In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Attorney General Bill Barr said on Thursday that President Donald Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” but said he should stop tweeting about Justice Department matters because his tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.”
Barr has been a strong advocate of Trump’s law-and-order agenda and has defended Trump many times. However, Trump’s recent tweets regarding the Stone case created the media narrative of the president improperly influencing an ongoing case.
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said to ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.
Knowing what happens to officials who publicly break with Trump, Thomas asked Barr if he was prepared to accept the consequences of his public criticism. “Of course,” he said.
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr continued. “I’m gonna 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 Trump’s tweet put him in an awkward position because he had already discussed with staff about the excessive sentencing recommendations for Roger Stone, and Trump’s tweet undermined the appearance of independence in that decision. “Do you go forward with what you think is the right decision or do you pull back because of the tweet?” Barr asked. “And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be.”
Thomas asked Barr if he has a problem with Trump’s tweets. “Yes. Well, I have a problem with some of, some of the tweets. 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.”
“The president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr insisted.
Barr’s sentiments echo what many of his supporters feel: that Trump needs to cut back on his tweeting. Many others, of course, are all for the president tweeting his message directly to the people and not through the filter of the media, but it seems like there have been one-too-many cases of Trump’s tweets turning innocuous situations into media frenzies. Given the way the media tends to pile on at even the suggestion of something sinister, there is arguably plenty of justification for Trump’s tweeting to be curtailed, especially in an election year.