In rather surreal, yet apparently sincere, comments, former President Bill Clinton, one of the few U.S. presidents to undergo an impeachment hearing in the nation’s history, offered advice to President Donald Trump on Thursday about how to handle the process.
“My message would be, look, you got hired to do a job,” Clinton told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, as reported by The Hill. “You don’t get the days back you blow off. Every day is an opportunity to make something good happen. And I would say, ‘I’ve got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry, and they should just have at it.’ Meanwhile, I’m going to work for the American people. That’s what I would do.”
Only five presidents have ever been the subject of some form of impeachment proceedings. The first was James Buchanan, who was investigated by a congressional committee for corruption charges in 1860. Ultimately, the committee determined that while his was the most corrupt administration in America’s history, Buchanan did nothing that merited impeachment. The first impeachment hearing in the House took place just eight years later, when the House impeached Andrew Johnson for violating the Tenure of Office Act. He was acquitted in the Senate. The second impeachment hearing was conducted over a century later, in 1974, when Richard Nixon famously resigned before the House completed the process.
A decade and a half later, Clinton was ultimately acquitted in the Senate after the House impeached him for obstruction of justice and perjury involving his claim that he “did not have sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old White House intern. Here’s how The New York Times reported the moment in its overview of Clinton’s acquittal:
”Is respondent William Jefferson Clinton guilty or not guilty?” asked Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, in his gold-striped black robe. In a hushed chamber, with senators standing one by one to pronounce Mr. Clinton ”guilty” or ”not guilty,” the Senate rejected the charge of perjury, 55 to 45, with 10 Republicans voting against conviction.
It then split 50-50 on a second article accusing Mr. Clinton of obstruction of justice in concealing his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky. Five Republicans broke ranks on the obstruction-of-justice charge. No Democrats voted to convict on either charge, and it would have taken a dozen of them, and all 55 Republicans, to reach the two-thirds majority of 67 senators required for conviction.
The official impeachment inquiry of Trump began on Wednesday, with the Democrat-controlled committee calling two of their key witnesses, acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor Jr. and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs George Kent, to present their testimonies first. One of the criticisms of their testimonies leveled by Republicans — and even acknowledged over at Trump’s least favorite network, CNN — is that neither of the two officials had any direct contact with Trump, making their testimony at-best second-hand.
While Clinton has advised Trump to let his lawyers and staff worry about the inquiry, Trump has continued to hammer the “sham” inquiry online. “Neither one of the Democrat star witnesses at the Impeachment hearings could point out an impeachable offense. That’s the result!” Trump tweeted Thursday, citing Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.” That was one of several impeachment-related tweets from Trump that day.