President Trump offered “congratulations” to Attorney General Bill Barr after the Justice Department submitted an amended filing in Roger Stone‘s criminal case seeking a lighter sentence for the former Trump campaign adviser than prosecutors first recommended — a move that comes as Democrats accuse the White House of politicizing the DOJ and career prosecutors are withdrawing from the case in apparent protest.
Federal prosecutors initially suggested a lengthy sentence of between 87 and 108 months in prison on Monday, which Trump called “a horrible and very unfair situation.” The following day, the DOJ leadership overruled the prosecutors in the case, submitting a new filing that said the DOJ “respectfully submits that a sentence of incarceration far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment would be reasonable” for Stone.
“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 tweeted Wednesday morning. The president went on to say that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which led to Stone’s prosecution, was a “scam” that “was improperly brought & tainted.”
Trump also suggested that the prosecutors who made the initial recommendation had gone “rogue.” Hours after the Justice Department submitted the new filing, four of the prosecutors who had been on the case abruptly withdrew in an apparent protest. One resigned from the Department of Justice.
Democrats vehemently protested the move. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for an Inspector General investigation into the decision to ask for a lighter sentence, and other Democratic senators, like Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., demanded that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hold a hearing and call Barr to testify.
“The Justice Department’s decision to overrule its career prosecutors, immediately after President Trump’s tweet, calls into question the independence and integrity of our legal system,” Harris said in a statement.
A senior DOJ official confirmed to Fox News that senior leadership officials there made the call to reverse the initial sentencing recommendation, saying the filing on Monday evening was not only extreme, but also substantially inconsistent with how the prosecutors had briefed DOJ leadership they would proceed on the case. The “general communication” between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the main DOJ had led senior officials to expect a more moderate sentence, the official told Fox News.
Stone is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Feb. 20 after his conviction stemming from charges of witness tampering, lying to Congress, and obstruction.
Fox News’ Gregg Re, Jake Gibson and David Spunt contributed to this report.