All fours of the lead federal prosecutors in the case of Donald Trump’s ally Roger Stone resigned suddenly just hours after the Trump administration moved to lighten the already-light sentence they offered for Stone, who has been convicted of seven federal crimes. The political consultant and lobbyist faced a maximum of 50 years in prison for five counts of lying to Congress, one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstructing Congress.
Prosecutors were pursuing a maximum of just nine years for Stone, which was already pretty lenient considering what he did and how many times he demonstrated contempt for the law. In a move that left many shocked and outraged, Trump’s Department of Justice intervened in the case in order to request an even lighter sentence for the felon.
The intervention came soon after a burst of tweets from Trump calling the nine-year maximum sentence “very unfair” and “a miscarriage of justice.” The Justice Department’s revised recommendation does specify exactly how lenient a sentence they want for Stone, only saying that it should be “far less” and urges Judge Amy Berman Jackson to consider the lobbyist’s “advanced age, health, personal circumstances, and lack of criminal history.”
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
Aaron Zelinsky, formerly a part of Robert Mueller’s special counsel, was the first to resign from the case. The next, Jonathan Kravis, resigned both from the case and from the Justice Department altogether. Adam Jed and Michael Marando resigned from the case only soon after.
Democratic leadership is not happy, with some demanding yet another investigation be opened into the president’s conduct.
By tweet @realDonaldTrump engaged in political interference in the sentencing of Roger Stone. It is outrageous that DOJ has deeply damaged the rule of law by withdrawing its recommendation. Stepping down of prosecutors should be commended & actions of DOJ should be investigated.— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 12, 2020
“The president seems to think the entire Justice Department is just his personal lawsuit to prosecute his enemies and help his friends. Rule of law in this grand tradition in this wonderful Justice Department is just being totally perverted to Donald Trump’s own personal desires and needs and it’s a disgrace,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters. “Roger Stone should get the full amount of time the prosecutors recommended and we’re going to do some oversight of that.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., also promised the panel would investigate.
A President who intervenes in the criminal justice system to help his allies, while punishing people like Lt. Col. Vindman for telling the truth, represents a real danger and the Committee will get to the bottom of this. 2/2— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) February 11, 2020
Meanwhile, a MoveOn.org petition published on Tuesday demanding an investigation into the Justice Department’s intervention in Stone’s case has already reached over 100,000 signatures. The petition accuses the department of “putting Donald Trump’s friends above the law.”
President Trump, sounding very angry, fiercely defended Roger Stone and said he didn’t deserve to have his life destroyed. He then went after former FBI director James Comey saying, “In the meantime Comey walks around making book deals.”— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) February 12, 2020
Former DOJ officials are tweeted their outrage with the move, with some treating it as an emergency for the country.
Memo to all career DOJ employees— Michael R. Bromwich (@mrbromwich) February 12, 2020
This is not what you signed up for. The four prosecutors who bailed on the Stone case have shown the way. Report all instances of improper political influence and other misdeeds to the DOJ IG, who is required to protect your identity.
A shocking, cram-down political intervention in the criminal justice process. We are now truly at a break-glass-in-case-of-fire moment for the Justice Dept. https://t.co/lYmoh5BrPv— David Laufman (@DavidLaufmanLaw) February 11, 2020
Even Republican lawmakers have signaled discomfort at Trump’s intervention in the Stone case, including Senator Lindsey Graham.
“I don’t think he should be commenting on cases in the system,” Graham said to reporters. “I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
“I think the president would be better served by never commenting on a pending federal investigation,” said Senator Susan Collins. “I said that back when the Mueller investigation was going on, and it’s certainly the case when you’re at a sentencing stage.”