President’s Defenders Advance an Extraordinary Argument

The Story:

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd, recently said that a president cannot rightly be charged with “obstruction of justice” because “he is the chief law enforcement officer … and has every right to express his view of any case.” Others (including retired Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz) have advanced quite similar claims on Trump’s behalf in recent days.

A Key Precedent:

The argument is a close kin to claims made by James D. St. Clair, President Richard Nixon’s attorney, while contesting subpoenas from special prosecutor Archibald Cox for the audiotapes of Oval Office conversations. St. Clair argued at the time that a President is “as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time….”

The Thing to Know:

The argument didn’t work for St. Clair’s client. The Supreme Court, by a vote of 8 – 0, ordered that Nixon release the tapes, which soon forced his resignation. It is also unlikely to work for Mr. Dowd’s client.


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