The White House responded to criticism from Attorney General William Barr on Feb. 13 after he said that President Trump was making it “impossible” for him to do his job by constantly tweeting about the Department of Justice criminal cases.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement shared on Twitter by ABC that the president had not lost confidence in the attorney general and wasn’t phased by the comments he made.
“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.”
The remarks from the Trump administration come after Barr gave an interview with ABC News on Thursday in which he said, “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”
Barr made the comments after President Trump tweeted multiple times this week about the harsh sentencing recommendations that federal prosecutors were seeking against his former campaign aide, Roger Stone.
Prosecutors had asked a judge to sentence Stone to between seven and nine years in jail after he was found guilty last year on seven counts of obstructing a congressional investigation, making numerous false statements to Congress, and witness tampering during the Russia investigation.
Among numerous tweets referencing the sentencing, Trump wrote: “This is a horrible and unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice.”
The Department of Justice ultimately overruled the prosecutors who had made the harsher sentencing recommendation, however the department said that the decision to overrule the sentencing recommendation was made before Trump’s tweets.
Prosecutors Aaron Zelinsky (pdf), Jonathan Kravis (pdf), Adam C. Jed (pdf), and Michael Marando (pdf) subsequently filed notices withdrawing from the case on Feb. 11.
Questions were consequently raised as to whether or not Barr had intervened in the case on behalf of Stone and whether Trump himself may have directly or indirectly placed pressure on the Justice Department.
However, Barr told ABC that the actions of the Justice Department had nothing to with the president or his tweets and that such statements “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, 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 and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”
“I am responsible for everything that happens in the department. But the thing I have the most responsibility for are the issues that are brought to me for decision and I will make those decisions based on what I think is the right thing to do, and I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody, whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial boards, or the president,” Barr continued.
“I’m going to do what I think is right and I cannot do my job here at the department with 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 during the 2016 election. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week.