Donald Trump made two claims on Sunday that appear to indicate that he has an expansive, even unlimited view of his own power, under the United States Constitution. In an early morning Twitter message, Trump appeared to hint that he would not leave office even after eight years — the limit imposed on any president under the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.
In a statement broadcast Sunday by ABC News, in an interview with ABC anchor George Stephanopolous, Trump stated his belief that under Article II of the Constitution, which outlines the functions of the executive branch, he is allowed to “do whatever I want,” as quoted by Newsweek.
Trump’s claim came in response to a question by Stephanopoulos about whether Trump had attempted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. In Mueller’s investigative report, posted online by The New York Times, an entire section is devoted to Trump’s “efforts to remove the Special Counsel.” But in the Sunday interview, Trump denied that he had attempted to remove Mueller — but said he could have, if he had wanted to.
“Look, Article II, I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller. Assuming I did all the things,” Trump said in the ABC News interview. “Number one, I didn’t. He wasn’t fired… But more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would have allowed me to fire him.”
Article II of the Constitution, which may be read online via The National Constitution Center, grants the president the authority to wield “executive power,” though the specific details of what that power entails are not fully delineated.
In fact, as Vox.com has documented, debates over the limits of “executive power” date back to the presidency of George Washington, the first president of the United States, who issued highly controversial executive orders.
“The government structure created by the Constitution allows the president a great deal of power and flexibility,” wrote Vox.com correspondent Julia Azari. “The text does very little to describe the nature of this power or its limits, leaving presidents free to do what they can get away with.”
But former United States Attorney Joyce Vance said in an interview Sunday, as quoted by Raw Story, that Article II does not permit Trump, or any president, to do “whatever I want.” The president, for example, may not commit crimes, such as accepting bribes, or order baseless prosecutions of his political enemies, Vance explained.
The Sunday interview was not the first time that Trump has claimed the Constitution gives him far more power than scholars agree that it actually does. In October of last year, Trump announced his belief that he could actually change a provision of the Constitution itself simply by executive order, as Inquisitr reported.
In fact, according to an explanation by The National Archives, the Constitution can be amended only through votes of three-fourths of all state legislatures.