Former President of the United States Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 19, 1998, and acquitted by the Senate on February 12, 1999. The charges, perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power arose from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Paula Jones law suit. The trial proceedings were largely party-line, with no Democratic Senators voting for conviction and only five Democratic Representatives voting to impeach. In all, 50 senators voted "not guilty," and 50 voted "guilty" on the obstruction charge. The Senate also acquitted on the charge of perjury with 55 votes cast as "not guilty," and 45 votes as "guilty." It was only the second impeachment of a President in American history, following the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868.
Impeachment proceedings were initiated during the post-election, "lame duck" session of the outgoing 105th Congress. The committee hearings were perfunctory, but the floor debate in the whole House was spirited on both sides. The Speaker-designate Representative Bob Livingston, chosen by the Republican Party Conference to replace outgoing Speaker Newt Gingrich, announced the end of his candidacy for Speaker and his resignation from Congress from the floor of the house after Livingston's own marital infidelity came to light. Livingston, in that same speech, encouraged Clinton to resign as well. Clinton chose to remain in office and encouraged Livingston to reconsider resigning. Contemporaneously, some media reported on house manager Henry Hyde's marital infidelity of several decades prior.
Upon the passage of H. Res. 611, Clinton was impeached on December 19, 1998, by the House of Representatives on grounds of perjury to a grand jury (by a 228-206 vote) and obstruction of justice (by a 221-212 vote). Two other articles of impeachment failed — a second count of perjury in the Jones case (by a 205-229 vote) and one accusing Clinton of abuse of power (by a 148-285 vote). Four Republicans opposed all four articles, while five Democrats voted for at least one of them. Upon passage of H. Res. 611, Clinton became the first elected U.S. president and the second U.S. president to be impeached, following Andrew Johnson in 1868. (In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency before the House impeachment vote.)
The Senate trial lasted from January 7, 1999, until February 12 and was presided over by Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist. Clinton was defended by Cheryl Mills. Clinton's counsel staff included: Charles Ruff, David E. Kendall, Dale Bumpers, Bruce Lindsey, Nicole Seligman, Lanny A. Breuer and Gregory B. Craig
Thirteen House Republicans from the Judiciary Committee served as "managers," the equivalent of prosecutors:
No live witnesses were called during the trial, although four witnesses were interviewed on videotape: President Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Clinton's friend Vernon Jordan, and White House aide Sidney Blumenthal.
A two-thirds majority, 67 votes, would have been necessary to convict and remove the President from office. The perjury charge was defeated with 45 votes for conviction and 55 against. (Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voted "not proven," which was considered by the Chief Justice Rehnquist as a vote of "not guilty.") The obstruction of justice charge was defeated with 50 for conviction and 50 against.
Democrats: Akaka of Hawaii, Baucus of Montana, Bayh of Indiana, Biden of Delaware, Bingaman of New Mexico, Boxer of California, Breaux of Louisiana, Bryan of Nevada, Byrd of West Virginia, Cleland of Georgia, Conrad of North Dakota, Daschle of South Dakota, Dodd of Connecticut, Dorgan of North Dakota, Durbin of Illinois, Edwards of North Carolina, Feingold of Wisconsin, Feinstein of California, Graham of Florida, Harkin of Iowa, Hollings of South Carolina, Inouye of Hawaii, Johnson of South Dakota, Kennedy of Massachusetts, Kerrey of Nebraska, Kerry of Massachusetts, Kohl of Wisconsin, Landrieu of Louisiana, Lautenberg of New Jersey, Leahy of Vermont, Levin of Michigan, Lieberman of Connecticut, Lincoln of Arkansas, Mikulski of Maryland, Moynihan of New York, Murray of Washington, Reed of Rhode Island, Reid of Nevada, Robb of Virginia, Rockefeller of West Virginia, Sarbanes of Maryland, Schumer of New York, Torricelli of New Jersey, Wellstone of Minnesota, and Wyden of Oregon.
Republicans: Chafee, Collins, Jeffords, Snowe, Specter
Democrats: Akaka, Baucus, Bayh, Biden, Bingaman, Boxer, Breaux, Bryan, Byrd, Cleland, Conrad, Daschle, Dodd, Dorgan, Durbin, Edwards, Feingold, Feinstein, Graham, Harkin, Hollings, Inouye, Johnson, Kennedy, Kerrey of Nebraska, Kerry of Massachusetts, Kohl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Leahy, Levin, Lieberman, Lincoln, Mikulski, Moynihan, Murray, Reed of Rhode Island, Reid of Nevada, Robb, Rockefeller, Sarbanes, Schumer, Torricelli, Wellstone, Wyden
"Simply put, the president's deposition testimony regarding whether he had ever been alone with Ms. (Monica) Lewinsky was intentionally false, and his statements regarding whether he had ever engaged in sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky likewise were intentionally false ... ."
In January 2001, on the day before leaving office, Clinton agreed to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license as part of an agreement with the independent counsel to end the investigation. Based on this suspension, Clinton was automatically suspended from the United States Supreme Court bar, from which he then chose to resign.
Eventually, the court dismissed the Paula Jones harassment lawsuit, before trial, on the grounds that Jones failed to demonstrate any damages. However, while the dismissal was on appeal, Clinton entered into an out-of-court settlement by agreeing to pay Jones $850,000.
Polls conducted during 1998 and early 1999 showed that only about one-third of Americans supported Clinton's impeachment or conviction. However, one year later half of Americans said that they supported impeachment and 42% disapproved of the Senate's decision to keep him in office.
While Clinton's job approval rating rose during the Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment, his poll numbers with regard to questions of honesty, integrity and moral character declined. As a result, "moral character" and "honesty" weighed heavily in the next presidential election. According to The Daily Princetonian, after the 2000 presidential election, "post-election polls found that, in the wake of Clinton-era scandals, the single most significant reason people voted for Bush was for his moral character. According to an analysis of the election by Stanford University:
Al Gore reportedly confronted Clinton after the election, and "tried to explain that keeping Clinton under wraps [during the campaign] was a rational response to polls showing swing voters were still mad as hell over the Year of Monica.