The Clinton Impeachment Was Nonpartisan? Please.

Jeff Malet/Newscom/ZUMA

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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.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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