WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump yesterday said he has “the legal right” to interfere in criminal cases, capping a tumultuous week that raised questions about whether he is eroding the independence of the US legal system.
Trump’s criticism of the judge, jury and prosecutors in the criminal case of his longtime adviser Roger Stone prompted an unusual rebuke from Attorney General William Barr, his top law enforcement official and has spurred new demands for investigation from the Democrats who unsuccessfully tried to remove the Republican president from office.
It is the latest in a string of aggressive actions by Trump since the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him of impeachment charges last week.
Trump has transferred or fired government officials who testified about his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a potential political rival in November’s presidential election.
He also dropped his nomination of former US Attorney Jessie Liu, who oversaw the Stone case, for another government post in the Treasury Department.
Sources close to the president said Trump has a greater sense of freedom in the wake of his Senate acquittal.
“You have to remember, he’s not ‘of’ government. He gets frustrated when people tell him something can’t get done. He’s like: ‘Just get it done,’” said one administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Barr said on Thursday that Trump’s attacks made it “impossible” for him to do his job leading the Justice Department, telling ABC News in an interview: “It’s time to stop the tweeting.”
Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr added.
The president responded yesterday morning. “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!” he wrote on Twitter.