Attorney General William Barr shot back on Thursday at President Donald Trump's recent stream of tweets, calling for his boss to stop discussing criminal cases publicly and saying he will not "be bullied or influenced by anybody."
"I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases," Barr told ABC News in an exclusive interview.
Later in the afternoon, in an appearance on Fox News' "Special Report With Bret Baier," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., seemed to side with Barr on the issue.
Though McConnell, like Barr, is often derided by critics as being wholly aligned with Trump, in in this case he said the president ought to follow the attorney general's cue.
"The president made a great choice when he picked Bill Barr to be the attorney general," McConnell told host Bret Baier. "I think the president should listen to his advice."
Questioned at further length by Baier, McConnell elaborated: "I think that if the attorney general says [tweeting] is getting in the way of doing his job, then maybe the president should listen to the attorney general."
Following McConnell's interview, Fox News reported, the White House responded to Barr's critique, saying he is fully empowered to offer his opinion on the president. In a statement Fox attributed to Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, the White House said Trump has "full faith and confidence" in Barr to do his job and added that the president has used social media effectively to fight for the American people "against injustices in our country including the fake news."
In his comments earlier in the day, Barr did assert that Trump "has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case," but he added that the president's tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job."
Barr made the comments just days after his Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors — who had recommended in a court filing that Trump's longtime ally and confidant Roger Stone be sentenced to 7-9 years in prison — and took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek.
The department did not offer an amended number.
The department insisted the decision to undo the sentencing recommendation was made Monday night — before Trump blasted the recommendation on Twitter as "very horrible and unfair" — and prosecutors had not spoken to the White House about it. The about-face prompted the four attorneys who prosecuted Stone to quit the case. One left the Justice Department altogether.
"I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody, whether it's Congress, newspaper editorial boards, or the president," Barr told ABC News. "I'm gonna do what I think is right.
"I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me."
Stone was convicted in November of tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week.
"What they did to Roger Stone was a disgrace," Trump said Thursday during an interview with Geraldo Rivera on Newsradio WTAM1100.
"I don't think they quit the case. I think they felt they got caught," the president said of the Stone prosecutors. "I don't think they quit for moral reasons. I think they got caught in the act by me."
"Now what am I going to do, sit back and let a man go to jail maybe for nine years when murderers aren't going to jail. You have some of the most serious horrible rapists and everything else. They don't go to jail for nine years."
Barr has been a steady ally of the president's since he returned to the top post at the Justice Department last year. He cleared the president of obstruction of justice even when special counsel Robert Mueller had pointedly declined to do so, and has declared the FBI's Russia investigation, which resulted in charges against Stone, had been based on a "bogus narrative."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Eric Mack ✉
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
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