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Trump claims he has 'legal right' to intervene in criminal cases Trump claims he has 'legal right' to intervene in criminal cases
(32 minutes later)
President reasserts his right to tweet on judicial issues following William Barr’s warning the posts ‘make it impossible for me to do my job’President reasserts his right to tweet on judicial issues following William Barr’s warning the posts ‘make it impossible for me to do my job’
Donald Trump has responded to a plea from his attorney general William Barr to not tweet about ongoing legal cases with a tweet defending what he said was his “legal right” to ask his top law enforcement official to get intervene in a criminal case. Donald Trump has ignored a plea from his attorney general, William Barr, to not tweet about ongoing legal cases, by using his Twitter account to say he has a “legal right” to do so.
On Thursday Barr warned the US president in a high profile television interview that his social media interjections “make it impossible for me to do my job”. Barr delivered a remarkable public rebuke of the president just hours earlier, saying that Trump’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job” and that he would not be “bullied or influenced” over justice department decisions.
Barr also told ABC News: “It’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.” The comments came days after the justice department signaled it would reduce the recommended sentence facing convicted political fixer and Trump ally Roger Stone after Trump tweeted that prosecutors’ existing recommendation of seven to nine years in prison was overly harsh. Barr’s comments came as he faced fierce criticism from Democrats over his intervention in the case of Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of Trump who was convicted in November. Barr this week overruled prosecutors who had recommended that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison.
The shift in guidelines led to the swift resignation of the four prosecutors in the case and triggered national uproar over the perception of a president directing his attorney general to help a friend’s legal case and amid fears of an erosion of the rule of law. The four prosecutors on the case resigned in protest after Barr’s intervention. The move prompted a crisis of credibility for the US justice system, as top lawyers warned it could undermine the integrity of federal prosecutors, politicize the legal handling of Trump’s friends and enemies, and ultimately threaten democracy itself.
But on Friday Trump almost immediately showed Barr’s plea to not tweet had fallen on deaf ears. But on Friday, Trump almost immediately showed Barr’s attempt to mute the president’s tweets had fallen on deaf ears.
In an early morning tweet, Trump referred to Barr’s assertion that Trump had never asked him to do anything related to a criminal case, including Stone’s. “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 said in the post.In an early morning tweet, Trump referred to Barr’s assertion that Trump had never asked him to do anything related to a criminal case, including Stone’s. “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 said in the post.
Stone was convicted in November of tampering with a witness and obstructing the congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week.
In an interview with ABC News, which aired on Thursday night, Barr said he wanted to lead the justice department without being influence by outside forces, including the president.
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said.
In his interview, Barr emphasized Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case”, but he acknowledged the president’s comments undercut his authority.
Barr warned Trump in a high-profile television interview that his social media interjections “make it impossible for me to do my job”.
The president’s fresh assertion of his right to tweet on judicial issues is likely to further complicate the relationship between Barr and Trump which prior to the ABC interview had been seen as very close.The president’s fresh assertion of his right to tweet on judicial issues is likely to further complicate the relationship between Barr and Trump which prior to the ABC interview had been seen as very close.
But some commentators were skeptical that Barr was actually trying to distance himself from the president or was working to protect the justice department from interference. But some commentators remained skeptical about the motivations behind Barr’s interview, and whether he was trying to distance himself from t Trump or was working to protect the justice department from interference.
“I don’t think he’s fit for the office because I think what he’s done is undertake a campaign to undermine the Department of Justice,” former deputy attorney general Donald Ayer, told MSNBC.
Ayer, who preceded Barr as deputy attorney general under George HW Bush, added that Barr’s “pattern of conduct” since becoming attorney general involves “intervening out of usual course to protect Donald Trump”.
Former US attorney Preet Bharara tweeted: “I think Bill Barr is shrewd, deliberate, smart, calculating, careful, and full of it.”Former US attorney Preet Bharara tweeted: “I think Bill Barr is shrewd, deliberate, smart, calculating, careful, and full of it.”
“I don’t think he’s fit for the office because I think what he’s done is undertake a campaign to undermine the Department of Justice,” Donald Ayer, former deputy attorney general told MSNBC.
Ayer, who preceded Barr as deputy attorney general under George HW Bush, added that Barr’s “pattern of conduct” since becoming attorney general involves “intervening out of usual course to protect Donald Trump”.
Matthew Miller, an Obama-era justice department official, wrote on Twitter: “Don’t be fooled by this one, people. Barr is telling the president that his impulsiveness is making it politically harder for him to deliver the results he wants. If Trump would just shut up, Barr could take care of him much more effectively.”
“The best indicator of future performance is past performance,” wrote the US congresswoman Val Demings, of Florida. “Attorney General Barr’s past performance was to mislead the American people (about the Mueller Report) in order to cover up wrongdoing by the president. Why shouldn’t we believe that’s exactly what he’s doing now?”
But the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, speaking on Fox News, said Trump should heed Barr’s advice. “I think the president should listen,” McConnell, a powerful Republican, said. “If the attorney general says it’s getting in the way of doing his job, the president should listen to the attorney general.”
In his interview with ABC, Barr added that public statements and tweets about the department and its pending 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”.
He said: “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody ... whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president. 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.”
The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, responded by saying the president “wasn’t bothered” by Barr’s comments: “[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 Department of Justice has insisted the decision to undo the sentencing recommendation for Stone was made on Monday night, before Trump’s tweet calling the recommended sentence “very horrible and unfair”.
Barr is not the only high-profile figure to have criticized Trump this week. On Wednesday, the former White House chief of staff John Kelly spoke out against the treatment of the fired impeachment inquiry witness Lt Col Alexander Vindman.
Agencies contributed reporting