Attorney General Bill Barr said that President Donald Trump’s tweets make it “impossible” for him to do his job, but denied that he took his cue to lessen Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendation from the President’s social media statements.
In an interview with ABC News, Barr said “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”
“I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” he added.
Though he called it “preposterous” to suggest that he “intervened” in the Stone sentencing matter, Barr said that after he decided independently to recommend a lighter sentence for Stone, Trump sent out his tweet and made the decision seem politically steered.
“Do you go forward with what you think is the right decision or do you pull back because of the tweet?” Barr asked. “And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be.”
Barr has become the subject of Democratic outrage over Stone, as Trump congratulated the nation’s top law enforcement official for “taking charge” of the case after the Department of Justice announced that it would lessen its prosecutors’ original sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years in prison. That sudden reversal caused the withdrawal of all four DOJ prosecutors from the case.
In his ABC interview, Barr professed his independence, proclaiming that he won’t be “bullied by anybody…whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial boards, or the President.”
Barr said directly that he has “a problem with some of the tweets,” adding that it makes it difficult to keep the criminal process “sacrosanct” and devoid of any “political influence.” But, Barr went on, he’s “happy to say that, in fact the President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.”
When asked if he is prepared for the President’s inevitable backlash to his statements, Barr was succinct: “of course.” The attorney general said that he makes decisions based on what he thinks is “the right thing to do.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued a statement soon after parts of the interview aired, declaring his “complete confidence” in Barr, perhaps to head off Trump’s inevitable anger.
“President Trump, in selecting Bill Barr to be Attorney General, has done a great service to the people serving in the Department of Justice and our nation as a whole,” he said. “He is the right man at the right time to reform the Department and stand up for the Rule of Law.”
Barr is slated to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31. Democrats on the committee have already forewarned Barr that they will ask about his involvement with the Stone sentencing debacle.
Watch some of Barr’s interview here:
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody….whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial boards, or the president,” Bill Barr tells @ABC News.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 13, 2020