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Roger Stone backlash: Democrats demand Barr resign, call for investigation, hearings

NBC News logo NBC News 4 days ago Rebecca Shabad
Chuck Schumer wearing a suit and tie: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks at a press conference at the Capitol on Feb. 11, 2020. © Mandel Ngan Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks at a press conference at the Capitol on Feb. 11, 2020.

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Wednesday called for an emergency hearing and investigation into the Department of Justice's decision to reduce the recommended sentence for longtime Donald Trump confidante Roger Stone.

Top Democrats are pushing for the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing to review the decision that led to the sudden resignation of all four prosecutors Tuesday from the Stone criminal case. Stone was found guilty in November of all seven counts against him including making false statements, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional probe.

One Democrat said Wednesday that Attorney General Bill Barr should step down.

"Something egregious like this demands that the inspector general investigate and demands that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee hold a hearing now," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate.

Schumer sent a letter to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Tuesday, writing that the development amounts to "improper political interference in a criminal prosecution."

"I therefore request that you immediately investigate this matter to determine how and why the Stone sentencing recommendations were countermanded, which Justice Department officials made this decision, and which White House officials were involved," Schumer said.

Late Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reacted to the news, tweeting, "By tweet @realDonaldTrump engaged in political interference in the sentencing of Roger Stone. It is outrageous that DOJ has deeply damaged the rule of law by withdrawing its recommendation."

Earlier in the day, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., former attorney general of California and a former federal prosecutor, sent a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asking that he immediately schedule a hearing for Barr to testify "so that the committee and the American people can understand the Justice Department's decision to overrule its career prosecutors in this case."

The Justice Department had announced Tuesday that it was revising the original sentence of seven to nine years in prison, and is asking Judge Amy Berman Jackson to reduce the sentence, after Trump himself called the sentencing proposal "a miscarriage of justice." In response, all four federal prosecutors who made the original sentencing recommendation withdrew from the case Wednesday.

Another former federal prosecutor, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Wednesday that "Attorney General William Barr should be ashamed and embarrassed and resign as a result of this action directly interfering in the independent prosecution of Roger Stone, simply the latest examples of political interference by the president to alter the independent decisions of the Department of Justice."

In the House, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters Wednesday that this is "an egregious violation of the rule of law" and constitutional law expert Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said that the four prosecutors are "sending a message to America that the rule of law is under attack."

As for Republican reaction, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that he had nothing to say on the matter when pressed by reporters at a weekly news conference.

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