More than 1,000 Justice Department alumni call for Barr's resignation after intervention in Stone sentencing
US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with US Attorney General William Barr (R) during the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC on May 22, 2019.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
More than 1,000 alumni of the Justice Department on Sunday released a letter condemning Attorney General William Barr over his intervention in the prison sentence of Roger Stone, a close associate of President Donald Trump.
Prosecutors recommended Stone receive 7-9 years in prison this week for lying to Congress about contacts with the document disclosure group WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election. That night, the recommendation drew ire from Trump on Twitter. The next day, the DOJ filed a revised recommendation asking for "far less" time in prison for Stone. Four prosecutors working on Stone's case quit after the Justice Department reversed their recommendation, and one of the prosecutors left the department altogether.
Stone is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in federal court in Washington, but his lawyers have asked the judge for a new trial. The judge has scheduled a conference call for Tuesday with prosecutors and Stone's lawyers to discuss scheduling issues.
The Justice Department's actions sparked heated criticism, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for the inspector general to launch an investigation into "improper political interference in a criminal prosecution."
Barr, in an interview with ABC, said the initial recommendation of 7-9 years had "surprised" him and once it became public, he had made plans to amend it prior to Trump's criticisms on Twitter. He said President Trump had not intervened in the case, but his tweets were "disruptive."
"I will make those decisions based on what I think is the right thing to do, and I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody ... whether it's Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president," Barr said.
The DOJ alumni rejected Barr's explanations and called his for resignation.
"We welcome Attorney General Barr's belated acknowledgment that the DOJ's law enforcement decisions must be independent of politics," they wrote. "But Mr. Barr's actions in doing the President's personal bidding, unfortunately, speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice's reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign."
The alumni said it is unheard of for top DOJ officials to overrule line prosecutorsin order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the president.
"It is even more outrageous for the Attorney General to intervene as he did here — after the President publicly condemned the sentencing recommendation that line prosecutors had already filed in court," they wrote.
"Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice," the former officials continued. "In this nation, we are all equal before the law. A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President."
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to request for comment.