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Asian American attorney a casualty of Trump interference in Trump sentencing

Views from the Edge by Ed Dionko

An Asian American attorney’s nomination to a top position in the Treasury Department was withdrawn by Donald Trump.

Former US attorney Jessie Liu for the District of Columbia, who was appointed by Donald Trump, was all set to be grilled by the Senate for her nomination for the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, a top position overseeing economic sanctions, according to two sources with direct knowledge when she was suddenly and unexpectedly informed Tuesday that the nomination was dropped.

It is not clear if her nomination was linked to the sentencing of Trump advisor Roger Stone. Trump associate Stone, was found guilty for lying to Congress and witness tampering during the Russia investigation, according to a new court filing.

“Roger Stone obstructed Congress’ investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lied under oath, and tampered with a witness. And when his crimes were revealed by the indictment in this case, he displayed contempt for this Court and the rule of law. For that, he should be punished in accord with the advisory Guidelines,” prosecutors wrote on Monday.

At the time of the trial, Liu was the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Axios notes that Liu had been expected to stay in her position leading the DC US attorney’s office until she was confirmed in the Treasury role, but she was informed last month that Attorney General William Barr was replacing her with his associate Timothy Shea. 

Shea‘s name appeared on Monday’s initial filing stating the sentencing recommendation of up to nine years. Those recommendations are usually written by the line prosecutors on the case, all four of whom resigned Tuesday.

Early Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted that he thought the sentence to be too harsh. “This is a horrible and very unfair situation,” Trump wrote. “The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”

Later in the day, the DOJ headed by US Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, revised the recommendation urging for a more lenient sentence.

Tuesday afternoon, after the revised recommendation was made, all four prosecutors who worked on the case — Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed and Michael Marando— filed a motion to withdraw from the case. Zelinsky and Kravis both resigned from the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office.

Barr’s actions, prompted by Trump’s tweets, is being interpreted as unprecedented interference in the judicial system, the third branch of the government.

“This signals to me that there has been a political infestation,” NBC News legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney in Virginia, said on MSNBC. “And that is the single most dangerous thing that you can do to the Department of Justice.”

US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who will announce the sentence next week, is an appointee of President Obama. She was also attacked by Trump on Twitter.

As the US attorney in charge of the D.C. office, Liu also oversaw the prosecution of Paul Manafort, another Trump associates.

Liu was due to appear before the Senate Banking Committee for a confirmation hearing Thursday.

The Washington Post says its sources contend Trump decided to withdraw Liu’s nomination because he was worried she would be asked about the Stone case during her confirmation hearing.

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