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Generally, the Postmaster General is appointed, and can be fired by, the Board of Generals. Is there a law or case law precedent that would likely allow the President to do any of the following:

  1. Fire the Postmaster General directly, or
  2. Fire the Postmaster General indirectly, by replacing the Board of Governors with governors amicable to replacing the Postmaster General?

Myers v. United States might be applicable here. It states that the President can fire any federal official without permission of any body of Congress. This seems to imply that all federal officials serve at the President's pleasure, regardless of what their contract or any law says. The question then becomes whether the Postmaster General is a federal officer, for the purpose of Myers v. United States.

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Maybe, for a few reasons. First, your restatement of Myers is incorrect. Myers does not state that the President can fire any federal official. Myers states that the President has unfettered discretion in removing executive officials. This is a crucial distinction because there are, of course, other federal officials—those in the judiciary and the legislature. The Constitution gives zero authority to the President to directly remove these officials (recall separation of powers).

But there's another subset of federal officials we're forgetting—those in the independent agencies (e.g., the FEC, FTC, Federal Reserve, etc.). These agencies don't really fall under the executive, or any branch for that matter, hence "independent." They're sort of quasi-legislative quasi-executive, and for some, quasi-judicial.

Humphrey's Executor gave congress the power to condition firings of officials in these agencies (e.g., you can only fire them if they commit negligence, through special procedures, etc.). These conditions essentially limit the President's power to remove ("fire") federal officials that might appear to be under the executive.

Then Morrison came along and held, congress can condition those firings, but only if it does not "unduly impede" or "trammel" the President's removal power. More recently, the court decided Seila Law, which made even the further distinction between officers heading single-member independent agencies and multimember independent agencies (the former being subject to the President's removal power).

In any event, a lot of the agencies you hear about are actually independent agencies: CIA, SEC, CFPB, EPA, FCC, FDIC, NASA, and, since 1971, the USPS, which is headed by the Postmaster General. The USPS is itself sort of a multimember agency, since it has a board of governors, but it is run by and large by the Postmaster General, so it shares some characteristics of a single-member independent agency. Thus, the answer to your question is a little less clear with the case law currently. However, given the composition of SCOTUS today, and Justice Roberts on the bench (a supporter of Justice Scalia's unitary executive theory, which—oversimplifying here—says that the President has the sole authority to fire those who wield executive power), it would not be surprising if the current Court finds that the President can fire the Postmaster General. Of course, this is all conjecture. This is all a long winded way of saying: maybe.

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  • So, under Morrison, the President could theoretically fire the Board of Governors?
    – moonman239
    Jan 31 at 16:41
  • Strictly reading Morrison, without Seila, theoretically yes. But, holdings do not exist in a vacuum; precedents must coexist to carry weight. So, if the President did want to fire the Board of Governors, he and his legal team would want to check if Congress has conditioned board member removal, and if it has, what those conditions are. Jan 31 at 17:16

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