- Library of Congress
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday into President Donald Trump following a whistleblower scandal involving a Trump call to the leader of Ukraine.
- Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates also called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh earlier this month.
- In US history, just 19 federal officials – one senator, one cabinet secretary, two presidents, and 15 judges – were impeached.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In a historic move Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an official impeachment inquiry on Tuesday into President Donald Trump amid a whistleblower scandal involving a Trump call to the leader of Ukraine.
A majority of House Democrats and some presidential candidates expressed support for such an inquiry, citing the call as the impeachable offense. Trump responded to the backlash with a tweet announcing that he would release the “complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript” of the phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Earlier this month, Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates also called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
In US history, just 19 federal officials – one senator, one Cabinet secretary, two presidents, and 15 judges – were impeached. Of those impeachments, just six have occurred in the past 80 years.
President Richard Nixon, the only president to resign from office, was actually never impeached. He stepped down before proceedings had begun. The two presidents who were impeached by the House, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, were both acquitted by the Senate. No president has ever been both impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate.
Here are the stories behind some of the wildest impeachments.
An earlier version of this article was written by Allan Smith.
- Tennessee Portrait Project/Wikipedia
The first federal official to be subject to impeachment was Blount, a Tennessee senator, in 1797.
Blount was accused of conspiring to allow Britain to gain control of Florida and Louisiana in exchange for American access to the Mississippi River and New Orleans. A letter outlining the plan was turned over President John Adams, who came to the conclusion that what Blount was trying to pull off amounted to a crime.
The House shortly after voted to hold impeachment hearings, but the Senate, taking responsibility for one of their own, took control of the matter and voted to essentially expel him from the governing body.
Pickering, a district judge in New Hampshire, was impeached in 1803 and convicted by the Senate in 1804 for, among other things, being drunk.
President Thomas Jefferson accused Pickering of having bad morals because he was drunk while on the bench. Jefferson also accused the district judge of making unlawful rulings, but Pickering’s drunkenness is what he’s more remembered for.
“I shall be sober tomorrow,” Pickering said at the start of a November 1802 hearing, according to Politico. “I am now damned drunk.”
West Hughes Humphreys
West Hughes Humphreys was impeached for something that no federal official could find themselves subjected to in modern times: serving simultaneously as a US district court judge in Tennessee and as a Confederate judge in the same state at the beginning of the Civil War.
Impeached in 1862, Humphreys was subsequently convicted charges including calling for secession from the union, aiding an armed rebellion, and serving as a Confederate judge, among others.
One charge he was not convicted on? Confiscating property belonging to President Abraham Lincoln-appointed Tennessee Military Governor Andrew Johnson, the future president.
Speaking of Johnson…
- Library of Congress
President Johnson, one of only two US presidents to be impeached, was famously loathed by many in Congress. So much so that Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, which curtailed the president’s ability to fire members of his Cabinet.
Johnson went ahead and tried to fire his secretary of war anyway, and was subsequently impeached by the House in 1868. He avoided conviction in the Senate by one vote.
The Tenure of Office Act was subsequently repealed in its entirety in 1887.
Here’s the full list of officials who were impeached:
- Jeffrey Markowitz/Getty Images
William Blount John Pickering Samuel Chase James H. Peck West H. Humphreys Andrew Johnson Mark H. Delahay William W. Belknap Charles Swayne Robert W. Archbald George W. English Harold Louderback Halsted L. Ritter Harry E. Claiborne Alcee L. Hastings Walter L. Nixon William J. Clinton Samuel B. Kent G. Thomas Porteous, Jr.