Ghosts of impeachments past
One of the interesting things about watching the impeachment of President Trump play out is that many of the main actors were also in Congress when Republicans impeached (but failed to convict) President Bill Clinton in late 1998 and early 1999.
The White House cited old impeachment comments from House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in its strange letter Tuesday explaining to House Democrats why President Trump and his administration will refuse to honor any subpoenas or allow any witnesses in the House's impeachment inquiry. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a stalwart Trump ally, pretty clearly disagreed with that strategy when he was a House impeachment manager in Clinton's Senate trial.
"Article III of impeachment against Richard Nixon, the article was based on the idea that Richard Nixon, as president, failed to comply with subpoenas of Congress" as it was "going through its oversight function," Graham said back in 1998. "The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress, and he became the judge and jury."
Graham, during the Senate trial, noted that "you don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role." He also argued that "impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office."
In May, Graham did stand by that statement. "It doesn't have to be a crime," he told McClatchey D.C. "And if you want to impeach him, do it, and you want to use my words — it doesn't have to be a crime, and it's necessary to cleanse the office — be my guest."