- Attorney General William Barr ABC News said in an exclusive interview that President Donald Trump "never" asked him "to do anything in a criminal case."
- He also said his main priority was to make sure that he and the DOJ were free from political interference or pressure.
- His comments are intriguing, particularly given that Barr has repeatedly surrendered to Trump's demands since taking on the top job at the DOJ, compared to his predecessor Jeff Sessions, who protected the Russia probe from political interference.
- The Attorney General has a long tradition of intervening in legal matters of interest to Trump and using Trump's conspiratorial language against his perceived political enemies. Barr also said that he and Trump meet several times a week.
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Attorney General William Barr ABC News said in an exclusive interview that President Donald Trump "never" asked him "to do anything in a criminal case."
"I will not be bullied or influenced by anyone … whether it is Congress, a newspaper office or the President," Barr told the outlet. "I'll do what I think is right. And you know … I can't do my job here in the department with a constant background comment that undercuts me."
He partially referred to Trump's tweets, which often require the Justice Department to be lenient with its employees and act against its perceived political enemies.
"I think it's time to stop tweeting about Justice Department criminal matters," said Barr because they "make it impossible for me to do my job."
Most recently, Barr and senior executives overruled the verdict that prosecutors who are handling the federal case against Trump's employee Roger Stone have brought to court this week.
Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Stone to seven to nine years in prison after he was convicted of seven crimes related to disability, witness manipulation, and false statements.
Shortly after the prosecution submitted their recommendation, Trump went to Twitter to say it was "terrible and unfair" and a "judicial error." The tweet was one of several in which Trump praised Stone, attacked the judges and prosecutors, and apologized to the former GOP strategist.
Hours later, senior DOJ officials overturned prosecutors, saying the original recommendation was "extreme and exaggerated and disproportionate to Stone's offenses," and recommended a lower sentence.
The next day, Trump congratulated Barr on the decision.
"Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr, who handled a case that was completely out of control and might not even have been brought," tweeted the president.
The series of events alarmed law enforcement veterans, some insiders said they could not remember a "worse day" for the DOJ.
But Barr told ABC News that he had already decided to ask for a smaller sentence in Stone's case before Trump blew up his tweet, describing the original recommendation as "terrible and unfair," and the president's public comments put him in a difficult position.
"Do you continue with what you think is the right decision or do you withdraw because of the tweet? And that just shows how annoying those tweets can be," he told ABC News.
The Attorney General also stressed that his primary responsibility was to ensure that the DOJ was free from political interference.
"And I did, and I will continue to do so," said Barr.
Meet Trump's demands
His comments are intriguing, particularly given that Barr has repeatedly surrendered to Trump's demands since taking on the top job at the DOJ, compared to his predecessor Jeff Sessions, who protected the Russia probe from political interference.
- Earlier this week, Barr announced that the DOJ was setting up an "admission process" to review the information Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani from Ukraine is collecting against former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump's democratic rivals for 2020.
- According to media reports, Trump has privately asked Giuliani to continue looking for Biden and to forward him to the DOJ. And during a phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, Trump repeatedly pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to work with Barr and Giuliani to investigate Bidens for falsifying corruption allegations.
- According to NBC News, senior DOJ officials intervened last month in the government's case against former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, but has since tried to withdraw his plea and adopt a more combative stance against prosecutors take.
- While the Flynn prosecutor initially recommended a prison sentence of up to six months, senior officials interjected and revised the recommendation to no longer apply for parole for the former national security advisor.
- Barr interfered in the FBI's Russia investigation last year to free Trump from the judiciary's handicap, although special adviser Robert Mueller's team indicated that the president did so if he had confidence Not commit a crime, they would have said.
- Perhaps most notably, Barr personally oversees an internal investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation after Trump has repeatedly requested that his DOJ "investigate the investigators."
- The Attorney General has also publicly considered the conspiratorial language Trump uses to refer to the career officials who oversaw the Russia investigation. Last year, Barr accused the FBI of "spying on" the Trump campaign, although the DOJ inspector general hadn't found any evidence of the "Spygate" conspiracy theory that Trump had spawned.
- Barr also went out of his way to insist that there was "no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia, although "collusion" is not a legal term.
But the attorney general insisted on Thursday that he was not available to the president.
"If (Trump) said," Go to investigate someone because "- and you feel that he is a political opponent, the Attorney General shouldn't do that," Barr said.