Just hours after President Donald Trump openly defied his public pleas to stop tweeting about criminal matters in the Justice Department, Attorney General Bill Barr told people close to Trump Tuesday that he is considering resigning over the tweets that Barr had previously said make it “impossible” to do his job, sources tell ABC News.
A resignation by Barr would amount stunning rebuke by a cabinet official long believed to be among the most loyal to Trump, and would indicate an uncertain future for the DOJ as officials have sought to grapple with the president’s increasingly emboldened attempts to intervene in the justice system.
News of Barr's discussions with people close to Trump was first reported by the Washington Post.
In response, DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said on Twitter: "Addressing Beltway rumors: The Attorney General has no plans to resign."
In an exclusive interview with ABC News last week, Barr had warned Trump that his tweets about the DOJ, in particular the sentencing process of his former long-time advisor Roger Stone, were disrupting his ability to manage the department.
"To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, 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 in the department that we're doing our work with integrity," Barr said.
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” he added. “Whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial boards, or the president. I’m gonna do what I think is right. And, you know, the, I think the -- I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”
The interview followed a week of turmoil for the DOJ after Barr ordered prosecutors to reverse their recommendation that Stone serve 7-9 years in prison, following his conviction last year on seven separate counts that included lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction.
The reversal came only hours after President Trump had tweeted calling the recommendation “horrible and very unfair,” adding, “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
Four line prosecutors who had been in charge of the case withdrew in protest over the intervention, including one who resigned from the DOJ altogether.
In his interview with ABC News, Barr repeatedly insisted he had made the decision to reverse the recommendation prior to the tweet, adding Trump had “never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.”
Just a day after the interview, the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., said it would not be prosecuting former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe after a two-year investigation. The announcement followed repeated public calls by President Trump that McCabe and other former officials involved in the start of the Russia investigation be thrown in jail.
That did little to alleviate the public pressure on Barr, however, when just hours later on Friday it was revealed that he had ordered a separate review of the criminal case against another long-time Trump ally, former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Citing what they described as unprecedented interference in a criminal inquiry, a group of more than 2,000 former DOJ officials signed onto a petition Sunday calling for Barr’s resignation.
While the White House said following Barr’s interview that Trump continued to have confidence in him, the attorney general’s warnings failed to blunt Trump’s attacks on the Stone case and the prosecutors who resigned.
“These were Mueller prosecutors, and the whole Mueller investigation was illegally set up based on a phony and now fully discredited Fake Dossier, lying and forging documents to the FISA Court, and many other things,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “Everything having to do with this fraudulent investigation is badly tainted and, in my opinion, should be thrown out.”
Later in the day, DOJ lawyers filed a motion in court in opposition to Stone’s lawyers who had called for the trial to be thrown out altogether.
A department official told reporters that Barr personally supported the motion, echoing his previous statements to ABC News in which he described Stone’s trial as a “righteous prosecution” and agreed that Stone deserved some time in prison.