It has been a tumultuous month for U.S. Attorney General William Barr. After public drama about the Roger Stone case and President Trump's tweets, Barr's public statements increasingly make it seem he's at the end of his tether. Will William Barr resign? He's facing pressure from all corners.
According to ABC News, part of the Barr-Stone-Trump controversy was rooted in the fact that on Feb. 11, the Department of Justice (DOJ) publicly disagreed with prosecutors' recommended sentence of seven to nine years in prison for Stone, who was convicted in November 2019 on seven counts related to witness tampering and lying to Congress. Stone's lawyers had said probation would be appropriate. The public switch-up from the DOJ came just hours after Trump tweeted that prosecutors' recommendation was "horrible and very unfair." After the change, more than 2,000 DOJ officials wrote a letter calling for Barr's resignation, accusing him of political interference in a high-profile case. The DOJ did not respond to Elite Daily's request for comment from Barr on the letter.
The DOJ clarified on Feb. 11 that it had made its decision about the length of Stone's sentence prior to Trump's tweet, but Barr told ABC News on Thursday, Feb. 13 the president's tweets about the Justice Department make it difficult for him to do his job. "To have public statements and tweets made about the department ... [and its cases and staff] make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we're doing our work with integrity," Barr told ABC News.
Barr added he would not "be bullied or influenced by anybody," including Trump. But a Feb. 18 Washington Post report indicated Barr was perhaps more frustrated by Trump's tweets than he initially indicated. Citing three unnamed administration officials, the Post reported Barr had considered quitting over Trump's tweets about ongoing DOJ investigations. The DOJ did not respond to a request for comment about Barr's potential resignation or his relationship with the president. Trump continued to tweet about criminal investigations and federal law enforcement even after Barr publicly and privately asked him not to, the Post reported, escalating the apparent feud between the attorney general and the president.
However, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec tweeted on Feb. 18 that "the Attorney General has no plans to resign." White House spokesman Hogan Gidley echoed Kupec's comment on Wednesday, Feb. 19, telling reporters Trump “absolutely respects the attorney general,” and "they'll continue to work together," per Bloomberg News. In an apparent attempt to justify Trump's decision to tweet even after Barr's warnings, Gidley also told reporters that the president has a history of tweeting about legal cases he cares about.
According to the Associated Press, Trump told reporters on Feb. 18 he understood how his tweets might make Barr's job more difficult, but he also did not signal a desire to reel in his tweets. “Yeah, I do make his job harder," Trump acknowledged. "He’s a very straight shooter. We have a great attorney general, and he’s working very hard. ... But I will say this: Social media, for me, has been very important because it gives me a voice, because I don’t get that voice in the press. In the media, I don’t get that voice. So I’m allowed to have a voice.”
Trump added he had “total confidence in my attorney general” — but his tweets were less supportive. As recently as Feb. 18, Trump retweeted a series of tweets from Tom Fitton, the president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, in which Fitton criticized both Barr and the Justice Department. The tweets were also critical of former President Barack Obama and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.
Whether or not Barr quits now, the Stone case — combined with numerous other cases throughout Trump's presidency — has made him a popular target for resignation demands from Democratic lawmakers and former DOJ officials alike.