By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Friday said it is seeking interviews with current and former federal prosecutors who may have knowledge of political meddling in criminal cases, including the four career officials who earlier this month quit the Roger Stone case.
In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said he was worried about repeated attempts by President Donald Trump to influence the outcome of criminal prosecutions or to advance his personal interests through anti-trust enforcement matters.
“These circumstances are deeply troubling,” Nadler wrote.
The Justice Department earlier this month came under scrutiny after Barr intervened in the Stone case by scaling back the original sentencing recommendation submitted to the court by four career prosecutors that called for a sentence within the U.S. guidelines of seven to nine years.
The decision to soften the sentencing recommendation came after Trump issued tweets that were critical of the proposed sentence, raising questions about Barr’s motivations.
Barr tried to beat back critics’ concerns that he was doing the president’s political bidding by urging the president to stop tweeting about criminal cases because his comments were undercutting his ability to do his job.
In the same week, Trump abruptly withdrew the nomination of Jessie Liu, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who oversaw the Stone case, for a new top post at the Treasury Department overseeing economic sanctions.
Nadler, in his letter to Barr, said he also wants to interview Liu, as well as Tim Shea, the current interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia whom Barr appointed to replace Liu.
Despite Barr’s pleas, Trump has nevertheless continued tweeting and has attacked the judge, jurors and prosecutors involved in the Stone case.
Stone was ultimately sentenced to serve more than three years in prison for lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. He is seeking a new trial, saying the jury forewoman’s anti-Trump tweets show she was biased against him.
At the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson took aim at Trump’s tweets, saying they were inappropriate and would have no bearing on her decision-making.
A Justice Department spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment on the committee’s request.
Barr is due to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Dan Grebler)