The head of the 1,100-member Federal Judges Association on Monday called an emergency meeting amid concerns over President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr's use of the power of the Justice Department for political purposes, such as protecting a long-time friend and confidant of the president.
The emergency meeting—announced Monday by Philadelphia-based U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, the head of the group—was described by legal analysts as an unusual and "extraordinary" step.
"This is mind-blowing. I've never heard of anything like it," tweeted former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. "We are in full-on crisis mode."
Ian Bassin, founder and executive director of the advocacy group Protect Democracy, said the decision by the judges' association to call an emergency meeting shows "our institutions are sounding alarms" over Trump and Barr's conduct.
Wow. After more than 2,000 former DOJ expressed alarm about challenges to rule of law, now the Federal Judges' Association has called an emergency meeting re concerns around independent law enforcement.
Our institutions are sounding alarms. https://t.co/CWpmVAwkFE
— Ian Bassin (@ianbassin) February 17, 2020
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Describing the move as unprecedented, the Washington Post reported late Monday that "a search of news articles since the group's creation [in 1982] revealed nothing like a meeting to deal with the conduct of a president or attorney general."
Rufe told USA Today that the group "could not wait" until its annual spring conference to discuss Trump and Barr's behavior, which has included overruling federal prosecutors to reduce Trump confidant Roger Stone's recommended prison sentence and installing an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser.
As Common Dreams reported, Trump last week denied instructing Barr to intervene in the Stone case but insisted he has the "absolute right" to order the Department of Justice to do his bidding.
"There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about," Rufe said. "We'll talk all of this through."
The association's decision comes after more than 2,000 former Justice Department officials called on Barr to resign over his decision to reduce the recommended prison sentence for Stone, who was convicted last November of witness tampering and lying to Congress.
"A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the president," the former officials wrote in an open letter released Sunday. "Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies."