In cases of investigating election fraud, there seems to be a potential for a conflict of interest no matter who investigates it.

So, why can't the White House investigate campaign issues (involving the Ukraine, Clintons, and Bidens), regardless of any perceived conflict of interest?

How is it unlawful/unconstitutional for a President to order Executive Branch employees to investigate election fraud, (or if they were to solicit foreign allies to do the same with reciprocity)?

Suppose that any given sets of facts regarding President Trump's actions are true and constitute "basis in fact". But, what would be the "basis in law" to impeach over those acts?

Aren't these types of negotiations expected of heads of state?

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    Current events do not concern an investigation by the president nor by any other officer of the US government. Rather, they concern the president requiring another country to undertake an investigation as a condition of receiving military aid that was already allocated.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 9:24
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    @elika kohen What do your first two sentences have to do with the rest of your post?
    – Just a guy
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 16:36
  • @phoog - How does a head of state negotiating like that subjected to accusations of illegality? Isn't it normal for heads of state to do that? I honestly don't understand the basis in law for any of these accusations, (let alone basis in fact). Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 7:08
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    Whether it violates any law is not directly relevant. It's entirely improper. But this isn't exactly a negotiation: the aid was already approved. If the president has evidence that someone broke US laws, then he should pass the evidence to the US Attorney General. If there's evidence that someone broke Ukrainian laws, then he may give that information to Ukraine and ask Ukraine to investigate. But withholding congressionally mandated foreign aid to achieve personal ends is possibly a violation of the oath of office and certainly abuse of power.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 13:28

3 Answers 3


"Conflict of interest" has a specific meaning w.r.t. various federal laws, which have financial gain as their underpinning. The so-called conflict which your referring to is an abstract moral duty, eforced at the polls every few years: there is no conflict of interest.

"Obstruction of justice" is defined in 18 USC 73. The law does not require a person to passively submit to an investigation, thus you can file motions with a competent court to resist a subpoena. If there is a criminal investigation of a US criminal statute, it is illegal to

willfully endeavors by means of bribery to obstruct, delay, or prevent the communication of information relating to a violation of any criminal statute

Saying "you don't have authority to tell me to do that" is not obstruction of justice.

I have not seen any (credible) claim that it is unconstitutional for the president to order an investigation of election fraud, for example Executive Order 13799. That commission was disbanded, but a new commission could be ordered via the same mechanism. Congress has the power to defund any such commission, and there was an unsuccessful attempt to use that power in the previous instance.


I think there is some confusion here between unconstitutional and just plain unlawful. Even leaving aside whether the President needs to order the Attorney General to perform the investigative steps, with respect to the various election issues that have arisen the current Administration, there have been significant potential problems with existing law.

If you are referring to the commission headed by Kris Kobach, whose ostensible purpose was finding votes cast by ineligible persons, they had significant problems with data privacy protected by law. There was also a strong whiff of racial discrimination that would be prohibited by the 14th Amendment.

If you are referring to the various entanglements between President Trump and Ukraine, there's the Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (colloquially, the Anti-Impoundment Act), extortion, bribery, and false accusation issues.

Perhaps the OP can be more specific about where the Constitution is coming into play in the investigation?

  • In the abstract, there isn't anything in the Constitution preventing such an order. However, the specific requests that Trump made may have broken a number of ordinary laws. The President is not exempt from the operation of the law in our system; and this was already true at the time we became independent of Great Britain. Accepting (much less eliciting) campaign contributions from foreign governments is unlawful. See also the other laws I already cited. Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 18:08
  • "If you are referring to the various entanglements between President Trump and Ukraine, there's the Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 (colloquially, the Anti-Impoundment Act), extortion, bribery, and false accusation issues." Is this the actual basis in law for the current impeachment proceedings? If so, could you explain that? If so, this is the answer I am looking for. Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 11:45
  • Impeachment, unlike a traditional indictment, doesn't have to cite a particular section of law. Especially with the sworn opening statement of David Holmes (taken Nov 15), there's strong evidence that Trump personally ordered aid that Congress had authorized to be held up until the Ukrainian Government announced an investigation into the Bidens, regardless of the absence of any legitimate reason to do such an investigation. Bribery, extortion, and illegal impoundment are all in play, as is "abuse of power", which isn't a specific named crime. Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 17:10
  1. So, in cases of investigating election fraud, why couldn't the White House investigate campaign issues (involving the Ukraine, Clintons, and Bidens), regardless of any perceived conflict of interest? How is it unconstitutional for a President to investigate election fraud?

Because that office doesn’t have that power - the Attorney General does.

  1. If the Executive Branch cannot pursue these investigations, who can? Isn't there conflict of interest all-around?

The Executive Branch (Department of Justice) can, the Executive Branch (President) can’t.

  1. Couldn't actions stalling these investigations also be considered obstructions of justice?

Obstructing an legal investigation might be illegal, stopping an illegal one isn’t.

  • He is not the Secretary of Justice. Any citizen, even POTUS, can investigate to their heart's content: the apt question is whether POTUS can use executive power in this case. The power he has is to direct the AG to...
    – user6726
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 17:53
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    The department of justice is unique among US executive departments in that its head does not bear the title "secretary" but rather "attorney general."
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 9:11
  • Are there any references for why the executive branch cannot order the justice department to do this? What is the distinction here? Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 10:35
  • @elikakohen because it’s a democracy, not an autocracy. The President can ask the AG, not order, but the AG has to decide if such an investigation is warranted and legal.
    – Dale M
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 11:12
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    @DaleM An American would say you have it exactly backwards: Because the US is a democracy, not an autocracy, unelected officials such as the AG, answer to elected officials, such as the President, who in turn answers to the citizens through elections. An AG who disagrees with the President can resign, as in the Saturday Night Massacre, and a President who asks the AG to do corrupt things can be voted out of office, or impeached.
    – Just a guy
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 16:33

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