The president could lose one of his most powerful advocates within the executive branch if he keeps misusing one of the things he loves most. According to administration officials who spoke with the Washington Post, Attorney General William Barr has told people close to Trump that he is considering resigning if the president continues to tweet about ongoing investigations conducted by the Department of Justice. “He has his limits,” one person familiar with Barr’s thinking told the Post.
Last week, Barr provided a rare public rebuke from a Trump administration figure when he told ABC News that the president’s tweets on DOJ matters make it “impossible for me to do my job.” The attorney general was referring to the president’s confirmation on Twitter that he had intervened to lessen prosecutors’ sentencing guidelines for Trump surrogate Roger Stone. After the interview, critics suggested that Barr’s criticism wasn’t totally sincere: “Barr is deeply committed to a Trumpian program of using his powers to protect Trump’s allies and harass Trump’s adversaries, but he also understands that the process requires a sheen of public legitimacy,” wrote New York’s Jonathan Chait. “He needs to maintain the façade that every discrete decision made on Trump’s behalf was made on its merits.”
Barr’s threat to threaten to resign — he hasn’t spoken directly to Trump on the matter, according to the Post — could be more of the same, but it could also be a legitimate effort to push back. Either way, the president doesn’t appear to be worried, according to a massive understatement in the report: “Trump, White House officials said, is not entirely receptive to calls to change his behavior, and he has told those around him he is not going to stop tweeting about the Justice Department.”
According to the report, Barr was not especially concerned by the 2,000 former DOJ officials calling for his resignation for undermining the independence of the department. “People close to Barr say he is unlikely to be moved by the letter, which bears the signatures of many who have long been vocal opponents of his,” the Post states. “But Barr, the people said, is deeply concerned about morale inside the department.”
He has a right to be concerned: After being overruled on Stone’s sentencing, the four line prosecutors on the case withdrew in a major act of dissent. In addition to the 2,000 ex-DOJ officials, federal judges are worried by the crisis of independence: USA Today reported Monday that the independent Federal Judges Association called an emergency meeting because it “could not wait” until its scheduled conference this spring to discuss Barr’s actions.