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Attorney general William Barr tells Trump to stop tweeting about cases – live updates Attorney general William Barr tells Trump to stop tweeting about cases – live updates
(32 minutes later)
Attorney general makes unexpected intervention into controversy over Stone case after Trump criticised for interfering in friend’s sentencingAttorney general makes unexpected intervention into controversy over Stone case after Trump criticised for interfering in friend’s sentencing
Hello – this is Lauren Gambino in Washington taking over from Paul Owen. (Thanks Paul!) Today the president heads to Mar-a-Lago, aka the winter White House, but not before we see him speak to National Border Patrol Council Members this afternoon.
Meanwhile, the leading 2020 Democratic hopefuls are fanning out around the country ahead of next week’s caucuses in Nevada, the South Carolina primary and what’s being called the “big Kahuna,” Super Tuesday.
But the big morning news is another tweet from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. An emboldened president earlier assailed the sentencing recommendation of his convicted friend Roger Stone. The Department of Justice, led by attorney general Barr, intervened to lessen the recommendation, eliciting praise from Trump and setting off alarm among prosecutors.
In an interview with ABC on Thursday, Barr said the president’s tweets about about the Justice Department “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”.
On Friday, Trump quoted from that interview in a tweet, saying that while he never asked Barr to intervene directly in a criminal case, he had the “legal right” to do so.
Trump is up and about, and giving us his first – relatively restrained – response to William Barr’s criticism last night (see earlier).
To summarise: I didn’t interfere in the Roger Stone case, but I could have if I wanted to, and if I had, that would have been fine. But I didn’t.
5/5 Bernie Sanders5/5 Bernie Sanders
America’s leading socialist won the New Hampshire primary without any of the confusion that surrounded last week’s Iowa caucuses (which still don’t have an official winner). On top of that the field of centrists who oppose him continues to fracture – with Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar now jostling for space with former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, ex-VP Joe Biden and (soon) billionaire businessman and former mayor of New York Michael Bloomerg. If that split endures, Sanders could end up winning the most delegates in the Democratic race – although perhaps not a majority. That would usher in a second round in which elected officials and party bigwigs or “superdelegates” – many of whom seem terrified at the prospect of a Sanders win – get to play a role, raising the prospect of a hugely contentious battle at the end of the primary process.America’s leading socialist won the New Hampshire primary without any of the confusion that surrounded last week’s Iowa caucuses (which still don’t have an official winner). On top of that the field of centrists who oppose him continues to fracture – with Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar now jostling for space with former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, ex-VP Joe Biden and (soon) billionaire businessman and former mayor of New York Michael Bloomerg. If that split endures, Sanders could end up winning the most delegates in the Democratic race – although perhaps not a majority. That would usher in a second round in which elected officials and party bigwigs or “superdelegates” – many of whom seem terrified at the prospect of a Sanders win – get to play a role, raising the prospect of a hugely contentious battle at the end of the primary process.
4/5 Amy Klobuchar4/5 Amy Klobuchar
The Minnesota centrist was this week’s surprise success story, jumping from single figures in the polls to win nearly 20% of the vote in New Hampshire and place third. Whether Klobuchar can keep this momentum rolling into Nevada and South Carolina is very much up for debate – like Buttigieg, she has negligible support among the minorities whose votes are crucial in those states – but for now she has been thrown an unexpected lifeline. She’ll try to make the most of it with another memorable debate performance in Las Vegas on 19 February.The Minnesota centrist was this week’s surprise success story, jumping from single figures in the polls to win nearly 20% of the vote in New Hampshire and place third. Whether Klobuchar can keep this momentum rolling into Nevada and South Carolina is very much up for debate – like Buttigieg, she has negligible support among the minorities whose votes are crucial in those states – but for now she has been thrown an unexpected lifeline. She’ll try to make the most of it with another memorable debate performance in Las Vegas on 19 February.
