American Crime Story season 3 tells the story of Monica Lewinsky and the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal, but was the president ever fully impeached? The legislative process for presidential impeachment is complicated and rarely used, and despite it being mentioned frequently in the news during the Trump presidency, many people still don’t understand how impeachment works. After all, only a few presidents throughout all of U.S. history have ever been impeached.
The process of U.S. presidential impeachment can be broken down essentially into two parts. The first, the approval of the articles of impeachment, takes place in the House of Representatives. The articles, which outline what offenses the president is being accused of, are introduced, and then voted on, with a simple majority being needed for the articles of impeachment to be approved. After approval, the impeachment proceedings move to the Senate, where the actual impeachment trial occurs. The Senate requires a two-thirds majority vote to convict a sitting president of the articles of impeachment, at which point the president would be removed from office.
Impeachment only refers to the first part of that process – the approval of the articles of impeachment. Throughout U.S. history, three presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump (twice). However, none of those impeachments led to convictions. The only instance of a President leaving office in the wake of an impeachment scandal is that of Richard Nixon, who resigned voluntarily before the articles of impeachment against him had time to be approved by the House of Representatives. So yes, Bill Clinton was impeached, but he was later acquitted in the Senate.
The third installment of the true-crime anthology series, American Crime Story: Impeachment, will surely cover that story in great detail, from the first meeting of Clinton and Lewinsky to the impeachment process and the trial. The show’s previous seasons have been pretty accurate portrayals of their high-profile cases: the O. J. Simpson trial and the murder of Gianni Versace, albeit with a healthy amount of added drama. But the core events themselves have been pretty accurate throughout, and that will hopefully remain true in American Crime Story season 3.
Like the Simpson trial, the Clinton impeachment is still a relatively recent event that was hugely televised and picked apart in the media at the time. But for younger viewers, with whom series creator Ryan Murphy has found great success, the impeachment trial may be little more than a story learned about in history classes. It should be interesting to see it brought to life once again in American Crime Story season 3.