William Barr Tries To Distance Himself From Trump, Says He Won’t ‘Be Bullied’
After President Donald Trump unleashed attacks on the Department of Justice this week, Attorney General William Barr said the president’s moves had made it “impossible for me to do my job” and said he would not “be bullied or influenced by anybody.”
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” Barr said during the interview. “And I said, whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial board, or the president, I’m going to do what I think is right. I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”
The Justice Department came under fire this week for intervening in the sentencing recommendation of the president’s longtime friend and confidant Roger Stone, “who was convicted of seven felonies in a bid to obstruct a congressional investigation that threatened the president.”
After prosecutors on the case recommended a seven- to nine-year sentence, the Justice Department stepped in to soften the recommendation. Four prosecutors on the case resigned in protest.
Trump was highly critical of the initial sentencing recommendation, repeatedly calling the move a “disgrace” and suggesting the entire process was tainted from the beginning. By Thursday, Trump had attacked the prosecutors, the federal judge overseeing the trial, and the Justice Department in general.
Barr apparently had enough, telling ABC News that Trump’s comments “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.”
“It’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” he added.
The Times reported that the “episode ignited a firestorm among rank-and-file lawyers at the Justice Department,” with some career prosecutors expressing concern “that their work might be used to settle political scores.”
But Barr’s decision to grant an interview — which took those close to the president by surprise — was viewed as less-than-genuine by some and more like an attempt to save face publicly.
“This is absolutely nonsense theatrics and I don't buy [it] for one moment,” Susan Hennessy, executive editor at Lawfare, wrote on Twitter. “Barr interfered in the Stone case for purely political reasons and Barr's sole problem is the inconvenience of Trump saying it out loud.”