WASHINGTON – More than 1,100 Department of Justice alumnus signed a letter calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign Sunday, writing that his handling of the Roger Stone case “openly and repeatedly flouted” the principle of equal justice under the rule of law.
The letter comes after a contentious week for the Justice Department, which already faces allegations of succumbing to political pressure from President Donald Trump.
“Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, 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, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case,” the letter reads.
The signatures of the former employees, who served under Democratic and Republican presidencies, were gathered by Protect Democracy, a bipartisan group that has been critical of the Trump administration.
The alumni called current DOJ employees to “report future abuses” and acknowledged that “because we have little expectation” Barr will resign, “it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.”
“The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less,” it continued.
The letter highlights the DOJ’s rules for its lawyers, saying that legal decisions “must be impartial and insulated from political influence.”
Since beginning his term as head of the agency, Barr has cemented himself as a defender of the president, intervening in and ordering reviews of some of the Justice Department’s most politically sensitive cases and investigations that are indirectly tied to Trump. Democrats have questioned the law enforcement agency’s independence from the White House and have called on Barr to testify before Congress.
Four career prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case after the DOJ intervened to reduce its recommended sentence for Trump’s longtime friend and ally. The intervention comes after Trump criticized the seven to nine-year sentence recommendation as a “miscarriage of justice.”
The letter commended the prosecutors, saying, “We call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example.”
Stone was found guilty in November of lying to the House Intelligence Committee and obstructing its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The 67-year-old fixture in GOP politics was also found guilty of threatening a potential congressional witness.
Barr also appointed St. Louis’s top federal prosecutor to review the criminal case against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who is awaiting sentencing in federal court after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.
He and Stone are among the half a dozen former Trump aides and allies who were indicted as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Russia probe cast a cloud over the early years of Trump’s presidency.
Barr acknowledged last week that the Justice Department is evaluating information from Ukraine provided by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney who sought to tar the president’s potential presidential rival, Joe Biden, and revive a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the last election.
“Such behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice. In this nation, we are all equal before the law,” the letter says. “A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the President. Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson and Kevin McCoy