Executive Branch & Presidents
Executive Branch & Presidents Timeline
How It All Went Down
George Washington Invokes Executive Privilege
President George Washington refuses Congress's request for documents and correspondence pertaining to the Jay Treaty negotiations. Washington's assertion that complying with Congress's request would threaten the necessary separation of the government branches lays the basis for the doctrine of executive privilege.
The Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, changing the presidential electoral process. Now, Electoral College Electors will cast separate ballots for their presidential and vice presidential choices, thus preventing a repeat of the 1800 election, which resulted in a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.
Jackson Vetoes Bank Charter
President Andrew Jackson vetoes the bill re-chartering the Bank of the United States. In defending his veto, Jackson cites policy objections, not just constitutional disagreements, thus setting a precedent for a wider use of the executive veto.
South Carolina Allows Popular Election
South Carolina, the only state in which presidential Electors are still chosen by the state legislature, revises its election process, finally allowing for the popular election of Presidential Electors.
Lincoln Suspends Habeas
President Abraham Lincoln suspends habeas corpus in several states, setting an important precedent for expanded executive authority during times of war.
Andrew Johnson Impeached
The United States House of Representatives approves eleven articles of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson. The principal charge is that Johnson violated the Tenure of Office Act when he removed Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War without congressional approval. On 26 May, the Senate impeachment trial will conclude with the president acquitted on all charges. The Senate fails to attain the two-thirds majority needed to convict and remove the president by only one vote.
Civil Service Reform
Eighteen months after the assassination of President James Garfield by a deranged federal office-seeker, the United States Congress passes the Pendleton Act, introducing an examination system for selecting federal civil servants and reducing the president's patronage powers.
Teddy Roosevelt Nominated for VP
The Republican National Convention convenes in Philadelphia. New York governor Theodore Roosevelt will receive the party's nomination for the vice presidency, prompting Ohio Senator Mark Hanna to remark: "Don't any of you realize that there's only one life between this madman and the presidency?" 16
McKinley Assassination Makes Roosevelt President
Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as president of the United States, eight days after President William McKinley was fatally wounded by crazed anarchist Leon Czolgosz in Buffalo, New York.
John Nance Garner accepts the vice presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, a decision he later will describe as the "worst d--n-fool mistake" of his life.
CIA and NSC Created
Congress passes the National Security Act, creating the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency to assist the president in the design and conduct of American foreign policy.
The Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, limiting the president to two terms in office.
The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified. Under this amendment, the president is authorized, with the approval of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, to name a vice president if the office is vacated. In addition, a process is established for transferring the powers of the presidency to the vice president in the event that either the president, or the vice president and cabinet, conclude that the president is unable to discharge the duties of the office.
War Powers Act
Congress passes the War Powers Act over the veto of President Richard Nixon in order to prevent future presidents from engaging in undeclared military conflicts. Under the terms of the act, the president is required to notify Congress within 48 hours of deploying troops "into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances." This triggers a 60-day clock during which the president has the authority to use these troops without any further congressional authorization. But at the end of that period, if Congress has not passed a resolution extending their deployment, these troops must be withdrawn. Moreover, if Congress wants the troops removed before the 60 days expire, they can pass a joint resolution demanding their immediate withdrawal.
Ford Appointed VP
Congressman Gerald Ford's appointment as vice president of the United States is confirmed by Congress, making him the first (and thus far the only) vice president selected under the provisions of the 25th Amendment.
US v. Nixon
The United States Supreme Court rules in United States v. Nixon that the doctrine of executive privilege cannot be invoked to protect the president against the subpoena issued to secure tape of his conversations with aides. The Court finds that while the doctrine has certain limited applications, especially in diplomatic and military matters, it does not apply to the criminal investigation under consideration.
Congressional Oversight Over CIA
Congress passes the Hughes-Ryan Act, requiring the president to report covert activities of the Central Intelligence Agency to congressional oversight committees. Congressional objections to CIA activities in Southeast Asia and Latin America inspire Congress to curb the largely unilateral control given the president over the CIA by the National Security Act of 1947.
Train v. City of New York
The United States Supreme Court rules in Train v. City of New York that President Richard Nixon's impoundment of $18 billion appropriated by Congress (over his veto) to the states under the Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 exceeded his executive prerogatives. This case reinforces several federal court cases ruling that the president could not withhold monies appropriated by Congress.
The United States House of Representatives approves two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging that he has provided false and misleading statements to a grand jury regarding his relationships with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and Arkansas state employee Paula Jones, and that he has obstructed justice in the civil rights case filed by Jones alleging that Clinton, when serving as governor of Arkansas, had sexually harassed her. On 12 February 1999, the Senate will vote to acquit the president on both charges.
Bush v. Gore
The United States Supreme Court rules in Bush v. Gore that the Florida State Supreme Court decision ordering a manual recount of the "under-votes" violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This ends Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's challenge to the Florida election results. Republican candidate George W. Bush is awarded Florida's 25 Electoral College votes, securing his 271-266 victory in the 2000 presidential election.