Q: Did White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer say President Donald Trump has the “legal ability and right to cancel and disband” the Supreme Court?
A: No. That’s a made-up quote from a satirical story.
Facebook users flagged a story posted on USPOLN about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer as potentially fake. It is.
USPOLN (short for U.S. Political News) copied the story — “Spicer: ‘Trump Has The Legal Right To Cancel SCOTUS Because They Serve At His Pleasure’” — from politicops.com, a satirical website.
The Politicops.com story, which was posted June 20, included a made-up quote from Spicer on Trump’s constitutional powers. “For example, President Trump not only has the power to fire Robert Mueller; he also has the legal ability and right to cancel and disband the Supreme Court of the United States as well, should he feel the need for it,” the satirical story said. “And no one could argue with such a decision.”
Though the USPOLN version of the story gives no indication that the story is satire, the original politicops.com story — as is common with articles published by the Newslo family of websites — provides buttons that allow readers to “show facts” or “hide facts.”
The politicops.com’s “About Us” page reads:
Politicops.com: JUST ENOUGH NEWS… Newslo is the first hybrid News/Satire platform on the web. Readers come to us for a unique brand of entertainment and information that is enhanced by features like our fact-button, which allows readers to find what is fact and what is satire.
Newslo’s “No Need to Satirize” brings you completely factual stories that are so ridiculous, they don’t need our trademark touch. Whenever you see #NNTS, you’re reading COMPLETELY real news that only seems too absurd to be true.
The USPOLN version of the story does not have the “show facts” and “hide facts” buttons and is not labeled “satire,” so it is not readily apparent what is fact and what is fiction. However, the website does include the following disclaimer on its “About Us” page:
USPOLN: DISCLAIMER: USPOLN may include information from sources that may or may not be reliable and facts that don’t necessarily exist. These Articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney.
As with most satirical stories that appear on its site, the politicops.com story about Spicer does contain an element of truth. The article’s first paragraph — lifted from a June 19 post on RawStory.com — accurately quotes Spicer as saying that Trump has the power to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel appointed to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Spicer said this about Trump’s constitutional powers at a June 19 press briefing:
Spicer, June 19: I think the broader point here is that everyone who serves the president serves at the pleasure of the president. It may take — I get there may be a technicality as to whom reports to whom. But the bottom line is, is that everybody who is in a status of that serves at the pleasure of the president of the United States.
According to regulations governing the special counsel, Mueller can be fired only by the attorney general (or, in this case, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation). Also, Mueller may be fired only “for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of Departmental policies.”
In a June 13 Senate hearing, Rosenstein said he had not seen any cause to fire Mueller.
However, Trump does have the power to fire Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will fire Mueller. It is also possible that Trump could order the special counsel regulations repealed and fire the special counsel himself.
But any element of truth to the satirical story about Spicer ends there.
Spicer did not go on to claim that Trump had the authority to “cancel and disband” the nation’s highest court.
The Supreme Court’s existence is codified in Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, the ability to “ordain and establish” any other inferior courts lies not with the president but with Congress.
Spicer: “Trump Has The Legal Right To Cancel SCOTUS Because They Serve At His Pleasure.” USPOLN.com. 21 Jun 2017.
Spicer: “Trump Has The Legal Right To Cancel SCOTUS Because They Serve At His Pleasure.” politicops.com. 20 Jun 2017.
“About Us”. Newslo.com. Accessed 3 Jul 2017.
“About Us”. USPOLN.com. Accessed 3 Jul 2017.
Spicer, Sean. “Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 6/19/2017.” 19 Jun 2017.
Shear, Michael D. and Haberman, Maggie. “Friend Says Trump Is Considering Firing Mueller as Special Counsel.” New York Times. 12 Jun 2017.
Farley, Robert. “Can Trump Fire Mueller?” FactCheck.org. 15 Jun 2017.
“28 CFR 600.7 – Conduct and accountability.” Code of Federal Regulations. Accessed 3 Jul 2017.
Rosenstein, Rod. “Senate Testimony.” YouTube video. 13 Jun 2017.