3/5 Donald Trump3/5 Donald Trump
Voting to acquit Donald Trump in his impeachment trial last week, moderate Republican senator Susan Collins said: “I believe that the president has learned from this case” and “will be much more cautious in the future”. Trump didn’t seem to get that memo. Instead he fired two of the officials who gave evidence against him in his impeachment – plus one guy’s twin brother for good measure. Then he tweeted that the sentence faced by his friend Roger Stone was a “horrible and unfair … miscarriage of justice”, after which the justice department reduced its sentence recommendation and the entire prosecution team resigned. As the controversy over the independence of his department snowballed, attorney general William Barr – a staunch loyalist – told the president to stop tweeting about criminal cases because it was making his job “impossible”. Was this a plan agreed by Barr and Trump in order to take the heat out of the issue or the start of a damaging split with one of the administration’s big beasts? The jury’s out.Voting to acquit Donald Trump in his impeachment trial last week, moderate Republican senator Susan Collins said: “I believe that the president has learned from this case” and “will be much more cautious in the future”. Trump didn’t seem to get that memo. Instead he fired two of the officials who gave evidence against him in his impeachment – plus one guy’s twin brother for good measure. Then he tweeted that the sentence faced by his friend Roger Stone was a “horrible and unfair … miscarriage of justice”, after which the justice department reduced its sentence recommendation and the entire prosecution team resigned. As the controversy over the independence of his department snowballed, attorney general William Barr – a staunch loyalist – told the president to stop tweeting about criminal cases because it was making his job “impossible”. Was this a plan agreed by Barr and Trump in order to take the heat out of the issue or the start of a damaging split with one of the administration’s big beasts? The jury’s out.
2/5 Michael Bloomberg2/5 Michael Bloomberg
On the one hand, the billionaire continued to rise in the polls – he is now third nationally in polling averages – as he continued spending freely amid palpable media excitement about him joining the Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday (3 March). On the other, his record on race came under fierce scrutiny, with Trump tweeting (and then strangely deleting) a clip of a 2015 speech in which the former New York mayor defended putting “all the cops in minority neighbourhoods … because that’s where all the crime is”. Even before he formally kicked off his campaign, Bloomberg had apologised for his discriminatory “stop and frisk” policy, and was rising in the polls with black voters. But this clip reopened the issue, and was followed by the resurfacing of 2008 comments in which Bloomberg said the crash of that year was caused by banks ending a practice called “redlining” which discriminated against lending to minorities. Rival Elizabeth Warren said his comments meant he was unfit to be the Democratic candidate. “I want to be clear,” she said: “that crisis would not have been averted if the banks had been able to be bigger racists, and anyone who thinks that should not be the leader of our party.”On the one hand, the billionaire continued to rise in the polls – he is now third nationally in polling averages – as he continued spending freely amid palpable media excitement about him joining the Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday (3 March). On the other, his record on race came under fierce scrutiny, with Trump tweeting (and then strangely deleting) a clip of a 2015 speech in which the former New York mayor defended putting “all the cops in minority neighbourhoods … because that’s where all the crime is”. Even before he formally kicked off his campaign, Bloomberg had apologised for his discriminatory “stop and frisk” policy, and was rising in the polls with black voters. But this clip reopened the issue, and was followed by the resurfacing of 2008 comments in which Bloomberg said the crash of that year was caused by banks ending a practice called “redlining” which discriminated against lending to minorities. Rival Elizabeth Warren said his comments meant he was unfit to be the Democratic candidate. “I want to be clear,” she said: “that crisis would not have been averted if the banks had been able to be bigger racists, and anyone who thinks that should not be the leader of our party.”
