United States Attorney General William Barr took a rare public swipe at President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying that the president’s tweets about Justice Department prosecutors and 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, by taking the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek. The department did not offer an amended number.
Barr himself has been under fire for the Justice Department action and Thursday’s comment served as a defence of his own integrity.
“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 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 is scheduled to be sentenced next week.
Barr said he was “of course” prepared to deal with any ramifications from the president for his comments.
“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.