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Former DOJ officials call on William Barr to resign; Roger Stone seeks retrial

Current federal judges will meet Wednesday to discuss the DOJ’s intervention in Roger Stone’s sentencing, but the president has called for a new trial.

Attorney General William Barr speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association Winter Legislative and Technology Conference in Washington on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. Numerous legal minds have expressed condemnation for Barr and President Donald Trump for their interference in the sentencing of longtime Trump associate Roger Stone.
Susan Walsh, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Three Utahns, including retired federal magistrate judge Sam Alba, are among more than two thousand former Department of Justice officials that have signed a letter calling on Attorney General William Barr to step down.

The letter condemns Barr and President Donald Trump for interference in the sentencing of longtime Trump political and campaign adviser Roger Stone, saying the damages caused to the department’s reputation “require” Barr to resign.

Federal judges, also concerned by the Trump administration’s intervention, will meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the issue. Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the Stone case, has said she will issue a sentence on Thursday as scheduled, according to CBS News.

‘Politically sensitive cases’

The outcry comes in the wake of a tumultuous week in Washington. After Trump criticized prosecutors’ recommendation that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years of prison on seven felony convictions, the DOJ walked it back, seeking “far less” prison time. All four prosecutors withdrew from the case, while one resigned his post. The president thanked Barr for “taking charge” of a case he called “totally out of control.”

Barr told ABC News that Trump’s tweets “make it impossible to do (his) job,” but that the DOJ had not been influenced by the president.

Friday, The New York Times reported Barr had assigned outside prosecutors to review “politically sensitive cases,” to include that of Michael Flynn — Trump’s former national security adviser.

Justice alumni slam Barr

The letter — posted to Medium on Sunday — says that Justice Department lawyers “stand for the proposition that political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law.”

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

The former Justice Department officials from Utah included Samuel Alba, William Lockhart and David Schwendiman, according to Medium. As of Tuesday morning, the three men had been joined by 2,000 other former DOJ officials by signing the letter. The signers — including the Utahns — are alumni of both Republican and Democratic administrations.

The alumni wrote that they “support and commend the four career prosecutors” who resigned from the Stone case after the Justice Department announced they would advocate for “far less” prison time than recommended.

Stone was convicted of seven federal felonies including witness tampering, obstruction of a congressional investigation and lying to Congress — which could have brought him 50 years in prison.

Federal judges are concerned

Trump’s perceived influence over the Department of Justice has federal judges so concerned that they are scheduled to convene on Wednesday to address the growing overreach.

“There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Federal Judges Association leader Philadelphia district Judge Cynthia Rufe said, according to USA Today. “We’ll talk all of this through,” she said of the association, which boasts more than 1,000 federal judges as members.

Federal judges made the decision to meet after the DOJ began backpedalling the sentencing recommendations against Stone last week, according to USA Today.

Trump responds

Meanwhile, in a series of tweets Tuesday, the president appeared to endorse a motion for a new trial presented Friday by Stone’s defense attorneys. The motion alleged juror misconduct, according to CNBC.

The tweets quoted Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano from arguing that Jackson should approve the motion based on allegations that the jury foreperson was biased.

Jackson has told attorneys in the case she will not impose the conditions of Stone’s sentence until the request for a new trial is resolved, according to CBS News.