In a surprising move, Attorney General William Barr publicly responded to the criticism he has been facing for recommending a shorter prison sentence for Roger Stone after President Donald Trump tweeted about it. The response that Barr gave may not be what you expect — it certainly surprised the mainstream media.
In an interview on ABC News Thursday, Barr said that some of President Trump’s tweets, like the recent ones about Roger Stone, make it “impossible for me to do my job.”
The attorney general’s remark came in response to a question by Pierre Thomas, who asked, “So you are saying you have a problem with the tweets.”
“Well, I have a problem with some of the tweets,” Barr replied. “I’m happy to say, in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.”
“However 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 and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” he said.
Thomas followed this up with a question about whether Barr is prepared for the consequences he might face for making such a statement, considering that President Trump might not like it.
Of course. As I said during my confirmation, I came in to serve as attorney general. I am responsible for everything that happens in the department, but the thing I have most responsibilities for are the issues that are brought to me for decision. And I will make those decisions based on what I think is the right thing to do. I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody, and I said whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial boards or the president. I’m going to do what I think is right. And you know I think the —I cannot do my job at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me. I have not discussed to Roger Stone case at the White House.
Indeed, it didn’t take long for the White House to issue a public statement in response to the Barr interview. “The president wasn’t bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news. The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law.”
This statement, surely, is a long way off from the dictator-esque one that many on the left were probably expecting.
Putting things in perspective
Before jumping on Barr for criticizing the president’s use of social media, it is important to understand that his response is precisely what is needed right now. The key word is independence.
What came through most in the interview is that Barr is operating independently of President Trump — whether it is in recommending a lighter sentence for Stone or in criticizing the president for his tweets. This sort of independence is critical for any attorney general, but especially an attorney general like Barr who is currently going after the Deep State.
So, rather than thinking of Barr’s response as an attack on Trump, see it for what it is: a response looking to protect his office from claims of partisanship. In this regard, Barr is spot on.