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

National

FILE – In this Feb. 10, 2020. file photo, Attorney General William Barr speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association Winter Legislative and Technology Conference in Washington. Attorney General William Barr took a public swipe Thursday at President Donald Trump, 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 during an interview with ABC News just days after the Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors. they had initially recommended in a court filing that President Donald Trump’s longtime ally and confidant Roger Stone be sentenced to 7 to 9 years in prison. But the next day, the Justice Department took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek for Stone. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 during 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 7 to 9 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.

There was no immediate response from the White House.

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.

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’s 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 during 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 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Clear

Abbeville

57°F Clear Feels like 57°
Wind
3 mph ESE
Humidity
92%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Partly cloudy this evening. Fog developing late. Low 57F. Winds light and variable.
63°F Partly cloudy this evening. Fog developing late. Low 57F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
4 mph ESE
Precip
40%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter
Overcast

Crowley

58°F Overcast Feels like 58°
Wind
6 mph SE
Humidity
97%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Partly cloudy this evening. Fog developing late. Low 56F. Winds light and variable.
63°F Partly cloudy this evening. Fog developing late. Low 56F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
4 mph ESE
Precip
20%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter
Overcast

Opelousas

58°F Overcast Feels like 58°
Wind
0 mph
Humidity
94%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy this evening then becoming foggy and damp after midnight. Low around 55F. Winds light and variable.
63°F Cloudy this evening then becoming foggy and damp after midnight. Low around 55F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
4 mph ESE
Precip
20%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter
Few Clouds

Breaux Bridge

56°F Few Clouds Feels like 56°
Wind
0 mph
Humidity
93%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Mostly cloudy this evening, then becoming foggy and damp after midnight. Low near 55F. Winds light and variable.
63°F Mostly cloudy this evening, then becoming foggy and damp after midnight. Low near 55F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
5 mph ESE
Precip
20%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter
Overcast

New Iberia

53°F Overcast Feels like 53°
Wind
3 mph SE
Humidity
100%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Overcast with rain showers at times. Low 53F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
54°F Overcast with rain showers at times. Low 53F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
Wind
8 mph SSE
Precip
0%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter

Sidebar