Judges postpone emergency meeting to discuss Trump, Barr: Report

Group of US judges was expected to discuss the controversy over Trump, DOJ intervention in politically charged cases.

Trump, Barr
United States President Donald Trump and US Attorney General William Barr attend the 38th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service on Capitol Hill [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

A group of United States federal judges have reportedly postponed a widely-anticipated emergency meeting in which they were expected to discuss the growing controversy over intervention by the US Department of Justice in politically charged cases, including that of Roger Stone, an ally of President Donald Trump

CNN reported on Wednesday that the Federal Judges Association postponed the meeting without elaborating on why and when it will be rescheduled. 

US media reported on Tuesday that the meeting was expected to address growing concerns over the intervention of Trump and Justice Department senior officials in politically sensitive cases. 

The group “could not wait” until its spring conference to address the matter, Philadelphia US District Judge Cynthia Rufe, who heads the independent Federal Judges Association, told USA Today earlier this week. 

“There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Rufe told the newspaper. “We’ll talk all of this through.”

Rufe’s comments drew some concern as federal judges are barred from commenting on continuing controversies. The scheduled meeting itself also drew attention as it was unclear what, if any, comment the association could make on the controversy in Washington, DC. 

“I hope the Federal Judges Association will discuss the tremendous FISA Court abuse that has taken place with respect to the Muller Investigation Scam,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to the investigation of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election.  

Pressure to resign

US Attorney General William Barr has come under increased pressure after senior Justice Department officials withdrew an earlier sentencing recommendation for Stone, who was found guilty in November of seven counts of lying to the US Congress, prompting upheaval within the department.

The reversal came after Trump blasted the original sentencing recommendation as “very horrible and unfair”, though officials have insisted the decision to make a new recommendation came before Trump’s tweet.

Over the weekend, more than 1,000 former department officials called for Barr to resign in an open letter. The signatories grew to more than 2,400 by Wednesday morning.

Trump has used Twitter to attack the four prosecutors who had argued the Stone case as well as the judge presiding over it. He has also said he has the “legal right” to intervene in criminal cases and sidestep the Justice Department’s historical independence. 

US media reported late on Tuesday that Barr was considering resigning over Trump’s tweets about Justice Department investigations. 

“He has his limits,” The Washington Post quoted one person familiar with Barr’s thinking as saying. Reuters news agency and other media outlets also reported that Barr was considering leaving his post. 

Trump  - BarrTrump and Barr depart after announcing the Trump administration’s effort to gain citizenship data during the 2020 census at an event in the Rose Garden of the White House [Carlos Barria/Reuters] 

But a Justice Department spokeswoman said late on Tuesday night: “The attorney general has no plans to resign.” 

Trump earlier on Tuesday said he had total confidence in Barr, who last week told ABC News in an interview that Trump’s tweeting habit had made it “impossible” for him to do his job.

“I do make his job harder … I do agree with that,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One Tuesday afternoon. “The attorney general is a man with great integrity.”

Barr had told ABC last Thursday that he could not do his job “with a constant background commentary” and that it was “time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases”.

Despite the comments, Trump continued to tweet, suggesting he was considering suing those involved in Mueller’s investigation. He also said that Stone deserved a new trial. 

A federal judge on Thursday is scheduled to sentence Stone, a veteran Republican operative whose friendship with Trump dates back decades, after a 12-member jury in November found him guilty on all seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

Trump has sidestepped questions as to whether he might pardon Stone. “You’re going to see what happens,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday, adding that Stone had been treated “very unfairly”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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