On December 19, 1998, Millions of Americans were glued to their televisions sets.
Bill Clinton, the softly spoken president from Arkansas with robust approval ratings was on the verge of being impeached in a case laced with sex and scandal.
After 14 hours of impassioned debate the House of Representatives voted in favour of impeaching the president for lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice.
President Bill Clinton was the second president to be impeached by the lower house of congress, and the first in 130 years to be impeached.
Here’s what happened.
Why was Bill Clinton impeached?
In January 1998, Bill Clinton was embroiled in another scandal – civil servant Paula Jones was pursuing a a sexual harassment lawsuit against the president, alleging that Clinton had propositioned her and exposed himself to her while Arkansas Governor.
A key component of Jones’ lawyers’ case was proving a pattern of behaviour that involved the president frequently becoming sexually involved with state or government employees.
In a sworn deposition Bill Clinton denied having a "sexual relationship", "sexual affair", or "sexual relations" with Monica Lewinsky. This statement would later be found to be false, with Clinton later admitting that he had participated in oral sex on several occasions with Lewinsky while she was an intern.
During the case Jones’ lawyers subpoenaed Lewinsky. In the same month of Clinton’s deposition, Lewinsky was pressured into signing an affidavit in which she denied ever having a relationship with the president.
Linda Tripp, a co-worker of Lewinsky’s, recorded conversations between the pair of them, in which Lewinsky confided in her about her affairs with the president, and the pressure she had been put under to sign an affidavit.
Tripp took these recordings to an FBI investigation team led by Kenneth Starr, and Lewinsky would later agree to cooperate with Starr’s team in return for immunity.
Clinton would initially deny the allegations, publicly stating: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
Months later he would admit to a grand jury that he had an affair with Lewinsky.
What happened at his impeachment?
In December 1998, four articles of impeachment were brought against Bill Clinton – these were: grand jury perjury (article 1), perjury (article 2), obstruction of justice (article 3) and abuse of power (article 4).
Bill Clinton would be charged with grand jury perjury and obstruction of justice.
Article 1 of impeachment stated that Clinton “provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury” in August 1998. Article
The second article for which he was charged claimed that he had “corruptly encouraged a witness in a Federal civil rights action brought against him to execute a sworn affidavit in that proceeding that he knew to be perjurious, false and misleading”.
In February 1999, Clinton would narrowly avoid being convicted of impeachment by the Senate, who would vote 45 votes for conviction and 55 against for article 1 and 50 to 50 for convicting him of obstruction of justice.
Clinton would remain in office for the remainder of his second term which concluded in January 2001.