The Founders Checked and Balanced the President’s Finances

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Professor Jed Shugerman wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post on the current cases being argued before the Supreme Court regarding presidential immunity and President Trump’s financial records.

In a trio of cases being argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, President Trump claims he is immune from subpoenas by Congress and state prosecutors for his financial records. Constitutional history is not on his side. The Founders embraced checks and balances, and they constructed a legal system to limit presidential power, especially on issues relating to presidential finances.

In making their case for sweeping presidential immunity from oversight, Trump’s private lawyers and the Justice Department rely on theories of the powerful “unitary executive,” which they argue is established by the Constitution. But the text of the Constitution, the debates of the framers and the proceedings of the first Congress undermine their position.

Lawmakers worried about preventing financial corruption in the executive branch and were therefore reluctant to give the president exclusive and unlimited power to remove officials. One representative warned of a president who would use the power to find a treasury secretary “congenial to his own” and establish a “throne on the ruins of your visionary republic.” A president’s financial corruption could “secure his election perpetual.” Thus, Congress empowered officers to serve as whistleblowers, to report and investigate corruption, and to remove high officers through the courts.

Read the full article.

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