Then-Rep. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) talks to reporters on Dec. 29, 1998, after a meeting of the “House Mangers” at the Capitol. (Tim Sloan/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

On Feb. 12, 1999, the Senate cast two historic votes, weighing in on whether President Bill Clinton had, in violation of his constitutional oath, “willfully corrupted and manipulated the judicial process” by lying during sworn testimony and “impeded the administration of justice” by seeking to “delay, impede, cover up, and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony” in a lawsuit against him.

The House Judiciary Committee brought four articles of impeachment to the floor for a vote; only those two were agreed upon. The Senate ultimately did not find Clinton guilty by a majority vote on either, allowing him to remain in office for the final two years of his presidency.

Talk of impeachment is again burbling on Capitol Hill, after a pair of newspaper articles this week. The Washington Post reported Monday that President Trump revealed classified information in a private conversation with Russian officials. A day later, the New York Times reported that James B. Comey, while still FBI director, had memorialized a conversation with Trump in which the president asked him to drop an investigation of Trump’s then-national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and his ties to Russia.

Democrats are openly suggesting President Trump could be impeached. Here's how it would actually happen. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Although details are still sketchy on that latter story, the possibility looms that Trump’s actions constitute obstruction of justice — one of the two charges for which Clinton faced removal.

And if that’s the case, life for 101 Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill may be about to get rather sticky. Those Republicans, you see, voted to impeach Clinton for obstruction of justice 17 years ago, and they would need to decide whether to cast a similar vote against Trump. The Democrats declined to impeach Clinton on that charge — and would similarly need to develop a new rationale.

There are 116 current members of the House and the Senate who served in the 105th or 106th Congresses. Because the House vote on the articles of impeachment was taken at the end of the 105th and the Senate vote at the beginning of the 106th, there are a number of current members of Congress who were freshmen in the 106th House, and therefore simply observed what was going on  in the other chamber as the House prosecuted its case against Clinton for the Senate’s final verdict. (Among those freshmen? A fellow named Paul D. Ryan.)

Excluding those freshmen, 54 Democrats (six of whom are now senators) voted on the articles of impeachment in the House — all opposing all four articles. Five others cast votes on guilt in the Senate — all voting “not guilty” on both counts. An additional 35 Republicans (eight of whom are now senators) voted in the House and nine voted in the Senate. Among the Republicans, views were split — but 42 of them cast votes to impeach Clinton on the grounds of obstruction of justice or to declare him guilty of that charge.


A full list of the current members of Congress who voted on Clinton’s obstruction charge is at the bottom of this article. Two Republicans — Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.) and Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) — voted against impeaching the president for obstruction of justice, as did Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who served in the House at the time and is now a senator.

Of those 42 Republicans, three were included among the group of House members who served as managers of the impeachment process, helping to prosecute the case against Clinton in the Senate. Those three were Steve Chabot (Ohio), F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (Wis.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who is now a senator.

Unsurprisingly, all three spent a lot of time talking to the news media about the need to press forward with the impeachment process.

“The president engaged in a conspiracy of crimes to prevent justice from being served,” Sensenbrenner said in December 1998. “These are impeachable offenses for which the president should be convicted.” Graham came under fire for sending out a fundraising letter about the process, in which he warned that “as visibility increases for many Republicans due to the impeachment process, the likelihood for opposition in the next election also increases.”

Chabot argued that Clinton had “lied so many times in so many forums, it’s really hard to keep track of it all.”

“For the children of this nation,” he added, “this president has to be impeached.”

Other Republicans still in office offered similarly strong warnings.

“The American people can no longer trust word,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) said that same month. “We believe he is a shameless liar.”

“Having to make a choice, I choose to be on the side that says no person is above the law; that this is a nation of laws, not men; that telling the truth matters; and that we should expect our public officials to conduct themselves in compliance with the highest ethical standards,” Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.), then a House member, said in announcing his support for the process.

