President Trump responded to Attorney General William Barr’s Thursday comments that Trump’s tweets were “disruptive” to the Department of Justice’s independence, tweeting Friday that he had “the legal right” to give Barr directives in criminal cases.
“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
Trump quoted comments Barr made in his interview with ABC News, and confirmed that he had not asked Barr to intervene in the case of Roger Stone, who is awaiting sentencing for obstructing justice, witness tampering, and lying to Congress about alleged Russian contacts.
The tweet comes after White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham released a statement late Thursday saying Trump “wasn’t bothered” by Barr’s claim that Trump’s public statements about ongoing cases made it “impossible” to do his job.
“President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news,” Grisham said. “The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law.”
The president voiced outrage this week over the Department of Justice’s handling of the case, saying it was “horrible and very unfair” that Stone was recommended to serve at least seven years in prison by prosecutors, before calling into question the selection of a juror on Thursday.
“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.
In between critiques, Trump took to Twitter to praise Barr for “taking charge” of the case, after the entire prosecutorial team withdrew from the case and the government submitted a new sentencing recommendation, saying the original did “not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position.”
“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 said Wednesday.
The repeated public comments sparked Barr to give an interview where he criticized the president for his interventions.
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr 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.”
Barr’s remarks drew support from Trump allies in the Senate, as both Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed with the attorney general’s stance.
“He is the right man at the right time to reform the Department and stand up for the Rule of Law. Attorney General Barr has my complete confidence,” Graham said.
McConnell added that “if the attorney general says [Trump’s tweets are] getting in the way of him doing his job, maybe the president should listen to the attorney general.”
Barr is overseeing U.S. Attorney John Durham’s criminal probe into the origins of the investigations opened by actors in the Obama administration over alleged ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign, which Trump has long suggested was illegal and politically motivated.