Hillary Clinton declared Tuesday that democracy is “in crisis” amid the withdrawal of prosecutors from the case against Roger Stone after senior leaders at the Justice Department (DOJ) effectively overruled the prosecutors' judgment by seeking a lesser sentence for President Trump's former adviser.
Clinton, a former secretary of state and the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, bemoaned the departure of the DOJ prosecutors on the same day of the Republican-controlled Senate’s move to block three election security-related bills. Four prosecutors withdrew from the case, and at least one resigned from the Justice Department.
“The rule of law & our democracy are in crisis,” Clinton tweeted.
The four attorneys, including two who were early members of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation team, had made up the Justice Department's trial team and had signed on to a Monday court filing that recommended up to nine years in prison for Stone.
The decision by the Justice Department to lowering the amount of prison time Stone will serve came just hours after President Trump complained that the recommended sentence for Stone was “very horrible and unfair” -- raising questions about political interference and whether Trump's views hold unusual sway over the Justice Department, which is meant to operate independently of the White House in criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Top Democrats have been critical of the Justice Department’s move to lessen Stone’s sentence, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asking DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to open an investigation into the matter.
“This situation has all the indicia of improper political interference in a criminal prosecution,” Schumer wrote in a letter to Horowitz.
He added: “The American people must have confidence that justice in this country is dispensed impartially. That confidence cannot be sustained if the president or his political appointees are permitted to interfere in prosecution and sentencing recommendations in order to protect their friends and associates.”
The second part of Clinton’s tweet referred to the move by Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to oppose the three election security bills the Democrats wanted passed.
Two of those bills were aimed at requiring campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission (FEC) about foreign offers of assistance, while another looked to provide more election funding and ban voting machines from being connected to the internet.
According to Senate rules, any one senator can ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can also object and block the requests.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.