President Trump congratulated Attorney General Bill Barr on Wednesday “for taking charge” of the Roger Stone case, a day after four federal prosecutors withdrew from the case after the Justice Department took the unusual step of intervening to seek a shorter sentence for the longtime ally of the president.
“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” Trump said on Twitter. “Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!”
It is unclear what specifically Trump was referring to as “tainted,” but the president has previously made unsubstantiated allegations about independent counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
At issue in this case is the prison term prosecutors recommended for Stone, who sought to serve as an intermediary between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and WikiLeaks. He was found guilty in November on several charges, including lying to Congress, and is awaiting sentencing.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington had recommended Monday that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison, but Justice Department officials were “shocked” by the “extreme and excessive and disproportionate” severity of that sentence, a senior Justice Department official said.
So the department ordered the submission of a second sentencing memo in the case, displacing the first. The second memo, which appeared with court records on Tuesday afternoon, said a sentence “far less” than the prospective seven to nine years in prison “would be reasonable under the circumstances.” It did not make a specific recommendation.
After that highly unusual move, four prosecutors in the case — Aaron Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed and Michael Marando — withdrew.
Zelinsky resigned as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the Washington, D.C., office. It appears he continues to work for the Justice Department in his earlier capacity with the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Kravis resigned as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C.
Jed and Marando said they are withdrawing from the case.
The back and forth over Stone’s sentence followed an earlier post on Twitter by Trump on Tuesday that faulted the recommended sentence. Officials didn’t make any explicit link between the president’s tweet and the Justice Department’s planned action. A senior Justice Department official said that department leadership had resolved on Monday evening to challenge the initial sentencing memo, before the president’s Twitter post.
Trump said Tuesday that he hadn’t asked the Justice Department for a reduced sentence for Stone. He declined to comment when asked whether he was considering a pardon for his ally.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson has the ultimate authority to hand down the sentence in Stone’s case and the government said in its second filing that it deferred to her.
Trump turned his focus to Berman in a Twitter post on Tuesday, writing, “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!”
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