Bill Clinton impeachment: Looking back at 1998 after Donald Trump's 2nd acquittal

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Sunday, February 14, 2021
The impeachment of Bill Clinton: Eyewitness News Vault
Step into the Eyewitness News Vault to take a look back at the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton.

WASHINGTON -- After the Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump for the second time, America is reminded of a very similar and simultaneously very different showdown in Washington: the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

The Republican-controlled House voted in October 1998 to begin impeachment proceedings against Clinton after months of controversy over his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

That vote was triggered by two rounds of testimony given by Clinton earlier in the year. In January, he denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky; in August, under questioning from independent counsel Kenneth Starr before a federal grand jury, he testified that he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky.

Watch the video in the media player for archival news coverage of Clinton's impeachment.

Clinton was impeached on Dec. 19, 1998, on the grounds of perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice.

Clinton was impeached on Dec. 19, 1998, on the grounds of perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. A Senate trial against Clinton commenced on Jan. 7, 1999, and unfolded over four weeks, with Chief Justice William Rehnquist presiding.

On Feb. 12, the Senate voted to acquit Clinton on both charges -- falling far short of the 67 votes needed to convict. Only 45 senators voted for conviction on the perjury charge, and 50 for the obstruction charge.

Trump the fourth president to face impeachment: Andrew Johnson, like Clinton, was acquitted after trials in the Senate, and Richard Nixon resigned to avoid being impeached in the Watergate scandal. Trump, however, is the only president in U.S. history to face an impeachment trial twice.

There are consistencies in the process -- televised hearings, partisan rancor and memorable speeches -- but each impeachment process also stands alone as a reflection of the president, the Congress and the times.

Only 21 government officers in all, including Johnson, Clinton and Trump, have been impeached, and only eight of them, all federal judges with lifetime tenure, have been convicted and removed from office.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.