What Happened To The Political Careers Of Impeached Presidents

Donald Trump has become the third U.S president to be impeached –- with one near-miss when Richard Nixon resigned ahead of his 'Watergrate' trial. But, what happened to the political careers of those before Trump?


Andrew Johnson, 17th president of the United States, was impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors", which were detailed in 11 articles of impeachment.

The primary charge against the Republican was violation of the Tenure of Office Act, passed by Congress in March 1867, because of Johnson's veto of legislation that Congress passed to protect the rights of those freed from slavery.

So, in essence he was impeached for undermining the cause of racial equality, historian Brenda Wineapple wrote in her book The Impeachers.

But he was still able -- only barely -- to survive the Senate impeachment trial.

Andrew Johnson 1808 - 1875. 17th president of the United States 1865-69. From painting by Alonzo Chappel. IMAGE: Getty Images.

Impact On Political Career And Legacy: 

He served out the rest of his presidential term, but his final months in office were beset with the same power struggles that warped his tenure prior to impeachment.

Unlike Trump, who faces a hostile House but has the numbers in the Senate, Johnson's party held a minority in both chambers of Congress -- so odds weren't in his favour.

In 1869, Democrats lost the White House to Republican candidate General Ulysses S Grant, who allowed his party's plan for Radical Reconstruction to continue.

“It was a stain on Johnson’s reputation — he didn’t get renominated,” Wineapple said.

In March that year, Johnson refused to attend the inauguration of his successor, after Grant refused to share a carriage with him en route to the ceremony.

It's widely believed that Johnson is most remembered for being impeached.


In late 1972, Nixon won re-election by what was then the largest margin of victory in the history of U.S presidential elections. However, a few months earlier, a burglary at Democratic offices would later end his leadership and become commonly referred to as 'Watergate'.

An impeachment inquiry was opened in October 1973, after Nixon fired the top two officials in the justice department for their refusal to fire the man heading up the Watergate investigation.

Impact On Political Career And Legacy: 

On 27 July, a vote cleared the way for three articles of impeachment --obstruction of justice, misuse of power and contempt of Congress -- to be sent for a full vote.

The release of a “smoking gun” tape shortly after, put Nixon under immense pressure from from fellow Republicans.

On 8 August, 1974, Nixon agreed to resign before the vote on impeachment.

Nixon is most remembered for the Watergate scandal.

President Richard Nixon announces his resignation as President of the USA in 1974 following the Watergate scandal.  IMAGE: Getty Images

Clinton became the second president ever to be impeached in the wake of his affair with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky. On 19 December 1998, the House of Representatives formally accused him of perjury and obstruction of justice.

However, in February 1999, following a five-week trial, the Senate voted to acquit Clinton on both articles of impeachment.

Monica Lewinsky. IMAGE: Getty Images.

Despite it being a Republican-led Senate at the time, the Democrat leader was easily acquitted.

Impact On Political Career And Legacy: 

Despite the Lewinsky-Clinton sex scandal consuming the country, the president resisted growing calls to resign.

In 1998 Clinton recorded one of his highest-ever opinion poll ratings. A poll found that 67 percent of Americans approved of the Democratic president.

Despite Republicans hoping to use the scandal to win the 1998 midterms, this backfired, with Democrats gaining seats in the House and the Senate.

Clinton at an unspecified event during the period of the impeachment proceedings during 1998 in Washington, DC. IMAGE: Getty Images.

Clinton left office after two terms in January 2001, with a 65 percent approval rating.

It is possible that Clinton is remembered more for his relationship with Lewinsky than he is for getting impeached.


On Thursday the House Representatives voted 230 to 197 in favour of article one of the resolution -- concluding that Trump abused his power as president.

It's the culmination of months of investigation into the president's efforts to pressure the Ukranian government to announce investigations that would benefit him politically -- including a probe into a company that employed the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.



Donald Trump Impeached By The House, Here's What Happens Next

US President Donald Trump has been impeached by the House but it doesn't mean he will be removed from office. Here's what will happen next in the saga.

Impact On Political Career And Legacy: 

As we've seen with presidents before him,  just because the House impeached Trump, it doesn’t mean he’ll be removed from office.

His removal is considered unlikely to be the outcome. At least 67 members of the Senate would have to vote to convict him on at least one of the impeachment articles for him to be booted.

Throughout his presidency, Trump's approval ratings have generally been within the same margin of eight percentage points from the high 30s to mid-40s.

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