As the full House floor moves to vote on Wednesday, 18 December, on Trump’s potential impeachment, the Senate will take the lead by kick-starting a trial, in the event of the House Democratic majority’s unanimity.
For many, the day will ring a bell, reviving the memory of how one particular Chistmas elf (or not?) ruined Bill Clinton's holidays (read: half of his second presidential term).
Different Essence, Same Timing
Although Clinton’s lies about his extramarital affair with White House newbie Monica Lewinsky definitely took centre stage in the impeachment process, the final impeachment push was due to another case.
In the midst of an investigation by Ken Starr, Clinton also became embroiled in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, a former employee for the Arkansas state government. The move raised the unprecedented possibility of a sitting president facing a civil court case.
Clinton rushed to reach an $850,000 out of court settlement with Jones a little over a month before his impeachment and a month after Starr had published his probe finding. The prosecutor’s report included 11 potential impeachable offences - from perjury and obstruction of justice to witness tampering and abuse of power.
Two of them – for perjury in testimony other than before the grand jury and for obstructing Congress were blocked by the House. However, he was still impeached for perjury after he lied to the grand jury in the Jones case, and consequently for obstruction of justice.
The scandal consumed the country and public for a year: while the first misconduct reports emerged in January 1998, Clinton engaged in a bit of existential debate with the grand jury over “is” in “is having an affair” in August, before being impeached in December. Two months later in February, he luckily survived the Senate trial.
With President Trump, the wrongdoing allegations and the inquiry have been much more contracted in time. However, the final vote on Trump’s alleged power abuse and obstruction of justice yet again falls in mid-December, just one day ahead of Clinton’s impeachment anniversary.
Senate trial timetable may likewise be similar, with the upper house of Congress entitled to start its proceedings any time - from just days after the House vote to the coming months.