More than 1,100 former Justice Department employees signed a public letter Sunday urging Attorney General William Barr to resign over his handling of the case of President Donald Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone – and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct.
The letter is the latest sign of a crisis of confidence inside the department. Four prosecutors quit the Stone case last week after Barr and other Justice Department leaders pushed for a softer prison recommendation for Stone, who is due to be sentenced this week.
The four prosecutors had originally recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years for Stone after he was convicted of lying to Congress and obstruction. The president publicly attacked that recommendation, and at Barr’s urging the Justice Department filed an updated sentencing memo suggesting Stone should receive less prison time.
Barr has said he did not talk to the president about the Stone sentence, but current and former Justice Department officials have sharply criticized the attorney general.
“Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words,” the Justice Department alumni wrote in the letter posted online. “Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign.”
Signatures for the letter were gathered by Protect Democracy, a group that has been critical of Barr’s handling of special counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election interference and Trump.
The letter acknowledges there is little chance the signatories’ criticism will lead to Barr’s departure, adding, “because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice.”
The letter calls on every Justice Department employee to follow the “heroic” example of the four prosecutors who quit the Stone case “and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly – in a manner consistent with professional ethics – to the American people the reasons for their resignation.”
The letter calls for similar vigilance in other government agencies, adding, “The rule of law and the survival of our Republic demand nothing less.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
In an interview Thursday with ABC News, Barr said Trump’s commentary makes it “impossible for me to do my job.”