Lawyer Monthly - September 2023

Andrew Johnson Trump was impeached twice during his presidency, first over an apparent threat to withhold aid to Ukraine to secure advantages against then-presidential hopeful Joe Biden, and again over his actions in the lead-up to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. However, Trump is only the second president to have been “impeached of high crimes and misdemeanours in office”. The first was 17th President of the United States Andrew Johnson, who inherited a political powder keg in the aftermath of the Civil War and the assassination of predecessor Abraham Lincoln. Johnson frequently clashed with the so-called ‘radical Republicans’ of the era, who wanted to implement stringent conditions on seceded states’ readmission to the Union. Johnson’s policies were more lenient towards the South, and he repeatedly blocked the enforcement of the Reconstruction Acts, which had been passed to provide suffrage to freed slaves and prevent former Southern rebels from regaining control of their state governments. The clash came to a head in 1867 following the passage of the Tenure of Office Act, which made it impossible for the president to dismiss important government officials without Senatorial permission – and which Johnson defied in his subsequent dismissal of radical-sympathetic Secretary of War Edwin M Stanton in 1968. When Congress reconvened, Stanton’s suspension was overruled and the House of Representatives formally impeached Johnson by a vote of 126 to 47. Johnson was charged with violation of the Tenure of Office Act and bringing into “disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt, and reproach the Congress of the United States”. However, the president’s political fortunes changed during the 11-week trial that followed, gaining enough credit among the senators that he escaped removal from office by one vote. Johnson passed the rest of his term unremarkably and was succeeded by radical-favoured candidate Ulysses S Grant later that year. Bill Clinton The last president who came close to facing criminal charges while in office, Clinton’s tenure was marred by a scandal originating before he took up residence in the West Wing. Receptionist Paula Jones claimed to have suffered emotional damage in May 1991 after Clinton, then-Governor of Arkansas, exposed himself to her in a hotel room, suing for sexual harassment. The Clinton v Jones suit was influential in establishing a precedent that a sitting president might be sued for actions taken prior to being elected. Moreover, it brought to light other instances of improper behaviour by Clinton, including a two-year relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. This would become the defining scandal of Clinton’s presidency, as his Clinton v Jones testimony denying the affair was used as grounds for his impeachment by the House, who accused him of lying under oath and obstruction of justice. Clinton eventually reached an out-of-court settlement with Jones in November 1998 which saw the president paying $850,000 in civil damages while admitting no wrongdoing. With neither article of impeachment gaining the required two-thirds majority, he was not convicted in his impeachment trial, yet the sex scandals would become an enduring legacy of his time in office. “To date, only two presidents (current or former) have been arrested.” 32 LAWYER MONTHLY AUGUST 2023 Bill Clinton speaking at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona. By Gage Skidmore - WikiCommons. Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) ( Brady-Handy collection at the Library of Congress - Public Domain

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