The Supreme Court Hears the Biggest Presidential Immunity Cases since NixonBreaking News
tags: Supreme Court, presidential history
Next week, the Supreme Court will hear three cases that could upend one of the most basic assumptions that the Court has maintained since the Nixon years — that the president of the United States is not above scrutiny or immune from investigation. The Court will hear these cases, moreover, in an unusual remote argument — the Supreme Court’s building remains closed to the public due to the coronavirus.
In any event, the cases present a very basic question about what it means to hold power in the United States. Should the most powerful man in the nation be given extraordinary legal immunity? Or does the fact that the president wields such power demand oversight of the man who holds that office?
Up until now, the Supreme Court has generally erred on the side of oversight. But it remains to be seen whether this Supreme Court, with its Republican majority, will act consistently with the Court’s prior decisions.
Current law governing the House’s power to issue subpoenas and conduct investigations is so favorable to the House’s legal position that it is more than a little surprising that Mazars and Deutsche Bank needed to be heard by the Supreme Court at all.
As the Supreme Court explained in Eastland v. United States Servicemen’s Fund (1975), “the power to investigate and to do so through compulsory process . . . is inherent in the power to make laws.” Without such a power, “a legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change.”
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