WASHINGTON (CN) – The fallout from the Justice Department paring down its sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone continued Thursday with the resignation of the official who previously headed the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington.
Jessie Liu’s resignation from the Treasury Department comes just two days after four federal prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case – with two stepping down from their posts – in response to Justice Department officials reversing their sentencing recommendation for the president’s longtime ally.
Trump in a 2 a.m. tweet on Tuesday had called the prosecutors’ recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison a “miscarriage of justice.” Democrats are now calling for investigations into political interference by the president in a criminal prosecution.
That same day, Trump withdrew his nomination for Liu to be the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes. The former U.S. attorney had supervised several cases arising from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation including the prosecution of Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Liu was scheduled to appear before the Senate Banking Committee this week for her nomination hearing, where Democrats were expected to fire off tough questions on why the Justice Department flipped its position on Stone.
Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in response to Trump pulling the nomination said Wednesday in a Senate Banking hearing that the president clearly did not learn his lesson from impeachment as Republicans had surmised.
The Ohio Democrat said Trump had engaged in political interference by “strong arming political appointees to overrule career prosecutors.”
“We cannot give him a permanent license to turn the presidency and the executive branch into a personal vengeance operation,” Brown said.
Liu had stayed on in her role at the Justice Department since Trump nominated her for the Treasury role in January until Feb. 1, when she reportedly stepped down at the request of Attorney General William Barr to ensure continuity in the office and moved on to the Treasury Department where she had been awaiting her confirmation for the undersecretary role.
Barr is now overseeing the final legal proceedings in the Stone case ahead of his sentencing in Washington on Feb. 20.
Democrats in a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Thursday called on the chairman of the judiciary committee to investigate the move by Barr to assume control of all cases of “personal or political interest” to Trump.
The senators called the Justice Department’s decision to overrule the career prosecutors to favor a defendant who once advised the president “unprecedented” and a “red flag.”
“The Justice Department’s mission ‘to ensure fair and impartial justice for all Americans’ requires that prosecutorial decision remain free of political influence. It’s becoming clear that this is not happening,” the letter states.
Trump provoked concerns that Barr obtruded in the Stone case at the president’s request by thanking the attorney general in a tweet on Wednesday for “taking charge of a case.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a similar letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Tuesday evening, formally requesting an investigation into which White House officials were involved in the Justice Department reversal.