The President of the United States is one of the most powerful democratically elected officials in the world. His powers are both derived from and limited by the Constitution. Through the use of "checks and balances" his actions are always controlled. The President has powers in five areas of government, all of which are checked by the Legislative and/or Judicial branches.
The president may not violate laws while he is in office. The House of Representatives may bring impeachment charges against the President for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors." After the charges are made, the President is tried by the Senate with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding over the trial. A two-thirds majority is needed to convict the President and remove him from office.
- Chief Executor
- The President of the United States is the chief executor. He enforces the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress. To help enforce laws, he may issue executive orders. He appoints all government officials, including Cabinet officers, Supreme Court Justices, and others. However, his executive orders may be declared unconstitutional in the courts and all of his appointments must be approved by the Senate.
- Chief Legislator
- The President of the United States is also the chief legislator. He can recall Congress into a special session. He may veto the bills passed by Congress, and use his influence on his colleagues in Congress to get a bill passed or proposed. Again, all of his actions are limited by other branches of government: Congressmen do not have to pass any laws during the special session, Congress can override the president's veto by a two-thirds majority, and no one in Congress must succumb to the president's pressure.
- Judicial Powers
- In terms of judicial powers, the president of the United States may grant pardons to most individuals and he has indirect control of the courts, as he appoints all of the federal judges. The judicial powers of the president are limited in that all of his appointments must be approved by the Senate, the federal judges that he appoints receive lifetime tenure and thus do not react to presidential influences, and his power to grant pardons does not extend to cases of impeachment.
- Chief Ambassador
- The President is the chief ambassador - he determines the foreign policy of the nation, he directs diplomatic talks and negotiates treaties, and he appoints other ambassadors and diplomats. As with all other appointments, these must be cleared by Congress. Any treaties with foreign nations must be ratified by the Senate before they go into effect, and presidential foreign policies may be examined and criticized by House and Senate Committees.
- Commander in Chief
- The President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, thereby maintaining civilian control over the military. He appoints the top military commanders, gives them military advice and has the power to discharge officers. He may also order the armed forces into action in case of disturbances within the United States and foreign countries. However, the President cannot commit US troops to international conflicts for more than 90 days without a formal declaration of war, a power reserved for Congress.