President of the United States

President of the United States

Overview
The President of the United States of America is the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The president leads the executive branch
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

 of the federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution
Article Two of the United States Constitution
Article Two of the United States Constitution creates the executive branch of the government, consisting of the President and other executive officers.-Clause 1: Executive power:...

 vests the executive power of the United States in the president and charges him with the execution 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
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

.
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Timeline

1789   George Washington is unanimously elected as the first President of the United States by the U.S. Electoral College.

1789   On the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City, George Washington takes the oath of office to become the first elected President of the United States.

1789   A national Thanksgiving Day is observed in the United States as recommended by President George Washington and approved by Congress.

1792   The Postal Service Act, establishing the United States Post Office Department, is signed by President George Washington.

1792   U.S. President George Washington exercises his authority to veto a bill, the first time this power is used in the United States.

1793   George Washington holds the first Cabinet meeting as President of the United States.

1797   In the first ever peaceful transfer of power between elected leaders in modern times, John Adams is sworn in as President of the United States, succeeding George Washington.

1800   The United States Library of Congress is established when President John Adams signs legislation to appropriate $5,000 USD to purchase "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress".

1800   U.S. President John Adams takes up residence in Washington, D.C. (in a tavern because the White House was not yet completed).

1800   US President John Adams becomes the first President of the United States to live in the Executive Mansion (later renamed the White House).

 
Encyclopedia
The President of the United States of America is the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The president leads the executive branch
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

 of the federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution
Article Two of the United States Constitution
Article Two of the United States Constitution creates the executive branch of the government, consisting of the President and other executive officers.-Clause 1: Executive power:...

 vests the executive power of the United States in the president and charges him with the execution 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
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

. The president is further empowered to grant federal pardons and reprieves
Pardon
Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...

, and to convene and adjourn either or both houses of Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 under extraordinary circumstances. Since the founding of the United States, the power of the president and the federal government have grown substantially
Imperial Presidency
Imperial Presidency is a term that became popular in the 1960s and that served as the title of a 1973 volume by historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. to describe the modern presidency of the United States...

 and each modern president, despite possessing no formal legislative powers beyond signing or veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

ing congressionally passed bills, is largely responsible for dictating the legislative agenda of his party and the foreign and domestic policy of the United States. The president is frequently described as the most powerful person in the world.

The president is indirectly elected
Indirect election
Indirect election is a process in which voters in an election don't actually choose between candidates for an office but rather elect persons who will then make the choice. It is one of the oldest form of elections and is still used today for many upper houses and presidents...

 by the people through the Electoral College to a four-year term, and is one of only two nationally elected federal officers, the other being the Vice President of the United States
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

. The Twenty-second Amendment
Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twenty-second Amendment of the United States Constitution sets a term limit for the President of the United States. The Congress passed the amendment on March 21, 1947...

, adopted in 1951, prohibits anyone from ever being elected to the presidency for a third full term. It also prohibits a person from being elected to the presidency more than once if that person previously had served as president, or acting president
Acting President of the United States
Acting President of the United States is a reference to a person who is legitimately exercising the Presidential powers even though that person does not hold the office of the President of the United States in his own right....

, for more than two years of another person's term as president. In all, 43 individuals have served 55 four-year terms. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 became
Inauguration of Barack Obama
The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States took place on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. The inauguration, which set a record attendance for any event held in Washington, D.C., marked the commencement of the four-year term of Barack Obama as President and Joe...

 the 44th and current president.

Origin


In 1776, the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

, acting through the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

, declared political independence from Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. The new states, though also independent of each other, recognized the necessity of coordinating their efforts against the British. Desiring to avoid anything that remotely resembled a monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

, Congress negotiated the Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

 to establish a weak alliance between the states. As a central authority, Congress under the Articles was without any legislative power; it could make its own resolutions, determinations, and regulations, but not any laws, nor any taxes or local commercial regulations enforceable upon citizens. This institutional design reflected the conception of how Americans believed the deposed British system of Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

 and Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 ought to have functioned with respect to the royal dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

: a superintending body for matters that concerned the entire empire. Out from under any monarchy, the states assigned some formerly royal prerogative
Royal Prerogative
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy as belonging to the sovereign alone. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and...

s (e.g., making war, receiving ambassadors, etc.) to Congress, while keeping the rest for themselves. The Articles took effect on March 1, 1781, when the final state of Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 ratified the document.

