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President of the United States

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President of the
United States of America
Seal of the President of the United States.svg
Flag of the President of the United States.svg
Donald Trump official portrait (cropped).jpg
Incumbent
Donald Trump

since January 20, 2017
Style
Status
Member of
ResidenceWhite House
SeatWashington, D.C.
Nominator
AppointerElectoral College
Term lengthFour years, renewable once
Constituting instrumentUnited States Constitution
FormationMarch 4, 1789
(229 years ago)
 (1789-03-04)[4][5]
First holderGeorge Washington[6]
Salary$400,000 annually[A]
Websitewhitehouse.gov

The President of the United States (POTUS)[B] is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

In contemporary times, the president is looked upon as one of the world's most powerful political figures and as the leader of the only remaining global superpower.[9][10][11][12] The role includes responsibility for the world's most expensive military, which has the second largest nuclear arsenal. The president also leads the nation with the largest economy by nominal GDP. The president possesses significant domestic and international hard and soft power.

Article II of the Constitution establishes the executive branch of the federal government. It vests the executive power of the United States in the president. The power includes the execution and enforcement of federal law, alongside the responsibility of appointing federal executive, diplomatic, regulatory and judicial officers, and concluding treaties with foreign powers with the advice and consent of the Senate. The president is further empowered to grant federal pardons and reprieves, and to convene and adjourn either or both houses of Congress under extraordinary circumstances.[13] The president directs the foreign and domestic policies of the United States, and takes an active role in promoting his policy priorities to members of Congress.[14] In addition, as part of the system of checks and balances, Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution gives the president the power to sign or veto federal legislation. The power of the presidency has grown substantially since its formation, as has the power of the federal government as a whole.[15]

Through the Electoral College, registered voters indirectly elect the president and vice president to a four-year term. This is the only federal election in the United States which is not decided by popular vote.[16] Nine vice presidents became president by virtue of a president's intra-term death or resignation.[C]

Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 sets three qualifications for holding the presidency: natural-born U.S. citizenship; at least thirty-five years of age; and residency in the United States for at least fourteen years. The Twenty-second Amendment precludes any person from being elected president to a third term. In all, 44 individuals have served 45 presidencies spanning 57 full four-year terms.[17] Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, so he is counted twice; as both the 22nd and 24th president.[18]

Donald Trump of New York is the 45th and current president. He assumed office on January 20, 2017.

Origin

During the American Revolution in 1776, the Thirteen Colonies, acting through the Second Continental Congress, declared political independence from Great Britain. The new states were independent of each other as nation states[19] and recognized the necessity of closely coordinating their efforts against the British.[20] Congress desired to avoid anything that remotely resembled a monarchy and negotiated the Articles of Confederation to establish an alliance between the states.[19] Under the Articles, Congress was a central authority without any legislative power. It could make its own resolutions, determinations, and regulations, but not any laws, and could not impose any taxes or enforce local commercial regulations upon its citizens.[20] This institutional design reflected how Americans believed the deposed British system of Crown and Parliament ought to have functioned with respect to the royal dominion: a superintending body for matters that concerned the entire empire.[20] The states were out from under any monarchy and assigned some formerly royal prerogatives (e.g., making war, receiving ambassadors, etc.) to Congress; the remaining prerogatives were lodged within their own respective state governments. The states agreed to a resolution that settled competing western land claims. The Articles took effect on March 1, 1781, when Maryland became the final state to ratify them.

In 1783, the Treaty of Paris secured independence for each of the former colonies. With peace at hand, the states each turned toward their own internal affairs.[19] By 1786, Americans found their continental borders besieged and weak and their respective economies in crises as neighboring states agitated trade rivalries with one another. They witnessed their hard currency pouring into foreign markets to pay for imports, their Mediterranean commerce preyed upon by North African pirates, and their foreign-financed Revolutionary War debts unpaid and accruing interest.[19] Civil and political unrest loomed.

Following the successful resolution of commercial and fishing disputes between Virginia and Maryland at the Mount Vernon Conference in 1785, Virginia called for a trade conference between all the states, set for September 1786 in Annapolis, Maryland, with an aim toward resolving further-reaching interstate commercial antagonisms. When the convention failed for lack of attendance due to suspicions among most of the other states, Alexander Hamilton led the Annapolis delegates in a call for a convention to offer revisions to the Articles, to be held the next spring in Philadelphia. Prospects for the next convention appeared bleak until James Madison and Edmund Randolph succeeded in securing George Washington's attendance to Philadelphia as a delegate for Virginia.[19][21]

When the Constitutional Convention convened in May 1787, the 12 state delegations in attendance (Rhode Island did not send delegates) brought with them an accumulated experience over a diverse set of institutional arrangements between legislative and executive branches from within their respective state governments. Most states maintained a weak executive without veto or appointment powers, elected annually by the legislature to a single term only, sharing power with an executive council, and countered by a strong legislature.[19] New York offered the greatest exception, having a strong, unitary governor with veto and appointment power elected to a three-year term, and eligible for reelection to an indefinite number of terms thereafter.[19] It was through the closed-door negotiations at Philadelphia that the presidency framed in the U.S. Constitution emerged.

