A brief history of impeachment: From Johnson to Trump

From left to right: ANdrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
From left to right: ANdrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. © France 24
Text by: Sam BALL
Video by: Sam BALL
2 min

Donald Trump, whose trial in the Senate begins this week, is just the third US president to be impeached, while another came famously close. From Andrew Johnson in 1868, to Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, we take a look back at the history of impeachment in the US.


Johnson was the first US president to be impeached. Coming to power after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in the aftermath of the American Civil War, he ran straight into conflict with Congress over his attempts to block legislation to grant civil rights to recently freed slaves in the south.

However, the official charges brought against him were for firing his war secretary, Edwin Stanton, without permission from Congress and thereby violating a contemporaneous law that was in force for only a year. He survived by one vote.

Richard Nixon came extremely close to being impeached in 1974 in the wake of the infamous Watergate scandal and most likely would have become the only impeached US president to ever be convicted.

However, he resigned before the impeachment process could formally begin.

In 1998, Bill Clinton’s notorious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky saw him become just the second impeached president.

After denying the affair during a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, Clinton was charged with lying under oath and obstruction of justice. But he survived the Senate vote on both counts, with a handful of Republicans even backing the Democratic president.

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