U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) and Vice-President elect Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 10, 2016.
Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Ryan says Trump wants to ‘reset the balance of power’ with Congress

In July, then-candidate Donald Trump met with House Republicans on Capitol Hill, and GOP lawmakers looked for some reassurances that the would-be president understood conservative constitutional principles.

“I wasn’t particularly impressed,” Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said at the time. “It was the normal stream of consciousness that’s long on hyperbole and short on facts. At one point, somebody asked about Article I powers: What will you do to protect them? I think his response was, ‘I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,’ going down the list.”

There are, by the way, seven articles to the U.S. Constitution. Trump apparently didn’t realize that there is no Article XII. The exchange led Evan McMullin, a conservative independent presidential candidate who was in the room at the time, to note that Trump “lacked a basic knowledge of the Constitution” and seemed to lack “even an interest” in the document.

All of this came to mind last night watching House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on “60 Minutes,” when CBS’s Scott Pelley broached the subject.
PELLEY: Have you told him being president is not being CEO of the United States, that the Congress is going to have a say?
RYAN: Oh, we’ve talked about that extensively. We’ve talked about the Constitution, Article I on the Constitution, the separation of powers. He feels very strongly, actually, that– that, under President Obama’s watch, he stripped a lot of power away from the Constitution, away from the Legislative Branch of government. And we want to reset the balance of power, so that people and the Constitution are rightfully restored.
Pelley, somewhat surprised, went on to ask, “You don’t think he thinks he’s going to run this country the way he wants to?” Ryan responded, “No, I think he understands there’s a Constitution.”

aise your hand if you believe the Speaker’s claims.

To be sure, it’s likely Ryan and Trump had a conversation or two about this, and the president-elect may have told the Speaker what he wanted to hear. But is anyone seriously prepared to argue that Donald “Article XII” Trump has clear, thoughtful opinions about the scope and limits of Article I as it relates to the competing powers of the executive and legislative branches?

Ryan would have us believe the president-elect, who’s never demonstrated even the most basic understanding of constitutional law, has “strong” feelings about Article I and is eager to give up presidential power in order to boost Congress’ role in policymaking. The two of them, working together, “want to reset the balance of power,” Ryan said, pushing some authority away from the White House and towards Capitol Hill.

If Ryan sincerely believes this, if the Speaker has watched Trump’s authoritarian displays and has concluded that Trump wants to wield less power once he’s in office, I have a hunch the Wisconsin congressman is likely to be disappointed.