Feb. 14 (UPI) — U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that President Donald Trump has never asked him to take certain action in a case but said the president’s tweets about the Justice Department make it difficult for him to do his job.
In an interview with ABC News, Barr said that the president’s early-morning tweet regarding the sentencing recommendation for Trump associate Roger Stone placed him in a difficult position in which he was forced to weigh whether his actions would be perceived has having been guided by Trump.
“Do you go forward with what you think is the right decision or do you pull back because of a tweet? And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be,” Barr said.
He also said he believes it’s time for Trump “to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board or the president,” Barr said. “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.”
The Justice Department on Tuesday announced plans to lower prosecutor’s guidelines seeking to sentence Stone, 67, to up to nine years in prison for obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The announcement came after Trump expressed his displeasure with the nine-year sentencing guidelines, calling them “horrible and very unfair” and a “miscarriage of justice.”
Hours after the Justice Department’s announcement to lower the recommendation, four of the federal prosecutors working on the case — Adam Jed, Jonathan Kravis, Michael Marando and Aaron S.J. Zelinsky — quit, while Kravis and Zelinsky resigned entirely as employees of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.
Barr said he supported the decision to convict Stone but said he thought the sentencing recommendation of seven years to nine years in prison was excessive.
He added that he was surprised the prosecution team withdrew from the case and that it was “preposterous” to suggest he intervened in the case, saying instead that he acted to resolve a dispute within the department over the sentencing recommendation.
“I think the essential role of the attorney general is to keep law enforcement, 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 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.”