House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued Thursday that President Donald Trump violated the fundamental principle of the Constitution by saying in an interview that Article II allowed him to “do whatever I want.”
Here is what Pelosi said after announcing the Democrats’ intent to impeach the president:
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. A separation of powers, three co-equal branches, each a check and balance on the other.
She repeated the claim in a CNN town hall on Thursday:
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.
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.
Pelosi said Trump was betraying the Founders and the Constitution by acting as a “king” or a “monarch,” using references to the monarchy five times in her impeachment statement and at least six times in the CNN town hall.
But Pelosi is taking the president out of context. The Trump comment about Article II is taken from a June interview with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos.
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.
Pelosi is hanging the case for impeachment on a badly misconstrued quote. As the duly elected president of the United States, Trump has the authority to hire and fire anybody in his administration.
Trump correctly cited his authority given to him by Article II to allow him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, even though he never did. The president did not cite Article II to make the case that he was above the separation of powers in the Constitution.