Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders joined seven other Democratic senators on Friday in sending a letter to Attorney General William Barr demanding that the nation’s top law enforcement official resign immediately for intervening this week to reduce the recommended prison sentence for Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump.
“A [Department of Justice] that abandons the rule of law in order to give sweetheart deals to criminals acting on behalf of the president of the United States is as corrupt as it is unacceptable,” reads the letter. “You and the other officials involved must be held accountable for these actions. We therefore urge you to resign from your position, effective immediately.”
“Attorney General Barr’s interference in Roger Stone’s sentencing is not just unethical—it’s corrupt, plain and simple.”
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren In addition to Warren and Sanders, the letter was signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
The letter came a day after Barr admitted in an interview with ABC News that he and other top Justice Department officials stepped in to overrule career federal prosecutors’ recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for Stone, who was convicted last November of witness tampering and lying to Congress.
“I had made a decision that I thought was fair and reasonable in this case,” said Barr.
Barr added in the interview that he is “not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” referring to President Donald Trump’s tweet early Tuesday calling Stone’s initial sentence “horrible and very unfair.”
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said.
The senators wrote in their letter that Barr’s rebuke of the president is “simply not credible given that it is sharply at odds with the behavior of top DOJ officials and the comments of the president over the past 72 hours.”
In addition to demanding Barr’s resignation, Warren, Van Hollen, Hirono, and Markey unveiled legislation Friday that would bar Justice Department officials appointed by the president from participating in matters related to “the president, his family, or his campaign associates.”
“Attorney General Barr’s interference in Roger Stone’s sentencing is not just unethical—it’s corrupt, plain and simple,” Warren said in a statement. “This bill would use Congress’ spending authority to protect the rule of law and prevent a corrupt attorney general from protecting the president’s buddies when they commit crimes to benefit the president.”
Read the letter:
Attorney General Barr:
We are writing to express our alarm about and opposition to the unethical political intervention of senior Department of Justice (DOJ) officials in the case of Roger Stone, a former campaign insider and adviser to President Trump who was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation, lying to Congress, and tampering with a witness in connection with the investigation of Russian intervention into the 2016 presidential election. The interference in this case by you or other senior DOJ officials working under you is a clear violation of your duty to defend fair, impartial, and equal justice for all Americans. As a result, we call on you to resign immediately.
On Monday, February 10, the four DOJ prosecutors assigned to Mr. Stone’s case recommended a sentencing range of seven to nine years in prison. Mr. Stone was found guilty of lying to the House Intelligence Committee in the committee’s investigation of the 2016 election and then threatening “bodily harm” to a witness who could have exposed these lies. In their sentencing memorandum, the prosecutors explained that “Stone chose—consciously, repeatedly, and flagrantly—to obstruct and interfere with the search for the truth on an issue of vital importance to all Americans,” and that “Stone’s lies to Congress and his obstructive conduct are a direct and brazen attack on the rule of law.” Shortly after news broke about the filing, President Trump tweeted that the recommendation was “a horrible and very unfair situation” and wrote: “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice.”
Later the same day, Timothy Shea, the interim head of the U.S. Attorney’s office, filed a new sentencing memorandum reversing the recommendation of the line prosecutors, stating that the initial recommendation of seven to nine years “could be considered excessive and unwarranted.” Following this remarkable interference by senior DOJ officials, all four of the prosecutors assigned to Mr. Stone’s case withdrew.
According to press reports, “[t]he decision to override the recommended sentence was made by officials from [your office] and [Jeffrey Rosen,] the deputy attorney general.” The day after DOJ’s abrupt about-face, however, President Trump indicated that you were directly involved, tweeting: “Congratulations to Attorney General Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control,” and you confirmed your direct involvement in an interview with ABC News yesterday.
This is an extraordinary turn of events. It appears to show that you and other top DOJ officials intervened in a clearly political fashion to undermine the administration of justice at the President’s behest in order to protect a well-connected political ally who committed a “direct and brazen attack on the rule of law.” It demonstrates that you lied to Congress during your confirmation hearing when you stated that you would “keep the enforcement process sacrosanct from political influence,” and it reveals your unwillingness or inability to maintain the integrity of the DOJ and to uphold justice and the rule of law. While you asserted yesterday in an interview with ABC News that you were “not going to be… influenced by anybody,” this statement is simply not credible given that it is sharply at odds with the behavior of top DOJ officials and the comments of the president over the past 72 hours.
DOJ proudly describes its “sacred duty” as “ensur[ing] fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” The shocking action taken by your or your senior staff to seek special protections for Mr. Stone make a mockery of your responsibilities to seek equal justice under the law and reveal that you are unfit to head the DOJ.
A DOJ that abandons the rule of law in order to give sweetheart deals to criminals acting on behalf of the President of the United States is as corrupt as it is unacceptable.
You and the other officials involved must be held accountable for these actions. We therefore urge you to resign from your position, effective immediately.