William Barr himself shot down the claim a president can’t be impeached for abuse of power: 2018 memo
One of the arguments that President Donald Trump’s legal team has been using is in his defense is that the two articles of impeachment he is facing — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — are not impeachable offenses according to established law. But legal expert Jerry Lambe, in an article for Law & Crime, writes that Attorney General William Barr himself shot down that argument in a June 8, 2018 memo.
Lambe notes that in his memo, Barr wrote, “Every four years, the people as a whole make a solemn national decision as to the person whom they trust to make these prudential judgments. In the interim, the people’s representatives stand watch and have the tools to oversee, discipline and, if they deem appropriate, remove the president from office. Thus, 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, Lambe points out, went on to emphasize his belief in “political accountability.”
Barr wrote, “The Framers’ idea of political accountability has proven remarkably successful, far more so than the disastrous experimentation with an ‘independent’ counsel statute, which both parties agreed to purge from our system. By and large, fear of political retribution has ensured that, when confronted with serious allegations of misconduct within an administration, presidents have felt it necessary to take practical steps to assure the people that matters will be pursued with integrity. But the measures that presidents have adopted are voluntary, dictated by political prudence, and adapted to the situation. They are not legally compelled.”
Barr continued, “Moreover, Congress has usually been quick to respond to allegations of wrongdoing in the executive and has shown itself more than willing to conduct investigations into such allegations. 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."
As Lambe notes, "Barr’s determination that Congress is charged with ensuring a president’s decisions square with his oath of office, and can lawfully remove a president for failing to do so, directly contradicts the primary argument being made by Trump’s legal team and undercuts the administration’s defense of Trump’s conduct.”