The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr delivered an extraordinary rebuke of President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying that his attacks on the Justice Department had made it “impossible for me to do my job” and that “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”
Barr has been among the president’s most loyal allies and denigrated by Democrats as nothing more than his personal lawyer, but he publicly challenged Trump in a way that no sitting Cabinet member has.
“Whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board or the president, I’m going to do what I think is right,” Barr said in an interview with ABC News, echoing comments he made a year ago at his confirmation hearing. “I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”
Barr’s remarks were aimed at containing the fallout from the department’s botched handling of its sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone, who was convicted of seven felonies in a bid to obstruct a congressional investigation that threatened the president. After career prosecutors initially recommended a sentence of seven to nine years in prison, Trump spent days attacking them, the department and the judge presiding over Stone’s case.
Such tweets “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,” Barr said.
He added, “It’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”
Barr had been contemplating how to respond since he became aware of Trump’s attacks on the department, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Ultimately, Barr concluded that he had to speak out to preserve his ability to do his job effectively, the person said.
Trump did not immediately respond on Twitter, but his press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, played down the attorney general’s remarks. “The president wasn’t bothered by the comments at all, and he has the right, just like every American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions,” she said.