Skip To Content
BuzzFeed News Home Reporting To You

Impeachment Today Podcast: The Day Donald Trump Got Impeached

In today's episode: We go through all the action on the House floor, and speak with a veteran DC reporter on Bill Clinton's 1998 impeachment.

Posted on December 19, 2019, at 11:12 a.m. ET

Reuters

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after representatives voted in favor of two counts of impeachment against President Trump on Wednesday evening.

It's Thursday, December 19th, 2019, 86 days since House Democrats began impeachment proceedings. Every morning, the Impeachment Today podcast helps you separate what’s real and groundbreaking from what’s just, well, bullshit.

You can listen to today's episode below, or check it out on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

Jeff Kowalsky / Getty Images

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Keep America Great Rally at Kellogg Arena Wednesday night, in Battle Creek, Michigan.

It's Thursday, December 19th, 2019 86 days since the impeachment process began. And this is Impeachment Today.

Good morning. I'm Hayes Brown, reporter and editor at BuzzFeed News. The President of the United States, Donald John Trump has been impeached. He's been charged with high crimes and misdemeanors in the form of two articles of impeachment, one for abuse of power, one for obstructing Congress. Welcome to the new reality.

Okay, today we're wrapping up history week. We'll be talking to David Corn, the Washington bureau chief or Mother Jones about the last time we went through a Senate trial, the impeachment of president Bill Clinton. But before we get to all of that, let's catch up on everything that happened yesterday.

It took all day, but on it came and at 8:08 P.M. the House of Representatives closed out debate and cast its votes on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. But first, let's rewind to the beginning. The day began at nine in the morning with a prayer from the house chaplain and then Republicans promptly moved to adjourn the whole session. That failed as did the next Republican motion. But the first few hours of the day were devoted to slowing down the process any way possible. Then we got to the main event. We're all at the debating prowess of the most purely democratic branch of government was brought to bear. Wait, wait. Sorry. That was when Republicans had a moment of silent reflection for the 63 million voters that voted for Trump. They're still alive. It's symbolic. You see. Okay. All right. Debating prowess. Let's go.

Speaker:

But also on December 7th, 1941 a horrific act happened in the United States and it's one that President Roosevelt said, "This is a date that will live in infamy." Today. December the 18th 2019 is another date that will live in infamy.

Hayes Brown:

Okay. Wait, how about this one.

Speaker:

Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind. When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president and this process. I yield back.

HB:

Oh boy. Well when you have every single member of the house on deck, not all of the speeches are going to be winners, but there were moments that felt like they truly fit the time at hand as in one or two minute bursts. The members gave their reasons for and against impeachment. House intelligence committee chair Adam Shift spoke last for the Democrats. Bernie got the last seven minutes laying out the broader reasons for impeachment speaking without notes.

Speaker:

Finally, let me ask this question that overrides it all. Why should we care about any of this? And I will bring you to one conversation that came to light because it's not the most important conversation, but in many ways it is the most revealing. It took place on September 14th in Ukraine when Ambassador Volker sat down with Andriy Yermak the top advisor to Zelinsky. And he did what he should do. He supported the rule of law and he said, "You president, you Andriy Yermak should not investigate the last president, President Poroshenko for political reasons. You should not engage in political investigations." And you know it Yermak said, "Oh, you mean like you want us to do with the Bidens and the Clintons." And in that abrupt brutal retort, we see why we should care. Because what he was saying is you America have forgotten what it means to uphold the rule of law. You have forgotten what it means to say that no one is above the law. We are a struggling democracy, but even we know better than that.

Speaker:

What is at risk here. What is at risk here is the very idea of America. That idea holds that we are a nation of laws, not of men.

HB:

And house minority leader. Kevin McCarthy delivered the final speech for the Republicans casting the impeachment process as yet more scorn from Democrats on Trump supporters.

Kevin McCarthy:

Those now who say removing President Trump would protect the integrity of our democracy, have it backwards. By removing a duly elected president on empty articles of impeachment. Congress will inroad the public trust in our system of government. I understand you dislike the president, his beliefs, the way he governs and even the people who voted for him. How do I know this? Because you say so day in and day out. In 2016, they even dismissed his supporters. Remember calling us deplorables. Now they are trying to disqualify our voice before the 2020 election. They want to undo the results of the last election to influence the next one. As I've said, President Trump will still be president when this is all over.

HB:

And then finally the time was up for debate and the first article abusive power up for a vote. Two Democrats, one of whom is reportedly planning on switching parties voted no. One independent, Justin Amash, a former Republican voted yes. Zero current Republicans voted in favor of the article. So after, 20 minutes the final vote was tallied then read out by speaker of the house. Nancy Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi:

On this though the yays are 230. The nays are 197. Present is one. Article One is adopted.

