Donald Trump on Wednesday praised Attorney General William Barr for acting to shield Roger Stone, his longtime associate and political adviser, from the lengthy prison sentence which career Justice Department prosecutors had recommended for him after his conviction on charges of obstructing congress and witness tampering.
“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. He also falsely claimed that the special counsel investigation which led to felony charges against Stone was “improperly brought [and] tainted,” and falsely claimed that the special counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller, had lied to Congress.
Stone, a longtime gadfly in Republican politics and a self-styled “dirty trickster” who famously boasts a tattoo of former president Richard Nixon on his back, was convicted by a federal jury on seven counts of obstructing a congressional inquiry, lying to investigators, and witness tampering for attempting to block the testimony of another witness whose testimony would have exposed his lies.
In a sentencing memorandum filed on Monday, Justice Department prosecutors had asked that District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentence Stone to seven to nine years in federal prison, citing the violent threats he’d made against the other witness and the witness’ dog.
Within hours of prosecutors’ recommendation becoming public, Trump weighed in against it on Twitter: “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!”
By Tuesday evening, it became clear that Justice Department officials had heeded the president’s tweet as if it were an official directive. An updated sentencing memo filed late Tuesday revised the Justice Department’s official position to state that DOJ officials believed Stone should receive “far less” than had initially been recommended.
At the same time, a series of separate court filings indicated that all four career prosecutors who’d made the initial recommendation had resigned from the case in protest, leaving the case in the hands of John Crabb, Jr., the acting head of the criminal division for the District of Columbia US Attorney’s office.
In further tweets on Tuesday, Trump attacked the prosecutors and claimed they’d “cut and run after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal,” as well as Judge Jackson, who he falsely accused of putting ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in solitary confinement after she’d ordered his bail revoked for violating a pre-trial gag order.