WASHINGTON (CN) – A voluntary group of nearly 1,100 federal judges will meet Wednesday to address Attorney General William Barr’s recent intervention in politically sensitive cases tied to President Donald Trump.
Philadelphia-based U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, head of the Federal Judges Association, first told USA Today on Monday that the issue of Barr’s intervention in the cases of Trump allies Roger Stone and Michael Flynn couldn’t wait to be addressed.
She said the organization had “plenty of issues that we are concerned about” and the lifetime-appointed judges would “talk all of this through” during the meeting.
Rufe, a George W. Bush nominee, said the call for an emergency meeting stemmed from recent Department of Justice maneuvers – specifically, the reversal of a sentencing recommendation for Stone, a former Trump confidant who was convicted last year of obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors had initially asked for a prison term of seven to nine years for Stone, but Trump called that recommendation “ridiculous” on Twitter. The Justice Department then changed course and said it would recommend a more lenient punishment.
In addition, Barr has appointed a prosecutor to look into the case of Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, as well as other “politically sensitive” cases in Washington, D.C. After spending more than 100 hours cooperating with other federal investigations, Flynn moved to withdraw his guilty plea last month claiming misconduct on the part of the prosecutors handling his case.
According to Rufe’s staff, the meeting of federal judges will take place Wednesday – not Tuesday, as initially reported – and will likely be conducted via telephone.
The issue of White House interference in Justice Department prosecutions entered the national spotlight last week when Trump took to Twitter to call Stone’s sentencing recommendation a “miscarriage of justice.” Prosecutors changed their recommendation to three to four years the very next day.
The move prompted four prosecutors handling the Stone case to withdraw following the new sentencing motion, including Jonathan Kravis, who quit the Department of Justice entirely. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed and Michael Marando all have backed out of the Stone case.
On Tuesday, Trump again hammered on the issue on Twitter, arguing for the case against Stone to be dismissed entirely. He claimed the initial investigation into Stone’s misconduct, led by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was “illegally set up.”
“Everything having to do with this fraudulent investigation is badly tainted and, in my opinion should be thrown out,” Trump tweeted. “Even Mueller’s statement to Congress that he did not see me to become the FBI Director (again), has been proven false. The whole deal was a total SCAM. If I wasn’t President I’d be suing everyone all over the place BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL. WITCH HUNT!” (Parentheses and emphasis in original.)
Barr told ABC News last Thursday that the president has never asked him to intervene in a criminal case, but that Trump’s online presence could be a distraction to prosecutors. The attorney general said during that interview that Trump’s tweets about Justice Department cases “make it impossible to do my job” and that “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”
Trump doesn’t appear to have taken the message to heart. He also took virtual shots Tuesday at the judge presiding over the Stone case, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.
Citing a morning Fox News interview with former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano, Trump parroted claims that Stone deserves a new trial.
“‘I think almost any judge in the Country would order a new trial, I’m not so sure about Judge Jackson, I don’t know,’” Trump tweeted, quoting Napolitano,
The Federal Judges Association is not the only entity to voice its concern with the Justice Department’s recent stances and tactics. On Sunday, more than 1,100 former department officials signed onto a letter calling for Barr’s resignation. That number grew to over 2,000 signatures by Monday afternoon.
“Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies,” according to the letter. “Those actions and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign.”