1/5 Larry David1/5 Larry David
The writer and star of Curb your Enthusiasm came up with a typical witty and intricately plotted gag for the first episode of the show’s new season: Larry buys a “Make America Great Again” hat to wear as a “people repellent” to get him out of unwanted social situations involving his liberal LA peers. The hat also works the other way – a biker furious at Larry’s dangerous driving instantly forgives him when Larry puts on the red cap – and it was this clip that Trump tweeted out, summarising its message as “TOUGH GUYS FOR TRUMP!” While commentators were quick to accuse the president of not getting the joke, it’s more likely that he and his formidable social media guru knew exactly what they were doing – appropriating another piece of pop culture to his ends as he had with Game of Thrones and the Avengers, driving liberals crazy and reducing the joke to the reductive point that fearsome-looking bikers back the president. Poor Larry found himself unwittingly enlisted into the Trump 2020 re-election campaign.The writer and star of Curb your Enthusiasm came up with a typical witty and intricately plotted gag for the first episode of the show’s new season: Larry buys a “Make America Great Again” hat to wear as a “people repellent” to get him out of unwanted social situations involving his liberal LA peers. The hat also works the other way – a biker furious at Larry’s dangerous driving instantly forgives him when Larry puts on the red cap – and it was this clip that Trump tweeted out, summarising its message as “TOUGH GUYS FOR TRUMP!” While commentators were quick to accuse the president of not getting the joke, it’s more likely that he and his formidable social media guru knew exactly what they were doing – appropriating another piece of pop culture to his ends as he had with Game of Thrones and the Avengers, driving liberals crazy and reducing the joke to the reductive point that fearsome-looking bikers back the president. Poor Larry found himself unwittingly enlisted into the Trump 2020 re-election campaign.
0/5 Joe Biden0/5 Joe Biden
The man once expected to dominate the Democratic primary race lost his frontrunner status this week, limping in fifth in New Hampshire and rushing straight on to South Carolina, which may end up being his last stand when it votes on 29 February. Can he hold on to the African American vote that he has always seen as one of his great sources of political strength? In between he also has to compete in Nevada, where Sanders is looking increasingly strong. Biden also found time this week to call a voter “a lying, dog-faced pony soldier” – an incident that did nothing to calm worries about his temperament and acuity. He claims the line comes from a John Wayne movie, but another one comes to mind about the faltering Biden campaign: “Mister, you better find yourself another line of work. This one sure don’t fit your pistol.”The man once expected to dominate the Democratic primary race lost his frontrunner status this week, limping in fifth in New Hampshire and rushing straight on to South Carolina, which may end up being his last stand when it votes on 29 February. Can he hold on to the African American vote that he has always seen as one of his great sources of political strength? In between he also has to compete in Nevada, where Sanders is looking increasingly strong. Biden also found time this week to call a voter “a lying, dog-faced pony soldier” – an incident that did nothing to calm worries about his temperament and acuity. He claims the line comes from a John Wayne movie, but another one comes to mind about the faltering Biden campaign: “Mister, you better find yourself another line of work. This one sure don’t fit your pistol.”
Donald Trump’s attacks on Pete Buttigieg have so far focused on his unusual name and his alleged resemblance to Mad magazine mascot Alfred E Neumann – a slightly outdated reference the young Democrat humorously said he “had to Google”.Donald Trump’s attacks on Pete Buttigieg have so far focused on his unusual name and his alleged resemblance to Mad magazine mascot Alfred E Neumann – a slightly outdated reference the young Democrat humorously said he “had to Google”.
But there has been speculation about whether Trump – or his allies – will eventually attempt to make an issue of Buttigieg’s sexuality if the former South Bend mayor continues his run of strong primary showings.But there has been speculation about whether Trump – or his allies – will eventually attempt to make an issue of Buttigieg’s sexuality if the former South Bend mayor continues his run of strong primary showings.
Yesterday Rush Limbaugh – the rightwing talk-show host honoured by Trump with the Presidential Medal of Freedom last week, gave a taste of what that might look like, speculating that Democrats were worried about “how’s this going to look? Thirty-seven-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage, next to Mr. Man, Donald Trump.’”Yesterday Rush Limbaugh – the rightwing talk-show host honoured by Trump with the Presidential Medal of Freedom last week, gave a taste of what that might look like, speculating that Democrats were worried about “how’s this going to look? Thirty-seven-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage, next to Mr. Man, Donald Trump.’”
