On Thursday, American Oversight filed four new Freedom of Information Act requests with the Justice Department to uncover the extent to which President Donald Trump’s personal interests were behind top officials’ stunning decision this week to intervene in the prosecution of Roger Stone.
Justice Department career prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 7 to 9 years imprisonment for Stone, a Trump associate who had been convicted on multiple charges including lying to Congress and witness tampering. But on Tuesday, in a highly unusual move, the Justice Department political leadership overruled that recommendation, advocating for a lighter sentence and prompting four of the prosecutors to abruptly withdraw from the case. Notably, the Justice Department’s intervention came shortly after the president tweeted his displeasure at the prosecution team’s recommendations, calling it a “miscarriage of justice.”
Trump’s politicization of the nation’s law enforcement agencies has been an alarming facet of his presidency, and the Justice Department’s apparent caving to political pressure from the White House only heightens those serious concerns. Since Tuesday, the president has offered on Twitter his “congratulations” to Attorney General William Barr for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.” He has also taken to attacking the federal judge presiding over the case, Amy Berman Jackson. And on Thursday, Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney who had overseen the Stone prosecution — and whose nomination to a Treasury position Trump suddenly pulled on Tuesday — resigned from the administration.
American Oversight has requested records of communications that top Justice Department officials, including Barr, had about the Stone case, including with the White House or with the prosecution team. We’re also seeking written documentation or approval for the Justice Department’s decision to depart from the prosecutors’ sentencing guidelines, as required by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ 2017 memo on sentencing policy.
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