“Demonstrably False”: It Is Not True That The Johnson and Clinton Impeachments Had Shorter Impeachment Investigations

Today I posted a column addressing a false story circulating on MSNBC and other outlets that my testimony in the Clinton and Trump impeachments are in contradiction. In fact, the testimony is so close that I could be charged more with self-plagiarism than self-contradiction. However in the hearing there was another clearly false statement put into the record by the Democratic members: that I am “demonstrably wrong” in saying that this could be the fastest or shortest impeachment in history. While the effort is clearly designed to encourage people not to seriously consider my criticism of the record and process in this case, a little history — and my actual testimony — might be helpful.

The standard story being promulgated by critics is that the Clinton and Johnson impeachments were faster. That is not correct, though in my testimony I stressed that, with regard to Johnson, it depends on how you count the days. In order to suggest that there was a factual errors, critics used a transparently false construction: they used the date of the passage of impeachment resolutions rather than the underlying investigations to measure the time of investigation. It is ironic since the Democrats themselves are maintaining that they have been doing an “impeachment inquiry” well before their formal vote. Just as the legislative history of a bill can include hearings before the bill (or prior bills), we usually refer to “impeachments” as the during of the controversy and investigation leading to the adoption of articles of impeachment.

I understood that the word “impeachment” can be used in different ways, which is way I stressed that this depends on how your count the days. In both my oral testimony and written testimony, I referred to Johnson as the outlier and the question of how one uses this term.

What is particularly notable is that this false account knowingly evades the obvious point — and relevant measure. I testified that President Trump could be impeached for non-criminal conduct like abuse of power but that the record is woefully inadequate due to contradictions, missing witnesses, and unaddressed defenses. My point is that a few weeks and a dozen witnesses is a comparatively wafer-thin record to impeachment like Nixon and Clinton. The fact that one member waived around a binder to say the current record is not thin was bizarre. She would have had to literally drive a truck into the room to show the record in either modern presidential impeachment case of Clinton or Nixon.

The point is obviously the underlying investigations not the arbitrary dates of the resolution and passage of article of impeachment.

Here is the typical false account:

“The two other times presidents were impeached — Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 — the impeachment process happened faster than the current process against Trump.

Johnson was impeached for removing Edwin Stanton as secretary of war without congressional approval. The entire process took less than a month.

According to a timeline of events, Johnson removed Stanton as secretary on Feb. 21, 1868. By Feb. 24, 1868 — just three days later — the House passed a resolution impeaching Johnson. And by March 4, 1868, the House delivered articles of impeachment to the Senate. That’s less than two weeks.

As for Clinton, the House voted on Oct. 5, 1998 to launch an impeachment inquiry. By Dec. 19, 1998, the House impeached Clinton. That’s 75 days.”

As I mentioned in my testimony, Clinton was the result of a long investigation by the Independent Counsel and, rather than having the same witnesses testify again, the Congress sent the articles to the floor and then the Senate. It was an exhaustive investigation.

It is really Johnson that is the only question of a faster impeachment. I testified “This impeachment would rival the Johnson impeachment as the shortest in history, depending on how one counts the relevant days.”

My testimony never adopted the measure of the technical resolutions. My point was the the underlying investigations (and thus fact gathering) have been longer. The passage of the resolution — as shown in the Trump case — are irrelevant to the foundation of the articles in the evidence-gathering process. So just in case you are interested in what I actually said in the hearing, here is what I wrote (and largely repeated in my oral testimony):

“The only non-modern presidential impeachment is an outlier in this sense. As I discussed below, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson was the shortest period from the underlying act (the firing of the Secretary of War) to the adoption of the articles of impeachment. However, the House had been preparing for such an impeachment before the firing and had started investigations of matters referenced in the articles. This was actually the fourth impeachment, with the prior three attempts extending over a year with similar complaints and inquiries. Thus, the actual period of the impeachment of Johnson and the operative record is debatable. I have previously discussed the striking similarities between the Johnson and Trump inquiries in terms of the brevity of the investigation and narrowest of the alleged impeachable offenses.”

