Federal Judges to Hold Emergency Meeting on Trump Admin. Interference in Politically Sensitive Cases
A national association of federal judges will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday after Justice Department officials intervened in the case involving a close confident of U.S. President Donald Trump, the head of the organization told VOA.
District Judge Cynthia Rufe, president of the Federal Judges Association, said the judges are "concerned about the attacks on individual judges" and it will be the main issue to be discussed.
Rufe declined to give any more details, but said the jurists "could not wait" until their spring meeting.
The Justice Department stunned the political and legal community last week when it overruled its own prosecutors and recommended a lighter prison sentence for Roger Stone — a longtime friend and confident of Trump who was convicted on lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice stemming from the Russian election meddling probe.
Prosecutors in the case had recommended seven to nine years prison time for Stone — a recommendation based on sentencing guidelines for such crimes.
But the Justice Department recommended a lighter sentence after Trump complained in a tweet that the seven to nine years would be "horrible" and "unfair."
Three prosecutors in the Stone case withdrew and a fourth quit the agency altogether.
Stone is to be sentenced Thursday and it is up to Judge Amy Berman Jackson to decide how long he is to be locked up.
Jackson has scheduled a Tuesday conference call with attorneys in the Roger Stone case, two days before the former Trump associate is set to be sentenced.
Former President Barack Obama appointed Judge Jackson and Trump has been notoriously critical of many decisions and policies made by his predecessor. Trump complained last week about Jackson's decision to jail former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in solitary confinement and not to try to prosecute former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Judge Rufe says the Federal Judges' Association has no interest in getting involved in the Stone case, but does support Jackson.
"We are supportive of any federal judge who does what is required," she said.
The Roger Stone case has raised questions in Congress about political interference in what is historically suppose to be an independent judiciary.
Trump congratulated Attorney General William Barr last week for "taking charge" of the Stone case. But both deny that Trump asked Barr to intervene.
Barr is scheduled to appear before Congress next month.
More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials have called on Barr to resign, saying his handling of the Stone case "openly and repeatedly flouted" the independence of the judicial branch.
Barr told ABC News last week that Trump's tweets "make it impossible for him to do his job," saying he will not be "bullied or influenced by anybody, whether it's Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president."