The subsequent impeachment proceedings were the culmination of a slew of specious scandals involving the president and first lady Hillary Clinton. The Clintons were suspected of arranging improper real-estate deals, fundraising violations and cronyism in involving the firing of White House travel agents. Added to the mix were stories of Clinton’s extra-marital affairs and a sexual harassment claim filed against him. An independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, was appointed to investigate the Paula Jones sexual harassment case; the ensuing investigation led Starr to Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern who had been accused of having an affair with Clinton. In early 1998, the Lewinsky scandal broke to the press and Clinton denied the affair. 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 in August 1998.
Clinton’s attempt to cover up the affair, which he later admitted to and apologized for, prompted incensed House Republican leaders to pass Resolution No. 611 on December 15, 1998. The resolution launched the impeachment process for high crimes and misdemeanors, including perjury and obstruction of justice. The report accused Clinton of concealing evidence, giving misleading testimony and influencing witnesses. In the opinion of the majority of the House, Clinton’s actions “undermined the integrity of his office.” Democratic leaders also disapproved of Clinton’s conduct but preferred to formally censure the president over impeachment.
After heated debate, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton on December 19. On January 7, 1999, the impeachment trial began in the Senate—it was the first such trial since President Andrew Johnson was accused of illegally removing the secretary of war from office and violating several Congressional acts in 1868. Like Johnson, Clinton was acquitted on February 12, 1999.