On this day in 1999, the United States Senate begins its impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, the first president to be impeached by the House of Representatives since Andrew Johnson in 1868.
The impeachment trial was the culmination of a slew of scandals involving the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton that included investigations into allegedly improper Arkansas real-estate deals, suspected fundraising violations, claims of sexual harassment and accusations of cronyism involving the firing of White House travel agents.
Independent counsel Kenneth Starr was appointed to investigate the Paula Jones sexual harassment case; the investigation led Starr to Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern who had been accused of having an affair with Clinton. In 1998, the scandal broke to the press and Clinton vehemently denied the relationship. A year of federal grand-jury testimony from various individuals in both camps followed, while Clinton continued to refute the allegations and invoked executive privilege when subpoenaed. Clinton later admitted to the affair, but his initial attempts to cover it up enabled House Republican leaders to begin the impeachment process for perjury and obstruction of justice.
Though Democratic leaders preferred to merely censure the president, a divided House of Representatives impeached Clinton on December 19, 1998. The issue then passed to the Senate. After a five-week trial, Clinton was acquitted.
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