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President Donald Trump is apparently unconcerned that his attorney general wishes the president would keep his criticisms of the Justice Department to himself.
Attorney General William Barr had vented his frustration over Trump’s tweets during a Thursday interview.
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC News.
But the White House said Barr is free to speak his mind.
“The President wasn’t bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
“President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news. The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law.”
Earlier this week, Trump tweeted his outrage over a Justice Department sentencing recommendation for his former adviser, Roger Stone, who has been convicted of witness tampering and lying to Congress.
The sentencing request was later scaled back, but Barr has said that was because of an internal departmental concern and not Trump’s tweets.
On Friday, Trump himself tweeted about Barr’s comments about Trump’s tweets.
“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
“‘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!” Trump tweeted.
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Barr said Thursday that Trump’s tweets on active cases cause him problems.
“To have public statements and tweets about the department, about 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 and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” Barr told ABC.
“I have a problem with some of, some of the tweets,” Barr added. “As I said at my confirmation hearing, I think the essential role of the attorney general is to keep law enforcement, the criminal process sacrosanct to make sure there is no political interference in it.”
“And I have done that and I will continue to do that,” he said. “And I’m happy to say that, in fact the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.”
Barr said that he had also decided the sentencing recommendation in the Stone case was improper before Trump tweeted, and argued that the tweets put him in a bad position.
“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.
ABC News chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas asked Barr is he was concerned about Trump’s reaction to Barr’s comments about his boss’ tweeting.
Recalling comments he made during his confirmation process, Barr said he makes decisions “based on what I think is the right thing to do and I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody, and I said at the time whether it’s Congress, a newspaper, editorial boards or the president.”
“I’m going to do what I think is right. And you know, I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” Barr said.
Barr was asked if wanted Trump to react to his comments.
“I hope he will react,” he said.
“And respect it?” Thomas asked.
“Yes,” Barr said.
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