House Democrats Extend Probes to Justice Department Actions
(Bloomberg) -- House Democrats are investigating alleged political interference at the Justice Department by Donald Trump on a wide range of criminal and antitrust matters, including the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a close ally of the president.
In a letter Friday to Attorney General William Barr, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler demands a “full briefing,” documents and witness testimony, giving a March 13 deadline as his panel prepares to hear Barr’s own scheduled March 31 testimony.
“These circumstances are deeply troubling,” writes Nadler. “Although you serve at the president’s pleasure, you are also charged with the impartial administration of our laws.”
Since Trump was acquitted by the Senate on impeachment counts brought by the House, Democrats have been laying the groundwork to press investigations into the administration’s actions and policies, as well as Trump’s private business dealings.
Nadler’s first point of concern in the letter is the department’s decision to overrule career prosecutors and seek a lighter prison sentence for Stone. That entire prosecuting team withdrew from the case, and they are among the witnesses who Nadler wants to testify.
Stone, a longtime Trump associate and political operative, was sentenced last week to three years and four months in prison for lying to Congress and tampering with a witness to protect the president.
Nadler wrote that the committee’s concerns include “allegations such as intervening in the Time Warner-AT&T merger because of the president’s unhappiness with CNN’s political coverage; rallying political support for the Sprint-T-Mobile transaction contrary to the recommendations of career officials to block the merger; and targeting automakers who entered into an agreement with California to reduce emissions.”
The witnesses sought also include John Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut. Last year, Barr appointed Durham to review the origins of the federal investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election that Trump has long characterized as a “witch hunt” and led to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
Georgia Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said the Democrats’ request is an attempt to distract from the panel’s canceled hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a counterterrorism measure that Trump’s allies say was illegally used to spy on the president’s 2016 campaign.
“The fact that Democrats sent these requests just two days after canceling our FISA markup and putting our national security at risk is further proof that they care about one thing and one thing only: Attempting to take down President Trump,” Collins said in a statement.
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