Attorney General William Barr 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 Trump’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 Mueller’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.
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