- Federal prosecutors told The New York Times they are increasingly wary about pursuing cases relating to President Donald Trump.
- They said the intervention from top Justice Department officials to reduce the recommended sentence for former Trump advisor Roger Stone earlier this week had increased their concern.
- On Monday, the entire team of federal attorneys who led Stone’s prosecution resigned in protest at the intervention.
- Democrats claim that Trump is seeking to seize control of the Department of Justice to pursue political grudges, while former prosecutors cite “a devastating breakdown” in the checks and balances on Trump’s power.
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Federal prosecutors have told The New York Times that they increasingly wary of pursuing new criminal cases relating to President Donald Trump or his allies.
More than a dozen officials currently working in some of the 93 US Attorney’s Offices around the country, who were unnamed, told the newspaper they had already been hesitant about prosecuting new cases that might “attract the president’s attention.”
But events this week – in which senior Justice Department (DOJ) officials interfered to reduce the minimum recommended sentence for former Trump adviser Roger Stone – had increased their concern, The Times said.
They said they did not believe that Attorney General William Barr, a staunch Trump ally, would defend their independence in politically-charged cases.
Stone was convicted last November of lying to Congress, making false statements to investigators, and witness tampering in relation to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Federal investigators recommended a seven-to-nine-year sentence for him on Monday.
On Wednesday, Trump launched a series of attacks against the prosecutors, and congratulated Barr for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.”
Since his impeachment acquittal last week, Trump has resurrected old grievances – questioning why officials he accused of mishandling the Russia probe have faced no consequences, and fiercely defending old allies who were prosecuted as part of the investigation.
“You look at what happened, how many people were hurt, their lives were destroyed, and nothing happened with all the people that did it and launched this scam,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a “witch hunt.”
Barr’s interference in the Stone case has prompted an outcry by former DOJ officials as well as prominent Democrats.
Former prosecutors have told Business Insider’s Sonam Sheth of their shock, with one calling the intervention “a devastating breakdown” in the checks and balances on Trump’s power.
“It seems to me to be a classic hallmark of a dictatorial [or] fascist government,” another said.
On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned America faces a slide into authoritarianism if Trump is allowed to use the DOJ to deter the prosecution of his allies and pursue political grudges.
On Wednesday, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer also called on the Senate Justice Committee to launch a formal probe into Barr’s intervention in the Stone case.
“The American people must have confidence that justice in this country is dispensed impartially,” Schumer wrote in a Wednesday letter.
“That confidence cannot be sustained if the president or his political appointees are permitted to interfere in prosecution and sentencing recommendations in order to protect their friends and associates.”