EXCLUSIVE: Former U.S. Attorney General defends William Barr's actions

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JEFFERSON CITY — Former U.S. Attorney General and former Missouri governor John D. Ashcroft is defending current Attorney General William Barr after former Department of Justice officials and Democrats have called for Barr's resignation.

KOMU 8 spoke with the former Attorney General at a Cole County fundraising dinner for Republican candidates across Missouri.

Attorney General William Barr is facing criticism from former department officials after former Trump aide Roger Stone's recommended prison sentence for obstructing a congressional inquiry was reduced.

The four lawyers who worked on the Roger Stone's prosecution resigned after their recommendation was reduced.

Ashcroft said the lawyers who worked on the Stone case were too wrapped up in the case to make a recommendation.

"I think they were too involved in the case to indicate that their judgement would be exclusive," he said. "And that they absent of getting exactly their way on the case should cease to work for the department and if they don't want to work for the department, they shouldn't."

Ashcroft said the federal prosecutors' recommendation was just that -- a recommendation.

"The real expectation of the American people and of the Attorney General and the justice community is that theirs is a recommendation," he said. "But, the ultimate authority belongs to the U.S Attorney and the Attorney General."

KOMU 8 asked the former Attorney General about the over 2,000 former Department of Justice officials who signed an open letter calling for the Attorney General's resignation after the recommendation sentence for Roger Stone was reduced. 

Ashcroft said he didn't see the open letter, but doesn't think Barr should resign or that Barr has made the department partisan. 

"I think it's clear Barr will do what he thinks is right, he said.  "When I called on Bill Barr to assist the department when I was attorney general he always did so in a very non-partisan way. He's made it clear he won't be bullied by anyone."

Ashcroft said the president's tweets can make the Attorney General's job difficult, but it doesn't necessarily mean the White House is interfering with the department.  

"The mere fact that streets are wet when it rains doesn't mean wet streets cause rain," he said.

Ashcroft would not say if he'd advise the president to stop tweeting about active investigations.