PEORIA, Illinois – Beginning next week the Articles of Impeachment will move to the House for a vote. That trial will be led by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, unless she chooses someone else.
During the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, that’s what former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, did. He chose former Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood to lead the trial.
In 1998, LaHood was the man front and center. He presided over the House vote during the Clinton impeachment. Now, in 2019, he gets to see it all unfold again.
“This is Groundhog Day for me,” LaHood comments. “It become very partisan and there’s a lot of tension, a lot of anxiety.”
Only twice in our country’s history has a president been impeached; Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. But to reach that point takes time, hearings, and someone like LaHood.
“When people say, “why did Speaker Gingrich pick me?” It was because I had a method of presiding in the House that people felt was fair,” LaHood explains.
The gavel he used during the trial would become the gavel he would use to announce Clinton’s four articles of impeachment. And it would become the gavel to impeach Clinton in the house for two counts, lying under oath and obstruction charges.
“I think it’s probably – out of all the times I presided – the most historic time and the most historic announcement that I ever made during my time as presiding over the Speaker,” LaHood says. “After the day was over, all the republicans met in a room in the Capitol and the first thing Speaker Gingrich said is, “I want to congratulate Ray LaHood for the way he conducted it”.”
LaHood says this will be a moment in history and a vote no one in Congress should take lightly, but it’s up to the person at the front to make the fairest decisions.
“For the people serving now, these votes will be the most important votes they will make in their political careers,” LaHood concludes.
LaHood would go on to become the Secretary of Transportation under President Obama. During that time, he would work with Hillary Clinton. He says he doesn’t believe President Clinton holds a grudge against him since he was just doing his job.
He currently is a senior political adviser in Washington D.C. His son, Darin LaHood, is now a congressman serving the 18th District of Illinois.