Bill Barr says Trump is making it 'impossible' for him to do his job
Attorney General Bill Barr surprisingly rebuked President Donald Trump in a new interview with ABC News on Thursday, telling the outlet that his boss's tweets about the Justice Department "make it impossible for me to do my job."
The president's comments about ongoing investigations and department staff undermine his ability to ensure others that he's conducting his work with "integrity," he said.
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” he told correspondent Pierre Thomas.
Barr is currently under fire after he intervened in the case of Roger Stone, a close ally of the president who was caught lying and obstructing a congressional investigation as a part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe. Prosecutors on the case originally recommended to a judge that Stone be sentenced to between seven and nine years for these crimes, but after Barr and top officials interjected themselves, the Justice Department lowered its recommendation. The four prosecutors who had been on the case withdrew themselves from the matter in protest.
Exacerbating what already looked like blatant favoritism for a friend of the president, Trump himself tweeted early Tuesday morning before the reversal was made expressing his outrage about the sentence.
This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. C… https://t.co/as5QvEacVs— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1581403707.0
After the department's reversal became public, Trump specifically praised Barr for the change.
Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perha… https://t.co/vqkkJAFZzf— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1581508380.0
Trump also attacked the judge in the case and the prosecutors who withdrew.
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody ... whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr told ABC News. “I’m gonna do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”
Watch the clip below:
He said the president hasn't ever asked him to do anything in a criminal case. (Despite this claim in the interview, Barr refused to answer the question under oath when he was asked if Trump or the White House had asked or suggested that he open a specific investigation of someone.)
Barr made the decision Monday night, he said, to pull back on the high sentencing recommendation for Stone. But after Trump's early morning tweet was sent on Tuesday, he said, he was forced to consider whether he should pull back because of the president's public comments.
"And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be," he said.
However, some accused Barr of simply trying to protect his own reputation while still doing Trump's dirty work.
"Barr is more or less explaining to Trump that ... he is trying to use DOJ to protect the president and his circle and punish his enemies, but it is harder to do that when the president tells everyone that that is what is going on," said Media Matters' Matthew Gertz.