President Trump was briefed by Bill Barr that abuse of power is an impeachable offense: report
(Shane T. McCoy / US Marshals)

President Donald Trump's legal defense team in the impeachment trial has been repeatedly argued that presidential abuse of power does not count as a "high crime" under the United States constitution.


Legal experts have harshly criticized the argument. And as The New York Times reported Tuesday, one critic is Trump's attorney general.

"In summer 2018, when he was still in private practice, Mr. Barr wrote a confidential memo for the Justice Department and Mr. Trump’s legal team to help the president get out of a problem. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was pressuring him to answer questions about whether he had illegally impeded the Russia investigation," the newspaper reported.

"Mr. Trump should not talk to investigators about his actions as president, even under a subpoena, Mr. Barr wrote in his 19-page memo, which became public during his confirmation. Mr. Barr based his advice 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 Times explained.

"But Mr. Barr tempered his theory with a reassurance. Even without the possibility of criminal penalties, he wrote, a check is in place on presidents who abuse their discretionary power to control the executive branch of government — impeachment," the newspaper reported. "The fact that the 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."

Barr quoted from a 1982 Supreme Court case that explained: "The remedy of impeachment demonstrates that the president remains accountable under law for his misdeeds in office."