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Congress’ Impeachment Power and the Case of Presidential Obstruction

Bob Bauer – Lawfare: “Josh Blackman, in for Lawfare, and co-commentators David Rivkin and Lee Casey for the Wall Street Journal, have been developing the case that a president firing an FBI director or other senior law enforcement official may not subject to impeachment for obstruction of justice. Their approaches are somewhat different: Blackman is working out a more fully developed, nuanced theory of how we should see a conflict between congressional impeachment power and claims of executive authority. But these authors have all offered support for the proposition that, however corrupt or (as Rivkin and Casey put it) “nefarious” a president’s motive may be, his constitutional authority necessarily includes removing from office those officials who presumptively answer to him. Congress, they say, must stand down…There is a still another problem with the argument that the president’s executive power to remove an official prevails over Congress’ power to impeach. It overstates the constitutional breadth of the executive authority that the president may assert in defending against impeachment relating to the firing of officials. In doing so, it misses the momentous importance to the scheme of separated powers of upholding Congress’ authority to impeach a president for obstructive intervention in criminal law enforcement. We should worry about executive, not legislative, supremacy if Congress cannot act to hold the president to account for these actions. Future presidencies will have devastating new ammunition they may use to subdue, control or intimidate the legislature through the misuse of the Department of Justice for political or self-interested purposes…”

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