Joe Biden – one of the 38-year-old Buttigieg’s main centrist competitors – sprang to his defence. “Pete and I are competitors, but this guy has honor, he has courage, he is smart as hell.”Joe Biden – one of the 38-year-old Buttigieg’s main centrist competitors – sprang to his defence. “Pete and I are competitors, but this guy has honor, he has courage, he is smart as hell.”
Sebastian Gorka, another Trump ally, also made an issue of Buttigieg’s sexuality on his own talk show. “Why is a homosexual man lecturing us about the sanctity of life in the womb? Just a little curious there. Strange, strange,” Gorka said of Buttigieg’s views on abortion. “I thought you’re supposed to stay in your lane as a leftist. You can’t comment on the lived experience of the other.”Sebastian Gorka, another Trump ally, also made an issue of Buttigieg’s sexuality on his own talk show. “Why is a homosexual man lecturing us about the sanctity of life in the womb? Just a little curious there. Strange, strange,” Gorka said of Buttigieg’s views on abortion. “I thought you’re supposed to stay in your lane as a leftist. You can’t comment on the lived experience of the other.”
Trump himself, however, was asked about whether Americans would vote for a gay man as president on Cleveland’s Newsradio WTAM yesterday. “I think so,” he said. “I think there would be some that wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be among that group, to be honest with you.”Trump himself, however, was asked about whether Americans would vote for a gay man as president on Cleveland’s Newsradio WTAM yesterday. “I think so,” he said. “I think there would be some that wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be among that group, to be honest with you.”
Two leading Republican voices came out in favour of Barr in the dispute yesterday, with Senator Mitch McConnell, the party’s leader in the Senate, saying: “If the attorney general says it’s getting in the way of doing his job, maybe the president should listen.”Two leading Republican voices came out in favour of Barr in the dispute yesterday, with Senator Mitch McConnell, the party’s leader in the Senate, saying: “If the attorney general says it’s getting in the way of doing his job, maybe the president should listen.”
Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally who was scathing about the impeachment trial against the president, said Barr was “the right man at the right time to reform the department and stand up for the rule of law”.Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally who was scathing about the impeachment trial against the president, said Barr was “the right man at the right time to reform the department and stand up for the rule of law”.
Perhaps more significant in terms of influencing Trump’s response was feedback from his favourite TV channel, Fox News.Perhaps more significant in terms of influencing Trump’s response was feedback from his favourite TV channel, Fox News.
Sean Hannity put a brave face on the dispute, stressing to viewers that Barr had said Trump had not discussed Stone’s sentencing with him. “In fact, the attorney general, he takes orders from no one,” Hannity said. “And by the way, he shouldn’t. He needs to remain independent.”Sean Hannity put a brave face on the dispute, stressing to viewers that Barr had said Trump had not discussed Stone’s sentencing with him. “In fact, the attorney general, he takes orders from no one,” Hannity said. “And by the way, he shouldn’t. He needs to remain independent.”
But Lou Dobbs – another favourite of the president’s – was openly critical – not just angry, but disappointed too.But Lou Dobbs – another favourite of the president’s – was openly critical – not just angry, but disappointed too.
“I guess I am so disappointed in Bill Barr,” he said, adding: “It’s a damn shame when he doesn’t get what this president has gone through, and what the American people have gone through, and what his charge is as attorney general.”“I guess I am so disappointed in Bill Barr,” he said, adding: “It’s a damn shame when he doesn’t get what this president has gone through, and what the American people have gone through, and what his charge is as attorney general.”
He added:He added:
Conventional legal opinion holds that the justice department should be independent from White House pressure.Conventional legal opinion holds that the justice department should be independent from White House pressure.