Powers and duties

Article I legislative role

President Ronald Reagan signs the Martin Luther King bill, 1983.

The Presentment Clause requires that any bill passed by Congress must be presented to the president before it can become law. Once the legislation has been presented, the president has three options:

  1. Sign the legislation within ten days, excluding Sundays – the bill becomes law.
  2. Veto the legislation within the above timeframe and return it to the house of Congress from which it originated, expressing any objections – the bill does not become law, unless both houses of Congress vote to override the veto by a two-thirds vote.
  3. Take no action on the legislation within the above timeframe – the bill becomes law, as if the president had signed it, unless Congress is adjourned at the time, in which case it does not become law (a pocket veto).

In 1996, Congress attempted to enhance the president's veto power with the Line Item Veto Act. The legislation empowered the president to sign any spending bill into law while simultaneously striking certain spending items within the bill, particularly any new spending, any amount of discretionary spending, or any new limited tax benefit. Congress could then repass that particular item. If the president then vetoed the new legislation, Congress could override the veto by its ordinary means, a two-thirds vote in both houses. In Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such a legislative alteration of the veto power to be unconstitutional.

Article II executive powers

War and foreign affairs powers

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, successfully preserved the Union during the American Civil War.

One of the most important of all executive powers is the president's role as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces. The power to declare war is constitutionally vested in Congress, but the president has ultimate responsibility for the direction and disposition of the military. The exact degree of authority that the Constitution grants to the President as Commander in Chief has been the subject of much debate throughout history, with Congress at various times granting the President wide authority and at others attempting to restrict that authority.[22]

The amount of military detail handled personally by the President in wartime has varied dramatically.[23] George Washington, the first U.S. president, firmly established military subordination under civilian authority. In 1794, Washington used his constitutional powers to assemble 12,000 militia to quell the Whiskey Rebellion—a conflict in western Pennsylvania involving armed farmers and distillers who refused to pay excise tax on spirits. According to historian Joseph Ellis, this was the "first and only time a sitting American president led troops in the field", though James Madison briefly took control of artillery units in defense of Washington D.C. during the War of 1812.[24] Abraham Lincoln was deeply involved in overall strategy and in day-to-day operations during the American Civil War, 1861–1865; historians have given Lincoln high praise for his strategic sense and his ability to select and encourage commanders such as Ulysses S. Grant.[25]

The present-day operational command of the Armed Forces is delegated to the Department of Defense and is normally exercised through the Secretary of Defense. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combatant Commands assist with the operation as outlined in the presidentially approved Unified Command Plan (UCP).[26][27][28] The framers of the Constitution took care to limit the president's powers regarding the military; Alexander Hamilton explained this in Federalist No. 69:

The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. ... It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces ... while that [the power] of the British king extends to the DECLARING of war and to the RAISING and REGULATING of fleets and armies, all [of] which ... would appertain to the legislature.[29] [Emphasis in the original.]

Pursuant to the War Powers Resolution, Congress must authorize any troop deployments longer than 60 days, although that process relies on triggering mechanisms that have never been employed, rendering it ineffectual.[30] Additionally, Congress provides a check to presidential military power through its control over military spending and regulation. Presidents have historically initiated the process for going to war,[31][32] but critics have charged that there have been several conflicts in which presidents did not get official declarations, including Theodore Roosevelt's military move into Panama in 1903,[31] the Korean War,[31] the Vietnam War,[31] and the invasions of Grenada in 1983[33] and Panama in 1989.[34]

The constitution also empowers the President to propose and chiefly negotiate agreements between the United States and other countries. Such agreements become, upon receiving the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate (by a two-thirds majority vote), become binding with the force of federal law.

Administrative powers

Suffice it to say that the President is made the sole repository of the executive powers of the United States, and the powers entrusted to him as well as the duties imposed upon him are awesome indeed.

Nixon v. General Services Administration, 433 U.S. 425 (1977) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting)

The president is the head of the executive branch of the federal government and is constitutionally obligated to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed".[35] The executive branch has over four million employees, including members of the military.[36]

Presidents make numerous executive branch appointments: an incoming president may make up to 6,000 before taking office and 8,000 more while serving. Ambassadors, members of the Cabinet, and other federal officers, are all appointed by a president with the "advice and consent" of a majority of the Senate. When the Senate is in recess for at least ten days, the president may make recess appointments.[37] Recess appointments are temporary and expire at the end of the next session of the Senate.

