Donald Trump maintained Friday that he has the legal right to intervene in criminal cases in response to Attorney General William Barr’s criticism that the president’s tweeting has made his job “impossible.”
“This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” Trump said on Twitter Friday.
7:11 AM, Feb. 14, 2020
Trump’s tweet marked his first public response to Barr’s televised interview on Thursday in which he said the president’s tweets about the Justice Department and pending cases make it difficult for him to do his job.
Barr’s department was thrust into a crisis when it reversed course this week on a recommendation about how long Roger Stone, one of Trump’s longtime associates, should go to prison for witness tampering and lying to Congress. The move prompted four career prosecutors to quit the case but earned Barr kudos from the president and fueled criticism that the Justice Department has become politicized.
“It’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said in an interview with ABC News.
Trump’s tweet responded directly to Barr’s comment in the interview that the president hasn’t attempted to dictate the Justice Department’s stance in any criminal matter.
“As I said at my confirmation hearing, I think the essential role of the attorney general is to keep law enforcement, the criminal process sacrosanct to make sure there is no political interference in it,” Barr said. “And I have done that and I will continue to do that. And I am happy to say that, in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.”
The president’s Friday morning tweet raised questions about whether he took Barr’s remarks with the equanimity suggested earlier by his spokeswoman.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement on Thursday that Trump “wasn’t bothered by the comments at all, and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions.”