Chief Justice William Howard Taft, writing for the Court, noted that the Constitution does mention the appointment of officials, but is silent on their dismissal. An examination of the notes of the Constitutional Convention, however, showed that this silence was intentional: the Convention did discuss the dismissal of executive-branch staff and believed it was implicit in the Constitution that the President did hold the exclusive power to remove his staff, whose existence was an extension of the President's own authority.
The Court, therefore, found that the statute was unconstitutional, for it violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.
In reaching this decision, it also expressly found the Tenure of Office Act
, which had imposed a similar requirement on other Presidential appointees and played a key role in the impeachment
of President Andrew Johnson
, to have been invalid; it had been repealed by Congress some years before this decision.
Basically, the SCOTUS says the President can fire any executive branch appointee at whim.
Trump is having a very similar case regarding the question of the separation of powers being heard by the SCOTUS at the moment and will most likely have a favorable ruling early this summer.
This is a case of firsts. It is the first time that Congress has subpoenaed personal records of a sitting President. It is the first time that Congress has issued a subpoena, under the guise of its legislative powers, to investigate the President for illegal conduct. And, itis the first time a court has upheld any congressional subpoena for any sitting President’s records of any kind.
Now, under the D.C. Circuit’s decision, Congress can subpoena any private records it wishes from the president on the mere assertion that it is considering legislation that might require presidents to disclose that same information. Given the obvious temptation to investigate the personal affairs of political rivals, subpoenas concerning the private lives of presidents will become routine in times of divided government. It is unsurprising, then, that the one thing the district court, the panel, and the dissenting judges all agreed upon is that this case raises important separation-of-powers issues. At its core, this controversy is about whether—and to what degree—Congress can exercise dominion and control over the Office of the President. The Committee on Oversight and Reform of the U.S.House of Representatives takes the view, supported by the D.C. Circuit, that every committee of Congress may subpoena the President’s personal records, that the Necessary and Proper Clause allows Congress to investigate the President’s wrongdoing so long as it also promises to consider remedial legislation, and that Congress can statutorily require presidents to disclose their personal finances.
These are profoundly serious constitutional questions that the Court, not Congress should decide. But not only are these weighty constitutional issues, the D.C. Circuit incorrectly decided them. The Committee’s investigation of the President lacks a legitimate legislative purpose. It is a law-enforcement investigation about uncovering whether the President engaged in wrongdoing. Nor can the investigation possibly result in valid legislation.
The Constitution—not Congress—created the Office of the President. Congress, accordingly, cannot require the President to disclose his finances or otherwise expand or alter the office's qualifications. Yet the D.C. Circuit never should have reached these issues because the Committee lacks express statutory authorization to subpoena the President.
An express statement from the Court should be required given the separation-of-powers issues that are raised by unleashing every committee to subpoena every president for his personal records. This Court traditionally grants certiorari when the President has been subjected to novel legal process and seeks review. The Court has recognized that the President’s objections merit “respectful and deliberate consideration.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 689-90(1997). This approach is not out of concern for any“particular President,” but for the sake of “the Presidency itself.” Trump v. Hawaii, 138 S. Ct. 2392,2418 (2018). This case should be no exception.