The power of a president to fire executive officials has long been a contentious political issue. Generally, a president may remove executive officials purely at will.[38] However, Congress can curtail and constrain a president's authority to fire commissioners of independent regulatory agencies and certain inferior executive officers by statute.[39]

To manage the growing federal bureaucracy, presidents have gradually surrounded themselves with many layers of staff, who were eventually organized into the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Within the Executive Office, the president's innermost layer of aides (and their assistants) are located in the White House Office.

Additionally, the president possesses the power to manage operations of the federal government through issuing various types of directives, such as presidential proclamation and executive orders. When the president is lawfully exercising one of the constitutionally conferred presidential responsibilities, the scope of this power is broad.[40] Even so, these directives are subject to judicial review by U.S. federal courts, which can find them to be unconstitutional. Moreover, Congress can overturn an executive order though legislation (e.g., Congressional Review Act).

Juridical powers

The president also has the power to nominate federal judges, including members of the United States courts of appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States. However, these nominations require Senate confirmation. Securing Senate approval can provide a major obstacle for presidents who wish to orient the federal judiciary toward a particular ideological stance. When nominating judges to U.S. district courts, presidents often respect the long-standing tradition of senatorial courtesy. Presidents may also grant pardons and reprieves. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon a month after taking office. Bill Clinton pardoned Patty Hearst on his last day in office, as is often done just before the end of a second presidential term, but not without controversy.[41][42][43]

Historically, two doctrines concerning executive power have developed that enable the president to exercise executive power with a degree of autonomy. The first is executive privilege, which allows the president to withhold from disclosure any communications made directly to the president in the performance of executive duties. George Washington first claimed the privilege when Congress requested to see Chief Justice John Jay's notes from an unpopular treaty negotiation with Great Britain. While not enshrined in the Constitution, or any other law, Washington's action created the precedent for the privilege. When Nixon tried to use executive privilege as a reason for not turning over subpoenaed evidence to Congress during the Watergate scandal, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), that executive privilege did not apply in cases where a president was attempting to avoid criminal prosecution. When President Clinton attempted to use executive privilege regarding the Lewinsky scandal, the Supreme Court ruled in Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997), that the privilege also could not be used in civil suits. These cases established the legal precedent that executive privilege is valid, although the exact extent of the privilege has yet to be clearly defined. Additionally, federal courts have allowed this privilege to radiate outward and protect other executive branch employees, but have weakened that protection for those executive branch communications that do not involve the president.[44]

The state secrets privilege allows the president and the executive branch to withhold information or documents from discovery in legal proceedings if such release would harm national security. Precedent for the privilege arose early in the 19th century when Thomas Jefferson refused to release military documents in the treason trial of Aaron Burr and again in Totten v. United States 92 U.S. 105 (1876), when the Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by a former Union spy.[45] However, the privilege was not formally recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court until United States v. Reynolds 345 U.S. 1 (1953), where it was held to be a common law evidentiary privilege.[46] Before the September 11 attacks, use of the privilege had been rare, but increasing in frequency.[47] Since 2001, the government has asserted the privilege in more cases and at earlier stages of the litigation, thus in some instances causing dismissal of the suits before reaching the merits of the claims, as in the Ninth Circuit's ruling in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.[46][48][49] Critics of the privilege claim its use has become a tool for the government to cover up illegal or embarrassing government actions.[50][51]

Legislative facilitator

The Constitution's Ineligibility Clause prevents the president (and all other executive officers) from simultaneously being a member of Congress. Therefore, the president cannot directly introduce legislative proposals for consideration in Congress. However, the president can take an indirect role in shaping legislation, especially if the president's political party has a majority in one or both houses of Congress. For example, the president or other officials of the executive branch may draft legislation and then ask senators or representatives to introduce these drafts into Congress. The president can further influence the legislative branch through constitutionally or statutorily mandated, periodic reports to Congress. These reports may be either written or oral, but today the greatest in importance are given as the oral State of the Union addresses, which often outline the president's legislative proposals for the coming year. Additionally, the president may attempt to have Congress alter proposed legislation by threatening to veto that legislation unless requested changes are made.

In the 20th century, critics charged that too many legislative and budgetary powers that should have belonged to Congress had slid into the hands of presidents. As the head of the executive branch, presidents control a vast array of agencies that can issue regulations with little oversight from Congress. One critic charged that presidents could appoint a "virtual army of 'czars' – each wholly unaccountable to Congress yet tasked with spearheading major policy efforts for the White House".[52] Presidents have been criticized for making signing statements when signing congressional legislation about how they understand a bill or plan to execute it.[53] This practice has been criticized by the American Bar Association as unconstitutional.[54] Conservative commentator George Will wrote of an "increasingly swollen executive branch" and "the eclipse of Congress".[55]

According to Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, the president may convene either or both houses of Congress. If both houses cannot agree on a date of adjournment, the president may appoint a date for Congress to adjourn. For example, Franklin Delano Roosevelt convened a special session of Congress immediately after the December 7, 1941, Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and asked for a declaration of war.

