Attorney General William Barr on Thursday appeared to stand up to Donald Trump when he complained the president’s “constant background commentary” on Twitter and elsewhere makes it “impossible for me to do my job.”
But news anchors, political pundits, legal analysts, lawmakers, celebrities and others aren’t buying the apparent pushback by Barr, whose tenure as attorney general has been marked by Democratic complaints that he views his job as acting as the president’s personal lawyer.
Critics suggested Barr’s comments to ABC News were simply a coordinated attempt between him and Trump to defuse the outrage sparked by his Department of Justice’s botched sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone, which Trump had fiercely disagreed with.
Prosecutors originally suggested Stone serve seven to nine years for his crimes, but Justice Department superiors withdrew the recommendation after Trump complained. All four prosecutors assigned to the case quit in protest.
Barr claimed his intervention in the case was not influenced by Trump.
“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody….whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial boards, or the president," Bill Barr tells @ABC News.
"I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.” https://t.co/14rnEMD65c pic.twitter.com/QuoTgpUVHp
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 13, 2020
Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Barr’s interview could be “a carefully staged message to cool down pissed off DOJ attys whom Barr undercut & to avoid any further internal strife.”
“This message does not get sideways with Trump because he’s already done what Trump wanted,” Steele tweeted.
Slow your roll if you think Barr is breaking from Trump. This was a carefully staged message to cool down pissed off DOJ attys whom Barr undercut & to avoid any further internal strife. This message does not get sideways with Trump because he’s already done what Trump wanted. https://t.co/jYWYJFovpO
— Michael Steele (@MichaelSteele) February 14, 2020
Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) told CNN’s Erin Burnett that she “would not be surprised” if Barr and Trump had been “in cahoots in terms of Barr making a public statement to the American people.”
.@RepValDemings says she wouldn't be surprised if Attorney General William Barr and the President were "in cahoots" regarding Barr's comments about Trump's tweets.https://t.co/jZ6NkoORWt pic.twitter.com/nWZHud9po3
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) February 14, 2020
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow urged her viewers not to “abandon our powers of reasoning and common sense” about the “official lie that was rolled out today to try to alleviate this crisis.”
CNN’s Don Lemon said Barr’s statement “sounds tough, sounds independent, sounds too good to be true because it is too good to be true.”
“Nobody is buying this,” he added.
Even Fox News host Laura Ingraham acknowledged Barr was “basically telling Trump, ‘Don’t worry, I got this.’”
Movie director Judd Apatow was among those to call “BS” on Barr’s claims.
BS. He is not pushing back. It’s a drama created to cover up corruption. https://t.co/TLCxoey4iK
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) February 14, 2020
And others called it “nonsense theatrics” and “show and coverup.”
This is absolutely nonsense theatrics and I don't buy if for one moment. Barr interfered in the Stone case for purely political reasons and Barr's sole problem is the inconvenience of Trump saying it out loud. https://t.co/rAVeMo9u9s
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) February 13, 2020
Barr’s comments are show and coverup.
— Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1) February 14, 2020
Barr on Trump: "I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases"
If you believe Barr is being sincere, you probably also believe his "summary" of the Mueller report. https://t.co/4WmyFND6t0
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) February 13, 2020
Barr is more insidious than Trump. Trump's a #CarnivalBarkerClown that lies because he doesn't even know what the truth is, This liar knows the truth & exactly how to hide it. Unfortunately the clown Barr protects keeps blowing his cover at being the one covering everything up. https://t.co/byrnjoJvG5
— Nancy Lee Grahn (@NancyLeeGrahn) February 14, 2020
I call bullshit. What Bill Barr REALLY means is that Trump’s tweets saying the quiet part out loud are making it harder for him to do the crimes and cover-up. So speaketh the #CoverupGeneral. https://t.co/x8vkBJ9tGr
— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) February 13, 2020
So Barr says Trump’s tweets make it ‘impossible for me to do my job?" As in his job of letting the President undermine the rule of law?
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) February 14, 2020
Barr dishonestly trashed the Mueller report. Barr has set up a mechanism to launder Rudy's tinfoil claims from Ukraine. Barr has directed Trump's obstruction of Congress and overruled career prosecutors on Stone. We're to believe now he's independent and standing strong
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) February 13, 2020
I think Bill Barr is shrewd, deliberate, smart, calculating, careful, and full of it
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) February 14, 2020
yeah - i call bull-sh*t on that one ... https://t.co/wsKXjwa6VY
— Kurt Bardella (@kurtbardella) February 13, 2020
— Joe Cirincione (@Cirincione) February 14, 2020
Imagine believing this gelatinous tower of bullshit let alone repeating it as if it were fact. https://t.co/F1nmkLk9u4
— Violet Blue® (@violetblue) February 14, 2020
So you're resigning, Bill Barr? No? OK, then this is bullshit whitewash obvious to everybody. https://t.co/CsmA4jtCpT
— Matt Ortega (@MattOrtega) February 13, 2020
Proof positive that Barr's bullshit today was just more #BarrCoverUp. Trump hasn't attacked Barr so this was kabuki. More reality show bullshit from #TraitorTrump and the #TrumpCrimeFamily. https://t.co/ifqk9nAJni
— Michael Grant (@MichaelGrantBks) February 14, 2020
Also on HuffPost
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.