The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon in 1974, charging him with:
- Obstruction of justice, for impeding the investigation into the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building;
- Abuse of power, for trying to use the CIA, FBI and other agencies to cover up the Watergate conspiracy; and
- Contempt of Congress, for refusing to turn over material in response to congressional subpoenas.
The House approved two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton in 1998, charging him with:
- Lying under oath to a grand jury about the nature of his relationships with Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones; and
- Obstruction of justice, for encouraging Lewinsky and others to make false statements and concealing gifts he had given her.
2. How is the Trump investigation different from what happened with Clinton?
Three committees in the House — Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs — are conducting investigations, gathering documents and calling witnesses in the inquiry into Trump. In the Clinton impeachment, one committee, the House Judiciary, relied heavily on a report compiled by Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who led the investigation, that listed 11 possible grounds for impeachment in four categories — perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and abuse of power.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said that while the Intelligence Committee will take the lead in investigating Trump, the actual vote on specific articles of impeachment will be conducted by the Judiciary Committee and could draw on the conclusions of other House committees, too, though that seems unlikely. The process of voting on the articles, known as the committee mark-up, will be televised and will likely take place over several days.
House Judiciary took six days to recommend articles of impeachment against Nixon in July 1974 and three days to recommend articles of impeachment against Clinton in December 1998.
If approved by a simple majority, the articles are reported to the full House and are privileged, meaning they can come up for immediate consideration, including potentially several days of debate. The president is impeached if the House approves any of the articles of impeachment by a simple majority vote. The House then appoints members to serve as "managers," or prosecutors, for the Senate trial.
3. Must the House pass a resolution to officially launch an impeachment investigation?
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The Constitution imposes no such requirement, and House rules don't either, even though authorizing resolutions were passed in each of the three previous presidential impeachments.
Rep. Peter Rodino, D-N.J., who was chairman of House Judiciary in 1974 during the Nixon case, called passing a resolution "a necessary step." House rules does not place jurisdiction over impeachment in any specific committee, and Rodino said that in past impeachments the House had passed a resolution to give the investigating committee subpoena power. But the current House leadership has said that such a resolution isn't needed, because the relevant committees already have the necessary subpoena and staffing authority.