Barr says Trump’s tweets ‘make it impossible for me to do my job;’ Trump asserts ‘legal right’ to ask for action
President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that President Donald Trump’s tweets about the Department of Justice, pending cases and judges make it impossible for him to do his job.
Barr told ABC News that such tweets can be disruptive and “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.”
Barr also said tweets that criticize the FBI and people in the DOJ can be unfair.
“I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” he said. “It’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”
Barr spoke Thursday after Trump unleashed a series of tweets about the sentencing recommendation for his former adviser Roger Stone. Prosecutors had initially sought a sentence of seven to nine years for Stone, a recommendation that was retracted by the DOJ.
The about-face led all four prosecutors working on the case to withdraw. One prosecutor resigned his job entirely.
Barr said he wants to keep the law enforcement process sacrosanct, and he would not be influenced by Congress, editorial boards or Trump. “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” he said.
Barr said neither Trump nor anyone else at the White House had spoken to him about the Stone case. Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr said.
Trump responded Friday in another tweet in which he asserted he had “the legal right” to ask Barr to take action in a criminal case, the Washington Post reports. Trump said he had chosen not to exercise that right, however.
Stone was convicted for lying to Congress about his contacts with the Trump campaign regarding WikiLeaks and its plans to release documents damaging to Hillary Clinton. He was also convicted on charges of obstructing the congressional probe of Russian influence and witness tampering.
Prosecutors had sought the seven-to-nine-year sentence Monday. Early Tuesday, Trump tweeted that the recommendation was “a horrible and very unfair situation.” He also tweeted, “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
On Tuesday, the DOJ filed a new sentencing memo that said imprisonment is warranted, but the sentence initially recommended “could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances.” The memo said the government is deferring to the court on the specific sentence.
Trump continued his Twitter criticism Tuesday evening. “Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn’t ever even have started?” Trump tweeted.
One of Trump’s tweets also targeted the federal judge in Stone’s case, Amy Berman Jackson. The judge had also sentenced Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and had dismissed a lawsuit against Clinton over the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
“Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure?” Trump tweeted. “How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!”
Barr said he had supported Stone’s prosecution, but he agreed with the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., who had expressed concerns about the longer sentence backed by his prosecution team.
Barr said that, after his discussions with the U.S. attorney, he was under the impression that the initial sentencing memo would point out factors for the judge to consider without making a specific recommendation.
Barr said he had already made the decision to file the new memo before he was informed of Trump’s tweet about the “horrible” sentencing recommendation.
Following Trump’s criticisms, ABA President Judy Perry Martinez released a statement condemning personal attacks on judges or prosecutors.
The statement, released Wednesday, reads: “The American Bar Association steadfastly supports judicial independence and the sound exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Public officials who personally attack judges or prosecutors can create a perception that the system is serving a political or other purpose rather than the fair administration of justice.
“It is incumbent upon public officials and members of the legal profession, whose sworn duty it is to uphold the law, to do everything in their power to preserve the integrity of the justice system,” Martinez wrote.
“The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.” A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2020