President Donald Trump on Friday ignored his attorney general’s public request to stop tweeting about the Justice Department, saying he had the legal right to ask the agency to intervene in a criminal case, but he’s so far “chosen not to.”
Trump’s Friday morning tweet came just hours after Attorney General William Barr said in a striking interview with ABC News that the president’s tweets were making it “impossible” to do his job, especially following the department’s bungled handling of the sentencing recommendation for Trump ally and confidant Roger Stone.
Trump, in his tweet, also left open the possibility that he would ask Barr for something in a criminal matter in the future.
As president, Trump technically has the right to compel the Justice Department to investigate as an executive branch agency. But historically, when it comes to decisions on criminal investigations and prosecutions, Justice has functioned as an independent agency, unmoved and unbound by political sway. And that reputation is important to Barr, as he made clear in the interview.
“I’m happy to say that, in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr told ABC. “However, to have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people … 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.”
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