How Far Can Presidents Go With Firing Executive Branch Officials?

This case before the Supreme Court has received little national coverage, but it carries much weight.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in an arcane dispute over administrative judges that poses a potentially far-reaching question about the president’s power: Can such executive branch officials have independent authority to act or must they be subject to control and removal by the president?

The justices sounded split on how to rule and wary of issuing a broad pronouncement.

Although the case involves only judges at the Securities and Exchange Commission, President Trump’s lawyers urged the court to rule that executive officers must be subject to removal by the president, leading some to see their real target as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Mueller, who is probing possible coordination in the 2016 election between Russia and Trump’s campaign, was appointed under Justice Department regulations that gave him independent authority to bring criminal charges and which say he may be fired by Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein only for “good cause.”

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