In her speech announcing that Democrats would be drawing up articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a number of things that weren’t exactly…how to put it…true. Among those, she accused Trump of betraying the country and the Constitution by claiming that Article II entitled him to do pretty much anything he wanted.
“The president’s actions have seriously violated the Constitution, especially when he says and acts upon the belief ‘Article II says I can do whatever I want,’” Pelosi said. “No. His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution. A separation of powers, three co-equal branches, each a check and balance on the other.”
Later that day, she told CNN the same thing.
“In that Constitution, the genius of it all was the system of checks and balances. They did not want a monarch. They did not want a president king. That’s what they fought the war against,” she said. “The president said — Article I is the legislative branch. Article II is the executive branch. The president said, Article II says I can do whatever I want. So for me, this is about honoring our oath of office, making sure that the Constitution is respected. And it’s about that and how he has ignored the subpoenas of Congress, the oversight of Congress. Something very strange there, that there hasn’t been an intervention amongst some of his own people.”
Of course, it would be major news (even in these overwrought times) if President Trump pointed to Article II of the Constitution and declared himself above the law. Granted, the Constitution provides for a powerful executive. And yes, there are constitutional scholars who will claim that the President of the United States is, for all intents and purposes, “above the law” in terms of being prosecuted while in the Oval Office. That is what impeachment is for.
However, at the time Trump pointed to Article II, he was not speaking in a general context. He was very specifically referring to his right to fire Robert Mueller.
“Look, Article II, I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller,” Trump told ABC News this summer. “Assuming I did all of the things, I said I want to fire him. Number one, I didn’t. He wasn’t fired. Number one, very importantly, but more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would allow me to fire him. I wasn’t going to fire him. You know why — because I watched Richard Nixon firing everybody, and that didn’t work out too well.”
Yes, Trump said the exact quote that Pelosi is referring to, but it is obvious from the context that he was speaking only of his power over the Justice Department and the hiring and firing of executive branch employees (which Mueller was during his time as special counsel). That’s all, and he was absolutely right. If this is the basis upon which Pelosi wants to impeach him, it just shows you how fundamentally weak their case is.