11Mar2010 District Judge Thomas Porteous was charged with accepting bribes and making false statements under penalty of perjury. The House charged him with conduct incompatible with trust and confidence placed in a judge, a longstanding pattern of corrupt conduct, making false statements about his own bankruptcy, and making false statements to become a federal judge. At the start of the full Senate hearing, his attorney indicated he was willing to resign the following year. The Senate convicted him of the charges, removed him from office, and disqualified him forever of holding any U.S. office.
William Clinton Impeachment
In 1998 President Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, and in 1999 he was acquitted by the Senate.
Born in Arkansas, he became its Governor. He was a well-educated lawyer, who met Hillary Clinton at Yale law school. In 1992, at age 46, he became president. During his presidency the economy boomed, and he left office with a budget surplus. He enjoyed one of the highest approval ratings as a sitting president. He fashioned himself a political centrist.
In 1994 Kenneth Star, a former federal appellate judge and solicitor general, took over as Independent Counsel in the investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton and others in the Whitewater fraud and the suicide of a white house lawyer.1 No charges arose from the suicide. The Whitewater fraud involved a real estate development that allegedly made loans to Clinton. The Clintons claimed to be passive investors. In that case Starr obtained convictions against Jim and Susan McDougal, Clinton’s successor as governor, and others. Starr unsuccessfully attempted to get information from Susan McDougal, who, with three other Whitewater defendants, was pardoned by Clinton on his last day in office.
A continuing shadow was cast by his personal sex life. In 1992, Gennifer Flowers stated she had an affair with him, which he initially denied but later admitted. In 1994, Paula Jones filed a lawsuit claiming that in 1991 as a state employee she was taken to a suite of Governor Clinton where he made abhorrent sexual advances, which she rejected. Jones learned that Monica Lewinski, a staffer at the White House, had an affair with Clinton and sought to depose him.
The president sought to delay the deposition and trial until he left office.
The Supreme Court ruled that there was no presidential immunity for unofficial conduct and the separation of powers did not require that a civil suit be delayed until he left office. The Court noted that the Judiciary may severely burden the President’s official conduct and require him to respond to the court’s process. The federal courts always have the power to review the legality of his unofficial conduct. Clinton v. Jones (1997).
In 1998, in the Jones law suit Clinton was deposed and denied ever having a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky. She told a fellow White House staffer that she lied and people were helping her to get a job to buy her silence, while the staffer tape recorded their conversation. The staffer later contacted Starr. He believed that Clinton’s testimony in the deposition was false and commenced an investigation. Before his testimony in the federal grand jury hearing arranged at the White House, Clinton did not know that Starr had the DNA
1 For a comprehensive recent review of this investigation, see Kenneth Starr, Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation (Sentinel 2018). The text for this class is Cass Sunstein, Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide (Harvard 2017), and the author assisted in the defense of Clinton’s impeachment.