TRUMP’S LAWYERS DON’T THINK HE CAN BE IMPEACHED FOR ABUSE OF POWER—BUT WILLIAM BARR DID

The New York Times points out that in a memo written in the summer of 2018 when he was still a private attorney, now-U.S. Attorney General William Barr argued the exact opposite of what the Trump team is now claiming in their defense of the president. In the memo, which discredits the Mueller probe and argues that Trump should not talk to then-special prosecutor Robert Mueller, Barr argues that the president is shielded from criminal penalties and should not be held accountable by a special prosecutor. Instead, the president is held responsible by Congress and their impeachment powers—not just for criminal charges, but for “any abuses of discretion.” “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,” Barr wrote. “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.” (A spokeswoman for Barr declined to comment to the Times.)

The about-face on abuse of power is likely just the beginning of the Trump legal team’s hypocritical approach to defending the president, as the Senate trial Tuesday suggested that the Trump defense is more concerned with what’s politically expedient to say in the moment than what’s been argued in the past. After Trump’s Justice Department argued repeatedly in court that the judicial branch should stay out of the impeachment process and not get between Congress and the White House, the Trump legal team claimed on the Senate floor Tuesday that the impeachment process was unfair because House Democrats did not wait for legal disputes over congressional subpoenas to play out in the courts. “We’re acting as if the courts are an improper venue to determine constitutional issues of this magnitude? That is why we have courts,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow argued Tuesday, putting forth an argument that Trump’s own Department of Justice has directly refuted. In his rebuttal, House Intelligence Committee head and Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff was quick to point out the major contradiction on display. “Other lawyers—maybe not the ones at this table, but other lawyers for the president—are in the courts saying the exact opposite of what they’re telling you today,” Schiff said.

Article URL : https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/01/william-barr-trump-impeachment-memo-abuse-of-power

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