In 1783, the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

 secured independence for the former colonies. With peace at hand, the states each turned toward their own internal affairs. By 1786, Americans found their continental borders besieged and weak, their respective economies in crises as neighboring states agitated trade rivalries with one another, witnessed their hard currency
Hard currency
Hard currency , in economics, refers to a globally traded currency that is expected to serve as a reliable and stable store of value...

 pouring into foreign markets to pay for imports, their Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 commerce preyed upon by North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

n pirates, and their foreign-financed Revolutionary War debts unpaid and accruing interest. Civil and political unrest loomed. Aiming toward a first step of resolving interstate commercial antagonisms, Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 called for a trade conference in Annapolis, Maryland
Annapolis, Maryland
Annapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Maryland, as well as the county seat of Anne Arundel County. It had a population of 38,394 at the 2010 census and is situated on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Severn River, south of Baltimore and about east of Washington, D.C. Annapolis is...

, set for September 1786. When the convention
Annapolis Convention (1786)
The Annapolis Convention was a meeting in 1786 at Annapolis, Maryland, of 12 delegates from five states that unanimously called for a constitutional convention. The formal title of the meeting was a Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government...

 failed for lack of attendance due to suspicions among most of the other states, the Annapolis delegates called 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
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 and Edmund Randolph
Edmund Randolph
Edmund Jennings Randolph was an American attorney, the seventh Governor of Virginia, the second Secretary of State, and the first United States Attorney General.-Biography:...

 succeeded in securing George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

's attendance as a delegate to Philadelphia.

When the Constitutional Convention convened in May 1787, the 12 state delegations in attendance (Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

 was absent) 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. New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 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. It was through the closed-door negotiations at Philadelphia that the presidency framed in the U.S. Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 emerged.

Article I legislative role



The first power the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 confers upon the president is the veto. The Presentment Clause
Presentment Clause
The Presentment Clause of the United States Constitution outlines federal legislative procedure by which bills originating in Congress become federal law in the United States.-Text:...

 requires any bill passed by Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 to 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; the bill then becomes law.
  2. Veto the legislation and return it to Congress, expressing any objections; the bill does not become law, unless each house of Congress votes to override the veto by a two-thirds vote.
  3. Take no action. In this instance, the president neither signs nor vetoes the legislation. After 10 days, not counting Sundays, two possible outcomes emerge:
    • If Congress is still convened, the bill becomes law.
    • If Congress has adjourned, thus preventing the return of the legislation, the bill does not become law. This latter outcome is known as the pocket veto
      Pocket veto
      A pocket veto is a legislative maneuver in United States federal lawmaking that allows the President to veto a bill indirectly.The U.S. Constitution limits the President's period for decision on whether to sign or veto any legislation to ten days while the United States Congress is in session...

      .


In 1996, Congress attempted to enhance the president's veto power with the Line Item Veto Act
Line Item Veto Act of 1996
The Line Item Veto Act of 1996 enacted a line-item veto for the Federal government of the United States, but its effect was brief due to judicial review....

. 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. Once a president had stricken the item, Congress could pass that particular item again. 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
Clinton v. City of New York
Clinton v. City of New York, , is a legal case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the line-item veto as granted in the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 violated the Presentment Clause of the United States Constitution because it impermissibly gave the President of the United...

, , the U.S. Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 ruled such a legislative alteration of the veto power to be unconstitutional.

War and foreign affairs powers



Perhaps the most important of all presidential powers is command of the United States armed forces
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

 as commander-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

. While the power to declare war is constitutionally vested in Congress, the president commands and directs the military and is responsible for planning military strategy. The framers of the Constitution took care to limit the president's powers regarding the military; Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 explains this in Federalist No. 69
Federalist No. 69
Federalist No. 69 is an essay by Alexander Hamilton and the sixty-ninth of the Federalist Papers. It was published on March 14, 1788 under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all the Federalist Papers were published...

: Congress, pursuant to the War Powers Resolution
War Powers Resolution
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 is a federal law intended to check the power of the President in committing the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of Congress. The resolution was adopted in the form of a United States Congress joint resolution; this provides that the...

, must authorize any troop deployments longer than 60 days, although that process relies on triggering mechanisms that have never been employed, rendering it ineffectual. Additionally, Congress provides a check to presidential military power through its control over military spending and regulation.

Along with the armed forces, the president also directs U.S. foreign policy. Through the Department of State
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 and the Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

, the president is responsible for the protection of Americans abroad and of foreign nationals in the United States. The president decides whether to recognize new nations and new governments, and negotiates treaties with other nations, which become binding on the United States when approved by two-thirds vote of the Senate.

Although not constitutionally provided, presidents also sometimes employ "executive agreements" in foreign relations. These agreements frequently regard administrative policy choices germane to executive power; for example, the extent to which either country presents an armed presence in a given area, how each country will enforce copyright treaties, or how each country will process foreign mail. However, the 20th century witnessed a vast expansion of the use of executive agreements, and critics have challenged the extent of that use as supplanting the treaty process and removing constitutionally prescribed checks and balances over the executive in foreign relations. Supporters counter that the agreements offer a pragmatic solution when the need for swift, secret, and/or concerted action arises.

