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House Democrats launch probe into suspected ‘political interference’ in DOJ’s handling of the Roger Stone case

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'These circumstances are deeply troubling'

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The House Judiciary Committee is requesting answers from the Department of Justice about suspected political interference in the Roger Stone case and other criminal cases ahead of a congressional hearing with Attorney General William Barr at the end of March.

Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who has played a large role in House Democrats' previous investigative efforts against the president, sent Barr a letter Friday requesting that the DOJ give the committee information as well as interviews with current and former department officials.

"The Judiciary Committee needs to examine a range of recent actions that smack of political interference, including the Department's withdrawal of the Roger Stone sentencing recommendation; intervening in the handling of the Michael Flynn prosecution; overruling the decision to relocate Paul Manafort to Rikers Island; opening investigations into career officials involved in the Russia investigation; and a series of controversial interventions into sensitive antitrust matters," Chairman Nadler said in a statement about the request. "Our democracy is founded on the notion that no one is above the law, and strict adherence to the rule of law has separated us from all other nations."

Among the 15 current and former Department of Justice officials requested for interviews are the four career prosecutors who resigned from the Stone case during the sentencing controversy earlier this month. The letter also requested an interview with U.S. Attorney for the District Connecticut John Durham, who is leading the DOJ's probe into the origins of the Russia investigation.

In addition to the interviews, the letter also requested further "documents and communications between President Trump, White House officials or employees of the Executive Office of the President and the Department of Justice" related to Stone's cases as well as the several others listed in its four pages, and other related documents.

It also called on the department to provide a "description of each instance in the last 10 years when senior officials of the Department intervened to alter sentencing recommendations by a U.S. Attorney's office."

Stone was sentenced to over three years in federal prison last week. His sentencing became a point of controversy when all four line prosecutors handling the case resigned after the Department of Justice put out an amended sentencing memo saying that the initial recommendation of seven to nine years "could be considered excessive and unwarranted."

This was after President Donald Trump tweeted that the initial recommendation was a "miscarriage of justice," thereby drawing allegations of political interference in the case.

In the letter, Nadler cited the more than 2,000 former DOJ officials who have called for Barr to step down as well as Barr's recent comments about how President Trump's tweeting about DOJ cases makes his job difficult.

"These circumstances are deeply troubling," Nadler wrote. "Although you serve at the President's pleasure, you are also charged with the impartial administration of our laws. In tum, the House JudiciaryCommittee is charged with holding you to that responsibility."

However, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee — Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) — called Democrats' request "yet another attempt to distract from the job they've failed to do, which is reform FISA and finally address the abuse that has plagued our nation over the last three years."

In the interview where he discussed the president's tweets, Barr also said that President Trump had "never asked me to do anything in a criminal case."

A DOJ spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment on the letter.

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