The Clinton Impeachment Was Nonpartisan? Please.

Jeff Malet/Newscom/ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, one of the House managers in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, explains how it was different from the impeachment of President Trump:

Earlier this Congress, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, and Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, set forth criteria for undertaking an impeachment. They said that the evidence would have to be overwhelming and compelling, and, importantly, it would have to be bipartisan.

Looking back at the Clinton impeachment, I’m convinced we satisfied each of these. Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, conducted a very lengthy and nonpartisan investigation, delivering 36 boxes of evidence to Congress. He concluded that the president had committed grand jury perjury and obstructed justice to cover his lies. Mr. Starr testified before our committee that the president might have committed impeachable offenses.

Ken Starr conducted a “lengthy and nonpartisan investigation.” God almighty. As we all know, it was indeed lengthy. But nonpartisan? After knowingly continuing to probe the Whitewater “scandal” long after he knew it was bogus, Starr eventually pushed his Ahab-like investigation into every crevice he could dream up, finally harpooning his white whale not by finding any presidential misconduct, but by laying out a carefully calculated and planned perjury trap for Clinton over the inconsequential question of whether he had ever gotten a blow job from Monica Lewinsky.

But sure, this was just an ordinary citizen doing his job, not a Republican diehard refusing to stop until he had something—anything—he could use against Clinton.

Donald Trump, by contrast, is being impeached not because Democrats even tried to investigate him over Ukraine. It just fell into their laps and then Trump himself released the transcript that showed he had tried to extort a foreign country to benefit him personally. There was no need for a long investigation because witnesses basically fell out of trees to confirm that, in fact, this was exactly what Trump had done. Nor was this a personal peccadillo. It was, plainly, a clear and serious abuse of presidential power.

I don’t know why I’m bothering with all this. It’s not like I expect anything different from Republican leaders these days. I guess my brain just melted a little bit when Sensenbrenner had the gall to take to the New York Times to pretend that the Clinton impeachment was nonpartisan. For chrissake.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate