House Dems demand answers on DOJ political interference

As Trump and Bill Barr politicize federal law enforcement in ways without modern precedent, House Democrats are starting to demand answers.
House Dem Mueller Presser
From left, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calf., Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conduct a news conference on the testimony of former special counsel Robert Mueller on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election on July 24, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

An emergency for the nation's rule of law recently came into sharp focus, as Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr politicized federal law enforcement in ways without modern precedent. The story that helped light the match was the president's intervention in Roger Stone's prosecution -- a move that led four federal prosecutors to resign in protest -- but it was far from the only incident.

Not surprisingly, Senate Democrats demanded scrutiny of the controversy. Also not surprisingly, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he didn't much care.

But what about the other chamber, where there's a Democratic majority? This morning, the House Judiciary Committee issued a press statement of interest.

In advance of the Judiciary Committee's March 31st hearing with Attorney General William Barr, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sent a letter requesting that the Department of Justice provide the Committee with information and access to 15 individuals who are currently or formerly employed by the Department and who have knowledge concerning improper intervention in the Roger Stone prosecution and other cases of personal interest to President Trump.

"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," Nadler said.

The committee chairman added, "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. Attorneys General have supported this principle on a bipartisan basis throughout our history, but that principle is now under assault. There is also a long history of Attorneys General cooperating in oversight inquiries led by both Democrats as well as Republicans, and given the stakes for our nation, we expect Attorney General Barr's full cooperation here."

Nadler's full, four-page letter to the attorney general is online here (pdf).

The Judiciary Committee's list of people it's eager to hear from isn't short, but of particular interest were four names: Adam Jed, Jonathan Kravis, Michael Marando, and Aaron Zelinsky. Those are, of course, the four prosecutors who resigned following improper political interference in the Stone proceedings.

Politico added that Nadler has also sought interviews with "John Durham, the U.S. attorney from Connecticut who was picked by Barr to review the origins of the FBI's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election; Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, who Barr selected to review the case of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn; Robert Khuzami, the former New York-based prosecutor who oversaw the case against Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen; and Richard Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who Barr picked to review all matters related to the Ukraine scandal that led to Trump's impeachment in the House last year."

Finally, let's not overlook the fact that the Judiciary Committee also wants to have a chat with Jessie Liu, the former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who was recently replaced by interim U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea -- a Barr ally who, incidentally, is also on the list Nadler sent this morning.

Many have questioned why House Dems seemed willing to take a passive posture toward the clear abuses in (and politicization of) the justice system. As of this morning, they appear to have shaken off their slumber.