Administrative powers


The president is the chief executive of the United States, putting him at the head of the executive branch of the government, whose responsibility is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." The executive branch has over four million employees, including members of the military.

Presidents make numerous executive branch appointments: an incoming president may make up to 6,000 before he takes office and 8,000 more during his term. Ambassador
Ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

s, members of the Cabinet
United States Cabinet
The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, which are generally the heads of the federal executive departments...

, and other federal officers, are all appointed by a president with the "advice and consent" of a majority of the Senate. Appointments made while the Senate is in recess 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 purely executive officials at his discretion. However, Congress can curtail and constrain a president's authority to fire commissioners of independent regulatory agencies and certain inferior executive officers by statute.

The president possesses the ability to direct much of the executive branch through executive orders. To the extent the orders are grounded in federal statute or executive power granted in the U.S. Constitution, these orders have the force of law. Thus, executive orders are reviewable by federal courts or can be rendered null through legislative changes to statute.

Juridical powers


The president also has the power to nominate federal judges
United States federal judge
In the United States, the title of federal judge usually means a judge appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate in accordance with Article II of the United States Constitution....

, including members of the United States courts of appeals
United States courts of appeals
The United States courts of appeals are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal court system...

 and the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

. However, these nominations do 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
United States district court
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States...

, presidents often respect the long-standing tradition of Senatorial courtesy
Senatorial courtesy
Senatorial courtesy is an unwritten political custom in the United States whereby the president consults the senior U.S. Senator of his political party of a given state before nominating any person to a federal vacancy within that Senator's state. It is strictly observed in connection with the...

. Presidents may also grant pardon
Pardon
Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...

s and reprieves, as is often done just before the end of a presidential term.

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
Executive privilege
In the United States government, executive privilege is the power claimed by the President of the United States and other members of the executive branch to resist certain subpoenas and other interventions by the legislative and judicial branches of government...

, which allows the president to withhold from disclosure any communications made directly to the president in the performance of executive duties. George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 first claimed privilege when Congress requested to see Chief Justice
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

 John Jay
John Jay
John Jay was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States ....

's notes from an unpopular treaty negotiation with Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

. While not enshrined in the Constitution, or any other law, Washington's action created the precedent for the privilege. When Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 tried to use executive privilege as a reason for not turning over subpoenaed evidence to Congress during the Watergate scandal
Watergate scandal
The Watergate scandal was a political scandal during the 1970s in the United States resulting from the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., and the Nixon administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement...

, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Nixon
United States v. Nixon
United States v. Nixon, , was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision. It was a unanimous 8-0 ruling involving President Richard Nixon and was important to the late stages of the Watergate scandal. It is considered a crucial precedent limiting the power of any U.S. president.Chief Justice...

, , that executive privilege did not apply in cases where a president was attempting to avoid criminal prosecution. When President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 attempted to use executive privilege regarding the Lewinsky scandal
Lewinsky scandal
The Lewinsky scandal was a political sex scandal emerging in 1998 from a sexual relationship between United States President Bill Clinton and a 25-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. The news of this extra-marital affair and the resulting investigation eventually led to the impeachment of...

, the Supreme Court ruled in Clinton v. Jones
Clinton v. Jones
Clinton v. Jones, , was a landmark United States Supreme Court case establishing that a sitting President of the United States has no immunity from civil law litigation against him, for acts done before taking office and unrelated to the office....

, , that the privilege also could not be used in civil suits. These cases established the legal precedent
Precedent
In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a principle or rule established in a legal case that a court or other judicial body may apply when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts...

 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.


The state secrets privilege
State Secrets Privilege
The state secrets privilege is an evidentiary rule created by United States legal precedent. Application of the privilege results in exclusion of evidence from a legal case based solely on affidavits submitted by the government stating that court proceedings might disclose sensitive information...

 allows the president and the executive branch to withhold information or documents from discovery
Discovery (law)
In U.S.law, discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the opposing party by means of discovery devices including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for...

 in legal proceedings if such release would harm national security. Precedent for the privilege arose early in the 19th century when Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 refused to release military documents in the treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 trial of Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician...

 and again in 1876 in Totten v. United States
Totten v. United States
Totten v. United States, 92 U.S. 105 , was a United States Supreme Court case in which the court ruled on judicial jurisdiction in espionage cases...

