During last week’s impeachment hearings, Democratic Judiciary Counsel Norman Eisen (above, on the left) presented a video clip showing President Trump saying: “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.” Asked to comment on the video, Harvard Law School Professor Noah Feldman—you know, he’s the one who falsely told the committee and America that Nixon “sent burglars” to steal documents from the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in 1972. That guy— replied, “As someone who cares about the Constitution,” the statement “struck a kind of horror in me.”
Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, referenced the same quotation as it was heard in the clip , concluding that President Trump “believes that in his own words, ‘I can do whatever I want.’” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was referencing the same video when she said Thursday that Trump threatened the Constitution by acting as a “king.”
Later in the week, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig twice cited the same clip. So did MSNBC’s Chris Mathews during “Hardball,” and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe.” The Washington Post spread the same report about the video.
In all six cases, a video deceptively edited to misrepresent what the President was referring to was used to inflame and deceive. He was not saying that he could do anything he wanted as a general proposition, but that he could do anything he wanted, pursuant to Article Two, regarding the dismissal of Executive Branch officers. The whole section, deliberately altered to hide the context, showed the President saying, “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.” Even with Trump’s well-established meat-axe approach to the English language, nobody could plausibly misinterpret the meaning of “Article II allows me to do whatever I want” with the full context revealed. The seaction allows a President to do whatever he wants when it comes to firing appointees within his branch of the government. Trump’s statement, in that context, was accurate.
Thanks to the false presentation of the truncated video in multiple forums, I have seen it quoted extensively on social media for the proposition that the President asserts absolute power. MSNBC and CNN have an obligation to correct their misrepresentation: they haven’t. Nadler also: he has not corrected the record either. Even though a House hearing is not technically a “tribunal” under the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, I believe, and would argue in a disciplinary hearing, that Norman Eisen’s use of false evidence in the hearing, and his failure to correct any misrepresentations this caused, violated rules 8.4, 4.1, 3.3 and 3.9 of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, covering dishonesty and misrepresentation, misrepresenting fact or law to third parties, neglecting to reveal and withdraw false evidence, and the ethical duties of lawyers appearing before legislative bodies. His violations were flagrant, public, and worthy of suspension at the very least.
Both Nadler and Pelosi violated House ethics rules in this episode as well.
Of course, pundits and journalists like Honig, Matthews and Scarborough, as well as the Post, have no enforceable ethics codes to violate, because modern broadcast pundits have no ethics.
It should go without saying that the false version of the video being used to slime the President has not been publicized for the public’s edification, except in a few right-wing media sources. The other 90% of the news media is blissfully fearmongering based on the Big Lie the video was edited to advance, Big Lie #3: “Trump Is A Fascist/Hitler/Dictator/Monster.” Thus, followingt the script and the grand plan, CNN’s alleged conservative S.E. Cupp tweeted,
This isn’t a lie; it’s just an incompetent, idiotic, unfair and inflammatory opinion designed to alarm the typical American who no more knows what’s in the Constitution than what’s in The Epic of Gilgamesh, to make him afraid of his elected leader.
Trump couldn’t demand a third term any more than he could declare the national language to be Cornish. A Constitutional Amendment, the 22nd, specifically forbids a third term. All Bloomberg needed to get past New York City’s third term prohibition was the approval of the city council. Repealing an amendment is just a bit more difficult, as in virtually impossible—particularly that one.
These are unethical, dishonest, desperate people who are bad at their jobs, contemptuous of the public, and destructive to our democracy.