U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said on Thursday that President Donald Trump "has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case" but should stop tweeting about the Justice Department because the president's tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job."
"I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases," Barr told ABC News in an exclusive interview.
Barr's remarks were widely seen as a rare public break with the president whom he has aligned himself with and fiercely defended since he took office as the attorney general one year ago.
When asked if he was prepared for the consequences of criticizing Trump, Barr said "of course" because his job is to run the Justice Department and make decisions on "what I think is the right thing to do."
"I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody ... whether it's Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president," Barr said. "I'm gonna do what I think is right. And you know ... I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me."
The attorney general has been sharply criticized due to controversy surrounding the Justice Department's decision to lessen a sentence for Trump ally Roger Stone after the president tweeted about his displeasure with the gravity of the original sentence recommendation.
Four career federal prosecutors have resigned in protest after the Justice Department overruled them on the Stone case earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Trump praised Barr on Twitter for the attorney general's intervening in the case: "Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate what pressure Trump and Barr might have exerted behind the scenes.
The political corruption case against Stone was linked to the long investigation of the 2016 election won by Trump.