December 19, 1998 – President William Jefferson Clinton is impeached by the United States House of Representatives
The House Judiciary Committee relied on a four-year investigation into several alleged scandals: improper real estate deals in Arkansas, possible fundraising violations, claims of sexual harassment, and suspected impropriety involving the firing of White House travel agents, all involving William Jefferson Clinton and his wife.
An independent prosecutor (think Robert Mueller, but ugly), Kenneth Starr, also launched a probe into the affair between Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky. As part of a sexual harassment lawsuit, Clinton had denied having the affair. When Clinton invoked executive privilege, Starr charged Clinton with obstruction of justice, which ultimately compelled him to testify before a grand jury. Starr then referred the charges to the House of Representatives.
On December 19, 1998, the House impeached Clinton for lying under oath and obstruction charges. Two other counts failed, including one accusing Clinton of abuse of power.
Five Democrats voted in favor of three of the four articles of impeachment, but only Gene Taylor of Mississippi voted for the abuse of power charge. Five Republicans voted against the first perjury charge. Eight more Republicans voted against the obstruction charge. In all, 28 Republicans voted against the second perjury charge, sending it to defeat, and 81 voted against the abuse of power charge.
After 14 hours of debate, the House of Representatives approves two articles of impeachment against President Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton became the second POTUS in history to be impeached.
In November 1995, Clinton had started a funky thing with 21-year-old unpaid intern, Lewinsky. Over the next 18 months, Lewinsky and Clinton had sex at least 12 times in the White House. In April 1996, Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon. That summer, she first confided in Pentagon co-worker Linda Tripp about her sexual relationship with Clinton. In early 1997, with the relationship over, Tripp began to secretly record her conversations with Lewinsky, in which Lewinsky gave Tripp details about their sexual shenanigans, including something to do with a cigar. What are friends for?
In late 1997, lawyers for Paula Jones, who was suing Clinton for sexual harassment, subpoenaed Lewinsky. In January 1998, allegedly under advisement from Clinton, Lewinsky filed an affidavit in which she denied ever having had a sexual relationship with him. Five days later, Tripp contacted Starr to talk about Lewinsky and the tapes she made of their conversations. Tripp, wired by FBI agents working with Starr, met with Lewinsky again, and on January 16, Lewinsky was taken by FBI agents and U.S. attorneys to a hotel room where she was questioned and offered immunity if she cooperated with the prosecution. A few days later, the story broke, and Clinton publicly denied the allegations, saying:
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”
In late July, lawyers for Lewinsky and Starr worked out a full-immunity agreement covering both Lewinsky and her parents, all of whom Starr had threatened with prosecution. On August 6, Lewinsky appeared before the grand jury to begin her testimony, and on August 17, President Clinton testified. Contrary to his testimony in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment case, Clinton acknowledged to prosecutors that he had had an affair with Lewinsky.
In four hours of closed-door testimony, conducted in the Map Room of the White House, Clinton spoke live via closed-circuit television to a grand jury in a nearby federal courthouse. He was the first POTUS ever to testify before a grand jury investigating his conduct. That evening, Clinton gave a televised address to the nation in which he admitted he had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. In the speech, the word “sex” was never spoken, and the word “regret” was only used in reference to his having misled the public and his family.
A month later, Starr submitted his report and 18 boxes of supporting documents to the House of Representatives. Released to the public two days later, The Starr Report outlined a case for impeaching Clinton for perjury, obstruction of justice, witness-tampering, and abuse of power. It also provided explicit details of the sexual relationship between Clinton and Lewinsky, including the decision not to clean the little blue dress. On October 8, the House authorized an impeachment inquiry, and on December 11, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment. On December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives impeached President Clinton.
On January 7, 1999, in a congressional procedure not seen since the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, the trial of President Clinton got underway in the Senate. As instructed in the U.S. Constitution, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, William Rehnquist at the time, was sworn in to preside, and the 100 senators were sworn in as the jurors.
Five weeks later, the Senate took a vote on whether to remove Clinton from office. Clinton was acquitted. The prosecution needed a two-thirds majority to convict. Rejecting the charge of perjury, 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted not guilty, and on the charge of obstruction of justice the Senate split 50-50. After the trial, Clinton said he was “profoundly sorry” for the burden his behavior imposed on Congress and the American people.
In 2007, Starr represented Palm Beach billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of raping numerous underage high school students. Epstein eventually pleaded guilty and served 13 months in his own private wing of a Palm Beach jail.
In 2008, Starr represented supporters of California Proposition 8 denying Marriage Equality.
In 2013, Starr represented Christopher Kloman, a teacher who pleaded guilty to molesting five female students over a period from 1966 to 1985. Starr asked for leniency for Kloman, a friend of the Starr family who “took the time to chat” with Starr’s daughter, a student at the school until 1998. Kloman was convicted and sentenced to 43 years in prison.
Starr went on the serve as the president Baylor University, a Texan Christian college, from 2010 until 2016. Following an investigation into the mishandling by Starr of several sexual assaults at the school, Baylor University completely severed his ties with Starr in a “mutually agreed separation”.
Clinton was left with millions of dollars in legal fees by the end of his presidency. Since then he has made hundreds of millions in speaking fees and book deals. He created the William J. Clinton Foundation which includes the Clinton Foundation HIV and AIDS Initiative (CHAI), fighting HIV in Africa and around the globe. The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) takes on the problems of global public health, poverty alleviation and religious and ethnic conflict.
Lewinsky received a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. In 2014, she returned to the spotlight as an activist against cyberbullying, writing an essay for Vanity Fair titled Shame and Survival, discussing her life and the scandal. She continues to claim that the thing with Clinton was a consensual:
“I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton. Let me say it again: I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened.”
She wrote that she was influenced by reading about the suicide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who was cyberbullied for being LGBTQ. She now gives a TED talk calling for a more compassionate Internet.
In October, Lewinsky tweeted the #MeToo hashtag to indicate that she was a victim of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault, but did not provide details.