WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General William Barr has told people close to him he’s considering quitting his post after President Donald Trump wouldn’t heed his warning to stop tweeting about Justice Department cases, an administration official told The Associated Press.
The revelation came days after Barr took a public swipe at the president, saying in a television interview that Trump’s tweets about Justice Department cases and staffers make it “impossible” for him to do his job. The next day, Trump ignored Barr’s request and insisted that he has the “legal right” to intervene in criminal cases and sidestep the Justice Department’s historical independence.
The administration official was not authorized to discuss Barr's private remarks and requested anonymity.
It’s unclear how seriously Barr has considered resigning or whether he is instead trying to pressure Trump to back off his provocative tweets about the Justice Department. Barr’s spokeswoman said late Tuesday that the attorney general "has no plans to resign.”
Barr is one of the president’s closest allies in the administration and has been a staunch defender of Trump’s policy decisions. But considering resigning from his post suggests he sees the Justice Department’s reputation as an institution that makes decisions on criminal cases independently, unmoved and unbound by political sway, as more important than his allegiance to the president.
Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he’s considering suing those involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and opined that his confidant Roger Stone deserved a new trial after being convicted of witness tampering and obstruction.
Barr's comments about Trump's tweets came during an interview with ABC News just days after his Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors — who had recommended in a court filing that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison — and took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek. All four prosecutors from Stone's trial quit the case and one left the Justice Department altogether.
The reversal came after Trump blasted the original sentencing recommendation as “very horrible and unfair,” though officials have insisted the decision to make a new recommendation came before Trump's tweet.