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Barr wrote 2018 memo contradicting Trump's claim that abuse of power is not impeachable

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTwo-thirds say the election was fair: poll The Hill's Morning Report - An inauguration like no other Barr told Trump that theories about stolen election were 'bulls---': report MORE argued in a 2018 memo that impeachment served as a check on any president who abused his power, seemingly contradicting the argument offered by President TrumpDonald TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports MORE’s legal team ahead of the impeachment trial.

Barr, who was still in private practice at the time of the memo’s writing, made the assessment while offering legal advice to the Justice Department and Trump’s legal team. The memo, which was initially confidential and highlighted in a report by The New York Times on Tuesday, attempted to help Trump as he faced pressure to cooperate with former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE’s Russia investigation. The documents were later disclosed publicly during Barr’s confirmation hearings.

The 19-page memo featured Barr’s theory of executive power and his belief that obstruction of justice laws did not apply to president, even if they were under subpoena, according to the Times. But he added that a constitutional check on the president’s conduct still existed.

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“The fact that President is answerable for any abuses of discretion and is ultimately subject to the judgment of Congress through the impeachment process means that the President is not the judge in his own cause,” he wrote.

He added that “under the Framers’ plan, the determination whether the president is making decisions based on ‘improper’ motives or whether he is ‘faithfully’ discharging his responsibilities is left to the People, through the election process, and the Congress, through the Impeachment process.”

In contrast, Trump's impeachment defense team has posed the argument that one of the impeachment articles against Trump is illegitimate because abuse of power is not recognized as a crime. 

“By limiting impeachment to cases of ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ the Framers restricted impeachment to specific offenses against ‘already known and established law,’” Trump’s team wrote in its 110-page trial brief on Monday. “House Democrats’ novel conception of ‘abuse of power’ as a supposedly impeachable offense is constitutionally defective.”

Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzGiuliani won't be part of Trump defense at Senate trial Sunday shows preview: Washington prepares for an inauguration and impeachment; coronavirus surges across the US In calling out Trump, Nikki Haley warns of a more sinister threat MORE, an attorney who is serving as legal counsel for Trump's defense team in the Senate impeachment trial, has repeatedly leveled the argument, telling CNN on Sunday that "if the House charges do not include impeachable offenses, that's really the end of the matter."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBiden urged to reverse Pompeo-Trump move on Houthis Angus King warns of 'grave danger' of Trump revealing classified information Schiff says 'massive intelligence and security failure' led to Capitol breach MORE (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager in the Senate trial, has called the position an "absurdist" argument. 

The House voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in December, making Trump just the third sitting president to face Senate removal. The trial began in earnest on Tuesday afternoon.