Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ Five takeaways: Report details Trump's election pressure campaign Biden slips further back to failed China policies 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 TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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.
“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 DershowitzTop Trump lawyer Pat Cipollone to run DC branch for Browne George Ross How to mess with Texas' anti-abortion bounty? Apply it to gun sales Those calls to impeach Biden: As wrong as they were with Trump 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 SchiffParis Hilton to visit Capitol Hill to advocate for bill on children's treatment centers Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' Schiff: McCarthy 'will do whatever Trump tells him' if GOP wins back House 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.