US Democrats to probe interference at the justice department
The judiciary chair demands a ‘full briefing’ about Donald Trump’s influence on a wide range of criminal and anti-trust matters
Washington — US House Democrats are launching an investigation into alleged political interference at the justice department by President Donald Trump on a wide range of criminal and anti-trust matters.
In a letter sent to attorney-general William Barr on Friday, judiciary chair 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.
Among matters Nadler writes are being reviewed is the department’s decision to overrule career prosecutors and seek a lighter prison sentence for former Trump political operative Roger Stone. That entire prosecuting team withdrew from the case, and they are among the witnesses 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 carmakers who entered into an agreement with California to reduce emissions”.
The witnesses sought also include John Durham, the US 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 characterised as a “witch hunt” and led to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.