Barr: Trump tweets on cases make it 'impossible' to do job

Attorney General William Barr, left, and President Donald Trump turn to leave after speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House on July 11.

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr took a public swipe at President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying that the president’s tweets about Justice Department prosecutors and cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

Barr made the comment in an interview with ABC News just days after his Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors — who had recommended in a court filing that Trump’s longtime ally and confidant Roger Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison — and took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek. The department didn’t offer an amended number.

Barr himself has been under fire for the Justice Department action, and Thursday’s comment served as a defense of his own integrity. He is a Trump loyalist who shares the president’s views on expansive executive powers.

The remarks, made so quickly after the decision to back away from the sentencing, suggested that Barr was aware the reversal had chipped away at the department’s historic reputation for independence from political sway. But he stopped short of acknowledging wrongdoing by anyone.

Barr said that Trump’s tweets created perception problems for the department that called into question its independence, but he denied there was any order from Trump and said Trump’s tweets did not factor into the decision.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters Thursday evening at the White House that Trump tweets to bypass the mainstream press and speak directly to the American people.

“It’s just a different method of communicating with the American people and the president has every right to weigh in,” O’Brien said. “He’s got First Amendment rights, even though he’s president. And he’s got a right to weigh in with his opinions on the big issues of the day and I think he’s going to continue to do that.”

Barr joined a roster of high-level aides who have publicly criticized Trump, with the key difference that he is still in his job. Former national security adviser John Bolton is to publish a book next month detailing his time in the White House including criticism of Trump actions such as his decision to withhold military assistance while seeking a political favor from Ukraine. Former Chief of Staff John Kelly, who has largely kept a low profile since leaving the White House, has grown more open about his unflattering assessments of the president.

Earlier this week, Trump applauded Barr on Twitter for the decision to reverse the sentencing recommendation, writing: “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.”

The department insisted the decision to undo the sentencing recommendation was made Monday night — before Trump blasted the recommendation on Twitter as “very horrible and unfair”— and prosecutors had not spoken to the White House about it. The about-face prompted the four attorneys who prosecuted Stone to quit the case. One left the Justice Department altogether.

“I’m happy to say that, in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr said in the ABC interview. “However, to have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

Stone was convicted in November of tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election. He’s scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Barr said he was “of course” prepared to deal with any ramifications from the president for his comments.

“As I said during my confirmation, I came in to serve as attorney general. I am responsible for everything that happens in the department, but the thing I have most responsibility for are the issues that are brought to me for decision,” Barr said in the interview.

It is extremely rare for Justice Department leaders to reverse the decision of prosecutors on a sentencing recommendation, particularly after that recommendation has been submitted to the court. The actual sentencing is up to the judge.

“What they did to Roger Stone was a disgrace,” Trump said Thursday in an interview with Geraldo Rivera on Newsradio WTAM1100.

“I don’t think they quit the case. I think they felt they got caught,” the president said of the Stone prosecutors. “I don’t think they quit for moral reasons. I think they got caught in the act by me.”

“Now what am I going to do, sit back and let a man go to jail maybe for nine years when murderers aren’t going to jail. You have some of the most serious horrible rapists and everything else. They don’t go to jail for nine years,” Trump said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham tweeted his support for Barr, saying the president had done a “great service” for the people by selecting him. Earlier this week, Graham said, and Barr later confirmed, that Justice was accepting information that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is gathering in Ukraine about the president’s Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son.

In the ABC interview, Barr said of the president: “If he were to say go investigate somebody because — and you sense it’s because they’re a political opponent — then the attorney general shouldn’t carry that out, wouldn’t carry that out.”

Democrats decried the Justice Department’s reversal and called for immediate investigations. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the Justice Department’s inspector general to step in. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Barr had “stooped to such levels” and that “the American people deserve better.”

Barr has been a steady ally of the president’s since he returned to the top post at the Justice Department last year. He cleared the president of obstruction of justice even when special counsel Robert Mueller had pointedly declined to do so, and has declared that the FBI’s Russia investigation, which resulted in charges against Stone, had been based on a “bogus narrative.”

On Thursday, he said he would not be “bullied or influenced by anybody.”

“And I said, whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial board, or the president. I’m gonna do what I think is right. And, you know, the, I think the — I cannot do my job here at the Department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

———

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker, Deb Riechmann and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(17) comments

Russian

Barr claims he can’t do his job yet she’s still collecting a gummit check?

