WASHINGTON — President Trump once again berated the “dirty cops” of the law enforcement establishment on Thursday, accusing the Justice Department of going after his friends but not his enemies in an outburst that flouted Attorney General William P. Barr’s pleas to stop publicly intervening in prosecutions where he had a personal interest.
Speaking out hours after his friend Roger J. Stone Jr. was sentenced to more than three years in prison for lying to protect the president, Mr. Trump belittled the case and hinted broadly that he would use his clemency power to spare Mr. Stone if a judge did not agree to a retrial sought by defense lawyers.
In essentially dangling a pardon or a commutation for a friend, Mr. Trump confronted Mr. Barr with a choice about how to respond after he declared last week that the president’s attacks on the criminal justice system were making his job “impossible.”
“A lot of bad things are happening, and we’re cleaning it out,” Mr. Trump said of law enforcement at a Las Vegas event for former convicts re-entering society. “We’re cleaning the swamp. We’re draining the swamp. I just never knew how deep the swamp was.”
He added: “We had a lot of dirty cops. F.B.I. is phenomenal. I love the people in the F.B.I. But the people at the top were dirty cops.”
Mr. Barr last week reversed the Justice Department’s original request, in line with federal guidelines, for a term of seven to nine years for Mr. Stone, leading four career prosecutors to quit the case and one to resign from the department altogether.
But even as he agreed with Mr. Trump that the sentencing recommendation was excessive, he went on ABC News to publicly ask the president to stop commenting because “I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”
Mr. Trump later agreed that he was making Mr. Barr’s job harder but indicated he would not stay quiet.
While Mr. Trump again erupted on Thursday, some in Mr. Barr’s camp took solace in the fact that the president did not directly attack the judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, the prosecutors or the sentence itself and that he said he admired the F.B.I. rank and file, even though he continued to target its current and former leadership.
Mr. Barr has come to recognize that he may never be able to keep Mr. Trump quiet altogether and so in parsing the president’s latest comments, the attorney general and his team chose to see them as progress and an opportunity to work out their differences without further public exchange.
Mr. Barr, who has suggested to associates that he may have to resign if the president keeps tweeting about individual prosecutions, stayed silent after Mr. Trump’s remarks, and the department declined to comment.
Over the last week, some of Mr. Trump’s closest Republican allies in Congress, including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and some of the president’s favorite Fox News commentators have been trying to smooth over the rift by vouching for Mr. Barr and urging the president to let the legal process play out, according to people familiar with the matter.
After the judge sentenced Mr. Stone on Thursday, Mr. Graham noted on Twitter that the term was “on the lower end” and emphasized that a president could always grant clemency. He urged that there be no undue interference in legal cases — without quite saying whom he was addressing.
“It is important to give both the government and the accused a fair trial free from influence,” Mr. Graham wrote. “I believe this has been accomplished in Mr. Stone’s case. Like all Americans, Mr. Stone can appeal the fairness of his trial and the verdict rendered. Under our system of justice President Trump has all the legal authority in the world to review this case, in terms of commuting the sentence or pardoning Mr. Stone for the underlying offense.”
Mr. Trump’s critics maintained that extending clemency to Mr. Stone would amount to self-dealing for a president who stood to benefit from the convicted adviser’s lies about connections to WikiLeaks, which disseminated Democratic emails stolen by Russian agents to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.
“Roger Stone was found guilty of lying to Congress and threatening a witness,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the panel that Mr. Stone was convicted of obstructing. “He did it to cover up for Trump. His sentence is justified. It should go without saying, but to pardon Stone when his crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of corruption.”
In his speech on Thursday, Mr. Trump dismissed the significance of Mr. Stone’s crimes. He complained that the Justice Department prosecuted his friend for lying and obstructing a congressional inquiry, but did not charge his enemies like Mrs. Clinton, the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, Mr. Comey’s onetime deputy Andrew G. McCabe or the former F.B.I. officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.
“What happened to him is unbelievable,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Stone. “They say he lied. But other people lied, too. Just to mention, Comey lied. McCabe lied. Lisa Page lied. Her lover, Strzok, Peter Strzok, lied. You don’t know who these people are? Just trust me, they all lied.”
He went on to revive the email case involving Mrs. Clinton. “Hillary Clinton leaked more classified documents than any human being, I believe, in the history of the United States,” he said. But, he added, “nothing happened to her.”
In repeating his attacks on his favorite targets, Mr. Trump distorted or misstated the facts. Mrs. Clinton was not accused of leaking classified documents, much less the most in history. She was investigated for using a private computer server that was not as secure as a government server to send emails, some of which were later found to include classified information.
Mr. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, faulted her for carelessness but said “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” His surprise announcement that he was briefly reopening the investigation days before the 2016 election has been blamed by many Democrats for contributing to Mrs. Clinton’s defeat.
By contrast, Mr. Trump mocked the case against Mr. Stone, including the witness intimidation charge. “It’s not like the tampering that I see on television when you watch a movie,” the president said. “That’s called tampering — with guns to people’s heads and lots of other things.”
He repeated his assertion that the jury forewoman in Mr. Stone’s case was “totally tainted” and an “anti-Trump activist,” which he said should compel the judge to order a new trial. The Justice Department opposes a new trial, a position approved by Mr. Barr.
Mr. Trump left the strong impression, however, that he would use his clemency power if the judge did not go along with the defense motion, saying that he would “love to see Roger exonerated.”
“I’m going to watch the process. I’m going to watch it very closely,” Mr. Trump added. “And at some point, I’ll make a determination. But Roger Stone and everybody has to be treated fairly, and this has not been a fair process. OK?”
Charlie Savage and Katie Benner contributed reporting.
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