Trump tells Barr he can stay – but makes clear the tweets will continue

John T Bennett
AP

Donald Trump was not angered or offended by Attorney General William Barr offering the most scathing rebuke of his presidency from any sitting Cabinet member since he took office, a top aide says.

"The President wasn't bothered by the comments at all and he (Barr) has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

She was responding to an interview Mr Barr conducted with ABC News taking his boss to task for a Tuesday morning tweet in which Mr Trump appeared to intervene in a Justice Department debate about its sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a longtime friend of the president who also advised his 2016 campaign.

In the interview, Mr Barr said he finds it "impossible" to do his job as the country's top lawyer due to constant "commentary" from the president via Twitter and his public remarks.

Grisham signalled their mutual boss has no intention of altering his presence on social media, which Mr Trump contends allows him to circumvent the American news media, which he considers biased and out to bring down his presidency.

"President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news," the top White House spokeswoman said.

Though Mr Trump could change his mind overnight and deliver a different assessment – or even employment update – about his hand-picked AG by Friday morning via a tweet, Mr Barr will be keeping his job. For now, at least.

"The president," Ms Grisham said, "has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law."

Still, Mr Barr's relationship with his boss will be forever and fundamentally changed. Mr Trump had publicly given the George HW Bush administration veteran high marks.

To be sure, the AG took the job, legal experts have said, because he shared Mr Trump's view that the Office of the Presidency, according to the Constitution and reams of legal rulings, possesses broad powers. Some Washington sources have said it appears Mr Barr took the job for the mercurial Trump even after his poor treatment of longtime GOP Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, whom he eventually fired from the same job in a very public fashion – complete with repeated personal attacks – with a goal of preserving and expanding the office's power more than protecting its incumbent.

Yet, Mr Trump, even after pushback from Mr Sessions and other top aides, continues to appear to view the attorney general's role as largely protecting himself – rather than the country and its government.

Mr Barr had largely gone along with his boss's whims – until Thursday.

"I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody," the AG told ABC, "whether it's Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president."

"I'm gonna do what I think is right. And you know – I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me."

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