IT was 150 years ago today that the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson ended in a historic vote in the Senate – the first time Senators had voted on convicting a president. The majority voted to convict Johnson, but it required the support of two thirds of the Senate for it to stand, and the voting was 35-19 – meaning he survived by a single vote. A second vote 10 days later on other charges reached the same result and Johnson stayed in office.

The National:

President Andrew Johnson​

Impeachment takes place when the House of Representatives votes by a simple majority to lay charges against a civilian officer of the United States Government, up to and including the president. The charges must be for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours,” as it says in the US Constitution. An impeachment trial then takes place in the Senate.

Since Johnson, only two other presidents have had impeachment proceedings brought against them – Richard Milhous Nixon and William Jefferson Clinton. Nixon resigned the presidency before he was formally impeached on charges including abuse of power because he knew he was going to lose, and Clinton survived a Senate trial – for perjury and obstruction of justice in relation to the Monica Lewinsky scandal – principally because no member of his Democratic Party would vote against him.

Plenty of other American officials – such as judges and governors – have been impeached and removed from office at federal and state level, but as yet no president, and the possible case against Donald Trump over alleged campaign connections to Russia is in its infancy.


IN a fractious and febrile Washington after the American Civil War, Johnson succeeded Abraham Lincoln as president in 1865 – he had been vice-president before Lincoln’s assassination. A Democrat selected by Lincoln for the “National Union” ticket, he promptly picked massive fights with members of Lincoln’s Republican Party. An outsider from Tennessee, he was by now hugely unpopular with the Washington politicians, and compounded matters with several stupid decisions.

Johnson, who had some Scottish ancestry, then laid himself open to charges after he blatantly ignored the Tenure of Office Act which stated that a president could not dismiss appointed officials without the consent of Congress.

Johnson thought the Act was unconstitutional and sacked the US Secretary for War, Edwin Stanton, replacing him first with General Ulysses S Grant and then General Lorenzo Thomas.

Congress had passed the Tenure of Office Act specifically to stop Johnson getting rid of Stanton, and the House of Representatives duly impeached the 17th President.

Having survived the Senate trial, Johnson failed to gain the nomination for president from the Democratic Party for that year’s election and he left office early in 1869. He came back as senator for Tennessee in early 1875. Remarkably he won the nomination by a single vote – again.

Johnson died later that year from a stroke. He was 66 and not much missed outside Tennessee.


YES, and it’s one that Trump probably knows all about – and indeed has said as much. Unless you are a complete criminal like Nixon was, no president will be successfully impeached if he or she’s party has a majority in the House of Representatives – and Trump has already explicitly stated that the Republicans must win this year’s mid-term elections to stop the Democrats impeaching him. Democrat representative for Texas Al Green has already campaigned for his impeachment saying that Trump is “the quintessential person that impeachment was designed for”.

Here’s another warning from American history – it was exactly 100 years ago today that what became known as the Sedition Act was passed by Congress, ostensibly as a wartime measure. It made it illegal to express “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the US Government, its flag or its armed forces, or even to cause others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt. Coupled with the Espionage Act, the government gave itself licence to lock up hundreds of opponents, the most famous of whom was Socialist leader Eugene V Debs, who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, though he served only two-and-a-half years before President Warren Harding commuted his sentence.

Don’t show that part to the present incumbent at the White House. It might give him ideas…