A December 12 2019 article with the headline, “Supreme Court Can Extend Trump’s Term By Up To 3 Years If He’s Acquitted In The Senate” spread widely on social media — particularly Facebook — in the days after it appeared.
It claimed that an obscure legal precedent, a vestige of the Watergate scandal involving former United States President Richard Nixon, was relevant to the impeachment of Donald Trump:
There’s a little-known precedent on the books that Democrats are trying desperately to have removed before the impeachment trial of President Trump begins. In 1974, as Nixon faced impeachment, the Republican Congress passed a law that would allow his term to be extended if he was acquitted.
The law was specific to Nixon, and was set to expire in 5 years, but Nixon resigned. The removal of the law, therefore, never happened.
According to legal analyst and constitutional scholar, Art Tubolls, the fact that the law exists at all sets a precedent:
“The law is very clear. An acquittal, which they were sure they would get until all the facts came to light, would have meant that Nixon’s term was stolen from him, and that three years or less could be added to his time in office without causing a constitutional crisis … Our sources say it would be a 5-4 vote to allow President Trump to go on for another three years, making the next Presidential election due in 2023. Trump would still be eligible to run.[“]
At the end of the article was this addition:
What all of this means is that if the Democrats don’t convince 8 Republican Senators to vote to convict, we’ll be making America Great again for three extra years with no elections to worry about.
God Bless America.
On Facebook, a link to that item was shared thousands of times in just a few days:
The claim also spread virally on Twitter:
“The law is very clear. An acquittal, which they were sure they would get until all the facts came to light, would have meant that Nixon’s term was stolen from him, and that three years or less could be added to his time in office."https://t.co/wcF16fkkek
— Dr. Dawn Michael💗 (@SexCounseling) December 16, 2019
Those who actually clicked through to read the article might have noticed that the piece (which carried the byline “Flagg Eagleton”) was labeled “SCOTUS Satire.” A photograph of Supreme Court justices at the top of the page bore a “Satire Rated” watermark. A byline for “Flagg Eagleton” read:
Flagg Eagleton is the son of an American potato farmer and a patriot. After spending 4 years in the Navy and 7 on welfare picking himself up by the bootstraps, Flagg finally got his HVAC certificate and is hard at work keeping the mobile homes of Tallahassee at a comfy 83 degrees.
An “about” page clearly linked at the top of DailyWorldUpdate.us read, in part:
Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site’s pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you’re still having an issue with that satire thing.
Despite the clear “satire” markings in DailyWorldUpdate.us’s header, featured image, byline, category, and “about” page, the article did not trip Facebook’s filters for clickbait and satirical content, and indeed, it was still being shared in groups and to pages as real at the time that we published our fact check. (Ironically, this very fact-check explaining the nature of spreading “satirical” content will be inhibited from spreading and sharing by those very same filters, as Facebook designated our own site “clickbait” )
As noted on nearly every element of the “Supreme Court Can Extend Trump’s Term By Up To 3 Years If He’s Acquitted In The Senate” page, the item was written as fiction by the purveyors of the sites America’s Last Line of Defense (LLOD) and Taters Gonna Tate. Nothing on the site is true, as its creators have freely and frequently explained.