Senate Democrats unloaded on Attorney General William Barr on Friday, accusing him and other top Justice Department officials of trying to “undermine the administration of justice” and urging him to resign.
The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) sparked a political firestorm when it recommended a lesser sentence for Trump associate Roger Stone, contradicting the federal prosecutors working on the case.
The senators said they were sending the letter to Barr to “express … alarm and opposition to the unethical political intervention.”
“This is an extraordinary turn of events. It appears to show that you and other top DOJ officials intervened in a clearly political fashion to undermine the administration of justice at the President’s behest in order to protect a well-connected political ally who committed a ‘direct and brazen attack on the rule of law,'” the senators wrote.
They added that the reversal of the sentencing recommendation by DOJ leadership “is a clear violation of your duty to defend fair, impartial and equal justice for all Americans. As a result, we call on you to resign immediately.”
In addition to Warren, Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) signed on to the letter to Barr. Both Warren and Sanders are running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The Justice Department on Tuesday formally asked for “far less” than the original seven- to nine-year sentence recommendation for Stone made a day before by frontline federal prosecutors.
The U-turn, which came after President Trump publicly criticized the initial sentence recommendation, led to four prosecutors withdrawing from the case.
Trump raised further questions about Barr’s role in the decision when he praised the attorney general in a tweet for “taking charge” of the case.
Barr, during an interview with ABC News that aired Thursday, said that he had already made a decision to ask for a lesser sentence before Trump’s tweet criticizing the seven- to-nine-year recommendation.
“However, to have public statements and tweets made about the department … make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” he added.
Barr also said during the interview that he was not going to be influenced by anyone, including the president, but Democrats called that statement “simply not credible.”
They added that the actions taken by the Justice Department on the Stone case “make a mockery of your responsibilities to seek equal justice under the law and reveal that you are unfit to head the DOJ.”
In addition to sending the letter to Barr, Warren, Van Hollen, Hirono and Markey unveiled legislation on Friday that would prohibit “high-level” Justice Department officials appointed by Trump from participating in issues relating to the president, his family or campaign associates.
The legislation would block the Justice Department from using funding for an action that involved having a Senate-confirmed DOJ official or a U.S. attorney named by the attorney general take part in a matter that involved Trump, a family member or a current or former campaign official.
“This bill would use Congress’ spending authority to protect the rule of law and prevent a corrupt Attorney General from protecting the President’s buddies when they commit crimes to benefit the President,” Warren said in a statement.