The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Impeachment - I

Rich Galen

Thursday September 26, 2019

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    NOTE: I was glued to the cable news nets today and came away with one clear thought: We don't know nearly enough to choose up sides, yet. So, here's a short history of impeachments in the United States.

  • On Tuesday, shortly after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, I Tweeted this:
    "Among many others I lived through the Clinton impeachment in 1998 when I ran GOPAC. It was many things, fun not being one of them."

  • Without revisiting the charges and specifications, suffice it to say that the House voted to impeach Clinton on two charges: Lying to the grand jury in the Monica Lewinsky and obstruction of justice in the Paula Jones case.

  • The Senate did not vote to convict on either case but Clinton did not escaped unscathed. He paid fines, and had his license to practice law suspended and lost his creds to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • As Newt pointed out Tuesday, House Republicans paid a price - five seats - in the election of 1998. It was actually worse than that because the betting line was we would pick up between 10 and 12 seats in the midterm election so, including opportunity costs, we lost up to 17 seats.

  • Moreover the losses were a significant cause of Newt losing his job as Speaker.


    GOPAC was the political action committee most closely associated with Newt Gingrich at the time. I am not suggesting that I went up to the Speaker's suite on a regular basis to beg him to stop the impeachment proceedings.

    In fact, I was a full and willing participant in the process.


  • However Richard Nixon

  • In the Presidential election of 1972, Nixon was re-elected over George McGovern, the Democratic candidate. The electoral college vote was 520 -17. McGovern won only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

  • On August 9, 1974 Nixon resigned as the House was about to vote on three articles of impeachment.

  • In the wake of Watergate, Republicans - the Party of Richard Nixon - lost 26 seats in the 1974 mid-term elections. In the Presidential election cycle that followed, the GOP lost one more seat so that when they came back to work in January 1977, the Republican conference was down to 144 Members.

  • Meetings in a phone booth was a popular phrase on The Hill.

  • It took two additional decades - until the Gingrich revolution in the elections of 1994 - for the GOP to fully recover and take control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

  • The first time a President was impeached was in 1868 when Andrew Johnson - who had become President upon the death of Abraham Lincoln - was impeached for violating the "Tenure of Office" act which forbad a President from firing a Senate-confirmed member of the Administration without the approval of the Senate.

  • The Supreme Court ruled a similar law was unconstitutional but at the time Johnson fired Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, the law was in effect.

  • There were 54 Senators at the time because the Senators from the 10 states which had seceded during the Civil War, had not yet been re-seated.

  • Johnson escaped conviction by one vote - 35 - 19.

  • In the election of 1868, Democrats picked up 20 seats in the House, but still were a small minority with Republicans holding a Reconstruction-era majority of 171-67.

  • Ok, so that more-or-less covers what happens in the House following impeachments or near-impeachments of sitting Presidents.


    During the Clinton process, the House didn't vote on impeachment until December - just days before it was about to expire.

    I called the Senate Parliamentarian to ask how the Senate could take up the trial in the new Congress? Wouldn't they process have to start again?

    The Senate, I was told, is a "continuing body" because two-thirds of the Senators remain in office, unlike the House where all 435 Members have to run every two years.


  • We're a long way from votes on the House floor, much less a Senate trial. If we ever get that far.

  • Meanwhile, "Fasten your seatbelts," as Bette Davis said, "it's going to be a bumpy night."

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Clinton, Nixon, and Johnson impeachments so you can be smart at the Keurig machine every morning. Also a link to that Bette Davis line.

    The Mullfoto is a great pun. Especially for Beatles fans.

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