Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the second presidential debate, Oct. 9, 2016.
Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC

Remember when Republicans were prepared to impeach Hillary Clinton?


On Nov. 8, 2016, Donald Trump unexpectedly won the U.S. presidential election. Just four days earlier, however, the Washington Post published this report on Republican plans to impeach Hillary Clinton, whom they expected to win.

Senior Republican lawmakers are openly discussing the prospect of impeaching Hillary Clinton should she win the presidency, a stark indication that partisan warfare over her tenure as secretary of state will not end on Election Day.

Chairmen of two congressional committees said in media interviews this week they believe Clinton committed impeachable offenses in setting up and using a private email server for official State Department business.

And a third senior Republican, the chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee, told The Washington Post he is personally convinced Clinton should be impeached for influence peddling involving her family foundation.

The same morning that article ran, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the then-chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News that he believed Hillary Clinton committed “treason” with her email protocols.

Two days before that, Senate House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also suggested Clinton committed impeachable offenses. In reference to the Democrat’s email issues, the Wisconsin Republican said on Nov. 1, 2016, “I’m not a lawyer, but this is clearly written. I would say yes, high crime or misdemeanor.”

It was around this time that a National Review writer made the case that congressional Republicans should impeach Clinton before the election, while Rudy Giuliani reportedly “guaranteed” to an Iowa audience that Clinton, if elected, would be impeached within a year of taking office.

Less than a week later, Trump won, and the question of whether the Republican Congress would impeach Hillary Clinton or not became a moot point. But as the issue of presidential impeachment returns to the fore, it’s worth revisiting the standards GOP lawmakers set in the very recent past.

Three years ago, federal investigators examined Clinton’s email protocols and concluded that she broke no laws. Then-FBI Director James Comey concluded that the issue was not a close call.

“At the end of the day, the case itself was not a cliff-hanger; despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn’t a prosecutable case,” Comey wrote in an internal memo.

In contrast, federal investigators examined Donald Trump’s alleged misconduct as part of the probe into the Russia scandal, and they uncovered evidence of, among other things, obstruction of justice.

The Republican’s allies are now feigning outrage at the very idea of presidential impeachment, but they espoused very different standards in the fall of 2016.