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Federal Judges to Have Emergency Meeting on Tuesday to Discuss DOJ and Trump Intervening in Stone Case

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Federal Judges to Have Emergency Meeting on Tuesday to Discuss DOJ and Trump Intervening in Stone Case

2020-02-18 13:50:111 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Roger Stone (Image source: Screenshot)

While Donald Trump believes he has the right to interfere in court cases, and Attorney General William Barr in command of the Justice Department appears to be allowing him to do so and even taking cues from him, federal judges across the country are not very pleased with these actions. In particular, they are upset about the DOJ and Trump interfering in the Roger Stone case with regard to his recommended prison sentence. Tuesday the Federal Judges Association will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the president's and the DOJ's interference.

Stone was the last to be convicted from former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The Trump ally and campaign adviser was convicted of lying to Congress and of obstruction. He had a role in the Russian campaign interference and knew about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails and those of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman beforehand. Those emails eventually turned up on WikiLeaks. 

Last week prosecutors recommended Stone receive a seven- to nine-year prison sentence, but the DOJ intervened and asked a judge for a lighter prison sentence. The four federal prosecutors assigned to the Stone case all resigned from it, and one left the DOJ altogether.

Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, the president of the Federal Judges Association, told USA Today that the issue "could not wait" until the association's spring conference to discuss the decisions made within the DOJ. She announced that the group's executive committee would convene a conference call regarding the department's recommendation to reduce Stone's requested sentence. 

"There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about," added Rufe, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush, adding that the meeting was requested after Trump complained about the sentencing recommendation.

One day after prosecutors had suggested Stone should serve a seven- to nine-year sentence, the DOJ said that recommendation didn't "accurately reflect" its position after Trump's criticism. 

Trump also criticized D.C. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson who oversaw Stone's case as well as that of Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. He suggested Manafort had been treated unfairly.

Manafort had been found guilty of bank and tax fraud charges, then took a plea deal on a conspiracy charge. Months later prosecutors took the plea deal away, complaining that he had not complied with the agreement. He was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. 

Rufe said the Federal Judges Association is "not inclined to get involved with an ongoing case" while also offering support for Jackson, noting the association is "supporting of any federal judge who does what is required."

Barr contends he did not speak with the White House before he changed the sentencing recommendation for Stone. However, since then, he has also said Trump's constant tweets make it "impossible" for him to do his job as attorney general. 

More than 2,000 former DOJ officials have added their names to a letter requesting that Barr resign because his "actions in doing the president's personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words." The letter also asks career officials to follow the "heroic example" of the prosecutors who resigned from Stone's case and to be prepared to report "future abuse."

According to the Federal Judges Association's website, it was founded in 1982 and is a voluntary association that includes officers and directors from appeals and district courts from across the country. The mission of the group is to "sustain our system of justice through civics education and public outreach."

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