More than 1,100 former DOJ officials press for Attorney General Barr to step down

More than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials are calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign following reports Barr and President Donald Trump intervened in the criminal prosecution of Trump’s friend Roger Stone

In an open letter released Sunday, the former officials say Barr broke Justice Department rules when he overruled federal prosecutors in Stone’s criminal case, seeking a far more lenient sentence than the potential nine years prosecutors originally recommended. 

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William Barr through the years
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William Barr through the years
FILE - In this Nov. 12, 1991 file photo, then Attorney General nominee William Barr is shown on Capitol Hill in Washington. Barr once advised the U.S. government that it could attack Iraq without Congressional approval, arrest a deposed foreign dictator and capture suspects abroad without that country’s permission. Those decisions reflect a broad view of presidential power that Barr, President Donald Trump's pick to reclaim his old attorney general job, demonstrated at the Justice Department and in the years since. (AP Photo/John Duricka)
U.S. President George H. Bush signs into law new civil rights guarantees for women and minorities at a Rose Garden ceremony, Thursday, Nov. 21, 1991 in Washington, as Vice President Dan Quayle, left, and Acting Attorney General William Barr look on. The bill signing capped a two-year struggle with congress over whether the legislation encouraged job quotas. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)
U.S. President George H. Bush, right, and William Barr wave after Barr was sworn in as the new Attorney General of the United States, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 1991 at a Justice Department ceremony in Washington. (AP Photo/Scott Applewhite)
U.S. President George H. Bush gestures while talking to Attorney General William Barr in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, May 4, 1992 in Washington. The President met with top domestic Cabinet officers to tackle long-range problems pushed to the forefront by last week's deadly riots in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)
Board member of MCI Telecommunications, Nicholas Katzenbach, second left, speaks at hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on "The WorldCom Case: Looking at Bankruptcy and Competition Issues" on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday, July 22, 2003. Witnesses are, from left, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Verizon Communications William Barr, Katzenbach, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP's Marcia Goldstein, Communications Workers of America President Morton Bahr, National Bankruptcy Conference Vice-Chair Douglas Baird, Cerberus Capital Management Chief Operation Officer Mark Neporent. (AP Photo/Akira Ono)
Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, left, listens as William Redpath, Libertarian Party national chairman, answers a question at a news conference in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007. (AP Photo)
President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Barr, who served in the position in the early 1990s, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and could be in place at the Justice Department as soon as February when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves after Barr is confirmed. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, left, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee member and Trump confidant Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Barr, who served in the position in the early 1990s, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and could be in place at the Justice Department as soon as February when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves after Barr is confirmed. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, arrives to meet with Senate Judiciary Committee member and Trump confidant Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Barr, who served in the position in the early 1990s, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and could be in place at the Justice Department as soon as February when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves after Barr is confirmed. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, right, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Barr, who served in the position in the early 1990s, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and could be in place at the Justice Department as soon as February when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves after Barr is confirmed. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Attorney General nominee William Barr , left, turns to answer a reporter's question as he arrives to meet with Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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“It is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President,” they said. 

In their call for Barr’s resignation, the former Justice Department officials suggested his behavior is a threat to democracy.

“Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies,” they wrote.

Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering in order to impede investigators looking into the Trump campaign. He was one of the highest-profile Trump allies to face prosecution resulting from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

After prosecutors in the Stone case filed a sentencing request on Monday seeking up to nine years in prison, Trump called the decision a “miscarriage of justice” on Twitter. 

The following day, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia filed a new recommendation that didn’t suggest any particular length of time. The move led all four prosecutors in the Stone trial to drop out of the case

In their open letter, the former officials said an independent, nonpolitical Justice Department is vital to the “Department’s sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.”

“President Trump and Attorney General Barr have openly and repeatedly flouted this fundamental principle,” they wrote, “most recently in connection with the sentencing of President Trump’s close associate, Roger Stone, who was convicted of serious crimes.”

The officials praised the prosecutors who withdrew from the Stone case, and they called on anyone who witnesses similar abuses to refuse to carry them out; report all misconduct to the DOJ inspector general; withdraw from cases in which they are given unethical directives; and ― “in a manner consistent with professional ethics” ― alert the American people of the reasons for their resignation, should the time come. 

In an interview with ABC on Thursday, Barr said Trump’s comments and tweets about the Justice Department and specific cases “make it impossible” for Barr to do his job. In their letter, the former DOJ officials say Barr’s interview, which came amid a wave of public concern about the department’s independence, did little to inspire confidence. 

“Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words,” they wrote, adding that those actions “require Mr. Barr to resign. 

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