Ceremonial roles

President Woodrow Wilson throws out the ceremonial first ball on Opening Day, 1916

As head of state, the president can fulfill traditions established by previous presidents. William Howard Taft started the tradition of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in 1910 at Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C., on the Washington Senators' Opening Day. Every president since Taft, except for Jimmy Carter, threw out at least one ceremonial first ball or pitch for Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series, usually with much fanfare.[56]

The President of the United States has served as the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America since the founding of the organization.[57]

Other presidential traditions are associated with American holidays. Rutherford B. Hayes began in 1878 the first White House egg rolling for local children.[58] Beginning in 1947, during the Harry S. Truman administration, every Thanksgiving the president is presented with a live domestic turkey during the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation held at the White House. Since 1989, when the custom of "pardoning" the turkey was formalized by George H. W. Bush, the turkey has been taken to a farm where it will live out the rest of its natural life.[59]

Presidential traditions also involve the president's role as head of government. Many outgoing presidents since James Buchanan traditionally give advice to their successor during the presidential transition.[60] Ronald Reagan and his successors have also left a private message on the desk of the Oval Office on Inauguration Day for the incoming president.[61]

During a state visit by a foreign head of state, the president typically hosts a State Arrival Ceremony held on the South Lawn, a custom begun by John F. Kennedy in 1961.[62] This is followed by a state dinner given by the president which is held in the State Dining Room later in the evening.[63]

The modern presidency holds the president as one of the nation's premier celebrities. Some argue that images of the presidency have a tendency to be manipulated by administration public relations officials as well as by presidents themselves. One critic described the presidency as "propagandized leadership" which has a "mesmerizing power surrounding the office".[64] Administration public relations managers staged carefully crafted photo-ops of smiling presidents with smiling crowds for television cameras.[65] One critic wrote the image of John F. Kennedy was described as carefully framed "in rich detail" which "drew on the power of myth" regarding the incident of PT 109[66] and wrote that Kennedy understood how to use images to further his presidential ambitions.[67] As a result, some political commentators have opined that American voters have unrealistic expectations of presidents: voters expect a president to "drive the economy, vanquish enemies, lead the free world, comfort tornado victims, heal the national soul and protect borrowers from hidden credit-card fees".[68]

Critics of presidency's evolution

The nation's Founding Fathers expected the Congress—which was the first branch of government described in the Constitution—to be the dominant branch of government; they did not expect a strong executive department.[69] However, presidential power has shifted over time, which has resulted in claims that the modern presidency has become too powerful,[70][71] unchecked, unbalanced,[72] and "monarchist" in nature.[73] Professor Dana D. Nelson believes presidents over the past thirty years have worked towards "undivided presidential control of the executive branch and its agencies".[74] She criticizes proponents of the unitary executive for expanding "the many existing uncheckable executive powers – such as executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements – that already allow presidents to enact a good deal of foreign and domestic policy without aid, interference or consent from Congress".[74] Bill Wilson, board member of Americans for Limited Government, opined that the expanded presidency was "the greatest threat ever to individual freedom and democratic rule".[75]

Selection process

George Washington, the first president of the United States

Eligibility

Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for holding the presidency. To serve as president, one must:

A person who meets the above qualifications would, however, still be disqualified from holding the office of president under any of the following conditions:

  • Under the Twenty-second Amendment, no person can be elected president more than twice. The amendment also specifies that if any eligible person serves as president or acting president for more than two years of a term for which some other eligible person was elected president, the former can only be elected president once.[77][78]
  • Under Article I, Section 3, Clause 7, upon conviction in impeachment cases, the Senate has the option of disqualifying convicted individuals from holding federal office, including that of president.[79]
  • Under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, no person who swore an oath to support the Constitution, and later rebelled against the United States, can become president. However, this disqualification can be lifted by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress.[80]

Campaigns and nomination

The modern presidential campaign begins before the primary elections, which the two major political parties use to clear the field of candidates before their national nominating conventions, where the most successful candidate is made the party's nominee for president. Typically, the party's presidential candidate chooses a vice presidential nominee, and this choice is rubber-stamped by the convention. The most common previous profession of U.S. presidents is lawyer.[81]

Nominees participate in nationally televised debates, and while the debates are usually restricted to the Democratic and Republican nominees, third party candidates may be invited, such as Ross Perot in the 1992 debates. Nominees campaign across the country to explain their views, convince voters and solicit contributions. Much of the modern electoral process is concerned with winning swing states through frequent visits and mass media advertising drives.

