List of Presidents Who Were Impeached

Learn About the Only Two Presidents Accused of High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton

Only two presidents have been impeached in United States history, and neither was convicted of the charges filed against him. No president has been convicted of the charges filed against him during impeachment proceedings.

And aside from conviction on impeachment charges, there is no mechanism set forth in the U.S. Constitution that allows for the removal of a failing president. Impeachment is used against a president only when there is evidence of "high crimes and misdemeanors." 

Why the Number of Presidents Who Were Impeached Is Small

The removal of a president is not simply left to the whims of voters, though it is not unusual in such a highly partisan atmosphere for opponents of a president to circulate rumors about potential impeachment measures. President Barack Obama was the target of a few impeachment efforts following several scandals that erupted during his two terms in the White House.

Most Americans alive today can name one of the two impeached presidents, William Jefferson Clinton, because of the salacious nature of the Monica Lewinsky affair and because of how quickly and thoroughly the details spread across the World Wide Web as it became commercially accessible for the first time. But the first impeachment came more than a century before Clinton face charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in 1998.

List of Impeached Presidents

Here's a look at the presidents who were impeached and a couple who came very close to being impeached.

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson
President Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States, was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act. National Archives / Newsmakers

Johnson, the 17th president of the United States, was accused of violating the Tenure of Office Act. The 1867 required Senate approval before a president could remove any member of his cabinet who had been confirmed by the upper chamber of Congress.

The House impeached Johnson on February 24, 1868, three days after he dumped his secretary of war, a radical Republican named Edwin M. Stanton, allegedly in violation of the Tenure of Office Act. The U.S. Senate acquitted Johnson later that year by a narrow margin.

Johnson was spared conviction and ouster from office by a single vote.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton
Cynthia Johnson / Liaison

Clinton, the nation's 42nd president, was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 19, 1998, for allegedly misleading a grand jury about his extramarital affair with Lewinsky in the White House, and then persuading others to lie about it, too.

The charges against Clinton were perjury and obstruction of justice.

After a trial, the Senate acquitted Clinton of both charges on February 12. He went on to apologize for the affair and complete his second term in office, telling a captivated and polarized American public, "Indeed, I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible."

Presidents Who Were Almost Impeached

Richard Nixon
Bachrach / Getty Images

Although Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton are the only two presidents to have been impeached, two others came very close to being charged with crimes.

One of them, Richard M. Nixon, was certain to be impeached and convicted in 1974, but the 37th president of the United States resigned before he was to face prosecution over the 1972 break-in at the Democratic Party's headquarters in what became known as the Watergate scandal.

The first president to come perilously close to impeachment was John Tyler, the nation's 10th president. An impeachment resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives again after his veto of a bill angered lawmakers.

The impeachment initiative failed.

Why Impeachment Isn't More Common

Impeachment is a very somber process in American politics, one that has been used sparingly and with the knowledge that lawmakers enter it with an extraordinary burden of proof. The result, the removal of an American president chosen by the citizenry, is unprecedented. Only the most serious of offenses should ever be pursued under mechanisms for impeaching a president, and they are spelled out in the Constitution of the United States: "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
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Murse, Tom. "List of Presidents Who Were Impeached." ThoughtCo, May. 12, 2017, Murse, Tom. (2017, May 12). List of Presidents Who Were Impeached. Retrieved from Murse, Tom. "List of Presidents Who Were Impeached." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 18, 2017).