Attorney General Bill Barr rebukes Trump's tweets about Roger Stone

It's hard to tell whether the apparent tension between President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr is real or a way to create the appearance of some separation between Barr and Trump on the subject of Roger Stone.  The facts are straightforward but still open to interpretation.

Bob Mueller and his bad boys went after Roger Stone with a level of ferocity far in excess of any wrongdoing Stone had allegedly committed.  Although Stone is a nonviolent first-time offender who allegedly committed a crime that is the norm in Washington, D.C. (lying to Congress, something James Clapper, for example, did with impunity), Mueller's team arranged for a pre-dawn SWAT-style raid on Stone to arrest him, complete with a conveniently present CNN team; a multi-pronged indictment; a jury foreman who openly despised Trump and everyone around him; and a shopped judge who loathes Trump, too.

At the end of the day, Mueller's prosecutors got Stone convicted on seven counts, including lying to Congress, obstructing an official proceeding, and witness-tampering (that is, threats to a potential witness who found Stone's angry fulminations laughable).  Then, the Mueller gang went in for the kill, demanding that Stone, who is now 67, be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison.  This excessive demand can only stem from malevolence and the need to send a warning to Trump associates, akin to the mafia promising a few broken kneecaps for people who don't play along.

Immediately after the prosecutors made their sentencing demand, Trump tweeted out that the sentencing request was corrupt and evil, as well as taking swipes at the judge and the prosecutors:

At roughly the same time, the Justice Department intervened to ask the court not to consider the specific request for seven to ten years.  Instead, it gave the judge more leeway by recommending only an unspecified term as the judge saw fit.  Democrats predictably exploded, accusing Trump of interfering with justice.

On Thusday night, Barr seemed to side with the Democrats.  Although he stated strongly that Trump "never asked me to do anything in a criminal case," he added that the president's tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job."

Trump's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, responded, saying Trump "wasn't bothered" by Barr's critique:

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 fake news. The President has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law.

Trump is right not to be bothered.  First, Bill Barr is his employee, so Trump can interfere up to a point, although it's not necessarily a good idea to do so.  Second, becoming president does not mean that Trump has fewer rights than the ordinary citizen.  The judicial system is a co-equal branch, and if he thinks a judge is misbehaving, he may say so.  After all, judges have the protection of lifetime appointments, so Trump poses no threat to a judge by criticizing the judge's performance.

In any event, it's entirely possible that, rather than being at odds with each other, Barr and Trump are acting out a little charade to emphasize Barr's undoubted independence.  Trump, more than any president before him, understands narrative and dramatic tension.  If the press won't give that narrative to him, he needs to create it on his own, and this seeming tiff is one way to do it.

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