Andrew Johnson: The First U.S. President To Be Impeached

Jarrett Stepman

Impeachment talk has been ongoing since President Donald Trump first stepped into office.  

Democrats in Congress, moving on from the Russia collusion allegations, have now launched an attempt to bring up impeachment over a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which they assert that Trump asked him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son in return for military aid.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for an “impeachment inquiry,” which still falls short of actual impeachment.

Much of the impeachment speculation over the last few years has been little more than fan fiction.

However, there is a significant base of progressives in Congress who want to proceed with impeachment regardless of its potential for success or failure.

The Constitution lays out a process for impeachment under Article I, Section 3, but the truth is that the specific standard for what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors,” has never been entirely established.

So what we are left with is a highly political process. Members of Congress—and the public in general, since they are ultimately accountable to the people—must decide if the president is guilty of the charges and should be removed.

Removing a president from office is still unprecedented, but impeachment isn’t. The impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s is still fresh in the minds of many Americans. However, many of the standards for how the impeachment of a president would play out occurred in the nation’s first big impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in the 1860s.

It was an important moment in American history in times even more fraught than our own.

Courageous Ally of Lincoln

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