Fox News host Will Cain cited former President Richard Nixon’s controversial comments on presidential power when referring to classified documents that former President Donald Trump allegedly took with him as he left the White House last year.
The FBI, with the approval of Attorney General Merrick Garland, carried out a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home on August 8, looking for top secret and sensitive compartmentalized information, as well as other classified documents.
Trump dismissed a report by The Washington Post on Thursday that information regarding nuclear weapons was believed to be among the documents sought by federal agents as a “hoax.” The former president has also claimed that he declassified documents he took from the White House.
“I think I want to go straight to this issue with you, Bill,” said Cain, the co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend, addressing longtime Fox News contributor and former secretary of education Bill Bennett.
“You’ve been around, you’ve covered and been within administrations for quite some decades. You know, if I listen to alternative media today, oh, classified documents, no one is above the law, right? The rule of law applies to everyone,” he said.
“I’m curious. When it comes to classified documents, famously, President Nixon said, that if the president does it, that it is not illegal. Is that not truly the standard when it comes to classified documents? The president has the ability to at any time declassify anything,” Cain suggested.
The Fox News co-host was referring to remarks made by the 37th U.S. president in an interview with British journalist David Frost in 1977, during which he claimed that American presidents are above the law.
“When the president does it, that means it is not illegal,” Nixon infamously said at the time, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. He made the remarks when pressed by Frost on why he had authorized burglaries, illegal wire-tapping and more against antiwar protesters and political opponents.
Nixon subsequently issued a lengthy statement clarifying his comments, writing in The Washington Star that he did not “believe and would not argue that a president is above the law.”
“Of course he is not. The question is what is the law and how is it to be applied with respect to the president in fulfilling the duties of his office,” he wrote at the time. “Precedents over the years have sanctioned some degree of latitude in the use by presidents of emergency situations. I believe such latitude is necessary, and at times vital. My insistence that this latitude does not place the president above the law is not a semantic quibble. To me, it is a vital distinction which goes to he heart of our constitutional system.”
Hillary Clinton, the former first lady of the United States, took aim at Nixon’s infamous comments in January 2020, just weeks after the January 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol building.
“Richard Nixon once made this argument: ‘When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.’ He was forced to resign in disgrace,” she tweeted. “In America, no one is above the law.”
Newsweek has contacted Trump’s office and Fox News for further comment.