Election

Map of the United States showing the number of electoral votes allocated following the 2010 census to each state and the District of Columbia for the 2012, 2016 and 2020 presidential elections; it also notes that Maine and Nebraska distribute electors by way of the Congressional District Method. 270 electoral votes are required for a majority out of 538 votes possible.

The president is elected indirectly by the voters of each state and the District of Columbia through the Electoral College, a body of electors formed every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president to concurrent four-year terms. As prescribed by the Twelfth Amendment, each state is entitled to a number of electors equal to the size of its total delegation in both houses of Congress. Additionally, the Twenty-third Amendment provides that the District of Columbia is entitled to the number it would have if it were a state, but in no case more than that of the least populous state.[82] Currently, all states and D.C. select their electors based on a popular election held on Election Day.[83] In all but two states, the party whose presidential-vice presidential ticket receives a plurality of popular votes in the state has its entire slate of elector nominees chosen as the state's electors.[84] Maine and Nebraska deviate from this winner-take-all practice, awarding two electors to the statewide winner and one to the winner in each congressional district.[85][86]

On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, about six weeks after the election, the electors convene in their respective state capitals (and in Washington D.C.) to vote for president and, on a separate ballot, for vice president. They typically vote for the candidates of the party that nominated them. While there is no constitutional mandate or federal law requiring them to do so, the District of Columbia and 30 states have laws requiring that their electors vote for the candidates to whom they are pledged.[83][87] Following the vote, each state then sends a certified record of their electoral votes to Congress. The votes of the electors are opened and counted during a joint session of Congress, held in the first week of January. If a candidate has received an absolute majority of electoral votes for president (currently 270 of 538), that person is declared the winner. Otherwise, the House of Representatives must meet to elect a president using a contingent election procedure in which representatives, voting by state delegation, with each state casting a single vote, choose between the top electoral vote-getters for president. For a candidate to win, he or she must receive the votes of an absolute majority of states (currently 26 of 50).[83]

There have been two contingent presidential elections in the nation's history. A 73–73 electoral vote tie between Thomas Jefferson and fellow Democratic-Republican Aaron Burr in the election of 1800 necessitated the first. Conducted under the original procedure established by Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution, which stipulates that if two or three persons received a majority vote and an equal vote, the House of Representatives would choose one of them for president; the runner up would become Vice President.[88] On February 17, 1801, Jefferson was elected president on the 36th ballot, and Burr became vice president. Afterward, the system was overhauled through the Twelfth Amendment in time to be used in the 1804 election.[89] A quarter-century later, the choice for president again devolved to the House when no candidate won an absolute majority of electoral votes (131 of 261) in the election of 1824. Under the Twelfth Amendment, the House was required to choose a president from among the top three electoral vote recipients: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and William H. Crawford. Held February 9, 1825, this second and most recent contingent election resulted in John Quincy Adams being elected president on the first ballot.[90]

Tenure

Inauguration

Pursuant to the Twentieth Amendment, the four-year term of office for both the president and vice president begins at noon on January 20.[91] The first presidential and vice presidential terms to begin on this date, known as Inauguration Day, were the second terms of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vice President John Nance Garner in 1937.[92] Previously, Inauguration Day was on March 4. As a result of the date change, the first term (1933–37) of both men had been shortened by 43 days.[93]

Before executing the powers of the office, a president is required to recite the presidential oath of office, found in Article II, Section 1, Clause 8. This is the only component in the inauguration ceremony mandated by the Constitution:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.[94]

Presidents have traditionally placed one hand upon a Bible while taking the oath, and have added "So help me God" to the end of the oath.[95][96] Although the oath may be administered by any person authorized by law to administer oaths, presidents are traditionally sworn in by the Chief Justice of the United States.[94]

Term limit

Franklin D. Roosevelt won a record four presidential elections (spanning 1932–1944).

When the first president, George Washington, announced in his Farewell Address that he was not running for a third term, he established a "two-terms then out" precedent. Precedent became tradition after Thomas Jefferson publicly embraced the principle a decade later during his second term, as did his two immediate successors, James Madison and James Monroe.[97] In spite of the strong two-term tradition, Ulysses S. Grant sought a non-consecutive third term in 1880,[98] as did Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 (though it would have been only his second full term).[99] Both were unsuccessful.

