President Donald Trump insisted that Article II of the U.S. Constitution “allows” him to do “whatever” he wants, arguing that he never planned to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller but had every legal right to do so.
The president made the remarks during an exclusive interview with ABC News’ host George Stephanopoulos, part of which was released last week and another part of which was released ahead of its airing on Sunday.
Stephanopoulos pressed Trump on specific allegations of obstruction of justice, as many legal experts have defined them, laid out in the second portion of Mueller’s report. One of the primary examples that critics of the president often point to, is the allegation that Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller.
“Number one, I was never gonna fire Mueller,” Trump insisted. “I never suggested firing Mueller.”
Stephanopoulos pushed back, pointing out that McGahn’s testimony to the special counsel and the report told a different story.
“I don’t care what he says,” Trump replied. “It doesn’t matter. That was to show everyone what a good counsel he was. Now he may have got confused with the fact that I’ve always said to anybody that would listen: Robert Mueller was conflicted.”
The president also argued that McGahn lied under oath about being told to fire Mueller because he “wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer” or perhaps misunderstood Trump, because he constantly criticized the special counsel. “Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest,” the president argued.
“Look, Article II [of the Constitution], I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller,” he asserted. “Assuming I did all the things… 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,” Trump claimed.
Again, the president insisted that he “wasn’t gonna fire” Mueller, pointing out that actions like that did not go very well for former President Richard Nixon, who resigned from office back in 1974. “I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody, and that didn’t work out too well,” he said.
Article II of the Constitution outlines the powers given to the president of the United States. The duties outlined in the article include making treaties in conjunction with the Senate, commanding the U.S. military and delivering the annual State of the Union address.
Legal experts disagree over whether or not Trump legally could fire the special counsel. Some have argued that he would have had to tell a Justice Department official to make the call, and they would have had to choose if they would carry out the demand. Others have contended, as Trump did to Stephanopoulos, that he had the legal authority to simply fire Mueller whenever he wanted to. However, many have viewed such an action as obstructing justice, as the special counsel was specifically tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether or not the Trump campaign conspired in that effort.