Judiciary Committee Democrats are asking Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to investigate any political interference at the Department of Justice amid growing fallout over its decision to request a shorter sentence for Trump associate Roger Stone.
Their request comes a day after Graham said he would not ask Attorney General William Barr to testify specifically on the Stone sentencing. Democrats are now requesting a broader investigation that would include, but not be limited to, the current scandal.
“This is to request that the Judiciary Committee investigate the involvement of senior Justice Department political appointees in cases of personal or political interest to the President, including the sentencing recommendation of Roger Stone,” the senators wrote in a letter to Graham.
The Justice Department on Tuesday formally asked for “far less” than the original seven- to nine-year sentence recommendation made a day before by frontline federal prosecutors. The U-turn set shockwaves through Washington and led to four prosecutors withdrawing from the case.
“The decision to overrule career prosecutors to favor one of the President’s associates is shocking and unprecedented,” the Democrats wrote in the letter to Graham. “This is a red flag, as is recent reporting that Attorney General Barr has personally assumed control of all cases of personal or political interest to President Trump.”
The Democrats noted that the Justice Department is expected to “ensure fair and impartial justice for all Americans,” which “requires that its prosecutorial decisions remain free from political influence.”
“It’s becoming clear that this is not happening,” the Democrats added.
The Justice Department’s decision to ask for a lesser sentence for Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering, comes after President Trump publicly criticized the original recommendation as “very unfair.”
“This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
Trump said on Tuesday that he did not instruct the Justice Department to change its sentence, but that he could have. He added that he thought the initial recommendation was “ridiculous.”
“I’d be able to do it if I wanted. I have the absolute right to do it. I stay out of things,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.