In 1940, after leading the nation through the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a third term, breaking the self-imposed precedent. Four years later, with the U.S. engaged in World War II, he was re-elected again despite his declining physical health; he died 82 days into his fourth term on April 12, 1945.[100]

In response to the unprecedented length of Roosevelt's presidency, the Twenty-second Amendment was adopted in 1951. The amendment bars anyone from being elected president more than twice, or once if that person served more than two years (24 months) of another president's four-year term. Harry S. Truman, president when this term limit came into force, was exempted from its limitations, and briefly sought a second full term—to which he would have otherwise been ineligible for election, as he had been president for more than two years of Roosevelt's fourth term—before he withdrew from the 1952 election.[100]

Since the amendment's adoption, five presidents have served two full terms: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Both Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush sought a second term, but were defeated. Richard Nixon was elected to a second term, but resigned before completing it. Lyndon B. Johnson, having held the presidency for one full term in addition to only 14 months of John F. Kennedy's unexpired term, was eligible for a second full term in 1968, but withdrew from Democratic Primary. Additionally, Gerald Ford, who served out the last two years and five months of Nixon's second term, sought a full term, but was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election.

Impeachment

Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution allows for the removal of high federal officials, including the president, from office for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 authorizes the House of Representatives to serve as a "grand jury" with the power to impeach said officials by a majority vote.[101] Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 authorizes the Senate to serve as a court with the power to remove impeached officials from office, by a two-thirds vote to convict.[102]

Two presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives: Andrew Johnson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both were acquitted by the senate: Johnson by one vote, and Clinton by 17 votes. Additionally, the House Judiciary Committee commenced impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon in 1974; however, he resigned from office before the full House voted on the articles of impeachment.[101]

Succession and disability

Succession to or vacancies in the office of president may arise under several possible circumstances: death, resignation, and removal from office. Deaths have occurred a number of times, resignation has occurred only once, and removal from office has never occurred.

The Constitution, in Article II, Section 1, Clause 6, stipulates that the vice president takes over the "powers and duties" of the presidency in the event of a president's removal, death, resignation, or inability.[103] Even so, it does not clearly state whether the vice president would become President of the United States or simply act as president in a case of succession.[104] This ambiguity was alleviated in 1967 by Section 1 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, which unequivocally states that the vice president becomes president upon the removal from office, death, or resignation of the president.

Under Section 3 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the president may transfer the presidential powers and duties to the vice president, who then becomes acting president, by transmitting a statement to the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate stating the reasons for the transfer. The president resumes the discharge of the presidential powers and duties upon transmitting, to those two officials, a written declaration stating that resumption. Such a transfer of power has occurred on three occasions: Ronald Reagan to George H. W. Bush once, on July 13, 1985, and George W. Bush to Dick Cheney twice, on June 29, 2002, and on July 21, 2007.[105]

Under Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the vice president, in conjunction with a majority of the Cabinet, may transfer the presidential powers and duties from the president to the vice president by transmitting a written declaration to the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate that the president is incapacitated—unable to discharge their presidential powers and duties. If this occurs, then the vice president will assume the presidential powers and duties as acting president; however, the president can declare that no such inability exists and resume the discharge of the presidential powers and duties. If the vice president and Cabinet contest this claim, it is up to Congress, which must meet within two days if not already in session, to decide the merit of the claim.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 also authorizes Congress to declare who shall become acting president in the "Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President."[104] The Presidential Succession Act of 1947, (codified as 3 U.S.C. § 19) provides that if both the president and vice president have left office or are both otherwise unavailable to serve during their terms of office, the presidential line of succession follows the order of: Speaker of the House, then, if necessary, the President pro tempore of the Senate, and then if necessary, the eligible heads of federal executive departments who form the president's Cabinet. The Cabinet currently has 15 members, of which the Secretary of State is first in line; the other Cabinet secretaries follow in the order in which their department (or the department of which their department is the successor) was created. Those department heads who are constitutionally ineligible to be elected to the presidency are also disqualified from assuming the powers and duties of the presidency through succession. No statutory successor has yet been called upon to act as president.[106]

Political affiliation

Throughout most of its history, politics of the United States have been dominated by political parties. Political parties had not been anticipated when the U.S. Constitution was drafted in 1787, nor did they exist at the time of the first presidential election in 1788–1789. Organized political parties developed in the U.S. in the mid–1790s, but political factions, from which organized parties evolved, began to appear almost immediately after the Federal government came into existence. Those who supported the Washington administration were referred to as "pro-administration" and would eventually form the Federalist Party, while those in opposition joined the emerging Democratic-Republican Party.[107]

Greatly concerned about the very real capacity of political parties to destroy the fragile unity holding the nation together, Washington remained unaffiliated with any political faction or party throughout his eight-year presidency. He was, and remains, the only U.S. president never to be affiliated with a political party.[108] Since George Washington, 43 persons have been sworn into the office of president, and each has been affiliated with a political party at the time of assuming office. The number of presidents per political party (at the time of entry into office) are:[109][110]

