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The Justice Department pushed back Tuesday night at multiple reports claiming Attorney General William Barr told people close to him he’s considering stepping down over President Trump’s tweets, days after Barr admitted that Trump’s tweeting made it “‘impossible for me to do my job.”
“Addressing Beltway rumors: The Attorney General has no plans to resign,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec tweeted.
Barr “has his limits,” one person familiar with Barr’s thinking told The Washington Post. Its report suggested that Barr wanted Trump to “get the message” to stop weighing in publicly in ongoing criminal cases. An administration official gave a similar admission on Barr to The Associated Press.
Barr, speaking to ABC News last week, also denied ever acting on improper influence from Trump or the White House. White House officials told the Post that the president had no plans to stop tweeting about Justice Department cases. He insisted he had a “legal right” to make his voice heard on criminal cases.
The White House did not immediately comment on the Tuesday night reports.
Trump tweeted Tuesday he’s considering suing those involved in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and said his confidant Roger Stone deserved a new trial after being convicted of witness tampering, obstruction and lying to Congress during the Mueller probe. Hours later, a Justice Department official revealed prosecutors had filed a sealed motion in court arguing the opposite, and that they had Barr’s approval to do so.
Last week, Trump, in a late-night tweet, criticized a federal prosecutor’s earlier recommendation that that Stone should be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison. Soon afterward, DOJ leaders adjusted the sentencing recommendation downward, saying it was clearly excessive given Stone’s obstruction-related offenses. All four prosecutors on the case stepped down within hours.
Barr asserted his independence in the Justice Department’s decision to intervene. “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody… whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president.”
Over the weekend, more than 2,000 former department employees signed a public letter urging Barr to resign over his handling of the Stone case. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., came to Barr’s defense on Tuesday. The top Republicans insisted Barr had the “highest character and unquestionable integrity” and Democrats’ efforts to “intimidate” him would fail spectacularly.
Trump, too, assured reporters he stood behind his attorney general, despite the criticisms. “I have total confidence in my attorney general,” Trump told reporters earlier Tuesday. “I do make his job harder. I do agree on that. … We have a great attorney general and he’s working very hard.”
Stone has been a friend and adviser to the president for decades and was a key figure in his 2016 campaign, working to discover damaging information about the Clinton campaign.
Stone’s defense has asked for a sentence of probation, citing his age, 67, and lack of criminal history.
Fox News’ Mike Arroyo contributed to this report.