Still Tweeting, Trump Asserts Right to Intervene in Criminal Matters

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump asserted in a tweet Friday morning that his presidential powers empower him to intervene in Department of Justice matters.

“The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,’ A.G. Barr,” Trump tweeted, referencing an interview ABC News aired the previous night Attorney General William Barr. “This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!”

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Attorney General William Barr on Oct. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

Trump’s comments come after a week of turmoil at the Justice Department following a sentencing recommendation that prosecutors issued in the criminal case of the president’s longtime adviser, Roger stone, who was convicted last year of obstruction of justice.

After Trump called the recommendation that Barr face seven to nine years a “miscarriage of justice,” the government took back that recommendation in supplemental briefing the next day, but not before multiple prosecutors who had been handling the case tendered their resignations.

Jonathan Kravis, who signed the initial memo, quit the Department of Justice entirely. Fellow Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed and Michael Marando all resigned Tuesday as well.

By Wednesday, Trump was tweeting congratulations to Barr for taking control of the case, continuing the assertion he hadn’t asked the attorney general to weigh in on the sentencing.

As the controversy has fired up an investigation by House Democrats, Barr spoke to ABC Thursday in an apparent attempt to suggest distance from the president.

After saying Trump’s online presence was an issue, Barr said he had an issue with some of the tweets and that Trump’s comments on the service could be disruptive.

“And I’m happy to say that, in fact the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr said. “However, to have public statements and tweets made about the department … 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.”

Barr continued, saying: “I think it’s time to stop tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”

Barr said the Stone sentencing was an issue discussed between Department of Justice staff internally — without the president’s involvement. He said senior staff, including a new U.S. attorney, had raised questions about the sentencing guidelines, which all department members felt were too rigid.

“And in those discussions here at the department, you know, I came to the view as my colleagues did that, I wouldn’t support affirmatively advocating what I though was an excessive sentence,” Barr said.

Representatives at the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

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