Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/17/17: Presidential Oath of Office

The Presidential Oath of Office is specified in Article II, Section One, Clause 8: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  The Constitution does not specify who is to administer the oath, although by convention it is usually the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. There have been several exceptions to this, including the swearing-in of George Washington in 1789 by the Chancellor of NY and Calvin Coolidge’s swearing in by his father, a notary public, in 1923. Originally the oath was administered in the form of a question, but now the President-elect repeats the words as stated by the Chief Justice. In 2009 Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath a second time to Barack Obama, privately in the White House the day following his inauguration, because Roberts inadvertently omitted the word “faithfully” from the oath.  By convention the President-elect commonly raises his right hand and place his left hand on a Bible, although not every president has done so — exceptions include John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce who both swore their oaths on a law book.


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