Attorney General William Barr on Thursday criticized President Donald Trump for tweeting about Justice Department cases in an extraordinary defense of rank-and-file prosecutors in an interview with ABC News.
“To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job,” Barr said, “and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”
The comments come amid scrutiny over Trump’s influence on the Department of Justice after he criticized a recommended sentence for former Trump adviser Roger Stone. The Department of Justice then backed off Stone’s recommended sentence of seven to nine years behind bars and Trump thanked Barr for taking control of the case.
The Department of Justice has traditionally been independent of presidential influence in the decades since the Watergate scandal, in which President Richard Nixon used the powers of the Justice Department for his own political gain. Trump’s tweet criticizing prosecutors in the Stone case, and the Justice Department’s subsequent decision to undercut them with a lighter sentence recommendation, led to all four prosecutors who worked on the case to resign from their positions.
Barr said Trump’s tweets on the Stone case fed criticisms that the department is working on the President’s behalf.
“The fact that the tweets are out there and correspond to things we’re doing at the department sort of give grist to the mill and that’s why I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about the Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.