Here is my full testimony:

182 thoughts on ““Demonstrably False”: It Is Not True That The Johnson and Clinton Impeachments Had Shorter Impeachment Investigations”

  1. I’m more than a little disappointed in your very weak argument before the Judiciary Committee. Your rightward leanings have become more apparent to me over time but that alone didn’t shake my respect for you. In and of themselves that’s not bad but you present yourself as a neutral academic on most issues outside 1st amendment issues where you are a fine advocate of liberty. Your rationale for arguing impeachment was too soon is totally subjective: not to mention that is not really a relevant question regarding what rises to the level of impeachment. If Trump’s serial violations of his oath don’t rise to that level then as one of the other panelists pointed out nothing would be impeachable. When you look at the long list of lawless and corrupt actions taken by this President often in intentional violation of the law and of Congress’ authority your argument collapses. It collapses even more quickly when you consider the risk his illegal and unethical actions present to our national security. His massive, comprehensive and unprecedented obstruction of the impeachment inquiry itself is grounds for impeachment and, as you well know, since his sole defense is defiance of lawful congressional subpoenas he is guilty of abuse of power and obstruction both! I’ll never have the respect for your views I had previously and it was considerable.

    1. wrong in so many ways not worth responding to. instead let’s have a conversation about the conversation.

      see what some of these “internet activist” guys do is they mentally imagine persona which might sound convincing to naive independent voters and then they project it out there and make conclusory stuff up based on it.

      a wise man once said ” the internet is the perfect medium for a liar”

    2. “If Trump’s serial violations of his oath don’t rise to that level then as one of the other panelists pointed out nothing would be impeachable.”

      You mind giving some specifics. One thing lacking in every article is any reference to statutes and case law — with the exception of Turley in this instance.

      I will concede that Turley, as well as a couple of so-called judges, carried legal terms beyond any reasonable definition in the Clinton impeachment. Although at least Turley didn’t go quite as far as the Republicans. In fact, Republicans accused Clinton of “bribery” because he discussed a job search for Lewinsky with Vernon Jordan — and probably with other people as well.

      Now they’re shocked, shocked I tell you, at the frivolous manner in which Schiff is now using it.

      With regard to non-legal matters such as our national security, Obama was quite right to resist substantial military assistance to Ukraine, and Trump was quite wrong in acquiescing to it.

      1. Steve, i agree that non-lethal aid was wiser than giving the Ukrainians weapons. Trump’s choice in that was too belligerent and you can see it hasn’t profited the US anyways. Except maybe the weapons dealers. It certainly got him no credit with the “powers that be.”

        here’s a little skit I would like to stage to recreate the essence of this:

        CIA said: we want you to give Ukrainians weapons. Trump: OK. I want people to think I’m tough on Russia.. CIA: thank you. Now you’re fired anyhow. Trump: You can’t fire me! CIA: Congress can and we just sent one of our spies to tattle on you. Trump: Tattle what? I did what you asked. CIA: You’re corrupt. Trump: But i was trying to investigate corruption! CIA: Duh. Who do you think corrupted Burisma in the first place? Didn’t we tell you our man Cofer Black was on the board? Biden’s kid was just window dressing. Now like we said, you’re fired. You can quit or we’ll be sending orders to our flunkies in the Congress to impeach you. Trump: We’ll see about that. CIA: have it your way then.

        Now to be fair some commentators have noticed the existence of Cofer Black. See link below… . But they fail to come to the most likely and obvious conclusion. Burisma itself is compromised by CIA in the first place. Trump was disrupting a lot of CIA operations and they got sick of it and are punishing him. Remember Schumer’s warning!?


    3. “You can’t handle the truth!”

      – Colonel Jessup

      You can’t handle the truth that the American Founders established a restricted-vote, “rightward leaning” republic.

      We gave you “…a republic, if you can keep it.”

      – Ben Franklin, 1787

      You deliberately ignore and nullify the 5th Amendment and Article 1, Section 8, which provide the absolute, immutable right to private property and the full inviolable immunity from taxation for individual welfare, aka redistribution of wealth, providing Congress the power to tax only for “…general Welfare…,” and the immunity from any and all regulation other than that pertaining to the “value” of “money” and “…Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes;…” solely for the purpose of precluding bias or favor by one over the other.

      You can’t handle the truth that America IS a “rightward leaning” republic and that the entire American welfare state is illegitimate and unconstitutional – that the American thesis is: Freedom Through Self-Reliance not “…from each according to his ability; to each according to his need” per Karl Marx.

      You can’t handle the fact that individuals were provided maximal freedom while government was severely limited and restricted and constrained to the role of facilitating the maximal freedom of individuals through merely the provision of security and infrastructure.

