A generation has passed since the last presidential impeachment trial in the Senate, though in political terms, it may seem like a lifetime.
President Donald Trump’s trial on two articles of impeachment is likely to begin next month, almost 21 years to the day after President Bill Clinton’s trial on two articles of impeachment. Within a matter of weeks, as in 1999, it almost surely will end in his acquittal.
That’s where the similarities end.
Last time, the charges were all about sex and lying, and the major facts were “delivered on a plate” by independent counsel Ken Starr, recalls Frank Bowman, a professor and expert on impeachment at the University of Missouri School of Law.
This time, the president stands accused of pressuring a foreign government to investigate a political rival by delaying military aid, and Trump denies it. Witnesses refused to testify, and “boatloads of documents,” in Bowman’s words, have been withheld.
Last time, the Senate was controlled by Clinton’s political opponents, giving the president little chance of influencing the process. This time, Trump’s allies run the Senate and are coordinating his defense with the White House.