“Either he has a reckless contempt for the truth, or he can’t discern the truth from lies,” said John Thune (S.D.), who was a House member at the time and is now a senator. “In either case, that’s a miserable commentary on the elected leader of the free world.”

We are, of course, getting well ahead of ourselves here. Talk about an impeachment of Trump has been limited to his political opponents, and in each of the three serious attempts to impeach a president — Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Clinton — the House was controlled by members of the opposing party. (Johnson was a Democrat; Republicans controlled the House in 1868.)

Should the issue proceed to the point at which these members of Congress are once again asked to weigh in on whether a president obstructed justice, the rhetoric used by these 101 will be fascinating to watch. How is 2017 different from 1998 and 1999? Why was Clinton worth letting off the hook but Trump worth prosecuting — or vice versa. King and Collins, meanwhile — the Republicans who declined to vote against Clinton — will be the happiest people on the Hill.

Two others who cast votes to condemn Clinton for obstruction of justice will get to weigh in from outside any similar process for Trump. Those two? Attorney General Jeff Sessions and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.


The members of Congress who voted on Clinton

The 42 Republicans:
• Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (Ala.)
• Rep. Joe Barton (Tex.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Roy Blunt (Mo.)
• Rep. Kevin Brady (Tex.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Richard Burr (N.C.)
• Rep. Ken Calvert (Calif.)
• Rep. Steve Chabot (Ohio)
• Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Michael Crapo (Idaho)
• Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (Tenn.)
• Sen. Michael Enzi (Wyo.)
• Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (N.J.)
• Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Va.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.)
• Rep. Kay Granger (Tex.)
• Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa)
• Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.)
• Rep. Sam Johnson (Tex.)
• Rep. Walter B. Jones (N.C.)
• Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (N.J.)
• Rep. Frank D. Lucas (Okla.)
• Sen. John McCain (Ariz.)
• Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Jerry Moran (Kan.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Robert Portman (Ohio)
• Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.)
• Rep. Harold Rogers (Ky.)
• Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.)
• Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.)
• Rep. Edward R. Royce (Calif.)
• Rep. Marshall Sanford (S.C.)
• Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (Wis.)
• Rep. Pete Sessions (Tex.)
• Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.)
• Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.)
• Rep. Christopher H. Smith (N.J.)
• Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.)
• Rep. Mac Thornberry (Tex.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) John Thune (S.D.)
• Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Roger Wicker (Miss.)
• Rep. Don Young (Alaska)

The 59 Democrats:
• Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (Ga.)
• Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.)
• Rep. Robert A. Brady (Pa.)
• Sen. (then Rep.) Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
• Sen. (then Rep.) Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.)
• Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.)
• Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.)
• Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.)
• Rep. Danny K. Davis (Ill.)
• Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.)
• Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.)
• Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.)
• Rep. Lloyd Doggett (Tex.)
• Rep. Michael Doyle (Pa.)
• Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.)
• Rep. Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.)
• Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (Calif.)
• Rep. Gene Green (Tex.)
• Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.)
• Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.)
• Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.)
• Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Tex.)
• Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.)
• Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio)
• Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.)
• Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.)
• Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.)
• Rep. Sander M. Levin (Mich.)
• Rep. John Lewis (Ga.)
• Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.)
• Rep. Nita M. Lowey (N.Y.)
• Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Edward J. Markey (Mass.)
• Rep. James McGovern (Mass.)
• Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (N.Y.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Robert Menendez (N.J.)
• Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.)
• Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.)
• Rep. Richard E. Neal (Mass.)
• Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.)
• Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.)
• Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.)
• Rep. Collin C. Peterson (Minn.)
• Rep. David E. Price (N.C.)
• Sen. John Reed (R.I.)
• Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.)
• Rep. Bobby L. Rush (Ill.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.)
• Rep. Robert Scott (Va.)
• Rep. José E. Serrano (N.Y.)
• Rep. Brad Sherman (Calif.)
• Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (N.Y.)
• Sen. (then-Rep.) Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
• Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.)
• Rep. Mike Thompson (Calif.)
• Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (N.Y.)
• Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (Ind.)
• Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.)
• Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.)