Presidential Obstruction of Justice

59 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2017 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019

See all articles by Daniel J. Hemel

Daniel J. Hemel

New York University School of Law

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: July 18, 2017


Federal obstruction of justice statutes bar anyone from interfering with law enforcement based on a “corrupt” motive. But what about the president of the United States? The president is vested with “executive power,” which includes the power to control federal law enforcement. A possible view is that the statutes do not apply to the president because if they did they would violate the president’s constitutional power. However, we argue that the obstruction of justice statutes are best interpreted to apply to the president, and that the president obstructs justice when his motive for intervening in an investigation is to further personal or narrowly partisan interests, rather than to advance the public good.

Keywords: President, Obstruction of Justice, Executive Power, Prosecutorial Discretion

JEL Classification: K1, K10, K14, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Hemel, Daniel J. and Posner, Eric A., Presidential Obstruction of Justice (July 18, 2017). 106 California Law Review 1277 (2018), U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 647, Available at SSRN: or

Daniel J. Hemel (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0425 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)


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