Attorney General William Barr spoke out against President Donald Trump’s tweets Thursday, declaring those about Justice Department prosecutors and open 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 seven to nine years in prison — and reduced the amount of prison time it would seek. The department didn’t offer an amended number.
Barr has been under fire for the reversal, and Thursday’s comment served as a defense of his own integrity. However, he didn’t suggest any wrongdoing was involved.
There was no immediate response from the White House about his remarks.
Barr said that Trump’s tweets created perception problems for the department that called into question its independence, but he said there was no order from the president and Trump’s tweets did not factor into the decision.
On Wednesday, the president 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.”
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. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2020
The department said 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.
Administration officials said senior White House aides were not informed of the contents of Barr’s interview before it aired.
“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 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 WTAM-AM.
He said of the prosecutors who resigned in protest, “I don’t think they quit the case. … 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.
One person who spoke out against Barr’s decision was the forewoman of the jury that convicted Stone last year.
“I want to stand up for Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando, and Jonathan Kravis — the prosecutors on the Roger Stone Trial,” the forewoman, Tomeka Hart, said in a Facebook post.
This week, it was revealed that Hart has made social media posts expressing her distaste for the Trump presidency and his followers as well as revealing her feelings about the Stone trial before he was convicted. She has called Trump a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Legal experts told Fox News that Hart provided misleading answers on her jury form about her political and social media activity and her opinion of Trump and the Russia probe.
Barr’s decision was applauded by many who said a possible nine-year sentence was excessive for a nonviolent offense by a 67-year-old man with no criminal history.
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 and released a statement saying Barr “has my complete confidence” and “is the right man at the right time to reform the department and stand up for the Rule of Law.”
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.”
Barr also appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead a criminal inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation, including examining what led the U.S. to open a counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign and the roles that various countries played.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.