Examining North Carolina’s impact on past impeachments

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Born and raised in North Carolina Andrew Johnson would move on to Tennessee eventually becoming Abraham Lincoln’s vice president.

Johnson then became president after Lincoln was assassinated. After dismissing his war secretary Johnson was impeached by the house and tried by the senate.

But, representatives of his native state would not vote for or against him. North Carolina had not yet been readmitted to the Union after the Civil War and had no representation in Washington.

“Presumably the result would have been the same. Johnson was acquitted by the Senate anyway, the vast majority of his accusers were hardcore what they call “radical Republicans” who had always distrusted Johnson who had kind of been a war Democrat. He was in favor of the war, he was a unionist but, he was a Democrat. Lincoln put him on the ticket mainly to sort of broaden his appeal,” said Dr. Andrew Taylor who is a Political Science Professor at NC State.

More than one hundred years later President Nixon faced impeachment.

This time the Tarheel state was front and center as North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin chaired the Senate Watergate Committee.

“Which is very prominent, he becomes a household name across the country as people watch these things on television with his very sort of deliberative and kind of calm traditionally sort of southern demeanor becomes a real fixture of the whole Watergate episode,” said Taylor.

Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

In 1999, North Carolina senator Jesse Helms said yes to the conviction of President Clinton. Senator John Edwards said no.

“This is when Edwards was a newbie, fresh, the freshest freshman you could get. Right there thrust into the middle of it,” said Taylor.

While Edwards voted to acquit he still called Clinton’s conduct reprehensible. He went on to become John Kerry’s running mate and was later accused of violating campaign contribution laws to cover up an admitted extramarital affair.

Now, votes will be cast by Senator Richard Burr, who is not seeking reelection, and Thom Tillis who is and in time will know whether how he votes matters.

“The dilemma for Senator Tillis isn’t so much vote to acquit vote to remove from office or vote guilty it’s what’s going to happen between the end of the trial and November 2020 that might make my vote look bad or good,” said Taylor.

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