The Attorney General, the President, and Congressional Oversight
After Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at the request of President Trump, the president appointed Sessions’ former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, to serve as acting attorney general, and a flurry of questions about the legality, constitutionality, and political repercussions of these developments have ensued. Constitutional law scholar Steve Vladeck and political scientist Greg Weiner join host Jeffrey Rosen to think through those questions, including: Is Whitaker’s appointment constitutional? What are Congress’ powers to investigate or even subpoena the President or other executive branch officials over Sessions’ departure? How could the President respond? What will happen to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation? And is a constitutional crisis developing, or is this simply the Constitution at work?
Note: An early transcript of the podcast is linked here. This text may not be in its final form, accuracy may vary, and it may be updated or revised in the future.
Steven Vladeck is the A. Dalton Cross Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law. He is co-editor in chief of Just Security, a senior contributor to Lawfare, co-host of the National Security Law Podcast and a CNN legal analyst. He is also co-author of Aspen Publishers’ leading national security law and counterterrorism law casebooks. He co-wrote the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution explainers on the Commander in Chief Clause of Article II and the Declare War Clause of Article I with Michael Ramsey.
Greg Weiner is a PhD political scientist and an associate professor of political science at Assumption College. He is the author of American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Madison’s Metronome: The Constitution, Majority Rule and the Tempo of American Politics. He is a member of the National Constitution Center’s bipartisan commission A Madisonian Constitution for All, for which he is contributing a white paper on the subject of what James Madison would think of the media and public opinion today.
Jeffrey Rosen is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center, the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.”
- Federal Vacancies Reform Act
- McGrain v. Daugherty (1927)
- Ex Parte Grossman (1925)
- Myers v. United States (1926)
- United States v. Nixon (1974)
- “Whitaker May Be a Bad Choice, but He’s a Legal One” by Steve Vladeck from The New York Times
- “What would happen if Trump resists an investigation by the Democratic House?” by Steve Vladeck, from The Washington Post
- “Nancy Pelosi’s First Order of Business Should Be to Reclaim the Power of the House” by Greg Weiner, from The New York Times
Our Interactive Constitution is the leading digital resource about the debates and text behind the greatest vision of human freedom in history, the U.S. Constitution. Here, scholars from across the legal and philosophical spectrum interact with each other to explore the meaning of each provision of our founding document.
Article II, Section 2: Treaty Power and Appointments by John O. McGinnis and Peter M. Shane
Article I, Section 2 by Bradley A. Smith and Daniel P. Tokaji
This episode was engineered by David Stotz and produced by Jackie McDermott. Research was provided by Lana Ulrich.
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