Any effort to discharge Cordray would be illegal — and it might even precipitate something close to a constitutional crisis.
* * *
Both Republican and Democratic presidents have not loved the idea of independent agencies, operating outside of their daily control. But in 1935,[in the Humphries Exec case], the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the Constitution gives Congress the power to create such entities. The court has stuck with that position ever since — and for decades no president has even tried to remove the heads of independent agencies.
* * * On the day of his removal, Cordray would be within his rights to go to court to seek a judgment that the president acted beyond his constitutional authority.
This would be quite a spectacle. As the law now stands, Cordray would almost certainly win. Things could get pretty ugly. Would a lower court issue an injunction against the president? Would he comply with it?