President Donald Trump was complimentary of the attorney general just hours before the airing of Bill Barr's exclusive interview with ABC News, in which he said the president's tweets about pending matters at the Department of Justice "make it impossible for me to do my job."
"Bill Barr is a very good man doing a very good job," Trump said in a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera.
Asked by Rivera if he ever wonders what life would have been like had he picked Barr instead of Jeff Sessions as his first attorney general, Trump said, "my life would have been a lot easier. But I might have been less popular."
Sources told ABC News that the president and top aides were unaware of the attorney general's intentions in Thursday's interview and were only informed of the content just before it aired.
About two hours after the ABC News interview aired, the White House issued a statement.
"The President wasn’t bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions. President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news. The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
Barr's comments to ABC News come as questions have been raised about the Justice Department lawyers' independence after he intervened to revise the recommendation of career prosecutors who called for the president's longtime confidante Roger Stone to be sentenced to serve seven to nine years.
Following the intervention, all four prosecutors assigned to the matter quit the case, with one prosecutor resigning from the Justice Department altogether.
In his interview with Rivera, the president continued to express no concern about the prosecutors leaving the case, attacking them as "Mueller people."
"I don't think they quit the case. I think they feel they got caught. I don't think they quit for moral reasons, I think they got caught in the act by me. Now what am I going to do? Sit back and let a man go to jail maybe for nine years when murderers aren't going to jail. You have some of the most serious horrible rapists and everything else, they don't go to jail for nine years," Trump said.
The president also expressed no regret over Rudy Giuliani's involvement in Ukraine during the wide-ranging interview with Rivera on Thursday. Trump also suggested that his personal attorney is still working with his Justice Department.
"Rudy is a high-quality guy who, by the way, has a treasure trove of information and he's working with the Justice Department from what I understand," Trump said in the radio interview.
The president claimed there were other presidents who have had similar arrangements and that there was nothing improper with having an outside lawyer act as a "circumventing" force.
"They all had lawyers and they do things for them and it's really circumventing -- but very legally -- and maybe get things done faster," he said.
In the wake of his impeachment acquittal, which largely revolved around his call with the president of Ukraine, the president said he "may end the practice entirely" of allowing others within the government to listen into his calls with foreign leaders.
He also further attacked Lt Col. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council Ukraine expert who raised concerns about the president's call with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Trump claimed that when Vindman was escorted out of the White House -- just days after the president's acquittal -- some in the White House applauded.
"Vindman was someone who when we took him out, the building applauded ... many people in the building started applauding," Trump claimed.
An administration official backed up the president's account of applause to ABC News, saying there even some in the National Security Council, where most officials are career national security officials, who celebrated his departure with applause.
Also during the interview, Trump again condemned the treatment of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort saying, "They put a guy like Paul Manafort in solitary confinement. Al Capone was never placed in solitary confinement."
The president declined to say whether he is considering pardons.