The White House says President Trump isn't "bothered" or deterred after Attorney General Bill Barr told ABC News on Thursday that the president's tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job," in an unusual swipe at the president -- although Barr emphasized that Trump "has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case."
Barr's unexpected comments came days after Trump, in a late-night tweet earlier this week, criticized career Justice Department prosecutors for recommending a nine-year prison sentence for his former advisor Roger Stone. Senior DOJ leaders then intervened and adjusted the sentencing recommendation downward, saying it was clearly excessive given Stone's obstruction-related offenses. All four prosecutors on the case stepped down within hours.
"I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases," Barr said. "I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody ... whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president.”
Barr continued, "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 attorney general said he could not "assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we're doing our work with integrity" if the White House appeared involved in DOJ decisionmaking for political or personal reasons.
Barr said he was "of course" ready for blowback from Trump for his comments, although he said he was focused only on doing his job. South Carolina GOP. Sen. Lindsey Graham quickly tweeted support for Barr, saying Barr has his "complete confidence" and that the president did a "a great service" to the DOJ and the "nation as a whole" by appointing Barr.
In response, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Trump "wasn’t bothered" by Barr's remarks, even as she defended the president's social media use.
“The president wasn’t bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions," Grisham said. "President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news. The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law."
Barr and Trump are united in their belief that Trump and his allies have been unfairly targeted, Fox News is told. Republicans have long pointed to the fact that prominent anti-Trump figures, including former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, have avoided prosecution even though they have admitted to leaking and lying to federal investigators.