Over 2,000 Former DOJ Officials Call for Barr’s Resignation Over Handling of Roger Stone Case

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
February 17, 2020Updated: February 17, 2020

More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials have signed an online letter urging Attorney General William Barr to resign following his intervention in the case of former Trump campaign associate Roger Stone.

The online letter was organized by Protect Democracy, a nonprofit advocacy group staffed by former government officials, political operatives, and activists that have been opposing Trump’s agenda via legal means. Some of the group’s actions include helping to shut down Trump’s voter integrity commission, suing to block Trump’s border emergency declaration, and a running campaign to have Trump prosecuted for obstruction of justice.

In their letter, the signees claim that Barr and President Donald Trump had interfered with the “fair administration of justice.” They say that it was “unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors” while alleging that it was done “in 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,” the group wrote in their letter.

Prosecutors originally recommended seven to nine years in prison for Stone, who was convicted of lying to and obstructing Congress and witness tampering. The Justice Department, 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. Justice 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 wrote on Twitter about it.

Four prosecutors involved withdrew from the Stone case on the same day of DOJ’s announcement.

The letter has been signed by around 2,000 former department officials as of Monday, which the group says is “vetted to the best of [their] ability.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to our request to comment.

This comes as the attorney general is under new scrutiny after allegations that his actions are politicizing the Justice Department.

On Monday, the Atlantic published an op-ed by Donald Ayer, the former deputy attorney general under George H. W. Bush, who accused Barr of acting as the “president’s personal advocate than as an attorney general” in several high profile cases such as during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. He also alleged the attorney general is “un-American” and is “working to tear down” the institutional system built up after the Watergate scandals.

During an interview on Feb. 13, Barr confirmed that the actions of the Justice Department had nothing to with the president, his tweets, or anyone from the White House. “I have not discussed the Roger Stone case at the White House,” Barr said.

The attorney general also criticized the president about his Twitter posts in the wake of one of Trump’s posts about the sentencing of former campaign adviser Roger Stone.

“To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job,” Barr said, “and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” he added.

Petr Svab contributed to this report.