(AP)

How the impeachment articles against Trump are similar to, and different from, Clinton and Nixon

House Democrats have settled on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump — the first alleging abuse of power and the second alleging obstruction of Congress. In several ways, the new articles carry historical echoes. But in other ways, they don’t. 

What do the two articles say?

The first article addresses abuse of power. It focuses on Trump’s alleged efforts to strong-arm Ukraine into investigating his potential opponent, Joe Biden, by withholding military aid and an Oval Office visit. It also addresses how Trump’s actions undermined U.S. national interests. 

The second article focuses on Trump’s efforts to block cooperation with Congress on its impeachment inquiry.

Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine have been investigated by Congress, rather than law enforcement. So obstruction of Congress became the article of impeachment rather than obstruction of justice. Read the full text of the articles of impeachment.

How they’re similar to past impeachment articles 

Both articles offered against Trump have precedents in the impeachments of President Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton.

The first article against Trump — abuse of power — is similar to one of the three articles approved during Watergate. 

And the subject of the second — obstruction of Congress — was approved by the committee against both Nixon and Clinton. (In Clinton’s case, it was voted down by the full House.)

The articles introduced against Trump do not address any of the elements of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. These were the focus of Robert Mueller’s special counsel report.

That’s similar to the way the Watergate-era Judiciary Committee narrowed its focus, considering but rejecting a proposed article on the bombing of Cambodia and another on emoluments received at Nixon’s properties and allegations of tax evasion. The two articles against Clinton that passed the House were focused on Clinton’s behavior in response to the sexual harassment lawsuits against him.

How they’re different from past impeachment articles

A big difference from past impeachments is that — numerically at least — House Democrats are starting small with only two articles.

In the case of Nixon, the committee considered five articles and approved three. And for Clinton, the committee approved four, with two of them passing the full House. But this time, House Democrats have taken a pass on other topics, focusing on two core issues.

In the past, offering more options gave lawmakers of both parties the ability to pick and choose their votes. During the Nixon impeachment process, the Judiciary Committee saw several members break with their party on each vote, and during Clinton’s impeachment, a handful of moderates on both sides broke with their party on some votes.

Today, however, party polarization is so strong that experts do not expect much, if any, crossover voting. 

The House Judiciary Committee is currently considering articles of impeachment, and a vote in the full House is expected next week. If the articles pass, the Senate would conduct a trial in the new year. 

The Latest from PolitiFact:

  • Could Donald Trump be impeached, removed and run for re-election? It’s possible: Trump probably could run again, as long as the Senate didn’t decide to forbid it. But it wouldn’t be easy. Whether Trump is removed or not, he would only be able to be elected for one more four-year term. The 22nd Amendment says that "no person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice." Read our story for more details
     
  • Attorney General William Barr distorts findings of government report: Barr said, "The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions." That statement rates Mostly False. The report found that the decision to start the Russia investigation was justified. But the FBI did secure a FISA warrant to surveil campaign aide Carter Page, a technique that is permitted but considered intrusive.
     
  • Wives beg husbands' forgiveness at Christmas? A Facebook post features what appears to be a dated, black-and-white image of five women kneeling in front of a line of men who are supposedly their husbands with text that reads: "At Christmas women used to apologize to their husbands for all the mistakes they made during the year and beg for forgiveness … let’s not let this beautiful custom get lost." We could find no evidence in internet searches or archived news databases that support the claim. The photo has also been shared on Russian-language websites for years. One caption translates to: "Etiquette a century ago. Ladies invite gentlemen to the White Dance, 1900." The claim rates False
     
 

PolitiFact Behind the Scenes

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  • I was on the public radio show 1A recently. The topic was "Abuse Of Power And Obstructing Congress: The Impeachment Inquiry Moves Forward." Listen to the episode here
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