Senate Judiciary Committee Dems ask Lindsey Graham to investigate political interference at Justice Dept

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

Trump praises Barr for Roger Stone case

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are asking Chairman Lindsey Graham to investigate potential political interference at the Justice Department, and to call Attorney General William Barr to testify.

"The Justice Department's mission "to ensure fair and impartial justice for all Americans" requires that its prosecutorial decisions remain free from political influence," all ten Democrats on the committee, led by Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, wrote in a letter to Graham on Thursday. "It's becoming clear that this is not happening. That's why the Judiciary Committee should investigate involvement of political appointees in this and other cases and hear directly from Attorney General Barr."

The letter comes after the Justice Department overruled prosecutors' sentencing recommendation in the case of Roger Stone, a Trump associate convicted of obstructing Congress. The department's intervention came after Mr. Trump sent a tweet criticizing the prosecutors' recommendation of seven to nine years in prison. Mr. Trump appeared to confirm that Barr intervened directly in Stone's case in a tweet on Wednesday thanking Barr for "taking charge of a case."

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had already made the case on Wednesday that Barr's actions should be investigated, but Graham was unmoved.

"I don't think any of us should tweet about an ongoing case, but having said that, I appreciate the Department of Justice, making sure that their recommendations to the court seek justice consistent with the law as it's written," Graham said. He also said he took Schumer's comments "with a grain of salt."

Barr has agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee at the end of March. In a letter to Barr on Wednesday, all 23 Democratic committee members wrote that they "wish to be candid" about a "set of concerns" they plan to ask about at the March 31 hearing, including his intervention in the sentencing recommendation for Trump associate Roger Stone.

"Since President Trump took office, we have repeatedly warned you and your predecessors that the misuse of our criminal justice system for political purposes is both dangerous to our democracy and unacceptable to the House Judiciary Committee," the letter said. "We have been consistent — and bipartisan — in this message for years."

Democrats also said they were concerned about the withdrawal of the nomination of U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu to a Treasury Department position. Liu was until recently the U.S. attorney in D.C., overseeing the cases against former Trump campaign official Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Stone. The withdrawal of Liu's nomination was first reported by Axios on Tuesday.

The letter also took note of Barr's creation of an "intake process" for Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, and others to provide the Justice Department information regarding Ukraine.

Alan He contributed to this report

First published on February 13, 2020 / 11:50 AM

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Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.