President Donald Trump was candid about the unlimited power he believes he has during a speech at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit on Tuesday.
After reasserting that investigations into Russia’s election meddling found “no collusion,” Trump claimed, “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,” he added, “because they did a report and there was no obstruction.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who led the nearly two-year long probe into Russian interference efforts, did not in fact absolve Trump of claims of “collusion,” as the term has no solid legal definition. Instead, Mueller sought to determine whether there had been criminal coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. In the end, the special counsel did not have sufficient evidence to prove such coordination occurred, but laid out the numerous ties between the two sides, as well as at least 10 instances of possible obstruction by Trump.
Trump has repeatedly downplayed Mueller’s findings, contained in his 400-plus page report made public in April, suggesting the report both exonerates him and is part of a partisan smear campaign.
Trump frequently references Article II of the Constitution, but his comments on Tuesday were some of his boldest yet.
TRUMP: "Then I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president."
(Article 2 does not in fact empower the president to do whatever they want.) pic.twitter.com/qIFP1AbHw6
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 23, 2019
In recent months, the president has ramped up his rhetoric on the topic, signaling both his misunderstanding of the executive powers outlined in the Constitution as well as his intent to abuse them. Tuesday’s remarks were just the latest example.
Last month, in an exclusive interview with ABC News, the president defended his right to fire Robert Mueller if he wanted to. “Article II allows me to do whatever I want,” he explained. “Article II would have allowed me to fire him.”
EXCLUSIVE: President Trump tells @GStephanopoulos that he "wasn't gonna fire" special counsel Robert Mueller because "I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody, and that didn't work out too well." https://t.co/XGywDOjKYw pic.twitter.com/qriHdg6TWR
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 16, 2019
Just two weeks ago, when speaking to reporters, Trump reiterated that there was “no obstruction,” insisting falsely that an investigation cannot be obstructed if it turns out there was “no crime” committed.
“Also, take a look at one other thing,” he said. “It’s a thing called Article II. Nobody ever mentions Article II. It gives me all of these rights at a level that nobody has ever seen before. We don’t even talk about Article II.”
Article II has not changed while Trump has been president. The suggestion that it gives him new “rights” that are different from the constraints placed on past presidents has no merit. But it does appear to be an indication that he intends to exercise more power than past presidents, perhaps undeterred by the other two branches that might try to check and balance that power.
All things considered, Article II is not very substantial. The first section merely outlines how the president is elected and compensated. The second section enumerates some of the president’s basic powers, such as serving as Commander in Chief, granting reprieves and pardons, making treaties, appointing ambassadors and judges, and filling vacancies when Congress is in recess. Section 3 adds that the president will provide to Congress the State of the Union, that they can convene the House and Senate “on extraordinary Occasions,” and that he shall execute the laws and commission officers.
The last section briefly adds that the president can be impeached.
That’s it. There’s not much there, certainly nothing that substantiates firing people or obstructing justice as he claims, let alone allowing Trump to do whatever he wants.
The rest of Trump’s speech Tuesday was chock full of extremism. He reiterated his attacks on several congresswomen of color and lied about voter fraud to claim that the elections in California and other states were “rigged” thanks to undocumented immigrants.
The president also threatened to act against Democrats because they somehow haven’t treated Republicans “fairly,” and enjoyed a laugh when someone suggested he’d be “President for life!”
“That’s what they’re afraid of, you know,” he said.