The House Judiciary Committee on Friday sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting documents and interviews with former and current department officials over claims of “improper political interference” in the way several department matters have been handled.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), said in his letter (pdf) to Attorney General William Barr that the lawmakers are requesting the information in order to fulfill its oversight responsibility. He is specifically asking the attorney general to turn over documents related to several criminal matters, including the sentencing of Trump associate Roger Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and the department’s probe into the origins of the 2016 counterintelligence investigation on the Trump campaign.
He is also asking for information in other matters such as the department’s handling of antitrust enforcement and the creation of a new process to vet information submitted by anyone, including President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Nadler is also requesting testimony or interviews from more than a dozen U.S. attorneys who have knowledge of those criminal and civil matters, including John H. Durham, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, who is leading the probe into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation, and the four prosecutors who withdrew from Stone’s case following the department’s decision to revise the sentencing recommendation that was deemed “excessive.”
“Our democracy is founded on the notion that no one is above the law, and strict adherence to the rule of law has separated us from all other nations. Attorneys General have supported this principle on a bipartisan basis throughout our history, but that principle is now under assault,” Nadler said in a statement on Friday.
The information request comes about a month before Barr is scheduled to testify before the committee lawmakers on March 31. The lawmakers requested the attorney general’s testimony over their claims that Barr had “engaged in a pattern of conduct in legal matters relating to the President that raises significant concerns for this Committee.”
The DOJ came under extensive scrutiny in recent weeks for some of the cases listed in Nadler’s letter, such as the Stone case, over concerns that the department was acting based on public statements made by the president.
In the Stone case, prosecutors originally recommended seven to nine years in prison for Stone, who was convicted of lying to and obstructing Congress and witness tampering. The DOJ, however, intervened in the case, calling the recommendation “excessive and unwarranted.”
The department then filed a revised sentencing memorandum that asked for “a sentence of incarceration far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment,” but did not offer a specific prison recommendation.
The department’s announcement to revise their sentencing recommendation came hours after Trump weighed in on Twitter about the seven to nine years recommendation. The department’s spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told media outlets that the DOJ didn’t consult with the White House about Stone’s sentencing. She added that the decision to change the sentencing request was made before the president had commented about it on Twitter. Meanwhile, Barr maintains that the decision to revise the sentencing recommendation came before Trump’s Twitter post.
Four prosecutors involved withdrew from the Stone case on the same day of the DOJ’s announcement.
In the wake of that case, Barr issued some rare criticism to the president, saying that he thinks “it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.” He said the public statements about the department and its staff make it “impossible” for the attorney general to do his job.
The attorney general added that he was “not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody” including whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president.
Trump has agreed with Barr’s assessment saying that his social media posts are making Barr’s job harder.
“I do make his job harder. I do agree with that. I think that’s true,” Trump said. “He’s a very straight shooter. We have a great attorney general and he’s working very hard. He’s working against a lot of people that don’t want to see good things happen, in my opinion.”
The Justice Department declined to comment on the letter.