Clinton was never indicted, but he faced serious consequences for his presidential misconduct. His legal problems related to his treatment of and relationships with several women who were not his wife.
Clinton was accused of lying in court proceedings in a sexual harassment case filed against him. His alleged lying led to his impeachment for lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice. The Senate voted not to convict him, and thus he was not removed from office. A federal district judge held Clinton in contempt of court for making false statements in deposition testimony in the case.
Unlike Nixon, Clinton paid a price for his presidential misconduct. An Arkansas Supreme Court committee sued him for his behavior while in office and asked that Clinton be disbarred for his behavior.
Clinton settled the suit by agreeing to a five-year suspension of his law license, a $25,000 fine and public acknowledgment that he had violated the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct. He accepted a punishment far harsher than the reprimand normally given in similar situations, but he escaped criminal prosecution.
Preserving the rule of law
Trump now faces multiple criminal investigations that could result in an indictment. No former president has faced so many possible indictments.
Any decision for or against indicting Trump could threaten the rule of law if it is not carefully considered and supported by the evidence. As weighty and historic as the decisions about indicting Trump may seem, they reflect the country’s larger struggle in navigating how to deal with presidential misconduct.
The next steps in Trump’s legal saga will be key in determining how our democracy decides to hold former presidents accountable for their misconduct.
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