When the House Judiciary Committee meets today for the start of hearings that could lead to the impeachment of President Donald Trump, two of the 17 Republicans on the dais will find themselves in a familiar position, having been deeply involved in the last formal attempt to remove a president from office.
Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio, along with Representative James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. Both later played the role of prosecutors for Clinton’s trial in the Senate, where he was ultimately acquitted.
“I do stand by it,” Chabot told me. “I think he did commit an impeachable offense—that’s why I voted that way.”
Twenty years later, Chabot finds himself on the opposite side, arguing that the president does not deserve to be removed from office. He’s now a middle-of-the-road Republican, aligned with Trump but not one of the president’s most aggressive defenders. Chabot hails from a competitive district in Cincinnati: He only won reelection last year by four points, and he actually lost his seat once, in 2008, before winning it back two years later. Though he was critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, unlike other Republicans, he never demanded that the probe be shut down or called it a witch hunt. He said publicly he’d reserve his judgment until Mueller delivered his report. Now that he’s read it, he supports Attorney General William Barr’s decision to clear Trump of obstruction of justice. “I did not see obstruction of justice myself,” Chabot said.