Good Morning. U.S. Attorney General William Barr made an unexpected intervention in the growing controversy over Donald Trump’s interference in the trial of his friend Roger Stone.
Barr, seen as a loyal Trump unconditionally, publicly rebuked the president, saying Trump’s tweets about the Stone case “make me impossible to do my job” and added that he will not be “intimidated or influenced” by the decisions of the justice department .
“I think it’s time to stop tweeting about criminal cases from the Department of Justice,” Barr told ABC.
The attorney general said Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” but acknowledged that the president’s comments weaken his authority.
The initial reaction of the White House was relatively calm. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president “did not bother” by Barr’s comments, adding: “[Barr] You have the right, like any American citizen, to publicly offer your opinions. President Trump uses social networks very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country. “
It remains to be seen if that line will be maintained when Trump gets up this morning and begins his effective use of social networks during the day. The president has a low tolerance for criticism, whether from friends or enemies, like former chief of staff John Kelly I saw yesterday.
Barr’s motivations are also in doubt. He has been called to testify before Congress about alleged political interference in the justice department, and may be preparing the ground for that. You may also be trying to save your reputation, which has been shattered since joining the Trump administration last year, particularly after handling the Mueller report.
Barr characterized the report in ways that seemed to absolve Trump of irregularities on numerous occasions, despite the fact that the drafted version of the Mueller report published in April 2019 showed almost a dozen cases in which the president or his campaign attempted to obstruct justice .
The New York Times suggests:
The attorney general had been contemplating how to respond since he realized Mr. Trump’s attacks on the department, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Expressing his opinion could have put Mr. Barr at risk of losing the president’s support, but remaining silent would have allowed Mr. Trump to continue attacking law enforcement and almost inviting an open revolt among the Department’s 115,000 employees. of Justice.
Ultimately, Mr. Barr concluded that he had to speak to preserve his ability to do his job effectively, said the person … The attorney general had told the president something of what he planned to say and stays in his job, a person familiar with the events said.
The attorney general’s reprimand comes in the midst of an intensification of the consequences of the Stone case, after the justice department overturned its own prosecutors who had recommended that Stone, a former ally and Trump’s confidant, be sentenced to seven and nine years in prison. The four prosecutors in the case subsequently resigned in protest. Stone must be sentenced on February 20.
We will cover the continuing consequences of this and all the political news of the United States here throughout the day.
Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after his meetings today, while Democratic candidates competing to face him in November continue to campaign across the country. Bernie Sanders will be in North Carolina and Texas; Pete Buttigieg in Nevada and California; and Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer in Nevada.
Oh, and by the way: