Attorney general William Barr distanced himself from President Trump’s tweeting about the Roger Stone case in a Thursday interview, denying that Trump told him to get involved in the case but telling ABC News that “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”
Barr added that the president “had never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” and asserted his independence amid allegations that Trump had ordered him to force the prosecutorial team off the case after they suggested a seven-to-nine year prison sentence for Stone — who is a longtime friend of the president.
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” Barr said Thursday. “And I said, whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial boards, 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.”
“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
On Tuesday, Trump denied speaking to Barr about the situation, telling reporters: “I stay out of things to a degree that people wouldn’t believe.” The next day, he voiced his public support for the DOJ’s changes to the case.
“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,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
The president continued his Twitter tirade against the case on Thursday by slamming a juror on the case for alleged partisan leanings.
“Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the ‘Justice’ Department,” Trump tweeted.
All four Justice Department prosecutors withdrew from the case on Tuesday, with the DOJ submitting a new sentencing recommendation that asked for “far less” jail time than what had been initially recommended for Stone. Barr said the withdrawals left him “a little surprised,” and said he had sought to remove the team.
Barr also confirmed that he had already made the decision to change the sentencing recommendation before Trump tweeted early Tuesday morning that the lengthy prison recommendation was a “miscarriage of justice,” but admitted the tweet put him into a predicament.
“Do you go forward with what you think is the right decision or do you pull back because of the tweet? And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be,” he said.
The attorney general added that he was prepared for a public response from the president, and hoped Trump would respect Barr’s comments.