Bill Clinton Impeachment: Looking back at 1998 as House launches public hearings of Trump's investigation

WASHINGTON -- As the U.S. House launched the first public hearing Wednesday of Donald Trump's impeachment investigation, America is reminded of a very similar and simultaneously very different showdown in Washington: the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

The Republican-controlled House voted in October 1998 to begin impeachment proceedings against Clinton after months of controversy over his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

That vote was triggered by two rounds of testimony given by Clinton earlier in the year. In January, he denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky; in August, under questioning from independent counsel Kenneth Starr before a federal grand jury, he testified that he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky.

RELATED: Breaking coverage of House impeachment hearings

Clinton was impeached on Dec. 19, 1998, on the grounds of perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. A Senate trial against Clinton commenced on Jan. 7, 1999, and unfolded over four weeks, with Chief Justice William Rehnquist presiding.

On Feb. 12, the Senate voted to acquit Clinton on both charges -- falling far short of the 67 votes needed to convict. Only 45 senators voted for conviction on the perjury charge, and 50 for the obstruction charge.

The 2019 inquiries make Trump only the fourth president to face impeachment: Andrew Johnson, like Clinton, was acquitted after trials in the Senate, and Richard Nixon resigned to avoid being impeached in the Watergate scandal.

RELATED: What is an impeachment inquiry? A look at the impeachment process

There are consistencies in the process -- televised hearings, partisan rancor and memorable speeches -- but each impeachment process also stands alone as a reflection of the president, the Congress and the times.

Only 20 government officers in all, including Johnson and Clinton, have been impeached, and only eight of them, all federal judges with lifetime tenure, have been convicted and removed from office.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2019 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.