Feb 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Judges group calls emergency meeting on Roger Stone case intervention

President Trump with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House last July. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Federal Judges Association told USA Today the independent group called an emergency meeting Tuesday to address "growing concerns" about the Department of Justice, Attorney General Bill Barr, President Trump and the intervention of "politically sensitive cases."

Why it matters: This is another example of the scrutiny Barr is facing from not only Democrats but also members of the legal community — from both sides of the political aisle — following his intervention in the sentencing of President Trump's associate Roger Stone last week.

  • Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, the independent judges association's president, who was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush, told USA Today she organized the conference call in response to the Stone case intervention.

What they're saying: "We just could not wait until April to discuss matters of this importance," Rufe said in reference to the group's spring conference. "There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about."

The big picture: Over 1,100 former DOJ officials who served Republican and Democratic administrations signed onto a statement Sunday condemning Barr's action arguing that his actions "require" him to resign.

  • The president has also been singled out by members of the legal community for criticizing the judge presiding over Stone's case, Amy Berman Jackson. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell issued a rare statement last week over the action, saying "Public criticism or pressure is not a factor" in sentencing decisions.
  • 21 former chairs of the American Bar Association's Litigation Section also denounced Trump's tweet in a letter to the Washington Post Monday.

The other side: The Trump administration did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment. But the DOJ maintains the original sentence request by career prosecutors of seven to nine years in prison for Stone's crimes including obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering was too harsh — citing factors including Stone's "advanced age, health, personal circumstances and lack of criminal history."

  • Barr told ABC News Thursday that Trump's "constant background commentary" about the DOJ "make it impossible for me to do my job," adding, "I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases."
  • Trump tweeted Friday that he has "the legal right" to ask Barr to intervene in criminal cases but he has "so far chosen not to."
  • Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short told CNN Sunday that Trump felt the justice system was biased against him.
"The president's frustration is one that a lot of the Americans have which feels like the scales of justice are not balanced anymore. And when someone like Roger Stone gets a prosecution that suggests a nine-year jail sentence which is four years above the sentencing guidelines ... they feel it is unusual."
— Marc Short on CNN

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Roger Stone sentenced to more than 3 years in prison

Roger Stone arriving for his sentencing hearing. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to 4o months in prison for crimes that include obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering.

Why it matters: Stone is the seventh person to be convicted and sentenced for crimes unearthed by former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. His case has been at the heart of ongoing tensions between President Trump and his Justice Department.

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GOP congressional leaders issue statement defending Bill Barr

Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a statement Tuesday in support of Attorney General William Barr.

Why it matters: More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials have called on Barr to resign for his role in politically sensitive investigations, after he intervened in the case of Trump associate Roger Stone.

House Democrats request interviews with prosecutors who quit Roger Stone case

Rep. Jerry Nadler. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Judiciary Committee Democrats are seeking interviews with four prosecutors who resigned from the Roger Stone case after the Justice Department intervened to recommend a shorter sentence for the former Trump associate.

What's happening: In a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr sent Friday, House Democrats requested interviews with 15 current and former Justice Department officials as part of an effort to investigate allegations of Trump interference into the DOJ.