Can A President Fire An Appointed Special Counsel? Morrison v. Olson, Trump and Mueller

The court case Morrison v. Olson was a critical defining case in that it strengthened the legal grounds established in the Ethics and Government Act by adding new precedent. And reaffirmed the power of the inferior counsel’s ability to hold federal institutions accountable. Following the Watergate scandal, it seems reasonable to suspect lower-tier federal officers (Olson) might challenge legal standings in attempts to block the authority of the Independent Counsel to review federal employees’ misconduct. The intended results from the SCOTUS legal battle was to provide transparency in the process of appointment, limits of jurisdiction, and grounds of termination of an appointed Independent Counsel. Another consequence of the justices upholding the constitutionality of Morrison’s investigation was the newly established checks and balances placed on the Independent Counsel, the president, and the attorney general. 

The results from that are playing out in today’s politics as questions have arisen whether President Trump may have violated the court’s ruling. This is seen specifically in relation to the “Executive Branch functions…through Attorney General…(and their authority) to remove counsel for a good cause” (Westlaw). One argument relayed in the media is that Trump’s attempts to remove Mueller from the Special Counsel was unconstitutional because; number one Trump did not have “good cause” to request the removal, and number two it is not in the president’s jurisdiction to remove a Special Counsel (member). Instead only the acting Attorney General has the authority to remove which was vested to them by this landmark case Morrison v. Olson. With the information available as of today, Trump informed his advisors that he wanted to remove Mueller from the investigation team but backed off after his advisors cautioned him on the legal implications. As a result Trump chose to not follow through with his plan to remove Mueller gave him legal grounds to argue the claim that there was no violation of any precedents established in the Morrison case.  In the end the investigation did eventually conclude with Mueller still on the council, leaving Trump somewhat legally sound. All intent aside this event showed the relevance of the majority (of the ruling justices) concerns as to what circumstances may the executive branch impede a Special Counsel’s investigation.

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