President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, now claims that the president “cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under Article II of the Constitution. Dowd’s remarks, reported Monday morning by Axios, have little basis in text or history, and they fly in the face of a decades-old bipartisan consensus: the obstruction of justice statutes indeed apply to the president.
As Eric Posner and I note in a forthcoming California Law Review article, obstruction of justice is a crime with roots in the nation’s founding. The Declaration of Independence charged King George III with “obstruct[ing] the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to the laws for establishing judiciary powers.” That alone is evidence that the founding generation did not believe that heads of state were immune from obstruction charges. And while Article II instructs the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” that does not give him carte blanche to wield his law enforcement powers any way he chooses.
Read more at Just Security