A group of federal judges hastily postponed an emergency meeting that was scheduled to take place Wednesday to discuss concerns about President Donald Trump and the Justice Department’s intervention in politically charged cases.
The independent Federal Judges Association planned an emergency meeting to address issues stemming from the Justice Department’s decision to intervene in the case involving Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump.
Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, president of the group, told USA Today that it “could not wait” until its spring conference to discuss the recent decisions made within the department and that its executive committee would convene a conference call on Tuesday after the department backtracked on its recommendation for Stone’s sentence.
“There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Rufe, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush, told the newspaper, noting that the group called for the meeting after Trump railed against the initial sentencing recommendation Stone received.
The group, which includes more than 1,100 federal jurists, did not immediately return a request for further comment from The Hill.
Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are facing mounting scrutiny from lawmakers and former DOJ officials over the perception that Trump influenced their actions on Stone.
After the DOJ asked a judge last week for a lighter prison sentence for Stone than the seven to nine years that was initially recommended, the four federal prosecutors assigned to the case all resigned from it, with one leaving the DOJ altogether.
Prosecutors had told a judge that Stone should serve seven to nine years in prison for lying to Congress and obstruction. But one day later, DOJ said that the recommendation did not “accurately reflect” its position following vehement criticism from Trump.
Trump also targeted D.C. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing the Stone case, after the prosecutors’ resignations, suggesting that she had treated his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort unfairly.
Manafort was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison after he was convicted on charges of bank and tax fraud and pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.
Rufe told USA Today that the Federal Judges Association is “not inclined to get involved with an ongoing case.” But she offered staunch support for Jackson, saying that the group is “supportive of any federal judge who does what is required.”
Barr has insisted that he did not speak with the White House before altering the sentencing recommendation for Stone, whose trial stemmed from crimes unearthed during former special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation. He has since said, however, that Trump’s tweets make it “impossible” for him to do his job.
More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials have signed on to a letter calling for Barr to resign, saying that his “actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words.”
The letter also calls on career officials to follow the “heroic example” set by the prosecutors who resigned from Stone’s case and to be prepared to report “future abuse.”
The Federal Judges Association was founded in 1982 and is a voluntary association that includes officers and directors from appeals and district courts around the country. The group’s mission is to “sustain our system of justice through civics education and public outreach,” according to its website.
By Justin Wise – 02/17/20 07:33 PM EST