      You can’t handle the truth!

  2. Professor Turley, after listening to the interview you did on NPR and reading that you and your family are receiving nasty threats I want to apologize for my earlier nasty comments in regards to your impeachment hearing. I realize that I did exactly what you were trying to teach all of us: I was angry and anger is an emotion and can lead to angry words and insults. Nobody should be subjected to threats of harm for publicly stating in writing or speaking their thoughts. My anger comes from being very worried about the way the Trump government has acted in regards to minorities, to the issue of global warming, to the Ukraine debacle, to the hurtful and insulting manner with which the president himself has attacked many, to his foreign policy and more.
    Nevertheless it doesn’t excuse my own nasty remarks on your work and your character.

  3. I read this blog daily, am a big fan of Prof Turley and, while not a lawyer, do have stack of Randy Barnett, etc books. Politically I’m a libertarian who has literally never voted for either the red or blue team in a major election.

    I watched your testimony, Prof Turley, and I LITERALLY stood and applauded at my TV. It was perfect. This is a political hit job, plain and simple.

    I happen to agree what Trump did here was sleazy and below the office. If his goal is to investigate corruption, then why so much concern about a press conference? Why was he dispatching his personal lawyer instead of William Barr? It’s obvious Trump wanted something from them and had a personal animus for doing it, but I’m not at all convinced this was a bribe that would personally benefit him. Trump goes after his political enemies for pleasure and entertainment, not sure if I’d say he profits from it.

    Furthermore, Joe Biden implicated himself here with a public statement about pressuring a foreign entity to fire a prosecutor directly involved in his son’s personal affairs. Had Trump not mentioned Rudy Giuliani or a press conference in his push to have this looked at, I’d have a hard time finding anything morally wrong here.

    Thanks for being the one guy with integrity to testify over this. You’re a national treasure to use strict constitutional types 🙂

    1. If his goal is to investigate corruption, then why so much concern about a press conference?

      Because he was concerned about follow-through.

    2. Trump goes after his political enemies for pleasure and entertainment, not sure if I’d say he profits from it.

      Is it or is it not a matter of public interest that Joseph Biden bullied the Ukrainian government into firing a prosecutor investigating his son’s company? Is it or is it not a matter of interest that the company was paying the son a five-figure sum in director’s fees every month, in spite of the fact that he had no formal training in business and no history with extractive industries? Note, his monthly fee from Bursima was 30x the Ukraine’s nominal GDP per capita.

      1. BIDEN pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who had finished investigating the company his son was working for years ago. His motive was the US’ INTEREST and practically every involved first world nation wanted the corrupt prosecutor removed. Not because he was too harsh on these companies but because he was too lenient’corrupt

        TRUMP wanted the announcement of an investigation to benefit HIS OWN POLITICAL INTEREST and withheld funds against the interest of the US for months to do it. It’s a clear distinction

    3. “Why was he dispatching his personal lawyer instead of William Barr” —> thats a good question.

      a) bill barr is busy with a lot of critical stuff here in the USA and doesnt need to go off to Ukraine on an errand

      b) Giuliani has confidence of POTUS and he is thus unlike State Department officials who as we have seen are not loyal and in fact are fact dragging saboteurs. he could trust Giuliani to try and execute a plan without stabbing him in the back. try~

  4. JT has gained a huge amount of recognition after the hearing. He is on the list of those who will replace Ruth.

    1. If Trump’s doing the calling perhaps. That way he won’t have to sacrifice his front runner appointment, Barr, from being able to continue the obstruction party at the DOJ.

      Trump thinks Sonland’s defense completely exonerated him. If he were smart he’d know Sonland’s testimony will likely be the basis for his impeachment, and Turley is advocating the democrats continue to investigate him for the remainder of the term, then impeach. That might be the best case scenario for the republicans. They get to continue Russian interference in the election and then remove loose cannon Trump & appoint stooge president Pence the uncharismatic soon after the ‘20 election ends

      1. That might be the best case scenario for the republicans.

        Then there is this tidbit.

        While House Dems abused the impeachment process (and themselves), 8 more federal judges were confirmed this week

        Self-immolation might be indicated but then again that would require following through on principles….or is it having principles?


