Democrats Used Deceptively Edited Video of Trump in Judiciary Committee Impeachment Hearing

Norm Eisen and Jerry Nadler (Drew Angerer / Associated Press)
Drew Angerer / Associated Press

Democrats used a deceptively edited video of President Donald Trump in Wednesday’s first House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment, using “experts” in constitutional law to claim, falsely, that he believes he has absolute power.

As Breitbart News White House Correspondent Charlie Spiering pointed out Friday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) misquoted Trump when she made the case for articles of impeachment on Thursday morning.

She said:

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.’ No. His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution.

She repeated that statement on Thursday evening in a CNN Town Hall, saying Trump thought himself a “king.”

It is not clear exactly which of Trump’s statements Pelosi was quoting. As Spiering pointed out, when Trump told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in June that “Article II allows me to do whatever I want,” he was referring specifically to his constitutional authority to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which he never actually did.

The full quote (emphasis added):

Look, Article II, I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller. 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.

In the House Judiciary Committee, the Democrats’ counsel, former Obama White House ethics “czar” Norm Eisen, used a similar misquote to set up Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman to condemn the president.

That quote was specifically drawn from a speech President Trump gave to the Turning Point USA conservative youth “teen action summit” on July 23, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Mueller testified before both houses of Congress the following day.)

Here is the quote in full context. Trump was speaking about the extensive Mueller investigation, which had just concluded — and not about his Article II presidential power in general:

… 500 subpoenas. They did everything. Their collusion? No collusion. They have no collusion [Applause] Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president, but I don’t even talk about that. Because they did a report and there was no obstruction. After looking at it, our great Attorney General read it, he’s a total professional, he said, “There’s nothing here, there’s no obstruction.” So they referenced, no obstruction. So you have no collusion, no obstruction. And yet it goes on. And they think this is helping them. I personally think it’s hurting them. A lot of people think it’s very bad for them. But it just goes on. But I wrote something out this morning on a thing called Twitter, whether we like it or not [Applause] it is a good way of getting the word out. Because I saw Mueller was testifying, yeah.

But here is how Democrats used it — with a deceptive edit that left out the context of the Mueller investigation:

Feldman: Now, putting yourself above the law as president is the core of an impeachable offense. Because if the president could not be impeached for that, he would in fact not be responsible to anybody.

Eisen: And sir, in forming your opinion, did you review these statements from President Trump?

Trump (first video clip): Well, we’re fighting all the subpoenas.

Trump (second video clip): Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.

Feldman: I did. And as someone who cares about the Constitution, the second of those in particular struck a kind of horror in me.

Trump never meant that Article II gave him absolute power.

Nevertheless, Democrats referred repeatedly to that misquote, and replayed the deceptively edited clip of Trump’s speech throughout the hearing, to suggest that Trump thought he was not subject to any constitutional constraints.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) also used the misquote in his closing statement:

President Trump has also asked a foreign government to intervene in our elections and he has made clear that if left unchecked, he will do it again. Why? Because he believes that in his own words, “I can do whatever I want.” That is why we must act now. In this country, the president cannot do whatever he wants. In this country, no one, not even the president, is above the law.

As regards Trump’s comment about fighting the “all the subpoenas,” in the first clip Eisen played, as George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley pointed out in the hearing, Trump has the legal and constitutional right to fight subpoenas until the courts ruled on the separation-of-powers issues between Congress and the executive branch.

As Turley warned the committee: “If you impeach a president, if you make a ‘high crime and misdemeanor’ out of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power. It’s your abuse of power.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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