You’ll find nobody in Congress today who was more adamant about removing President Bill Clinton from office than Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
Alone among the current 435 House members and 100 senators, only Crapo voted to both impeach Clinton and expel him from office.
So if Crapo does indeed join his fellow Republicans in voting to keep President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, the Idahoan will have a duty to explain himself — if he can.
Of the 100 senators now sitting in judgment of Trump, 28 voted during the 1999 Clinton impeachment.
Here’s what sets Crapo apart:
l In 1998, while serving in the House, the Idaho Republican voted yes on all four articles of impeachment. That same year, Crapo was elected to succeed Dirk Kempthorne in the Senate. In 1999, Crapo, now a senator, voted to convict Clinton on both perjury and obstruction of justice. The vote fell short of the two-thirds margins required, and Clinton finished out his term.
Seven of Crapo’s former GOP House colleagues who voted for the articles of impeachment —including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who actually served as a House prosecutor during Clinton’s impeachment — are now in the Senate. But all advanced to the upper chamber after the Clinton Senate trial.
Another seven House Democrats who voted against the 1998 articles of impeachment also now sit in the Senate. But only Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., like Crapo, advanced to the Senate in the 1998 election and was on hand to vote against Clinton’s conviction in the 1999 impeachment trial.
l Crapo is among only six Republicans still in the Senate who voted to convict Clinton on both counts. Among them is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted against removal. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., voted for one count and against the other.
Seven current Senate Democrats — including Washington’s Patty Murray — voted no.
l And it goes without saying that Crapo is the only member of Idaho’s congressional delegation with impeachment experience. All of his colleagues were elected since the Clinton affair.
In other words, the universe of people in Washington, D.C., with one foot in the Clinton impeachment and another in Trump’s is limited. The universe of people who voted six times — every chance he got — to remove the 43rd president from office boils down to one.
Then as now, Crapo kept a low profile.
“From the very beginning of this matter, I have been circumspect about commenting on President Clinton’s conduct,” Crapo said on Feb. 12, 1999. “As a newly elected senator, I was inundated with interview requests from national media. I chose not to appear on these programs and restricted my comments to a discussion of the process. I felt it was incumbent upon me as a member of the impeachment court to avoid commenting on the evidence until the trial has concluded.”
Then as now, the facts are not in dispute. Clinton lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky to a grand jury and tried to cover it up. No less than the nonpartisan General Accountability Office has verified that Trump broke the law by withholding military aid from Ukraine. And no one has testified under oath to refute witnesses who said Trump held back the aid to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation into Trump’s leading rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Then as now, in Crapo’s words, “The core debate is whether these acts rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors as required to impeach and remove the president from office under the Constitution.”
In 1999, Crapo concluded respect for the rule of law would suffer if Clinton remained in office.
“Perjury and obstruction of justice are public crimes that strike at the heart of the rule of law — and therefore our freedom — in America,” he said. “I conclude that these acts do constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under the impeachment provisions of the U.S. Constitution.”
Crapo has long been a party loyalist and no one expects him to break with Trump. But if he does vote to acquit, Crapo — unlike so many of his colleagues — will carry the unfortunate burden of history.
Crapo will have to explain why respect for the rule of law compelled him to demand Clinton’s removal from office but in Trump’s case, the same argument left him unmoved. — M.T.