  5. The news media confused Andrew Johnson who is in your photo, with Andrew Jackson. In fact, one TV station interviewed an historian who has a book out on Jackson and the announcer went into talking about Johnson. Others confuse LBJ with the dork in the photo who got impeached. It is not that the media cannot remember. They are not brain dead in that respect. No. The media is dumb as a post. That is why one newspaper is called the Washington Post. They sent in dumb and come out dumb too.

  6. Michelle Goldberg skewers Jonathan Turley for contradicting himself; TNYT.

      1. Nonsense. Michelle Goldberg honestly points out that Jonathan Turley reversed himself.

            1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me thirty-eight citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after fifty-two weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – you are assuming anyone wants or needs your help. That is invalid presumption.

        1. She’s office plankton. She doesn’t know anything about anything, just how to turn in copy on time.

          Another Turley-basher is Elie Mystal, who used to know something about something but has taken up the life of making emotional outbursts for fun and profit.

          What’s distressing is that academic positions these days (as well as posts in certain professional schools) are almost exclusively held by leftists, but leftist discourse in the public square is a vicious farrago of nonsense.

            1. One other blawg where I’m a lurker has a participant therein who offered this account of Mr. Mystal’s career. He says he was hired by a BigLaw firm in Manhattan but dispatched post haste when his application to the New York Bar was rejected. Supposedly, he passed the bar exam, but there was a supplementary screen he couldn’t pass, so was never admitted. No clue whether this is a correct account or not. Mystal’s account has it that he voluntarily departed that particular firm (Deblevoise and Plimpton) and admits he does not practice law. The participant in question avers he doesn’t know the issue but remarks that the bar has a character & fitness committee that does review applications.

              I cannot imagine the proprietors of Above the Law pay him more than squat. I assume he doesn’t have to blow David Lat to keep his position.

  7. Pamela Karlan!

    Who knew that Stanford was a mental institution with the “No Vacancy” sign out.

    1. I’m sure the good professor has been well aware of the knuckleheads among Lefty Nut Jobs. To be attacked by them personally changes things.
      Do not offend this fine man.If, for no other reason, because right now, he is by far the best mouthpiece we have to defeat these Crazies on an intellectual, “constitutional law” scholarly basis.

  8. Please be aware that some of us found your testimony to be educational, informative and straightforward

    1. Inspiring, fair, deep, rational, helpful no matter where one stands pro or anti impeachment.

      Bear in mind, Clinton’s horde of lawyers worked night and day resisting in every conceivable fashion Paula Jones’ efforts to be heard in a court of law. (with our money.)

  9. Turley is somewhat compromised in a way that he really hasn’t addressed. It is true that Presidents can be impeached when there is no crime. It is also true that impeachment can be a disproportionate remedy if a crime has been committed. If the President commits jaywalking, impeachment would seem absurd.
    Trying to hide a consensual extra-marital affair and committing a supposed illegality of denying it in a deposition is a pretty common occurrence. The idea that it is relevant to a harassment case (a consensual affair obviously not being harassment) shouldn’t be tolerated in the first place.
    Turley’s ridiculous assertion that Clinton had lost the faith of the American people because he tried to hide such a thing is problematic.
    The Clinton, Johnson, and Trump impeachment proceedings were and are an abuse of the impeachment process.
    A significant chunk of voters already understand this. It’s time for people inside the beltway to understand it as well.

    1. “Trying to hide a consensual extra-marital affair and committing a supposed illegality of denying it in a deposition is a pretty common occurrence.”

      Sticking his thang in Jones’ face and lying about it, lying about Monica and numerous other sexual misconduct, suborning perjury, intimidating witnesses, obstructing justice, bribery, are fairly serious and impeachable offenses.

      1. The articles of impeachment covered the Lewinsky affair and nothing else. The Jones case you refer to was thrown out Didn’t even make it to a jury.

  10. A point that one Congressman made yesterday was that the goal and desire to impeach Trump has been there for years, so in that sense, this is the longest impeachment saga.

  11. I left this blog a while back because I got sick and tired of the pandering excuses offered here.
    I rejoined this blog just a number of daze ago, and it’s worse than ever. I AM disappointed.

  12. JT has lost it. Is it the age or the saturation of his parochial mindedness, one wonders!

    1. …. one wonders!

      No Peter Shill, no one wonders….

      How much are you getting paid to habitually troll this blog with more fake names?

      Or are you David Brock? One wonders!

    2. “one wonders” if Seeker just makes asinine claims and is too stupid or lazy to back them up.

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