The Justice Department overruled its own federal prosecutors’ recommendation for sentencing for Roger Stone after President Trump tweeted his displeasure, indicating a possible link between Attorney General Barr and the President, two powerful positions that have historically been kept separate to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest.
In protest, four career prosecutors resigned from the case.
who is Roger Stone
Roger Stone was a key player in Robert Mueller’s investigation, and was accused of trying to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential race. President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon testified that Stone was trying to gain access to Hillary Clinton emails that had been hacked by the Russians and then leaked during the campaign.
Stone was found guilty of seven counts of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing an investigation.
what are sentencing guidelines
Sentencing guidelines take into account the original crime, along with the conduct of the person who was found guilty of the crime as well as his/her health, among a few other things.
Federal prosecutors suggested Stone receive a maximum sentence of 7-9 years, probably because he had lied under oath and threatened a witness in order to influence the witness’s testimony. He also posted an Instagram pic of the judge presiding over his case next to cross-hairs, and continued to promote his book through social media despite a judge’s gag order.
DOJ response to President Trump’s tweet
Justice Department prosecutors ask for a sentence of seven to nine years, writing: “Roger Stone obstructed Congress’s 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.”
President Trump tweets his displeasure at the sentencing request.
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! https://t.co/rHPfYX6Vbv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2020
The DOJ tells reporters it will overrule the sentencing letter. This is at the request of Attorney General Bill Barr.
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 (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2020
Four DOJ career prosecutors leave the case in protest.
why it matters
A president got involved in a pending DOJ case and demanded better treatment of his friend. Then, after the President’s displeasure was made clear, the DOJ changed its position.
Yet, Don McGahn, counsel to the President, sent a memo at the start of President Trump’s term that outlines the way in which the DOJ and the White House would maintain a separation, which has been a guiding principle since Watergate.
An excerpt from the memo:
This Memorandum outlines important rules and procedures regarding communications between the White House (including all components of the Executive Office of the President) and the Department of Justice. These rules exist to ensure both efficient execution of the Administration’s policies and the highest level of integrity with respect to civil or criminal enforcement proceedings handled by DOJ. In order to ensure that DOJ exercises its investigatory and prosecutorial functions free from the fact or appearance of improper political influence, these rules must be strictly followed…
Geek out on the memo here.
Attorney General Barr overruled his own prosecutors on behalf of the President. Is it time for Attorney General Barr to go?