(CN) — Attorney General William Barr lashed out at President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying the president’s social media attacks on the Justice Department “make it impossible to do my job” and that “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”
The nation’s top law enforcement official made the remarks in an interview with ABC News days after the Justice Department intervened in the sentencing recommendation of longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. He was convicted last November of witness tampering and lying to Congress.
The prosecutors in the case withdrew after the department recommended a lighter sentence than the seven to nine years in prison originally sought.
Barr’s comments are seen to head off criticism aimed at him by Democratic lawmakers who have called for investigations into the Justice Department’s reversal. He said in Thursday’s interview the president had nothing to do with his decision.
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” Barr said. “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 has been one of the president’s top allies, a Federalist who believes in expanding powers of the executive branch and often accused by Democrats of being Trump’s personal lawyer. He said President Trump did not ask him to interfere in the case, but that his tweets about the Justice Department made his job harder.
“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 our 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.”
President Trump praised Barr on Wednesday for reversing the sentence recommendation.
“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 tweeted.
Trump attacked the prosecutors on Monday after they made their recommendation, calling it a “miscarriage of justice.” Barr intervened the next day to recommend a lesser prison sentence, but did not specify how long.
In addition to the prosecutors’ withdrawal from the case, one resigned from the Justice Department. Lawyers within the department raised concerns that the justice system could be used for political purposes.
President Trump attacked the prosecutors, accusing them of conducting an “illegal” investigation. He also compared Stone’s trial to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between the president and Russia.
In a radio interview Thursday with Geraldo Rivera, he again criticized the prosecutors.
“What they did to Roger Stone was a disgrace in terms of everything, right from the beginning,” Trump said.
“It’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said in Thursday’s interview.