Washington: In an extraordinary rebuke of President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday that Trump's attacks on the Justice Department had made it "impossible for me to do my job" and asserted that "I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody."
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Attorney General William Barr.Credit:AP
Barr has been among the president's most loyal allies and denigrated by Democrats as nothing more than his personal lawyer, but he publicly challenged Trump in a way that no other sitting Cabinet member has.
"I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody," Barr said in an interview with ABC News.
"And I said, whether it's Congress, newspaper editorial board or the president, I'm going to do what I think is right. I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me."
Barr's remarks were aimed at containing the fallout from the department’s botched handling of its sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone, who was convicted of seven felonies in a bid to obstruct a congressional investigation that threatened the president.
On trial: Republican trickster Roger Stone.Credit:AP
The next day, Barr and other senior department officials intervened to lower the recommendation.
The episode ignited a firestorm among rank-and-file lawyers at the Justice Department.
While the officials blamed the original filing on a miscommunication and said they had intended to correct it even before Trump assailed it, four of the prosecutors working on the case withdrew. Career prosecutors began to express worry that their work could be used to settle political scores.
Trump's opponents escalated their accusations of inappropriate influence when Trump congratulated Barr for his decision to step in and ease the sentencing recommendation for Stone. "Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought," Trump said on Twitter.
The president also accused the prosecutors who had secured a conviction against Stone of engaging in an "illegal" investigation. He incorrectly accused Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the Stone trial, of placing his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in solitary confinement.
Manafort, who was convicted of monetary fraud in a case that grew out of the special counsel's investigation, at one point had a jail cell to himself but was not in solitary confinement, and Jackson was not involved in his placement.
The New York Times
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