R.I.’s fascinating history on impeachment

President Donald Trump talks to the media before leaving the White House on Nov. 9, 2019.
President Donald Trump talks to the media before leaving the White House on Nov. 9, 2019.AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

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Happy Wednesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I prefer swimming pools over beaches. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

As the House Intelligence Committee holds its first televised impeachment inquiry hearing this morning, there is little doubt where Rhode Island’s congressional delegation stands when it comes to ousting President Trump.


But while it’s easy to assume Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline will vote to impeach the president and Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse will ultimately support the effort to remove Trump even if it is likely to stall in their chamber, it’s worth noting that lawmakers from Rhode Island have had an outsized role in impeachment hearings in the past.

When President Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868, Representative Thomas Allen Jenckes, a Republican, wrote one of the articles of impeachment. Jenckes and Representative Nathan F. Dixon II, also a Republican, were among the 126 members of the House who voted to impeach Johnson.

On the Senate side, Republicans Henry B. Anthony and William Sprague IV also voted for impeachment, but Johnson held on to the presidency by one vote (two-thirds of the Senate is needed to convict).

Fun fact: Two years after the Johnson impeachment hearings, Representative Jenckes sponsored legislation to establish the US Department of Justice.

The impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998 had two significant Rhode Island angles.

Early on in the process, Representative Robert Weygand was among 31 Democrats who supported an impeachment inquiry, although he later voted against impeaching Clinton. His willingness to step across party lines won praise from The Providence Journal’s editorial board during Weygand’s run for Senate two years later, although the paper didn’t endorse him.


After Clinton was impeached by the House, it was Republican Senator John Chafee who defected from his party and opposed removing Clinton from office. Chafee was one of 10 Republicans who found Clinton not guilty of perjury and one of five members of his party who said Clinton didn’t obstruct justice.

Senator Reed was a fresh face in the Senate when he voted against impeaching Clinton. If the Senate is required to vote on Trump’s fate, Reed will join an exclusive club: He and the other 14 active senators who were in office in 1999 will become the only senators in history to have voted in two impeachment trials.


Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

• Mayors and town managers across Rhode Island have teamed up to sue the state over a law signed by Governor Gina Raimondo that extends municipal union contracts indefinitely when a new deal isn’t reached. They say the law violates the state constitution and will force them to raise taxes.

• My colleague Liz Goodwin reports that Democratic donors are scrambling to find the right candidate for president. Meanwhile, James Pindell pours cold water on Deval Patrick’s potential entry into the race.


• As we hear more about how Rhode Island could benefit from transportation upgrades in Massachusetts, the Globe’s Shirley Leung points out that our neighbors may need to spend $50 billion to make all of the necessary improvements.

• Actor John Rothman is playing US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in “The Report,” the new film from Amazon about the investigation into the CIA’s post 9/11 detention and interrogation program. Whitehouse told the San Francisco Chronicle the movie “captured the trajectory and the tone of those events very well.”

• Congratulations to Cranston’s Damian “Tico” Rivera, who has signed a contract with the New England Revolution.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

Reminder: Rhode Map Live is tomorrow night at 225 Dyer Street. I’ll be discussing the future of our state with Governor Raimondo, Brown University President Christina Paxson, Rhode Island College President Frank Sanchez and Lifespan CEO Tim Babineau.

• Impeachment isn’t the only happening in Washington, D.C. today. Representative Cicilline is holding a House Antitrust Subcommittee hearing that will be streamed here.

• There’s a groundbreaking for the North Smithfield Community Solar Project at noon at 1375 Pound Hill Road.

• Tonight in Roger Williams Park: It’s the Taste of Rhode Island winter menu showcase featuring 30 of the state’s best restaurants.


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Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

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