Kellyanne Conway says Trump 'works hand in glove' with Barr

The top White House aide's remarks come amid blowback over the Justice Department's backtracking on its sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone.

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By Allan Smith

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that while President Donald Trump "works hand in glove" with Attorney General William Barr, Trump never asked Barr to intervene in Roger Stone's criminal case.

"The president hasn't done that," Conway said on "Fox News Sunday." "He said he hasn't done it. Bill Barr said he hasn't done it. He hasn't done it. That's incredibly important."

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it was backtracking on its sentencing recommendation for Stone, Trump's longtime confidant, hours after the president complained about the case on Twitter.

Conway said it was "disingenuous" to say presidents don't comment on criminal matters.

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway speaks to the media in the briefing room on Jan. 10, 2020.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

"The president of the United States has not asked or directed his attorney general privately to do anything in any criminal matter, including Roger Stone," she said. "Number two, he works hand in glove with the attorney general, as we all are privileged to do, on any number of matters that affect this country."

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Conway's comments came after a whirlwind week for the president and the attorney general, which began with the abrupt resignations from the case of the entire team prosecuting Stone after the Justice Department said it planned to reduce its recommended sentence, which was for seven to nine years in prison. That came after Trump tweeted that the Stone proposal was "a miscarriage of justice" and "disgraceful!"

Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec told NBC News that the decision to reverse course was made before Trump’s initial tweet. But Thursday, Barr said in an interview with ABC News that Trump's tweets about Justice Department matters "make it impossible for me to do my job."

"Public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the department that we're doing our work with integrity," Barr said.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement about the interview that "the president wasn't bothered by the comments at all," indicating, however, that Trump would not curtail his tweets.

Speaking Sunday about Trump's tweets, Conway said the president didn't have a conversation with Barr about the Stone case — "he had a conversation with the whole world."

On CNN's "State of the Union," Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, suggested that Barr's comments were "unusual" but that "he does enjoy the support of the president."

Barr has made several recent moves to take control of legal matters of personal interest to Trump, multiple people familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Democrats have called for Barr's resignation in the aftermath of the Stone backpedal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Barr "has deeply damaged the rule of law," while House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Friday that Barr is "a witting accomplice to Trump's attack on the rule of law."

Meanwhile, more than 1,100 former Justice Department prosecutors and officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations signed an open letter condemning Trump and Barr over their actions in the Stone case.

Barr is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next month.