“I have Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” Donald Trump said in a recent speech to a far-right-wing campus organization. Trump is not a constitutional scholar, and he would not care at all about “constitutional architecture” were he not president. So where did this sweeping claim to executive power come from?
Trump’s claims are largely motivated by self-interest, as all of Trump’s motivations begin with “self,” rather than any doctrinal belief. Congressional investigations may expose his venality and perhaps criminality, so Trump will fight them tooth and nail.
But for Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, and others on the right, the effort to take power for the president from the courts and especially from Congress has been a 40-year project. Barr and his comrades may find statements like “I have Article II” crass and narcissistic, but in their view Trump is generally correct. Executive power maximalists argue that the “original intent” of the framers of the Constitution was to create a strong president with concentrated power and a largely advisory Congress.
The historical evidence for that argument is exceedingly thin.”
Miller, Brad. The 40-Year War. William Barr’s long struggle against congressional oversight.September 9, 2019. https://prospect.org/power/40-year-war-bill-barr-oversight/.