- Barr's criticism of Trump in an ABC News interview raised a lot of eyebrows.
- The attorney general said Trump should stop tweeting through the Justice Department after it enabled him to intervene in the case of long-time informal Trump advisor Roger Stone.
- Some, including Congress Democrats, suggested that Barr and Trump coordinate a plan to mitigate the turmoil over Barr's unorthodox intervention in Stone's case. But there is no evidence of this.
- "It is more than likely that the Attorney General made his public comments on his own initiative, but with the implicit understanding that the President would not be overly upset," a Washington-based national security lawyer told Insider.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
Attorney General William Barr voiced rare criticism of President Donald Trump an interview with ABC News This was broadcast on Thursday and prompted the president's critics to speculate about his motives.
Barr told ABC that Trump's tweeting habits "made it impossible for me to do my job."
"I think it's time to stop tweeting about Justice Department criminal matters," said Barr.
—ABC News (@ABC) February 13, 2020
In response, some Democrats and media officials, without evidence, suggested that Barr Trump's approval had been given to criticize him and say that Justice Barren's decisions after Barr's controversial intervention in the case of longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone are still independent, which is what his own prosecutors were alarming.
For example, Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, tweeted: "Slow down your role if you think Barr is breaking Trump. This was a carefully crafted message to cool down disgruntled DOJ attys who undercut Barr and others avoid." internal dispute. This news does not come sideways for Trump because he has already done what Trump wanted. "
Barr, Democratic MP Val Demings from Florida, who was an impeachment manager in Trump's Senate trial, suggested "put under a blanket" with Trump when it came to criticizing the President's tweets.
—OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) February 14, 2020
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment from insiders.
The president has a well-known reputation for responding to virtually all public problems with Vitriol, but has so far failed to do so, according to Barr, which may have been the reason why so many questions about the situation have been raised.
"The president didn't care about the comments at all and, like every American citizen, has the right to express his opinion publicly," said White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham an explanation on Thursday.
However, the president tweeted about his self-exercised right to tell the attorney general what to do, even after Barr said Trump should stop tweeting about the Justice Department.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2020
Since joining the Trump administration, Barr has been repeated and widely accused of behaving more like the president's personal lawyer than the attorney general. The Attorney General is the country's top law enforcement officer and is responsible for overseeing the establishment of the presidency, but not the president himself.
Barr's story of getting involved in situations where the president is involved in an unorthodox way has prompted many in Washington (and beyond) to accuse him of undermining his credibility by not acting as an independent lawyer ,
Still, there is no evidence that Barr's comments on Trump's tweets were part of a carefully crafted plan, but such theories were still floating around.
"The Attorney General is more than likely to have made his public comments on his own initiative, but with the implicit understanding that the President would not be overly upset," said Bradley P. Moss, a Washington-based national security insider lawyer ,
"The phrase used by the Attorney General was so subtle that the President may not have offended her as we expected. In the end, that was probably the point: the Attorney General was ready to see the department standing up to cool down the internal uprising without jeopardizing his job, "added Moss.
Barr's intervention in Stone's case was highly unusual
Stone was convicted in seven cases in November, including for obstructing the judiciary, forging witnesses, and making false statements. The indictment related to his communication with WikiLeaks in 2016 and his efforts to prevent a witness in the Russia investigation from testifying before Congress or working with the FBI. Stone was an informal adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign season and in close communication with the president during that time.
All four prosecutors who oversaw the federal government case against the experienced GOP strategist withdrew from the case earlier this week after senior Justice Department officials, under Barr's orders, publicly overturned Stone's sentencing recommendation.
Trump had complained in a tweet about Stone's recommendation and described it as "terrible and very unfair". After Barr intervened, he applauded the attorney general.
"Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr, who has taken on a case that was completely out of control and perhaps shouldn't even have been brought." said the president in a tweet.
Ship: & # 39; Barr doesn't fool anyone & # 39;
Barr also said in the ABC interview that it was "absurd" to claim that he "intervened" in Stone's case, claiming that he had only helped settle a dispute over a recommendation for a judgment.
The attorney general said he had consulted privately with Department of Justice officials on Monday and that Trump's tweet, in which he complained that the sentence was too harsh, had put him in an uncomfortable position.
And he rejected the idea that Trump had instructed him to intervene in Stone's case or in a criminal matter, despite criticizing the president's social media habits.
"Well, I have a problem with some, some of the tweets. As I said at my confirmation hearing, I think the Attorney General's essential role is to maintain law enforcement, making the criminal process untouchable to ensure that there is no political one. " Interference. And I did, and I will continue to do so, "said Barr, adding," And I am happy to say that the President never actually asked me to do anything in a criminal case. "
Given Barr's record of unconventional interference on behalf of the President, a number of people in the legal world and beyond have expressed skepticism about what he said.
"The attorney general's explanation of why he thought it necessary to intervene in the Stone case is somewhat difficult to swallow," Moss told Insider. "Prosecutors are constantly issuing these sentencing recommendations without the approval of the Attorney General himself."
"This is absolutely nonsensical theater and I'm not buying it for a moment. Barr interfered in the Stone case for purely political reasons and Barr's only problem is the inconvenience that Trump says it out loud," said Susan Hennessey, a senior fellow in National security in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, tweeted.
Likewise Preet Bharara, former US attorney for the southern district of New York, in a tweet said Barr was "smart, deliberate, smart, calculating, careful, and full of it".
And California Democratic MP Adam Schiff, who served as the house's senior impeachment manager, twittered: "Barr admits he intervened in the conviction of a man who lied to Congress to cover up the President. He is only annoyed that Trump's tweets have made the political nature of his intervention obvious. Barr is not deceiving anyone. He's a funny accomplice to Trump's attack on the rule of law. "