regulation imposed by the obstruction statutes could possibly intrude too deeply on the President’s freedom to select and supervise the members of his cabinet.
The removal of inferior officers, in contrast, need not necessarily be at will for the President to fulfill his constitutionally assigned role in managing the Executive Branch. “[I]nferior officers are officers whose work is directed and supervised at some level by other officers appointed by the President with the Senate’s consent.” Free Enterprise Fund, 561 U.S. at 510 (quoting Edmond v. United States, 520 U.S. 651, 663 (1997)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Supreme Court has long recognized Congress’s authority to place for-cause limitations on the President’s removal of “inferior Officers” whose appointment may be vested in the head of a department. U.S. CONST. ART. II, § 2, cl. 2. See United States v. Perkins, 116 U.S. 483, 485 (1886) (“The constitutional authority in Congress to thus vest the appointment [of inferior officers in the heads of departments] implies authority to limit, restrict, and regulate the removal by such laws as Congress may enact in relation to the officers so appointed”) (quoting lower court decision); Morrison, 487 U.S. at 689 n. 27 (citing Perkins); accord id. at 723-724 & n.4 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (recognizing that Perkins is “established” law); see also Free Enterprise Fund, 561 U.S. at 493- 495 (citing Perkins and Morrison). The category of inferior officers includes both the FBI Director and the Special Counsel, each of whom reports to the Attorney General. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 509, 515(a), 531; 28 C.F.R. Part 600. Their work is thus “directed and supervised” by a presidentiallyappointed, Senate-confirmed officer. See In re: Grand Jury Investigation, __ F.3d __, 2019 WL 921692, at *3-*4 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 26, 2019) (holding that the Special Counsel is an “inferior officer” for constitutional purposes).
1088 Although the FBI director is an inferior officer, he is appointed by the President and removable by him at will, see 28 U.S.C. § 532 note, and it is not clear that Congress could constitutionally provide the FBI director with good-cause tenure protection. See OLC, Constitutionality of Legislation Extending the Term of the FBI Director, 2011 WL 2566125, at *3 (O.L.C. June 20, 2011) (“tenure protection for an officer with the FBI Director’s broad investigative, administrative, and policymaking responsibilities would raise a serious constitutional question whether Congress had ‘impede[d] the President’s ability to perform his constitutional duty’ to take care that the laws be faithfully executed”) (quoting Morrison, 487 U.S. at 691).
Where the Constitution permits Congress to impose a good-cause limitation on the removal of an Executive Branch officer, the Constitution should equally permit Congress to bar removal for the corrupt purpose of obstructing justice. Limiting the range of permissible reasons for removal to exclude a “corrupt” purpose imposes a lesser restraint on the President than requiring an affirmative showing of good cause. It follows that for such inferior officers, Congress may constitutionally restrict the President’s removal authority if that authority was exercised for the corrupt purpose of obstructing justice. And even if a particular inferior officer’s position might be of such importance to the execution of the laws that the President must have at-will removal authority, the obstruction-of-justice statutes could still be constitutionally applied to forbid removal for a corrupt reason.1088 A narrow and discrete limitation on removal that precluded corrupt action would leave ample room for all other considerations, including disagreement over policy or loss of confidence in the officer’s judgment or commitment. A corrupt-purpose prohibition therefore would not undermine the President’s ability to perform his Article II functions. Accordingly, because the separation-of-powers question is “whether the removal restrictions are of such a nature that they impede the President’s ability to perform his constitutional duty,” Morrison, 487 U.S. at 691, a restriction on removing an inferior officer for