HB:

That one present vote. By the way, was from representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She's running for the democratic presidential nomination and said in a statement that she voted that way because she quote, "Is standing in the center." Which, okay, the second charge obstruction of Congress was approved much more quickly. That vote passed with a vote of 229 yays and 198 nays and one present and like that history was made. Trump is now the third president in us history to be impeached. We'll check in with Buzzfeed congressional correspondent Kadia Goba in a bit to see what the mood was there in the building.

Meanwhile, the president was holding a rally in Michigan when the first article passed and it was a wild one even for him lasting over two hours of free association. At one point he had call and response, with his audience about toilets and a normal one was had by all. Next up, the Senate will hold the trial of President Donald Trump, but speaker Pelosi hinted she might not let that process get started right away. See, there's a theory being circulated among Democrats in the house. You pass the articles but don't transmit them over to the Senate to start the trial. That way you keep the impeachment in the news and potentially allow more time to gather evidence and have the courts force witnesses to testify and Pelosi indicated she may be willing to do just that.

Nancy Pelosi:

We have legislation approved by the Rules Committee that will enable us to decide how we will send over the articles of impeachment. We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side and I would hope that, that will be soon as we did was our resolution 660 to describe what the process would be. So far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair and when we see what that is, we'll out managers.

HB:

It'd be a pretty huge gamble, but as it stands, it sounds like it may be at least two weeks before the articles are sent over to the Senate, even if that's not the way the Democrats decide to play this hand. And now today's reading from [inaudible 00:08:09].

Zero normal day. Normal White House. Ten President Richard Nixon resigns, flies away in Marine One. This morning, we're at an 8.4. This is absolutely wild and despite the name of the show, not something that was a guarantee when we launched, but here we are, the president has been impeached. Real talk, this may wind up being the peak of the Nixometer rating. There's still a lot of questions about how the trial will run and the more it seems like the Republican led Senate is in lock upped with the White House, the lower the score will likely drop. As it seems the president will remain in office. But hey, there's still a few scenarios that could play out to change that dynamic and the simulation we're all living in is nothing if not unpredictable.

Okay. After the break we talked to David Corn about Bill Clinton's impeachment stick around.

All right. Time for our last installment of, what a fucking time. As history week wraps for us and we record as the house prepares to vote on the actual articles against Trump. We're taking a look at the most recent impeachment case, the one against president Bill Clinton. Today we're talking to DC, the Washington Bureau chief for Mother Jones Magazine. David, thank you so much for joining us.

David Corn:

Good to be with.

HB:

So David, you were the Washington editor for the nation, the last time we did this whole impeachment thing in 1999. So what is the biggest difference now in D.C. compared to back then as we get set for an impeachment trial?

DC:

If you look at the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the impeachment of Richard Nixon. You will see that very few people in America expected to reach that point at the beginning of their presidencies.

HB:

Right.

DC:

Yes. People called Dick Nixon. Tricky Dick. But when the Watergate tapes came out and showed that he was involved in crime and he spoke crudely and in a biggety manner. It was shocking. And Bill Clinton. Yes, he'd had personal scandals, but when it came out, when he finally acknowledged that he had had an affair with a subordinate in the Oval Office. That too was shocking and I think it shocked the nation. It shocked Washington D.C. With the Trump impeachment. There is nothing shocking about it. If there was an algorithm that would predict an impeachment, he would ring the bell. He called for foreign governments to intervene in the 2016 election to help him when he asked for Russian hackers, to hack into Hillary Clinton.

DC:

So everything that he's done up to then would have led anyone to say, "There's no way he's getting out of four years without doing something that's impeachable." And the minute he walked into the Oval Office, he violated the Constitution through the Emoluments Clause.

HB:

So let's talk a little bit about Clinton then and the actual charges against him. One count of perjury, one of obstruction of justice. The report that led to that from independent counsel Ken Starr was pretty scandalous and full of sex, to be honest. How did Republicans get from that Starr report to deciding, well, we're going to charge the president with these two specific articles of impeachment?

DC:

Well, the case Bill Clinton was not that he had had sex. That's what they claimed was not the case. The charge was that he had lied about having sex in a civil lawsuit. That had been filed against him for alleged sexual harassment he had committed years earlier as the governor of Arkansas, and one of the lies was denying that he had sex with a Monica Lewinsky and also because she had been subpoenaed in this civil lawsuit. Encouraging her to lie about it. So supporting perjury and tampering with witnesses and obstructing justice. But the way the public saw it, was you're going after him because he did whatever cheating guy's done in the past. He lied about having sex and yeah, we don't like lying. We don't like him having sex in the office, but it's really about lying about having sex.

HB:

So then it seems to me that during that time period when people heard those things and saw the charges, they thought to themselves, "Well yeah, these were crimes, but are they high crimes and misdemeanors?" Is that right?

DC:

Yeah. Well, I mean they were alleged crimes and the question was, should you impeach a popular president for lying about a personal matter? Any type of lying in a civil case is perjury. Much different then with Trump, where what he's accused of doing, it involves his official acts.