MRS M

Barr's (orchestrated) big "reveal" of yesterday has me wondering (again) when Barr's rapid-response promise for his Inspector General's "full investigation and report" on the "suicide" of Trump's old Manhattan "friend" and night-time "playboy" Jeffrey Epstein will be "concluded". Let's hope (for his sake) that it's not before he's made his reservation for his 2020 Christmas party at the Trump hotel. A well-proven and subservient lap dog; with no reasonable explanation for how low a "man" (term used loosely) is willing to go in service to ........a swiney charlatan, and a well- known abuser. So 4 more people in Justice resigned, effecting Barr's statement on "presidential tweets" which was transparent as his breathless race to provide his "interpretation" of the Mueller Report. It'll all come out after the election, when he'll be just another unemployed hack, eating himself silly in his "planned retirement". Another embarrassment to our nation, to the Department of Justice, and to worst of all........himself.

Russian

Would Trump declare a public emergency and station the military anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities?

FCPS-Principal

Existing law allows the POTUS to do just that. While the POTUS generally cannot deploy federal troops on US soil for law enforcement (not that the current so-called president would respect such a law, or face any consequences if it did ignore it), the POTUS can do so for a national emergency. The POTUS can also federalize state NGs for that purpose. Eisenhower for example did both in 1957 to enforce federal court orders on school integration.

FCPS-Principal

If the AG thinks the so-called president's tweets make his job impossible, he should first state what he think his job entails. What law or regulation requires him to heed anybody's tweets?

FCPS-Principal

The so-called president's tweets in this case constitute obstruction of justice.

Russian

The president has the authority to nuke Americans in the event of a nation emergency. Would Trump nuke Americans to remain in power?

Russian

None of Obama’s black AG’s disrespected him like Barr is disrespecting the potus he should resign or be fired.

Russian

Maybe Trump is correct the military, FBI, CIA, DOJ and most other intel and law enforcement agencies are comprised of partisan, lying, dirty, whining wussies. Maybe Trump is correct Putple Heart Recipients and POW’s are cowards, disabled veterans only have headaches and law enforcement need to get physically tougher on suspects. Maybe Trump is justified to have an affinity for Russia instead of America after all US banks didn’t rescue him when he was in economic distress the Soviets did.

matts853

The Corrupter In Chief is creating chaos once again. Chaos follows Trump around like dirt on Pig Pen. MAGA!

richardlyons

“What they did to Roger Stone was a disgrace,” Trump said.

He should have said, "What Roger Stone did to the American people was a disgrace and he will pay dearly for his crimes."

DickD

Barr is a enableracist for the worse POTUS ever one that doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut. That is what Barr is complaining about.

timothygaydos

First - AG Barr is a great at what he does and by telling not just the POTUS but the Congress and the Media and even the public that he will not be pressured is a good sign of doing his job. 2nd - The POTUS can weigh in on these matters just like other POTUS before him how we quickly forget how Obama or Bush or even Reagan would comment on pending cases in front of the DOJ and the AG so let us not quickly rush to impeachment again for a nothing burger. There is definitely a housecleaning exercise needed at the DOJ to make sure that all get an equal application of the law let us not forget Hillary not even being charged for having a private server with classified data and destroying evidence and blocking testimony...

awteam2000

Tim, “equal application of the law” 🤷‍♀️ Didn’t Hillary testify Under oath in front of Congress? When will Tump?

jsklinelga

Yesterday I commented that people may underestimate the President. Typical of many AP articles I scanned this one with an eye to bias because recently I had asserted the AP contributors were often biased. They habitually interject misleading statements trying to shape opinion. Consider this:

" suggested that Barr was aware the reversal had chipped away at the department’s historic reputation for independence from political sway."

Historic reputation for independence?? And this prosecution, which recommended excessive sentencing by any standard, resulted from the Mueller investigation by Mueller prosecutors. Come on folks. The last thing resulting from the Mueller investigation and all the actions leading up to it would be the enshrining of the Justice Department's "historic reputation for independence"

Barr's job may be near impossible. He is forging his way through a swamp.

awteam2000

JFK, have you noticed responses to your ridiculousness comments are dying off?

awteam2000

On 2 /12/ 2020 JSK commented, “One thing that would be much harder to correct is the AP feeds. The writers contributing to the AP are definitely left leaning. Personally I do not read those articles because the bias is blatant. I read the FNP for local news.” Just sayin 🤷‍♀️. Hello this is an AP report. “Check your history of comments”.

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