Impeachment and Trial
Clinton faced a grueling political challenge when the Congress began to consider the Starr Reportand contemplate the grounds for impeachment advanced in that document. It was however no easy task to weigh up the evidence presented and identify an appropriate form of punishment. With the irritant of Starr's investigation dispensed with, Clinton's attention naturally turned to persuading members of the House of Representatives to vote against articles of impeachment and drop all the charges suggested by Starr. If he failed to achieve this aim, then his presidency might come to a premature end and, given that he had rejected the route of resignation, he would face conviction by the Senate. At stake therefore was the future of Clinton's presidency. The Congress too faced pressure, as it attempted to resolve an issue forced upon it. Not only did it have to set aside its normal political agenda, but it also faced an added complication as mid-term elections occurred in the midst of this political crisis. Above and beyond these inconveniences lay the challenge of what to do with Clinton. It was too easy to refer to the Constitution and assume that any questionable action by the President warranted his impeachment and removal from office. Thereafter, if the President was not impeached, it might set a precedent whereby the Chief Executive was considered to be above the law and able to conduct himself in a manner which would cast moral aspersions upon the presidential office. Clinton's actions, and in particular his apology to the nation, appeared to demonstrate that he felt that the scandal was over. The Congress had to convince the nation that any further action was warranted and necessary, discipline the President in an appropriate way and, in many respects, convince itself that any punishment would not harm the presidential office and damage the American political system in the longer term.