Attorney General William Barr has told people close to President Donald Trump that he is considering quitting his position if the president does not stop tweeting about Justice Department cases, The Washington Post and Associated Press reported Tuesday night.
The Post report cites three administration officials. The Associated Press also quoted unnamed officials telling them Barr is considering leaving if Trump doesn't stop his tweets about the DOJ.
Barr has spoken to people close to Trump both inside and outside of the White House, according to the Post.
Officials in the White House told the Post he is not going to stop tweeting about the Justice Department, and he sees pointing out misconduct at the FBI and DOJ as good political messaging.
Barr's comments about Trump's tweets came during an interview with ABC News just days after his Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors — who had recommended in a court filing that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison — and took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek. All four prosecutors from Stone's trial quit the case and one left the Justice Department altogether.
The reversal came after Trump blasted the original sentencing recommendation as “very horrible and unfair,” though officials have insisted the decision to make a new recommendation came before Trump's tweet.
"I’m happy to say that, in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case," Barr said in the ABC News interview. "However, to have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people ... 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 in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity."
The attorney general had been sharing the same sentiment privately with Trump for several weeks, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The person was not authorized to discuss Barr's private conversations and requested anonymity.
The next day, Trump ignored Barr’s request and insisted that he has the "legal right" to intervene in criminal cases and sidestep the Justice Department’s historical independence.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he’s considering suing those involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and opined that his confidant Roger Stone deserved a new trial after being convicted of witness tampering and obstruction.
Barr, serving in his second stint as attorney general, sought to paint himself as an independent leader who would not bow to political pressure. But Democrats have repeatedly accused Barr of acting more like the president’s personal attorney than the attorney general. Barr proved to be a largely reliable Trump ally and defender of presidential power.
In recent days, a stream of Trump allies, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, have issued statements expressing their full confidence in the attorney general.
But Trump has a low tolerance for criticism, especially public criticism, from his allies and often fires back in kind.
Asked about reports that Barr might resign as he prepared to board Air Force One for a trip to California earlier Tuesday, Trump said, "I do make his job harder, I do agree with that."
Trump called Barr "a very straight shooter" who is "working against a lot of people that don't want to see good things happen, in my opinion. That's my opinion, not his opinion. You'll have to ask what his opinion is."
Barr has come under fire for recommending a lower sentence for Trump ally Roger Stone following a tweet from Trump. Barr has said the tweet did not influence him, but the four DOJ prosecutors involved in the case resigned, and more than 2,000 former DOJ employees have signed a letter calling on his resignation over the case.
Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One Tuesday what he had already said earlier in a tweet, that he chose not to be involved in the case, though he does have the authority to be involved if he so chooses.
"I am actually the chief law enforcement officer of the country, but I've chosen not to be involved," Trump said. "He (Barr) is a man of great integrity, but I would be involved if I wanted to be."
Barr is one of the president’s closest allies in the administration and has been a staunch defender of Trump’s policy decisions. But considering resigning from his post suggests he sees the Justice Department’s reputation as an institution that makes decisions on criminal cases independently, unmoved and unbound by political sway, as more important than his allegiance to the president.
Some Democrats have called for Barr to resign, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on the Justice Department’s inspector general to open an investigation into Barr's role in the sentencing reversal. More than 2,000 former Justice Department prosecutors called on Barr to resign in a letter released Sunday, insisting that Barr’s decision to intervene in Stone’s case tarnished the department’s reputation.
In recent days, a stream of Trump allies, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, have issued statements expressing their full confidence in the attorney general. But Trump has a low tolerance for criticism, especially public criticism, from his allies and often fires back in kind.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Graham released a joint statement on Tuesday, calling Barr a “man of the highest character and unquestionable integrity.”
“I think he's doing an excellent job,” Trump said of the attorney general on Tuesday. “He's a strong guy.”
Newmax writer Eric Mack and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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