Senate Democrats are calling for an investigation into Attorney General Bill Barr, amid mounting outrage over the Justice Department’s unprecedented reversal on its sentencing recommendation of Trump-ally Roger Stone.
The calls came one day after the sudden and dramatic withdrawal of four career prosecutors on the case, who walked away in protest after the Justice Department took the extraordinary step of overruling the government’s recommended sentence for Stone, which Trump had criticized on Twitter. Two will remain on the job at DOJ, while Aaron Zelinsky and Jonathan Kravis resigned from the DC US attorney’s office completely (Zelinsky will remain part of the Baltimore US attorney’s office).
“Congress must act immediately to rein in our lawless Attorney General,” Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter. “Barr should resign or face impeachment.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also delivered a letter to DOJ Inspector General’s Office, describing Barr’s conduct as “improper political interference in a criminal prosecution.”
The fast-moving firestorm exploded on Tuesday, as the US Attorney’s Office submitted a filing with a recommended a sentence “far less” than the seven-to-nine years that the government’s own prosecutors said Stone should serve.
Asked if Trump feels emboldened by his acquittal, Lindsey Graham said: “No, I think he feels like the people are out to get him, going overboard. I mean just put yourself in his shoes.” pic.twitter.com/NGFseUodTY
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 12, 2020
A longtime friend and advisor to Trump, Stone was found guilty in November of witness tampering, obstruction and lying to Congress in an effort to obtain Russian-hacked emails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election bid.
Prosecutors said Stone should face a higher sentence than usual due to his behavior during the trial — including posting an image of Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s face with crosshairs in the background. That recommendation was “extreme and excessive and disproportionate” in the view of a Justice Department official who spoke anonymously to reporters.
“To have this kind of intervention in a sentencing proceeding is basically unheard of,” Martin Stolar, the attorney for radio host Randy Credico, a key witness in the Stone trial, told Gothamist. “It just does not happen, except for in countries that have authoritarian rule.”
“These are the guys who tried the case, who knew everything about the case,” Stolar added. “They probably feel like their balls were cut off.”
The DOJ has claimed their intervention was not influenced by the president’s personal feelings for his longtime confidante (a man who, while we’re on the subject, once described Trump’s own balls as “enormous.”)
Nevertheless, Trump spent the morning praising Barr’s allegiance on Twitter, thanking him for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.”
At press time, the Republican-controlled Senate appeared unlikely to compel Barr to testify on the matter.
Stone’s sentencing is scheduled for February 20th.
UPDATE: The House Judiciary committee confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that Barr will testify before the committee on March 31st. He is expected to address “numerous concerns regarding his leadership of the Department of Justice and the President’s improper influence over the Department.”
READ IT HERE: Letter from @HouseJudiciary confirming AG Barr will testify before the Committee on March 31st to address concerns regarding his leadership of the DOJ and the President’s improper influence over the Department and our criminal justice system. pic.twitter.com/W5YHly85BL
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) February 12, 2020