Charging that President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have “openly and repeatedly flouted” the principle of nonpartisan administration of justice, more than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials have called on Barr to step down.
In a letter released Sunday, the prosecutors said Barr’s decision to lower the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for Trump’s friend Roger Stone, violated the “even-handed administration of justice” called for in the Justice Manual, the Department of Justice’s “rulebook” for prosecutors.
Barr has claimed that his decision to intervene in the Stone case was not the result of a presidential request, but the letter argued his “actions 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,” said the letter, which was signed by 1,142 former prosecutors as of Sunday night—and has been left as an “open” document for other prosecutors to sign.
In a direct challenge to the White House, the prosecutors urged current government employees to report signs of unethical behavior at DOJ to the inspector general and to Congress, and to “refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office.”
“It falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice,” said the letter, which was circulated by Protect Democracy, a nonprofit legal group.
The letter, reported by various media outlets, including the New York Times and NPR, underlined the extent of the fallout over the Stone case. After prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of up to nine years for Stone, who was convicted of obstructing a congressional inquiry, Trump lashed out.
Senior officials at the department overrode the recommendation with a more lenient one, immediately prompting accusations of political interference, and the four lawyers on the Stone case withdrew in protest.
In unusually strong language, the letter declared that any hint of political interference is “a grave threat to the fair administration of justice” and that violating the principle of nonpartisanship undermines the Constitution.
“In this nation, we are all equal before the law,” the prosecutors said.
“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.”
Among the signatories were Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under President George Bush, and about 50 former U.S. attorneys.