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US Democrats have tried to impeach five of the last six Republican presidents

News that US president Donald Trump is facing a formal impeachment investigation has hit headlines across the world.

Now a meme shared on Facebook in South Africa offers an “INTERESTING FACT!!!” on the process.

It reads: “Did you know Democrats have tried to impeach every Republican President since Eisenhower?” 

Under US common law, impeachment is a proceeding carried out by a legislative body against a public official accused of serious misconduct.

Trump is a member of the US Republican party. The formal impeachment inquiry was filed by US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, a member of the Democratic party. 

Is it true that the Democrats have tried to impeach every single Republican president of the US since 1953? 

The impeachment process

Under the US constitution (Article II, Section 4), the president, the vice president and “all civil officers” of the US can be removed from office before their term is up for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours”. This involves a four step process

First, the House of Representatives’ members (Article I, Section 2) can introduce an impeachment resolution – also referred to as introducing articles of impeachment – or the entire House can vote to open an investigation into the possible reasons for impeachment. 

Second, a special committee or, more commonly, the Judiciary Committee will then investigate. After the investigation is done, the committee can vote on sending the impeachment articles to the full House. 

Third, the Judiciary Committee and the House can approve or disapprove of the impeachment. Both the investigating committee and afterwards the House of Representatives vote with a simple majority on whether or not to impeach the president. 

Fourth, if a president is impeached, then they become subject to trial in the Senate (Article I, Section 3). When the Senate has to decide whether or not an official is guilty of the charges, a two-thirds majority is needed. The chief justice of the US Supreme Court, currently John Roberts, presides over the trial.

Republican presidents, impeachment attempts

Dwight David Eisenhower served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961. He was a member of the Republican party. 

Republican presidents after Eisenhower were Richard Nixon (37th), Gerald Ford (38th), Ronald Reagan (40th), George HW Bush (41st) and George W Bush (43rd). Trump is the 45th president of the US. 

Democrats have made impeachment efforts against five of these six Republican presidents. No impeachment inquiries were launched against Gerald Ford. 

The impeachment attempts against Reagan and George HW Bush were introduced by Representative Henry B Gonzalez (Democrat, Texas). For George W Bush they were introduced by congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) and Robert Wexler (Democrat, Florida).

These efforts only reached the first step of the four step process. They did not even make their way out of the committee, and were never brought to the full House for a vote. 

Nixon resigned before impeachment

The only Republican president since Eisenhower who faced a serious threat of impeachment was Nixon.

In 1974, Nixon made it to step two of the impeachment process: the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend his impeachment.

He was accused of planning to prevent an investigation in the Watergate scandal. The inquiry was supported by both Republicans and Democrats. Nixon was charged with obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and failure to comply with congressional subpoenas.

On 8 August 1974, before the full House could vote on impeachment, Nixon became the only US president ever to resign from office. 

Only two successful impeachments were of Democrats

In US history, only two US presidents have ever been successfully impeached.

The first was Andrew Johnson in 1868 and the second Bill Clinton in 1998. But neither of them was removed from office. Both were members of the Democratic Party. 

Johnson was impeached on 24 February 1868, in the turbulent aftermath of the US Civil War,

Throughout his presidential term Johnson continuously clashed with the House of Representatives. When he replaced Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton, the House felt provoked again and decided to launch an impeachment investigation. They charged him with violating the Tenure of Office Act by removing Stanton from office without getting House approval. 

Clinton was impeached by the House on 19 December 1998 for his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton had denied having “sexual relations” with Lewinsky to federal investigators and the public. The House charged him with perjury and obstruction.

Clinton not only misled investigators to protect himself from public embarrassment but had also tried to get White House staff to give false testimony. By doing this he may have also eroded trust in the presidency. 

Both times, the House formally charged and impeached the president. But the Senate did not convict either of them and did not remove them from office. 

Five in six Republican presidents

The meme claims that Democrats have attempted to impeach every Republican president since Eisenhower.

That is false because there were no impeachment efforts against Gerald Ford. 

But articles of impeachment have been launched against five of the last six Republican presidents. – Eileen Jahn


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