Party # Name(s)
Republican
19
Chester A. Arthur, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, James A. Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, Herbert Hoover, Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Donald Trump
Democratic
14
James Buchanan, Jimmy Carter, Grover Cleveland, Bill Clinton, Andrew Jackson, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, Franklin Pierce, James K. Polk, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Martin Van Buren, and Woodrow Wilson
Democratic-Republican
4
John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe
Whig
4
Millard Fillmore, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, and John Tyler[D]
Federalist
1
John Adams
National Union
1
Andrew Johnson[E]
None
1
George Washington

Compensation

Presidential pay history[111][112]
Year
established
Salary Salary in
2017 USD
1789 $25,000 $718,000
1873 $50,000 $1,060,000
1909 $75,000 $2,080,000
1949 $100,000 $1,030,000
1969 $200,000 $1,340,000
2001 $400,000 $554,000

Since 2001, the president's annual salary has been $400,000 annual salary, along with a: $50,000 expense allowance; $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 entertainment account. The president's salary is set by Congress, and under Article II, Section 1, Clause 7 of the Constitution, may not be increased or reduced during his or her current term of office.[113][114]

Residence

South lawn of the White House

The White House in Washington, D.C. serves as the official residence of the president. The site was selected by George Washington, and the cornerstone was laid in 1792. Every president since John Adams (in 1800) has lived there. At various times in U.S. history, it has been known as the "President's Palace," the "President’s House," and the "Executive Mansion." Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name in 1901.[115] Facilities that are available to the president include access to the White House staff, medical care, recreation, housekeeping, and security services. The federal government pays for state dinners and other official functions, but the president pays for personal, family, and guest dry cleaning and food.[116]

Camp David, officially titled Naval Support Facility Thurmont, a mountain-based military camp in Frederick County, Maryland, is the president's country residence. A place of solitude and tranquility, the site has been used extensively to host foreign dignitaries since the 1940s.[117]

Blair House, located next to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House Complex and Lafayette Park, serves as the president's official guest house and as a secondary residence for the president if needed. Four interconnected, 19th century houses—Blair House, Lee House, and 700 and 704 Jackson Place—with a combined floor space exceeding 70,000 square feet (6,500 m2) comprise the property.[118]

Travel

The primary means of long distance air travel for the president is one of two identical Boeing VC-25 aircraft, which are extensively modified Boeing 747 airliners and are referred to as Air Force One while the president is on board (although any U.S. Air Force aircraft the president is aboard is designated as "Air Force One" for the duration of the flight). In-country trips are typically handled with just one of the two planes, while overseas trips are handled with both, one primary and one backup. The president also has access to smaller Air Force aircraft, most notably the Boeing C-32, which are used when the president must travel to airports that cannot support a jumbo jet. Any civilian aircraft the president is aboard is designated Executive One for the flight.[119][120]

For short distance air travel, the president has access to a fleet of U.S. Marine Corps helicopters of varying models, designated Marine One when the president is aboard any particular one in the fleet. Flights are typically handled with as many as five helicopters all flying together and frequently swapping positions as to disguise which helicopter the president is actually aboard to any would-be threats.

For ground travel, the president uses the presidential state car, which is an armored limousine designed to look like a Cadillac sedan, but built on a truck chassis.[121][122] The US Secret Service operates and maintains the fleet of several limousines. The president also has access to two armored motorcoaches, which are primarily used for touring trips.[123]

Protection

The U.S. Secret Service is charged with protecting the president and the first family. As part of their protection, presidents, first ladies, their children and other immediate family members, and other prominent persons and locations are assigned Secret Service codenames.[124] The use of such names was originally for security purposes and dates to a time when sensitive electronic communications were not routinely encrypted; today, the names simply serve for purposes of brevity, clarity, and tradition.[125]

Post-presidency

Four presidents and one then-president-elect. From left to right: George H. W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. Photo taken in the Oval Office on January 7, 2009; Obama formally took office thirteen days later.

Under the Former Presidents Act, all living former presidents are granted a pension, an office, and a staff. The pension has increased numerous times with Congressional approval. Retired presidents now receive a pension based on the salary of the current administration's cabinet secretaries, which was $199,700 each year in 2012.[126] Former presidents who served in Congress may also collect congressional pensions.[127] The act also provides former presidents with travel funds and franking privileges. Prior to 1997, all former presidents, their spouses, and their children until age 16 were protected by the Secret Service until the president's death.[128][129] In 1997, Congress passed legislation limiting secret service protection to no more than 10 years from the date a president leaves office.[130] On January 10, 2013, President Obama signed legislation reinstating lifetime secret service protection for him, George W. Bush, and all subsequent presidents.[131] A spouse who remarries is no longer eligible for secret service protection.[130]

Some presidents have had significant careers after leaving office. Prominent examples include William Howard Taft's tenure as Chief Justice of the United States and Herbert Hoover's work on government reorganization after World War II. Grover Cleveland, whose bid for reelection failed in 1888, was elected president again four years later in 1892. Two former presidents served in Congress after leaving the White House: John Quincy Adams was elected to the House of Representatives, serving there for seventeen years, and Andrew Johnson returned to the Senate in 1875. John Tyler served in the provisional Congress of the Confederate States during the Civil War and was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, but died before that body first met.

