A juror who helped convict a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump on Thursday called the president’s attacks on prosecutors, the judge and the jury involved in the case “appalling,” as Democrats accused Trump of interfering in the U.S. judicial process.
Seth Cousins, who served as a juror in the trial of veteran Republican operative Roger Stone, told Reuters he was concerned by developments that prompted all four prosecutors to quit the case.
“It feels like something outrageous is going on,” Cousins said in an interview.
Cousins spoke after Trump posted a Fox News story on Twitter that accused some of the jurors in Stone’s case of political bias.
“This is not looking good for the ‘Justice’ Department,” Trump wrote.
Cousins said he was upset by Trump’s remarks.
“I think it is appalling for the president of the United States to be attacking American citizens for patriotically fulfilling their duties,” he said.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a news conference that Trump’s comments on the Stone case amounted to interference in the workings of the U.S. government’s judicial branch.
“This is an abuse of power – that the president is again trying to manipulate federal law enforcement to serve his political interest,” said Pelosi, a Democrat. “This is not what America is about. It is so wrong.”
Trump on Tuesday criticized U.S. prosecutors who recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years for Stone in connection with his conviction in a case stemming from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation detailing Russian interference in the 2016 election to benefit Trump’s candidacy.
The Republican president called their sentencing recommendation for Stone, whose friendship with Trump dates back decades, “horrible” and a “miscarriage of justice.”
Hours later, the Justice Department abandoned the recommendation, prompting all four prosecutors to quit the case. One left the department altogether.
In addition, former U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, who oversaw the Stone case, resigned from the Treasury Department this week after the White House dropped her nomination for a post overseeing economic sanctions, a source confirmed to Reuters on Thursday.
Trump on Wednesday thanked Attorney General William Barr, a political loyalist he appointed last year, for “taking charge” of the case. He also tweeted criticism of U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is scheduled to sentence Stone on Feb. 20.
“This is the commander-in-chief, this is the top law enforcement officer, and he’s got a right to his opinion,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told Fox News.
Trump has said he has not had direct talks with the Justice Department on the matter. The Justice Department has also said it did not confer with the White House, with one senior official on Tuesday calling the timing of Trump’s tweet “an inconvenient coincidence.”
Grant Smith, one of Stone’s defense lawyers, told Reuters that the defense team is examining social media posts, including one by the jury forewoman. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani also called for an investigation into the forewoman, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Early on in the jury selection process, Stone’s lawyers were overruled by Jackson when they tried to strike prospective jurors who worked for the government or who had opinions about Trump. Some of the people Stone’s defense expressed concerns about, including a former White House official from former President Barack Obama’s administration, did not make the final cut on the jury, made up of 12 people and two alternates.
All 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday called for an investigation, but the panel’s Republican chairman, Lindsey Graham, has dismissed that idea.
He wrote on Twitter that he hoped the court would take the jury allegations seriously if the report was accurate, calling it “not fair.”
Other Republicans have largely shrugged off the furor.
“I’ll leave it up to a judge to decide whether a juror is biased or not,” Senator Chuck Grassley told Reuters.
Justice Department representatives did not respond to a request for comment. Barr is due to testify before a House panel next month.
Stone was found guilty in November on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. He was one of several close Trump associates charged in Mueller’s probe, which Trump called a “witch hunt.”
Stone’s supporters are pushing for a presidential pardon, which Trump has declined to comment on.
Trump was acquitted in the Republican-led Senate last week on impeachment charges brought by the Democratic-led House accusing him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.