Legal Powers of the President of the United States


The powers of the United States president include those controls granted by Article II of the United States Constitution, powers granted by Acts of Congress, assumed powers, and a great deal of soft power attached to the presidency.

The Constitution assigns the president the power to veto or sign the legislation, control the armed forces, adjourn or convene Congress, grant pardons and reprieves, and receive foreign and domestic ambassadors. The president shall ensure that the laws are truly executed, and the president has the power to remove and appoint executive officers. The president may make treaties that need to be approved by two-thirds of the Senate and accorded to those foreign-affairs functions not otherwise awarded to Congress or shared with the Senate. Thus, the president can control foreign policy communication and formation and direct its diplomatic corps. The president may also select Article III judges, some senior officers with the U.S. Senate’s consent and advice.

Below are a few legal powers of the president of the United States:


The POTUS (President of the United States) is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces and, as such, exerts supreme operational command over national military forces. In this capacity, the president has the legal power to direct, supervise, and launch military operations, authorize or order troops’ deployment (in foreign countries), launch nuclear weapons, and form military policy with the Homeland Security and Department of Defense.

Executive powers

Within the administrative branch itself, the president has extensive powers to control national affairs and the government’s priorities. The president can issue instructions, regulations, and rules called executive orders, which have the necessary force of law upon federal agencies but do not need the United States Congress’s permission. Executive orders are subject to judicial interpretation and review.

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington

Powers related to legislation.

The president has many options when offered a bill from Congress. If the president agrees with the account, he can sign it into law within twelve days of receipt. If the president rejects the bill, he can veto it and return the bill to Congress with a rejection message recommending changes unless the Congress is out of session. The president may count on a pocket veto. When a bill is introduced for signature, the commander-in-chief may also issue a signing statement with expressions of their opinion on a bill’s provisions’ constitutionality.

Powers of appointment

Before taking office, the president-elect and transition team must appoint people to more than 5,000 federal positions. The appointments range from top executives at U.S. government agencies to the White House Staff and the United States diplomatic corps members. Of these positions at the highest levels, many but not all are selected by the president with the consent and advice of the United States Senate.

Executive clemency

Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives the president the power of pardon. The two most generally used clemency powers are those of mercy and commutation. A pardon is official forgiveness for an acknowledged crime. Once a pardon is issued, all penalty for the offense is waived. A person seeking executive clemency by reprieve, pardon, commutation of sentence, or remission of fine shall produce a formal petition.

Executive privilege

Executive privilege gives the president the power to reserve information from the public, Congress, and the courts in public security and strategic affairs. George Washington first declared the privilege when Congress demanded to see Chief Justice John Jay’s notes from an unaccepted treaty negotiation with Great Britain. While not sanctified in the Constitution, Washington’s action created the privilege, for example. When Richard Nixon tried to employ executive privilege as a basis for not turning over summoned audio tapes to a special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal, the Supreme Court ruled in the United States v. Nixon that privilege was not ideal. The Court reasoned that the judiciary’s interest in the “fair administration of criminal justice” surpassed President Nixon’s interest in keeping the testimony secret. Later, President Bill Clinton lost in Federal Court when he attempted to assert the Lewinsky affair’s privilege. The Supreme Court affirmed this in Jones v. Clinton, which denied privilege in civil litigation cases.

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