Email: Federal judge group says it never intended to call emergency meeting over 'political controversy'



(CNN)The leadership of an independent group of federal judges sought to reassure its members in a recent email that it never intended to call an emergency meeting with the purpose of discussing any "political controversy" in a pending case.

A source familiar with the matter said the email came after comments and concern from members of the judiciary that the Federal Judges Association was improperly weighing in on a politically sensitive topic.
The email, sent to the group on Monday, comes despite the fact that the executive director of the group confirmed to CNN last week that such a meeting was planned and it was meant to address concerns about President Donald Trump and the Justice Department's intervention in politically charged cases.
    Megan Cruz, the group's executive director, later said that the meeting -- a conference call among the 14 judges who serve as officers on the Executive Committee -- had been postponed. Cruz declined to discuss the discrepancy on Wednesday telling CNN she had no comment.
    In the email obtained by CNN and first reported on a legal website called the Volokh Conspiracy, the officers of the group told its members that it is "non partisan" and it seeks, "like the judiciary itself, to remain outside the political fray."
    "There have been misunderstandings about a Federal Judges Association meeting originally scheduled for last week," the email read.
    "We wish to apprise all members of the facts," the officers wrote and noted that news of the meeting resulted in "questions and comments" from several members. "It was not scheduled in response to any public controversy or pending case," the email read.
    It was instead supposed to be a "telephonic meeting" that is commonly set to review "financial statements, plan for future meetings, and confer with chairs of FJA committees on the work they are doing," the email read. "Unfortunately, though it was not anticipated that the calling of the meeting would become public, it did," the officers continued. "That lead to inferences and reports that were, at a minimum, misleading," they added.
    USA Today first reported the meeting last week and quoted Judge Cynthia Rufe, president of the little-known group, as saying the association's members "could not wait" until its spring conference to weigh in on a deepening crisis.
    That news report surfaced just days after Attorney General William Barr retracted a recommended sentence for Trump ally Roger Stone after the President criticized the original recommendation of seven to nine years in prison on Twitter. Trump took to social media to criticize the judge involved in Stone's case. Barr also ordering a re-examination of several high-profile cases, including that of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
    Rufe, who serves on the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, serves alongside two officers who were appointed to their respective posts by Republican presidents and two who were appointed by Democratic presidents.
    Of the nine members of the executive committee, seven were appointed by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and two were appointed by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush.
    On its website, the group says it "shall work in coordination and cooperation" with the chief justice, who presides over the Judicial Conference, the national policy making body for federal courts. A spokesperson for the chief justice declined to comment on the group's planned meeting last week.
    The FJA says it works "collaboratively" with the administrative office of the US courts -- the agency within the judicial branch that provides administrative support to the federal courts -- on matters of "shared interest." A spokesperson for that office declined CNN's request for comment last week.
    In the latest email, the officers, which include Rufe, said the judge had been called by a reporter who asked about the meeting. The judge "rejected the reporter's speculations as to its timing and purpose," the officers said in the email.
    The fact that the group -- originally established in the 1980s to respond to issues concerning judicial compensation -- was having the meeting in the first place drew the attention in Washington and Trump commented on it in a tweet.
      "I hope the Federal Judges Association will discuss the tremendous FISA Court abuse that has taken place with respect to the Mueller Investigation Scam, including the forging of documents and knowingly using the fake and totally discredited Dossier before the Court.
      "Thank you!" the President tweeted.