Trump gives Bill Barr ultimatum as he demands roundup of political enemies

Rambling phone interview on Fox Business sees president vent rage about rivals’ supposed crimes against him

Andrew Naughtie
Thursday 08 October 2020 10:49 EDT
Trump gives Bill Barr ultimatum on indicting enemies

During a live phone-in on Fox Business, Donald Trump complained again that not enough of his political enemies have been arrested – and said attorney general Bill Barr could find himself in “a sad situation” if he doesn’t start rounding them up.

The blunt warning comes after Mr Trump left Walter Reed Medical Centre and returned to Twitter with a blizzard of angry tweets and retweets, many of them calling for the indictment of Obama administration figures.

The president’s rambling and ill-tempered interview with Maria Bartiromo on Thursday saw him run through a long list of his usual grievances, but he was particularly rancorous on the subject of supposed Obama-era “crimes” against him for which he wants to see his predecessor indicted, along with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and many others.

“Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes,” declared the president, “the greatest political crime in the history of our country, then we’re gonna get little satisfaction unless I win. Because I won’t forget it. But these people should be indicted, this was the greatest political crime in the history of our country. And that includes Obama, and that includes Biden; these are people that spied on my campaign, and we have everything.

“Now they say they have much more, and I say Bill, you got plenty. You don’t need any more.”

Read more: How many presidents have lost a second term?

Comparing Mr Barr unflatteringly to former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grennell and successor John Ratcliffe, both of whom have released documents related to the Russia investigation, Mr Trump gave his attorney general a warning.

“To be honest, Bill Barr’s gonna go down either as the greatest attorney general in the history of the country or he’s gonna go down as a very sad, sad situation. I mean, I’ll be honest with you. He’s got all the information he needs. They wanna get more, more, more, they keep getting more, I say: ‘You don’t need any more. You got more stuff than anybody’s ever had.’”  

Mr Trump has complained for years that various Democrats should be “locked up”, even telling Hillary Clinton to her face at a 2016 debate that she would be “in jail” if he won. (His administration has not investigated her in any meaningful way.)

However, in the last year or so, he has begun insisting ever more furiously that the Obama team committed crimes against him, in particular saying Mr Obama spied on his campaign.

While Mr Barr has been criticised by many Trump critics for intervening in cases against the president’s associates – including Roger Stone, whose recommended prison sentence his department sought to reduce – he has defended his independence from the president before.

“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” he told an interviewer in February. “Whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president.”

At the time, this was seen as a stunning rebuke to Mr Trump, who routinely appears to direct policy via Twitter. However, the president reacted only with a single, level-headed tweet, raising suspicions that Mr Barr’s interview was a calculated gesture to justice department attorneys concerned about political interference.

Later in the Fox Business interview, while expounding the theme of Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails, Mr Trump appeared to suggest that he might take a more active role in his proposed criminal roundups.

“She should be indicted for that!” he shouted down the phone. “If people delete emails in a regular court case – she deleted 33,000 emails and nothing happens to her! Our justice system, nothing happens to her. With all of the pages of stuff, thousands of pages that we have on them, nothing happens to them, nothing happens.

“And you know, I said I’m gonna not get involved, I’m gonna have to get involved, because these people are crooked people.”

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