I’m going to let you in one a little secret. Constitutional analysis is not as difficult as it may seem. Yes, it is not for the weak of mind or spirit, and it does require a working knowledge of history, law, government and civics. The trick is being able to put the pieces back together again. They are all there. The question is not what, but where.

Take for example the recent statement our President gave regarding the Constitution.

“Article II gives me the right to do whatever I want.”

Is it possible that is a correct statement of Constitutional Law? It could be. But it’s not. Why? Let’s break it down and find out. I offer the following step-by-step outline as a guide. Use topically and as often as necessary.

· There (Black Letter Law)
· Not There
· What Is There?
· 4 Corner Context
· Legislative Intent
· Historical Context
· US Supreme Court Case Law (if necessary)

Step 1: We need to look for what is there. We call this “Black Letter Law” analysis – do the actual words themselves appear in the Constitution and are they open to any alternative meaning except those conveyed by the words common meaning and perhaps augmented by a pinch of context? Now this may sound a bit cheeky, but is there within the four corners of the Constitution an “Article II gives me the right to do whatever I want clause? In the plain, black letters of the law? Step II: The answer is no. This does not mean the statement is patently indefensible, but it’s not a good sign.

Step III: Article II of the Constitution deals with the Executive Branch. The branch tasked with first and foremost the black letter mandate (Article II Section 3);

“he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed,”

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleii

“He” is the President. So, according to Article II, Step IV: what exactly, within the “four corners” does the President do? For purposes of clarity and legislative intent, let’s split those parts of Article II devoted to the president into two parts, domestic and foreign. Next, we can further investigate Article II, Sections 2 & 3, and divide the identified not so much powers, but more accurately described as duties and obligations into two columns:

*Domestic ………………………………………………………………………….Foreign
*Commander in Chief ……………………………………………………..Make Treaties
*Grant Reprieves and Pardons……………………………………….Appoint Ambassadors
*Appoint Superior and Inferior Officers……………………….Receive Ambassadors
*Recess Appointments…………………………………………….and other public ministers
*Inform Congress of the State of the Union
*Convene Congress in Times of Emergency

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleii

Step V: Unlike the Congressional powers enumerated in Article I, Article II was intentionally written in broad strokes to give the President flexibility in dealing with crises and emergency situations where quick response times can be the difference between life and death. Therefore, most of the Presidential powers are not evident from a cursory reading of the Constitution, yet the president must follow the Constitution and takes an oath to do so (Article II Section 1).

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/preamble

Further guidance can be found by breaking down the Constitution’s Preamble:

· Form a more perfect Union
· Establish Justice
· Ensure domestic Tranquility
· Provide for the common defence
· Promote the general Welfare
· Secure the Blessings of Liberty

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/preamble

Step VI: Say you are Lincoln and you are faced with the southern states wishing to succeed from the Union. The Constitution itself is silent on the concept. The Constitution does however task the President with perfecting a more perfect Union, ensuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare. How could any of these Constitutional mandates s/he is sworn to uphold be accomplished by allowing the south to succeed? None, thought Lincoln and so he went over to Congress, asked them to declare war making him commander in chief. And so, we went to war. That’s how the Constitution works, Charlie Brown.

Oh, as for that ridiculous 14-year-old sexually active potty mouthed brat on Jerry Springer assertion Trump spewed out about presidential powers, is it true? Of course not.