincy alleged that Jefferson had committed a "high misdemeanor" by keeping Benjamin Lincoln, the Port of Boston's customs collector, in that federal office, despite Lincoln's own protests that he was too old and too weak to continue with his job. In 1806, Lincoln had written Jefferson proposing his own resignation, but Jefferson requested that Lincoln continue in the office until he appointed a successor. Quincy argued that, by leaving Lincoln in the post, Jefferson had unfairly enabled a federal official to receive a $5,000 annual salary, "for doing no services".
The resolution received immediate resistance from both Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, and saw 17 members of the House speak against even providing consideration of the resolution. Quincy refused to withdraw his resolution, despite the immense opposition. Congressmen argued that the act of requesting Lincoln remain in office was not a high crime nor a misdemeanor, and there was not even evidence of inefficient management of the customs house. The House voted 93–24 to allow consideration of the resolution. After consideration, it was defeated by a vote of 117–1.
After John Tyler vetoed a tariff bill in June 1842, 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.) In August, the House accepted this report, which implied that impeachable offenses had been committed by Tyler, in a vote of 100–80.
Tyler criticized the house for, what he argued, was a vote effectively charging him with impeachable offenses without actually impeaching him of such offenses, thus denying him the ability to defend himself against these charges in a Senate trial.
Rep. John Botts (Whig-VA), who opposed President Tyler, (who was a member of his same party) introduced an impeachment resolution on July 10, 1842 that levied several charges against Tyler regarding his use of the presidential veto power and called for a nine-member committee to investigate his actions, with the expectation of a formal impeachment recommendation. The impeachment resolution was defeated in a 127–83 vote on January 10, 1843.
Presidents against whom impeachment resolutions were introduced, but no full-house vote was held
Ulysses S. Grant
Rep. Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn (D-KY) introduced an impeachment resolution against President Ulysses S. Grant in 1876, regarding the number of days Grant had been absent from the White House. The resolution never gained momentum and was tabled in December 1876.
Rep. Milford W. Howard (D-AL), on May 23, 1896, submitted a resolution (H.Res 374) impeaching President Grover Cleveland for selling unauthorized federal bonds and breaking the Pullman Strike. It was neither voted on nor referred to a committee.
On December 13, 1932 and on January 17, 1933, Rep. Louis Thomas McFadden (R-PA) introduced two impeachment resolutions against President Herbert Hoover, over economic grievances. The resolutions were considered for several hours and were then tabled.
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 removal. 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 but were not considered by the Democratic-held Senate.
On April 22, 1952, Rep. Noah M. Mason (R-IL) suggested that impeachment proceedings should be started against President Harry S. Truman for seizing the nation's steel mills. Soon after Mason's remarks, Rep. Robert Hale (R-ME) introduced a resolution (H.Res. 604). After three days of debate on the floor of the House, it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but no action was taken.
In 1983, Congressional Representative Henry B. González was joined by Ted Weiss, John Conyers Jr., George Crockett Jr., Julian C. Dixon, Mervyn M. Dymally, Gus Savage and Parren J. Mitchell in proposing a resolution impeaching Reagan for "the high crime or misdemeanor of ordering the invasion of Grenada in violation of the Constitution of the United States, and other high crime or misdemeanor ancillary thereto."
On March 5, 1987, Rep. González (D-TX) introduced H.Res. 111, with six articles against President Ronald Reagan regarding the Iran-Contra affair to the House Judiciary Committee, where no further action was taken. While no further action was taken on this particular bill, it led directly to the joint hearings of the subject that dominated the news later that year. After the hearings were over, USA Today reported that articles of impeachment were discussed but decided against.
Edwin Meese acknowledged, in testimony at the trial of Reagan aide Oliver North, that officials in the Reagan administration had been worried that the 1987 impeachment could result in Reagan having to leave the office of President.
George H.W. Bush
President George H. W. Bush was subject to two resolutions over the Gulf War in 1991, both by Rep. Henry B. González (D-TX). H.Res. 34 was introduced on January 16, 1991, and was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary and then its Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law on March 18, 1992. H.Res. 86 was introduced on February 21, 1991, and referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where no further action was taken on it.
George W. Bush
During the administration of President George W. Bush, several American politicians sought to either investigate him for possible impeachable offenses or to bring actual impeachment charges. The most significant of these occurred on June 10, 2008, when Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) introduced H.Res. 1258, containing 35 articles of impeachment against Bush. After nearly a day of debate, the House voted 251–166 to refer the impeachment resolution to the House Judiciary Committee on June 11, 2008, where no further action was taken on it.
On January 21, 2021, the day after Biden's inauguration, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) filed articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden. She cited abusing his power while serving as vice president. Viktor Shokin was investigating the founder of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas giant in Ukraine. Biden's son Hunter Biden had served as a member of the board since 2014. However, Shokin was not investigating the company. There is no concrete evidence that suggests Biden had pressured Ukraine to benefit his son.
Lyndon B. Johnson
On December 3, 2013, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on President Barack Obama that was formally titled "The President's Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws," which political journalists viewed as an attempt to begin justifying impeachment proceedings. When asked by reporters if this was a hearing about impeachment, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) claimed that it was not, saying "I didn't mention impeachment nor did any of the witnesses in response to my questions at the Judiciary Committee hearing." One witness did mention impeachment directly: Georgetown University law professor Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz said "a check on executive lawlessness is impeachment" as he accused Obama of "claim[ing] the right of the king to essentially stand above the law." Impeachment efforts never advanced past this, making Obama the first president in 28 years never to have articles of impeachment against him referred to the House Judiciary Committee during his tenure.
- List of efforts to impeach vice presidents of the United States
- Impeachment investigations of United States federal officials
- List of presidential impeachments
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