Jan 21, 2020

2018 Barr memo counters Trump's claim that abuse of power is unimpeachable

William Barr. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A 2018 memo by now-Attorney General William Barr contradicts President Trump's legal argument that abuse of power is not alone an impeachable offense.

What we know: Barr issued the memo for the Justice Department and Trump's legal team while still in private practice. The 19-page document was written as Robert Mueller conducted his special investigation into whether Trump illegally interfered in the Russia probe.

  • Barr argued in the memo that Trump should not speak to investigators about his actions as president, even if subpoenaed. He based his recommendation "on a sweeping theory of executive power under which obstruction of justice laws do not apply to presidents, even if they misuse their authority over the Justice Department to block investigations into themselves or their associates for corrupt reasons," the New York Times writes.
  • However, Barr wrote that presidents who abuse their discretionary powers could be subject to penalties, including impeachment.
  • The memo posed that because the president "is ultimately subject to the judgment of Congress through the impeachment process means that the president is not the judge in his own cause."
  • The memo was made public during Barr's confirmation.

Why it matters: Trump's legal team argued in a 110-page brief this Monday that "House Democrats’ novel conception of ‘abuse of power’ as a supposedly impeachable offense is constitutionally defective."

  • "It supplants the framers’ standard of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ with a made-up theory that the president can be impeached and removed from office under an amorphous and undefined standard of 'abuse of power.'"

Read Barr's memo here:

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