“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!” Trump added in his own voice.
“The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.” A.G. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2020
His tweet followed a remarkable interview with ABC News, in which Barr said, “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” adding that such statements “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, 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 and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”
The public rebuke of the president by a sitting member of his Cabinet arose from a crisis of confidence at the Justice Department, which had been accused this week of buckling to an angry tweet the president issued after learning of prosecutors’ initial prison recommendation for his longtime friend, Roger Stone.
Justice Department spokespeople did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Trump’s latest tweet.
In another development Friday, the Justice Department will not bring charges against former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe for lying to investigators about a media disclosure, according to people familiar with the matter and McCabe’s legal team, ending a long-running inquiry into a top law enforcement official who authorized the bureau to investigate Trump and soon became the commander in chief’s political punching bag.
The department revealed the decision to McCabe’s team Friday; it was unclear if there were other plans to make it public. The move will surely infuriate Trump, who has raged publicly and privately in recent months that McCabe and others he considers political enemies should be charged with crimes.
Michael R. Bromwich and David Schertler, McCabe’s lawyers, said in a statement that the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office had called and informed them that the case “has been closed.”
In Barr’s interview with ABC on Thursday, he said that Trump would be within his rights to ask for a criminal investigation in an area that didn’t affect his personal interest — such as in a terrorism case or fraud by a bank. But he said an attorney general would not listen to an order to investigate a political opponent.
Trump has publicly and privately raged in recent months about wanting investigations of those he sees as enemies, including former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, former FBI director James B. Comey and McCabe.
“If he were to say go investigate somebody, and you sense it’s because they’re a political opponent, then an attorney general shouldn’t carry that out, wouldn’t carry that out,” Barr said.
On Tuesday, Trump criticized as unduly harsh the initial sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years made by front-line prosecutors. Shortly thereafter, the Justice Department signaled that it would seek a more lenient sentence for Stone, a move that prompted the four career prosecutors to withdraw from the case — and one to resign from the government.
Barr has said the decision was made before Trump’s tweet on the matter.
Stone is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.
McCabe’s lawyers hailed the Justice Department’s decision not to bring charges against their client.
“At long last, justice has been done in this matter,” the lawyers said in their statement. “We said at the outset of the criminal investigation, almost two years ago, that if the facts and the law determined the result, no charges would be brought. We are pleased that Andrew McCabe and his family can go on with their lives without this cloud hanging over them.”
McCabe authorized the FBI to begin investigating Trump personally for possible obstruction of justice in connection with the probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. But the veteran law enforcement official later became the focus of a grand jury probe over allegations from the Justice Department inspector general that he lied to investigators exploring a media disclosure. The investigation was led by the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office; a spokesman for that office declined to comment Friday.
What exactly happened in the case remains unclear. Justice Department officials authorized prosecutors to seek an indictment of McCabe last year, and in September, a grand jury that had been hearing evidence was summoned back after a months-long hiatus to consider the case. But the day came and went with no public charges being filed.
Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.