More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials who served in Republican as well as Democratic administrations have signed a statement posted Sunday calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign.
“Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice,” the officials wrote in a statement.
The statement’s signatures, which numbered 1,100 when the post was initially published, had risen to 2,003 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
The rare statement from the officials — mostly former career prosecutors, but also some former political appointees — came in the wake of an extraordinary week at the Justice Department. In just one week, career prosecutors withdrew from a case after Barr overruled their sentencing recommendation, the attorney general pushed back against the President in an unusual interview and separately ordered an examination of politically charged cases involving those close to President Donald Trump.
The statement went on to say career attorneys should report any troubling actions they see to the department’s Inspector General.
The Justice Department declined to comment when reached by CNN Sunday. Barr has so far not given any indication that he is considering stepping down from his current role.
The upheaval at the Justice Department began when all four federal prosecutors who took the case against Roger Stone to trial withdrew from the case Tuesday afternoon after Barr overruled their sentencing recommendation hours after the President criticized it on Twitter.
Barr on Thursday claimed he couldn’t do his job with Trump publicly commenting on sensitive investigations, but insisted the Justice Department had acted appropriately, and, without explanation, suggested prosecutors’ recommended sentence for Stone was too harsh.
In an interview with ABC News, Barr defended the department’s rank-and-file.
“I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” the attorney general said.
In an unusual move on Sunday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing Stone’s case, called for a “scheduling” conference call with attorneys in the case on Tuesday, ahead of the sentencing hearing set for later this week, according to court documents.
The court did not provide additional details on what would be discussed on the call, and Jackson has not yet formally acknowledged the withdrawals.
Barr zags and prosecutors worry
It was a notable zag for Barr after days of mounting scrutiny, and on Friday, the Justice Department informed former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe — a frequent target of Trump’s ire — it was dropping charges against him.
At the time, Barr ordered a re-examination of several high-profile cases, including that of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, US officials briefed on the matter say. The move could bring fresh scrutiny of the political motives behind actions at the Justice Department.
Prosecutors across the country have been incensed and worried about what some perceive as growing political directives coming from Washington.
On the West Coast, one federal prosecutor said there was an overwhelming sense of “outrage” felt in his office.
A prosecutor on the East Coast voiced concern about the potential impact of political interference on juries and judges, who could perceive that cases aren’t being brought objectively.
And a former prosecutor said his clients have expressed concern about cooperating with investigations out of fear that the Justice Department could interfere improperly in a case, putting them in jeopardy.
‘That’s just not normal’
Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, said Sunday that Barr “does enjoy the support” of Trump, telling CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” that he doesn’t think “it’s impossible (for Barr) to do his job.”
“In fact, I think that Attorney General Barr is doing a great job,” he added. “I think he has a lot of confidence inside the White House. I think that the President’s frustration is one that a lot of Americans have, which feels like the scales of justice are not balancing.”
But several Democratic senators, including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, last week also called for Barr to resign.
Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar echoed that call Sunday on “State of the Union,” but added she does not expect Barr to step down.
“Sure, I’d be glad if he resigned. I just don’t think that is realistic,” the Minnesota senator said, adding, “But what I think is realistic is that he is now going to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee. I’d also like him to come to the Senate. And, along with my colleagues, I have asked him to do that, so we can probe him on the role of the President in trying to influence decisions in the Department of Justice, in particular the (Roger) Stone decision.”
Klobuchar told Bash that Barr’s involvement in the case is “just not normal.”
“I just think it’s outrageous, knowing how hard these career prosecutors work to do the right thing, how hard they worked on a case like Roger Stone’s, got him convicted, and then get undermined when it comes to the sentencing,” she said. “That’s just not normal.”