NARRATION: President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton have something historic in common. They have both been impeached. So how did each man handle it?
ARCHIVAL (TRUMP CAMPAIGN RALLY, NBC, 1-14-20):
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on our country, ever.
NARRATION: Facing charges he abused his power for personal political gain, President Trump talks, or tweets, about impeachment nearly every day. But he says he is still hard at work.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Nobody has done as much as I’ve done in the first three years.
NARRATION: In 1998, as President Clinton faced impeachment for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, he and his staff insisted they weren’t distracted either.
KEN GORMLEY (AUTHOR, “THE DEATH OF AMERICA VIRTUE: CLINTON VS. STARR”): They remembered the lesson of Richard Nixon who became obsessed with Watergate to the point that he really couldn’t function in office, and so they kept to-tried to keep Clinton’s mind focused. And he was-had an incredible ability to compartmentalize. Even as these investigations were going forward, he moved forward with his work. They literally created a parallel universe where Whitewater and the Ken Starr investigations didn’t exist in most of their daily conversations with the president.
ARCHIVAL (C-SPAN, STATE OF THE UNION, 1-19-99):
VOICE: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.
KEN GORMLEY: One of the greatest examples of that is in the midst of the impeachment trial, Bill Clinton went and gave the State of the Union address in 1999.
ARCHIVAL (STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS, 1-19-99):
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: We put aside our divisions and found another hour of healing and hopefulness.
KEN GORMLEY: That was one of his greatest masterpieces of political oration, right in front of the very group that was trying to impeach him.
NARRATION: As President Trump prepared for his senate trial, he announced his legal team would include Ken Starr – the same Ken Starr whose investigation led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Starr will now argue to reject impeachment charges against Donald Trump.
ARCHIVAL ( 12-17-19):
REPORTER: Mr. President, do you take any responsibility for the fact that you’re about to be impeached?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No. I don’t take any — zero, to put it mildly.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds.
NARRATION: By the time President Clinton was acquitted of all charges in 1999, much of the public had moved on. In fact, his approval rating was 68%, nearly the highest of his presidency.
KEN GORMLEY: The public, in essence, said, “We get it. We understand what he did. He shouldn’t have lied about this affair. We’ve had enough. Get back to work.”
When I interviewed Henry Hyde who was the member of Congress who led the house managers in the impeachment drive, he said, “Well, at least President Clinton will always have an asterisk next to his name that says he was impeached.” And when I told President Clinton that he said, “Yeah. And I hope there’s a second asterisk that I beat them, and I beat them like a yard dog.”
NARRATION: It’s not clear how President Trump’s impeachment will affect voters come November. Despite the charges and counter-charges, Trump’s approval rating has stayed pretty much the same – stuck in the low 40% range for months.