Just hours after Donald Trump complained about Roger Stone's recommended sentence, the Justice Department backpedaled. The incident has raised eyebrows about potential interference.
Four lawyers who prosecuted Roger Stone resigned on Tuesday after the Justice Department said it would reduce the long-time Trump adviser's recommended prison sentence — a decision that raised eyebrows about caving to pressure under the US president.
The department's decision came just hours after Trump dubbed Stone's sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years as a "horrible and unfair" and a "miscarriage of justice."
The department said the sentence advisory was issued on Monday night, and that lawyers had not spoken to the White House about it.
Stone, a self-proclaimed "dirty trickster," was convicted in November on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.
In a highly unusual override of a Justice Department recommendation, an official who had not previously worked on the case called the recommendation "excessive and unwarranted" and said that the department would not make a formal recommendation.
Prosecutors moving on to old posts
After the action was announced, the four prosecutors who won Stone's conviction — Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando and Jonathan Kravis — withdrew from the case. Kravis told the court in a filing he was not only leaving the case but also quitting his post as a federal prosecutor.
Kravis had been a veteran prosecutor in Washington and was involved in multiple cases brought by special counsel Robert Mueller's team. He also assisted in the case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Zelinsky intends to go back to his job as a general prosecutor in Baltimore, having also quit his job in Washington in addition to the case. He was involved in determining what knowledge the Trump campaign had about Democratic emails that were hacked by Russia, and what efforts Trump aides made to get information about them.
Jed's post-resignation status was not clear, however. Before being brought on to the Mueller team, he worked on civil cases at the Justice Department.
"The rule of law and this grand, grand tradition of this wonderful Justice Department is being totally perverted to Donald trump's own personal desires and needs," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. "It's a disgrace."
Democrats demanded a formal investigation, amid concerns over interference. "The DOJ Inspector General must open an investigation immediately," he said. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that the "danger" confirmed that his committee will launch an investigation.
lc/aw (dpa, Reuters, AP)