KEY POINTS

  • The DOJ says the recommended nine-year jail time is "excessive and unwarranted" under the circumstances
  • Attorney General Barr suggests the actual sentence should be "far less" 
  • All four DOJ federal prosecutors have resigned in protest

President Donald Trump's hand is being seen in the abrupt case resignation of all four Department of Justice (DOJ) federal prosecutors that recommended Trump's close ally, Roger Stone, receive a jail sentence of nine years for his conviction on seven counts related to his work for the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.

Their withdrawal of involvement from the case on Tuesday came after attorney general Bill Barr -- a loyal Trump sycophant -- overruled their original recommendations of a seven to nine-year prison sentence for Stone. It also came a day after Trump described their recommendations as "ridiculous" and "a miscarriage of justice." A senior justice department official said the decision to change the recommendation was made by Barr, CNN noted.

Stone was arrested at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home on Jan. 25, 2019 in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Stone was later indicted for witness tampering, obstructing an official proceeding and five counts of making false statements. Stone was convicted on all seven counts on Nov. 15, 2019, and was due to be sentenced this month before Trump's and Barr's intervention.

The new DOJ recommendation urged Judge Amy Berman Jackson to consider Stone’s “advanced age, health, personal circumstances, and lack of criminal history in fashioning an appropriate sentence.”

It also said his prosecutors' jail time recommendation "does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter" and that the actual sentence should be "far less."

While admitting Stone committed serious offenses and deserves a sentence of incarceration, the new filing directed by Barr says that based "on the facts known to the government, a sentence of between 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment, however, could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances. Ultimately, the government defers to the Court as to what specific sentence is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case."

Roger Stone, who has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back, argued that the charges against him were politically motivated Roger Stone, who has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back, argued that the charges against him were politically motivated Photo: AFP / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

The first DOJ lawyer to resign upon learning of Barr's pro-Stone recommendations was lead prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky. A footnote in his court filing said "the undersigned attorney has resigned effective immediately."

Another prosecutor, Jonathan Kravis, also resigned from the case and as an assistant U.S. attorney. The other two prosecutors, Adam Jed and Michael Marando, also withdrew from the case.

The four prosecutors' withdrawal speaks "loudly to those of us who used to work at DOJ. There is a 4-alarm fire at Justice," said Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, called on the Justice Department Inspector General to "open an investigation "immediately."

"The president seems to think the entire Justice Department is just his personal lawsuit to prosecute his enemies and help his friends," said Schumer. "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."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, chairman of the House Intelligence Committees, said that "if reports are correct, the Department of Justice and Attorney General Bill Barr are poised to overrule career prosecutors who made a sentencing recommendation yesterday, following a midnight tweet from the President attacking the proposed length of sentence."

Schiff noted "it would be a blatant abuse of power if President Trump has in fact intervened to reverse the recommendations of career prosecutors at the Department of Justice."

He also said coupled with Trump’s blatant retaliation against those who helped expose his wrongdoing, "the Trump Administration poses the gravest threat to the rule of law in America in a generation."