After Trump's attacks on US Justice Department, Attorney-General William Barr says he will not 'be bullied'

US Attorney General William Barr on Thursday pushed back against Donald Trump after the president’s attacks on the prosecutors, judge and jury in the trial of longtime adviser Roger Stone.
Barr (above) said Trump’s attacks on the Justice Department had made it “impossible for me to do my job”
Barr (above) said Trump’s attacks on the Justice Department had made it “impossible for me to do my job”PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Attorney-General William P. Barr said that President Donald Trump's attacks on the Justice Department had made it "impossible for me to do my job" and asserted that "I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody."

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.

Trump's criticisms "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 in an interview with ABC News.

He said that he would not let the president's attacks influence him.

"I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody," Barr said. "And I said, whether it's Congress, newspaper editorial board, or the president, I'm going to do what I think is right. I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me."

He added, "It's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases."

Hours after prosecutors recommended on Monday that a judge sentence Stone to seven to nine years in prison, Trump attacked their request as "horrible and very unfair" and as a "miscarriage of justice."

The next day, Barr and other senior department officials intervened to lower the recommendation.

The episode ignited a firestorm among rank-and-file lawyers at the Justice Department.

While the officials blamed the original filing on a miscommunication and said they had intended to correct it even before Trump assailed it, four of the prosecutors working on the case withdrew.

Career prosecutors began to express worry that their work could be used to settle political scores.

 

The optics only worsened when Trump congratulated Barr for his decision to step in and ease the sentencing recommendation for Stone.

"Congratulations to Attorney-General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought," Trump said on Twitter.

The president also accused the prosecutors who had secured a conviction against Stone of engaging in an "illegal" investigation.

He incorrectly accused Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the Stone trial, of placing his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in solitary confinement.

Manafort, who was convicted of monetary fraud in a case that grew out of the special counsel's investigation, at one point had a jail cell to himself but was not in solitary confinement, and Jackson was not involved in his placement.

And Trump compared the Stone case to the Russia investigation led by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

"Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress," Trump said, without evidence.

Barr did not immediately respond to those false claims about the prosecutors, the judge and Mueller.

Barr quickly became one of Trump's trusted advisers after becoming attorney general last February - a reversal of the tense relationship that Trump had with Barr's predecessor, Jeff Sessions.

Trump soured on Sessions after he recused himself from oversight of the Russia investigation. Their toxic relationship cast a political shadow over the department and strained dealings between the department and the White House.

Tensions eased when Barr arrived and embraced some of the most divisive aspects of Trump's agenda, often serving as a polished and articulate defender of the president against accusations of abuse of power.