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How bipartisan was the vote to impeach Donald Trump, in historical context? | PolitiFact

CNN anchor Jake Tapper said it was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in history.
A Marine guard stands at the entrance to the West Wing of the White House, after the U.S. House impeached President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday. The guard's presence signifies the president is in the Oval Office.
A Marine guard stands at the entrance to the West Wing of the White House, after the U.S. House impeached President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday. The guard's presence signifies the president is in the Oval Office. [ GERALD HERBERT | AP ]
Published Jan. 14

How bipartisan was the second impeachment of Donald Trump? CNN anchor Jake Tapper said it was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in history.

Trump’s second impeachment was “not just bipartisan —  it’s the most bipartisan impeachment in American history,” Tapper said moments after the vote was taken on Jan. 13, 2021.

While the second House impeachment of President Donald Trump was largely approved on party lines, it did attract a higher level of bipartisan support compared with past presidential impeachment efforts.

Ten House Republicans sided with Democrats in voting to impeach Trump. That’s more than the number of Republicans who supported the first impeachment of Trump in 2019, which was zero. It’s also higher than the five Democrats who voted to impeach President Bill Clinton on both successful counts in 1998. And it was more bipartisan than the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, which did not receive any Democratic support. (We’ll address President Richard Nixon, who resigned under threat of impeachment, as well.)

What happened in the Jan. 13 House vote on Trump’s impeachment

The article of impeachment considered by the House on Jan. 13 cited Trump’s false claims about the election results, including at the rally of his supporters on Jan. 6. By having “incited” the crowd, the article said, Trump “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government.”

The final vote was 232 to 197, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting for the sole article of impeachment.

The Republicans who broke ranks and voted to impeach were Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican; John Katko of New York; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; Fred Upton and Peter Meijer of Michigan; Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio; Tom Rice of South Carolina; and David Valadao of California.

Here’s a rundown of past presidential impeachments, including some committee votes.

The impeachment trial against President Andrew Johnson opens in the Senate Chambers in the U.S. Senate historical Society drawing.
The impeachment trial against President Andrew Johnson opens in the Senate Chambers in the U.S. Senate historical Society drawing. [ AP ]

The impeachment of Andrew Johnson

When Johnson was impeached in 1868, no Democrat in the House supported the overall floor vote to impeach. In that vote, all but two Republicans voted for impeachment. The House went on to pass 11 specific articles of impeachment, along largely party-line votes.

In this Dec. 19, 1998, photo, President Bill Clinton looks on as Vice President Gore addresses members of Congress outside the Oval Office after the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president.
In this Dec. 19, 1998, photo, President Bill Clinton looks on as Vice President Gore addresses members of Congress outside the Oval Office after the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president. [ DOUG MILLS | AP ]

The impeachment of Bill Clinton

The impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 attracted less bipartisan support for the two of the four articles approved by the Judiciary Committee that went on to win approval on the House floor.

The first article that won approval from the full House was Article 1, which said that Clinton had “willfully provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony” to the grand jury related to the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky sexual harassment cases.” This article passed the committee on a party-line vote. On the floor, the article was approved 228-206, with five Republicans voting against it and five Democrats voting for the article.

The other one to pass the House, Article 3, said that Clinton had obstructed justice related to the lawsuits against him. This article also passed the committee on a party-line vote, and it passed the full House by a 221-212 margin, with 12 Republicans voting against it and five Democrats voting for the article.

Two articles passed the committee but failed on the floor. Article 2 involved perjury during Clinton’s answers in depositions. In committee, this was a party-line vote, except for one Republican defection — then-Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. On the floor, it failed, 205-229.

And Article 4, which addressed obstruction of Congress, passed the committee on a party-line vote before failing on the floor, 148-245.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, talks with ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, talks with ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump. [ SAUL LOEB | AP ]

The first impeachment of Donald Trump

Article 1 against Trump in 2019 addressed abuse of power, focusing on Trump’s alleged efforts to strong-arm Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden. The article passed the Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote.

Article 2 focused on Trump’s efforts to block cooperation with Congress on its impeachment inquiry. This passed the Judiciary Committee by an identical party-line vote.

On the House floor, no Republican voted for either article. Two Democrats voted against Article 1, Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. (Van Drew later switched his affiliation to the GOP.) Peterson and Van Drew were joined in voting against Article 2 by Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine.

In this April 29, 1974, photo, President Richard M. Nixon points to the transcripts of the White House tapes after he announced during a nationally-televised speech that he would turn over the transcripts to House impeachment investigators, in Washington.
In this April 29, 1974, photo, President Richard M. Nixon points to the transcripts of the White House tapes after he announced during a nationally-televised speech that he would turn over the transcripts to House impeachment investigators, in Washington. [ AP ]

The impeachment effort against Richard Nixon

The impeachment of President Richard Nixon in 1974 didn’t make it to the House floor because Nixon resigned first. So it’s not directly comparable. But we can look at what happened in the House Judiciary Committee when it approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon.

Article 1, which focused on obstruction of justice, won support from six Republican committee members as well as all Democrats. That was about one-third of Republicans on the committee.

Article 2, which focused on abuse of power, also secured the support of six Republican committee members in addition to all Democrats.

Article 3, which focused on obstruction of Congress, received less bipartisan support, even though it passed the committee. This article saw two Democratic defections and only two Republicans joining with the Democratic majority.

Such votes make Nixon’s impeachment the previous high-water mark for bipartisanship, though again it’s not a case of apples-to-apples since we’ll never know what the floor vote would have looked like. That said, the number of committee Republicans joining Democrats for the Nixon impeachment was smaller than the number of overall House Republicans backing Trump’s second impeachment.

Our ruling

Tapper said the second impeachment of Donald Trump was “the most bipartisan impeachment in American history.”

Trump’s second impeachment attracted more Republican support — 10 GOP floor votes in favor — than the impeachments of Andrew Johnson or Bill Clinton, or Trump’s first impeachment.

We rate the statement True.

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