HB:

Right.

DC:

And doing something to affect reelection to his own benefit. This was okay. Yeah, on points we get you. You shouldn't lie in a civil case, but he lied about sex and the public didn't go for that. They thought the Republicans are going after him for his personal life.

HB:

So let's jump ahead to Clinton's trial after he is officially impeached. Senator majority leader, Trent Lott at the time, at first was against witnesses being called, but then they had the idea to depose the witnesses in private but play clips during the trial. How did that work out in practice? Because to be honest, I heard that was like, "Wow, this sounds really dumb."

DC:

Well, it wasn't dumb. It was what the Republicans wanted for survival, for political survival. By the time impeachment reached the Senate, it was clear that popular opinion was rock hard against impeachment. Because remember the Republicans controlled the Senate then as they do now. They were in charge and they started calling witnesses and calling Monica Lewinsky and asking her specific questions based on what the story report said. Did you use a cigar or not use cigar?

HB:

Yeah. That would have been a disaster.

DC:

The public did not want a public spectacle. They would have blamed the Republicans for doing that. So they came up with this method of interviewing a few of the witnesses for depositions, private taping them, and for not very long sessions and then using portions of that. The impeachment managers from the house Republican majority. Use portions of that as evidence.

HB:

Right.

DC:

But basically it was to not put it on the TV, not have it out there. Get rid of this as quickly as possible. We knew that there were not enough votes to convict.

HB:

So yeah, it's very comparable to the Republicans in the Senate wanting to get rid of this very quickly as well. So in the end, the Senate acquits Clinton without a majority for either charge, despite the Republicans having control, he wasn't removed. What was the aftermath like?

DC:

I asked George W. Bush.

HB:

Ah, you're right. I see where you're going with this.

DC:

Clinton got off and continued president. All the other political fights just kind of continued. There was no real change in the remaining year or so of his presidency. But go back and look at what George W. Bush ran on, he ran on integrity, character, bringing values back to the White House.

HB:

And Al Gore could not have Bill Clinton on the campaign trail with him.

DC:

Yeah. Not as much as he could have. Al Gore had a very difficult time. He had to figure out how to claim the economic success of the Clinton years and other successes. At the same time, not embrace the fellow. And there might've been a way to thread that needle, but Al Gore had a hard time doing it. And I do think public obviously didn't like what Clinton did. I think he would have been far more unpopular had he not been turned into a martyr by the publican impeachment effort.

HB:

So it's going to be really interesting since this is the first time a president has been impeached in his first term as re-election is coming up. Last couple of times Nixon nor Clinton were eligible to run.

HB:

Okay. Last question really quickly. What's the one best thing you can recommend that people read to get a sense of what the Clinton impeachment was really like?

DC:

I don't have one. I have two. There are two great books about the impeachment. The first one I'm going to mention is The Breach by Peter Baker. It was really about what happened in Congress and Clinton legal team. The other book I would recommend is The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, but shows the right wing conspiracy that did try to set and succeeded in setting a perjury trap for Bill Clinton that led to the impeachment itself.

HB:

All right, David, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate you giving us a better sense of how this is so much different then the last time we went through impeachment. I really appreciate it.

DC:

And thank you for making me feel old.

HB:

No problem at all. All right. It was a hell of a day and to get a real check for how it fell on the Hill. We turn to BuzzFeed congressional correspondent Kadia Goba.

Kadi Goba:

Hi, Hayes. It's Kadia reporting from the Hill. You know that place where the U.S. Congress just impeached President Donald Trump. Yep. That place. It's been a really long day. And I'd say the boot on the Hill went from members being super charged to, yeah, I'm ready to go home. As early as nine o'clock in the morning. They were all willing to talk about why they were going to vote to impeach the president, why they weren't going to vote to impeach the president. I even got like a really good interview with Justin Amash. The representative that defected from the Republican party and I'd say mid afternoon. And things started to lose their steam. Even staffers were in the hallway complaining about impeachment and how it had interrupted their workflow and how they're happy it's going to be over. By the actual vote time Congress people out the door. Like no holding them. Very few of them stayed back and yeah, that's impeachment.

HB:

I feel that so deeply in my spirit. Thank you, Kadia. Okay. That's it for today. Tomorrow we'll have more for you on the fallout of the impeachment vote and we'll be talking with Buzzfeed News, congressional reporter, Addy Baird about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the reluctant impeacher. Feels like a weird time to say this, but it's almost time for Christmas and our consumers, God's demand sacrifice, which is to say impeachment today as merchant for sale. Hats, bags, various goods with our delightful logo on it. Be sure to head over to shop.buzzfeednews.com to check all that out.

Also be sure to subscribe to Impeachment Today on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you go for your favorite shows. And maybe leave a rating and review. Also tell your friends about this show as we all figure this out together.

ADVERTISEMENT