Presidents may use their predecessors as emissaries to deliver private messages to other nations or as official representatives of the United States to state funerals and other important foreign events.[132][133] Richard Nixon made multiple foreign trips to countries including China and Russia and was lauded as an elder statesman.[134] Jimmy Carter has become a global human rights campaigner, international arbiter, and election monitor, as well as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Bill Clinton has also worked as an informal ambassador, most recently in the negotiations that led to the release of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, from North Korea. Clinton has also been active politically since his presidential term ended, working with his wife Hillary on her 2008 and 2016 presidential bids and President Obama on his 2012 reelection campaign.

As of December 2018 there are four living former U.S. presidents. The most recent former president to die was George H. W. Bush (1989–1993), on November 30, 2018. The living former presidents, in order of service, are:

Presidential libraries

Seal of the US Presidential Libraries.svg

Every president since Herbert Hoover has created a repository known as a presidential library for preserving and making available his papers, records, and other documents and materials. Completed libraries are deeded to and maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); the initial funding for building and equipping each library must come from private, non-federal sources.[135] There are currently thirteen presidential libraries in the NARA system. There are also presidential libraries maintained by state governments and private foundations and Universities of Higher Education, such as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is run by the State of Illinois, the George W. Bush Presidential library and Museum, which is run by Southern Methodist University, the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, which is run by Texas A&M University, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, which is run by the University of Texas at Austin.

A number of presidents have lived for many years after leaving office, and several of them have personally overseen the building and opening of their own presidential libraries. Some have even made arrangements for their own burial at the site. Several presidential libraries contain the graves of the president they document, including the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home in Abilene, Kansas, Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. These gravesites are open to the general public.

Timeline of presidents

Donald TrumpBarack ObamaGeorge W. BushBill ClintonGeorge H. W. BushRonald ReaganJimmy CarterGerald FordRichard NixonLyndon B. JohnsonJohn F. KennedyDwight D. EisenhowerHarry S. TrumanFranklin D. RooseveltHerbert HooverCalvin CoolidgeWarren G. HardingWoodrow WilsonWilliam Howard TaftTheodore RooseveltWilliam McKinleyGrover ClevelandBenjamin HarrisonGrover ClevelandChester A. ArthurJames A. GarfieldRutherford B. HayesUlysses S. GrantAndrew JohnsonAbraham LincolnJames BuchananFranklin PierceMillard FillmoreZachary TaylorJames K. PolkJohn TylerWilliam Henry HarrisonMartin Van BurenAndrew JacksonJohn Quincy AdamsJames MonroeJames MadisonThomas JeffersonJohn AdamsGeorge Washington

See also

References

Footnotes

  1. ^ Donald Trump has announced he will take a salary of only 1 dollar per annum.[7]
  2. ^ The informal term POTUS originated in the Phillips Code, a shorthand method created in 1879 by Walter P. Phillips for the rapid transmission of press reports by telegraph.[8]
  3. ^ The nine vice presidents who succeeded to the presidency upon their predecessor's death or resignation and finished-out that unexpired term are: John Tyler (1841); Millard Fillmore (1850); Andrew Johnson (1865); Chester A. Arthur (1881); Theodore Roosevelt (1901); Calvin Coolidge (1923); Harry S. Truman (1945); Lyndon B. Johnson (1963); and Gerald Ford (1974).
  4. ^ Former Democrat John Tyler was elected vice president on the Whig Party ticket with Harrison in 1840. Tyler's policy priorities as president soon proved to be opposed to most of the Whig agenda, and he was expelled from the party in September 1841.
  5. ^ Democrat Andrew Johnson was elected vice president on the National Union Party ticket with Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Later, while president, Johnson tried and failed to build a party of loyalists under the National Union banner. Near the end of his presidency, Johnson rejoined the Democratic Party.

Citations

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Further reading

Primary sources

  • Waldman, Michael – Stephanopoulos, George. My Fellow Americans: The Most Important Speeches of America's presidents, from George Washington to George W. Bush. Sourcebooks Trade. 2003. ISBN 1-4022-0027-7
  • Jacobs, Ron. Interview with Joseph G. Peschek and William Grover, authors of The Unsustainable Presidency, a book offering an analysis of the role the US President plays in economics and politics

External links