, when the Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by a former Union spy. However, the privilege was not formally recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court until United States v. Reynolds
United States v. Reynolds
United States v. Reynolds, , is a landmark legal case in 1953 that saw the formal recognition of State Secrets Privilege, a judicially recognized extension of presidential power.- Overview :...

(1953) where it was held to be a common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 evidentiary
Evidence (law)
The law of evidence encompasses the rules and legal principles that govern the proof of facts in a legal proceeding. These rules determine what evidence can be considered by the trier of fact in reaching its decision and, sometimes, the weight that may be given to that evidence...

 privilege. Before the September 11 attacks, use of the privilege had been rare, but increasing in frequency. 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
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is a U.S. federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* District of Alaska* District of Arizona...

 ruling in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan
Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.
Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. is a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of five victims of extraordinary renditions against Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., which had provided services that the Central Intelligence Agency used to perform...

. Critics of the privilege claim its use has become a tool for the government to cover up illegal or embarrassing government actions.

Legislative facilitator


Representing the executive branch of government, the president cannot simultaneously hold a seat in Congress
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

. Therefore, the president cannot directly introduce legislative proposals
Bill (proposed law)
A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act or a statute....

 for consideration in Congress. The president, however, 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 mandated, periodic reports to Congress. These reports may be either written or oral, but today are given as the State of the Union address
State of the Union Address
The State of the Union is an annual address presented by the President of the United States to the United States Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda and his national priorities.The practice arises...

, which often outlines the president's legislative proposals for the coming year.

According to Article II, Section 3, Clause 2 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.

Ceremonial roles



As head of state, the president can fulfill traditions established by previous presidents. William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States...

 started the tradition of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch
Ceremonial first pitch
The ceremonial first ball is a longstanding ritual of American baseball in which a guest of honor throws a ball to mark the end of pregame festivities and the start of the game. Originally, the guest threw a ball from his/her place in the grandstand to the pitcher or catcher of the home team...

 in 1910
1910 in baseball
-Champions:*World Series: Philadelphia Athletics over Chicago Cubs -Awards and honors:*Chalmers Award**Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers, OF**Nap Lajoie, Cleveland Naps-MLB statistical leaders:-American League final standings:-National League final standings:...

 at Griffith Stadium
Griffith Stadium
Griffith Stadium was a sports stadium that stood in Washington, D.C. from 1911 to 1965, between Georgia Avenue and 5th Street, and between W Street and Florida Avenue, NW. An earlier wooden baseball park had been built on the same site in 1891...

, Washington, D.C., on the Washington Senators' Opening Day
Opening Day
Opening Day is the day on which professional baseball leagues begin their regular season. For Major League Baseball and most of the minor leagues, this day falls during the first week of April. For baseball fans, Opening Day serves as a symbol of rebirth; writer Thomas Boswell once penned a book...

. 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
Major League Baseball All-Star Game
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game, also known as the "Midsummer Classic", is an annual baseball game between players from the National League and the American League, currently selected by a combination of fans, players, coaches, and managers...

, or the World Series
World Series
The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball, played between the American League and National League champions since 1903. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff and awarded the Commissioner's Trophy...

, usually with much fanfare.

Other presidential traditions are associated with American holidays. Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford Birchard Hayes was the 19th President of the United States . As president, he oversaw the end of Reconstruction and the United States' entry into the Second Industrial Revolution...

 began in 1878 the first White House egg rolling for local children. Beginning in 1947 during the Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 administration, every Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving (United States)
Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. It has officially been an annual tradition since 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday,...

 the president is presented with a live domestic turkey during the annual national thanksgiving turkey presentation
National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation
National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is a ceremony that takes place at the White House every year shortly before Thanksgiving. The President of the United States is presented with a live domestic turkey, usually of the Broad Breasted White variety. Generally the National Turkey Federation and...

 held at the White House. Since 1989, when the custom of "pardoning" the turkey was formalized by George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

, the turkey has been taken to a farm where it will live out the rest of its natural life.

Presidential traditions also involve the president's role as head of government. Many outgoing presidents since James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

 traditionally give advice to their successor during the presidential transition
United States presidential transition
A presidential transition or presidential interregnum refers to the period of time between the end of a presidential election and the inauguration of a new President of a country...

. 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.
During a state visit by a foreign head of state, the president typically hosts a State Arrival Ceremony
State Arrival Ceremony
A state arrival ceremony is a ceremony that takes place on the South Lawn of the White House, the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States in Washington D.C., in which a foreign head of state or head of government is formally welcomed to the United States...

 held on the South Lawn, a custom begun by John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 in 1961. This is followed by a state dinner given by the president which is held in the State Dining Room later in the evening.

Selection process