Good morning. Good morning. US attorney general William Barr made an unexpected intervention into the ballooning controversy over Donald Trump’s interference in the trial of his friend Roger Stone.
US attorney general William Barr made an unexpected intervention into the ballooning controversy over Donald Trump’s interference in the trial of his friend Roger Stone.
Barr – seen as a staunch Trump loyalist – publicly rebuked the president, saying that Trump’s tweets about the Stone case “make it impossible for me to do my job” and adding that he would not be “bullied or influenced” over justice department decisions.Barr – seen as a staunch Trump loyalist – publicly rebuked the president, saying that Trump’s tweets about the Stone case “make it impossible for me to do my job” and adding that he would not be “bullied or influenced” over justice department decisions.
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC.“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC.
The attorney general claimed Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case”, but he acknowledged the president’s comments undercut his authority.The attorney general claimed Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case”, but he acknowledged the president’s comments undercut his authority.
The initial reaction from the White House was relatively calm. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president “wasn’t bothered” by Barr’s comments, adding: “[Barr] has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions. President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country.”The initial reaction from the White House was relatively calm. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president “wasn’t bothered” by Barr’s comments, adding: “[Barr] has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions. President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country.”
Whether that line holds when Trump gets up this morning and begins his effective use of social media for the day remains to be seen. The president has a low tolerance for criticism, whether from friends or enemies – as former chief of staff John Kelly saw yesterday.Whether that line holds when Trump gets up this morning and begins his effective use of social media for the day remains to be seen. The president has a low tolerance for criticism, whether from friends or enemies – as former chief of staff John Kelly saw yesterday.
Barr’s motivations are also in question. He has been called to testify to Congress about alleged political interference at the justice department, and may be preparing the groundwork for that. He may also be attempting to save his reputation – which has been shredded since he joined the Trump administration last year, particularly after his handling of the Mueller report.Barr’s motivations are also in question. He has been called to testify to Congress about alleged political interference at the justice department, and may be preparing the groundwork for that. He may also be attempting to save his reputation – which has been shredded since he joined the Trump administration last year, particularly after his handling of the Mueller report.
Barr characterized the report in ways that appeared to absolve Trump of wrongdoing on numerous occasions, even though the redacted version of the Mueller report released in April 2019 showed nearly a dozen instances in which the president or his campaign sought to obstruct justice.Barr characterized the report in ways that appeared to absolve Trump of wrongdoing on numerous occasions, even though the redacted version of the Mueller report released in April 2019 showed nearly a dozen instances in which the president or his campaign sought to obstruct justice.
The New York Times suggests:The New York Times suggests:
The attorney general’s rebuke comes amid an intensifying fallout over the Stone case, after the justice department overruled its own prosecutors who had recommended that Stone, a longtime Trump ally and confidant, be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison. The four prosecutors on the case subsequently resigned in protest. Stone is due to be sentenced on 20 February.The attorney general’s rebuke comes amid an intensifying fallout over the Stone case, after the justice department overruled its own prosecutors who had recommended that Stone, a longtime Trump ally and confidant, be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison. The four prosecutors on the case subsequently resigned in protest. Stone is due to be sentenced on 20 February.
We’ll cover the continuing fallout from this and all US political news here throughout the day.We’ll cover the continuing fallout from this and all US political news here throughout the day.
Trump is heading to Mar-a-Lago after his meetings today, while the Democratic candidates competing to take him on in November continue to campaign across the country. Bernie Sanders will be in North Carolina and Texas; Pete Buttigieg in Nevada and California; and Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer in Nevada.Trump is heading to Mar-a-Lago after his meetings today, while the Democratic candidates competing to take him on in November continue to campaign across the country. Bernie Sanders will be in North Carolina and Texas; Pete Buttigieg in Nevada and California; and Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer in Nevada.
Oh, and by the way:Oh, and by the way: