Season 3: 2001–2002
Cast: Rob Lowe, Stockard Channing, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford and Martin Sheen
The third season, which covers the administration's third and fourth years in office, starts off with Bartlet announcing his intention to run for reelection and is heavily devoted to the upcoming presidential election. Other prominent plotlines include Congressional investigations into whether Bartlet committed electoral fraud by concealing his MS, a death threat against C.J. and the ensuing relationship she develops with a Secret Service agent assigned to her, the Qumari defense minister Abdul Shareef plotting terrorist attacks against the US, and a troubling meeting between Toby and the President that leaves Bartlet with a bout of insomnia in "Night Five." The season finale, "Posse Comitatus" closes several of these storylines as Bartlet meets his opponent in the elections and reaffirms his commitment to beat him. The episode ends with the president finally deciding to order Shareef's assassination (a legally questionable act) and C.J.'s agent's murder, just after the man threatening C.J. was caught.
From a critical perspective, series creator Aaron Sorkin acknowledged in October 2002 that the terrorism-related plots designed to keep the series relevant after the real-life 9/11 attacks were awkward at times, saying "from week to week, you felt like you were writing the show handcuffed, a little bit. I didn't know how to write it anymore. It was a constant search for what I wasn't doing that used to make the show work. [...] Maybe there was a way to make it work; there probably was. I wasn't able to find it in twenty-two episodes."  Nonetheless, the show went on to win its third "Outstanding Drama" Emmy in a row.