Which presidents should have been charged?

Three impeachment procedures in 243 years

In US history, impeachment proceedings have only been initiated against three presidents, partly because the founding fathers set high hurdles in the United States' constitution. The basis for an "impeachment" is clearly described. There, in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, it says: "The President, the Vice-President and all civil servants will be dismissed from office if they are prosecuted and found guilty of treason, bribery or other crimes and misdemeanors." The House of Representatives takes the decision to initiate the procedure with a simple majority. A two-thirds majority in the Senate is then required for a guilty verdict. So it is a two-stage process in which a decision is first made on the question of guilt and then on the actual impeachment.

The three impeachment proceedings initiated in US history were unsuccessful - for different reasons:

1998: Bill Clinton and the Lewinsky Affair

Bill Clinton was impeached 20 years ago. The reason: The then president was faced with allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice in the course of the Lewinsky affair. At the center was Clinton's statement under oath that he had no relationship with his intern at the time. He later rowed back and admitted that he had an "inappropriate relationship" with her. As a result, the charge of perjury was rejected by 55 to 45 votes, that of obstruction of the judiciary with 50 to 50 votes. All the senators of the Democratic Party supported the president of their own party.

Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton (from left)

1974: Richard Nixon and Watergate

Impeachment proceedings were initiated against President Richard Nixon in 1974 over the Watergate affair. At the center of the affair was a break-in of the Democratic Party offices in the Watergate complex in June 1972. During the break-in, police arrested five men who tried to install bug bugs and take photos of documents. The men were hired by Richard Nixon's electoral committee. The pressure for the recently re-elected president became too great: the majority required to impeach office became apparent in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, the two-thirds majority required for removal from office was to be expected. Nixon pulled the ripcord and beat a charge by resigning. Ultimately, he was not removed from office and was never sentenced. The impeachment proceedings that had been initiated were ended by his resignation. His Vice President and successor Gerald Ford issued a pardon for Nixon in September 1974 after only a few weeks in the new office.

1868: Andrew Johnson and the Tenure of Office Act

The third case goes back historically: More than 100 years earlier, in 1868, Andrew Johnson was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act. This federal law then regulated the dismissal of ministers from the cabinet. A few months earlier, Johnson had tried to force the then Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton out of office because of political differences and had unceremoniously appointed Lorenzo Thomas as Secretary of War without the approval of the Senate. The accusation of his opponents: This is a disregard for the rights of Congress. The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of impeachment proceedings against the president. However, nothing came of the dismissal: the necessary number of two thirds of the senators was missed by one vote.

Knows all allegations against him: US President Donald Trump

Donald Trump and the Ukraine affair

Quite a few observers see Donald Trump's so-called Ukraine affair as a kind of watergate of the 21st century. The affair is about an alleged abuse of office by Donald Trump. The American president is said to have urged his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Selenskyj to have the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter investigated on allegations of corruption.

House Democrats are investigating whether Trump's behavior warrants impeachment. According to the allegation, Trump wanted to gain advantages in the 2020 presidential election. At the center of the affair is a phone call from Trump with Zelenskyi from July 2019. The phone call became public after a complaint from a CIA employee. Since military aid to Ukraine of up to 400 million dollars was withheld before the phone call, an investigation is now being carried out into whether this was used in a quid pro quo to initiate an investigation.