NEW YORK, NY – The four federal attorneys in charge of prosecuting Roger Stone abruptly left the case – with one actually resigning from government service altogether – after the Department of Justice stepped in to overrule their sentence recommendation in favor of a lighter degree of punishment. This took place after President Donald Trump – a friend of Stone – weighed in on Twitter regarding his perceived unfairness of both the prosecution and sentencing.
This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!– Donald J. Trump | Twitter: @realDonaldTrump,
Stone, a political consultant, author, lobbyist and strategist – in addition to being a confidant and friend of Trump’s since the 1980s – had been convicted as a part of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 United States presidential election. Stone was found guilty last fall of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction, and has been awaiting sentencing.
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The four attorneys in charge of his case – two of which were former members of Mueller’s Russia team – had signed a sentencing memo earlier this week that recommended Stone, who has no previous criminal record, serve seven to nine years in prison.
However, once news of the sentencing memo got out, the Department of Justice (DOJ) made an immediate decision to undo the recommendation, deeming seven to nine years “extreme and excessive and disproportionate.” As a result, the DOJ issued a sentencing memo of their own – overriding the initial one issued by the four prosecutors – saying that “far less” of a sentence than the initial one proposed “would be reasonable under the circumstances,” without making any specific sentencing recommendation.
Regardless, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the case, has the ultimate authority over Stone’s eventual fate; the DOJ stated in their memo that they would be deferring to her in that regard.
With the timing of Trump’s tweet, some took it as evidence of the President’s attempt to exert undue influence over the Justice Department; however, the DOJ had actually made their announcement Monday evening, well before Trump had issued his tweet. Nonetheless, the incident served to cause a controversy regarding the degree of Trump’s control over the DOJ, which is meant to operate separately and independently from the White House. Trump later said he had not asked the Justice Department to recommend a lighter sentence, but also asserted he had an “absolute right” to intervene.
Faced with this development, the four prosecutors – Aaron Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed, and Michael Marando – all withdrew from the case, with Zelinsky actually resigning as a Washington D.C. special assistant U.S. Attorney and Kravis resigning as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Some took the withdrawals as a sign of protest; others however, including President Trump, took it as confirmation that the case against Stone was politically manufactured and corrupt from the start. In a series of tweets issued afterwards, Trump commended U.S. Attorney General William Bar – who has stepped in to oversee the case – and lambasted the outdoing prosecutors.
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. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!– Donald J. Trump | Twitter: @realDonaldTrump,
Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn’t ever even have started? 13 Angry Democrats?– Donald J. Trump | Twitter: @realDonaldTrump,
Stone served for a period in the Trump presidential election campaign before leaving in August of 2015. Later, as part of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Stone was accused of having collaborated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton, claims that both Stone and Assange have denied. On January 25, 2019, Stone was arrested at his Florida home and charged with witness tampering, obstructing an official proceeding, and five counts of making false statements. Stone was convicted on all seven counts on November 15, 2019, and was due to be sentenced this month.
Upon learning of the news, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer complained and called for an investigation, as it is considered unusual for the DOJ to step in and overrule the sentencing recommendation of its own prosecutors in any given case. However, those demands were rejected by Senate Republicans, lead by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, who said that an investigation was not warranted.
Previously, Stone had requested a new trial based on a complaint regarding a specific juror on his case; today, Judge Amy Berman Jackson publically issued her ruling on the request, denying it. However, she has yet to make a public acknowledgment of the prosecutor withdrawals.
When asked about a potential pardon for Stone, Trump was mum on the subject, saying, “I don’t want to say yet, but I tell you what, people were hurt viciously and badly by these corrupt people.”
Currently, under the circumstances, it is not known exactly how long Stone’s sentencing will possibly be delayed, if at all.