Back in February, the abrupt change in sentencing recommendations for Roger Stone was a shocking example of the lengths Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department was willing to go to in order to intervene in the cases of associates of President Donald Trump.
The Justice Department’s inspector general’s office has recently announced that it will be looking into the decision by agency leadership to override the prosecutors’ original recommendation and instead ask for a lighter sentence. On Wednesday, American Oversight obtained records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that shed new light on the circumstances surrounding the highly controversial move, showing how quickly leadership’s intervention caused chaos.
In the early hours of Feb. 11, the day after Justice Department prosecutors recommended that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison for lying under oath and witness tampering, Trump tweeted his displeasure at Stone’s perceived ill-treatment. Later that day, following news that one of the prosecutors had resigned from the chaos (others were to follow), an amended sentencing memo was filed, saying that the original recommendation “would not be appropriate.”
The records obtained by American Oversight show that the night before, on Feb. 10, J.P. Cooney, the head of the department’s Fraud and Public Corruption section, signed off on filing the original sentencing memo.
Later that night, a “Final version” was circulated by Timothy Shea, then the interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Justice Department officials Alessio Evangelista, John Crabb, and David Metcalf. And Shea shared the final version with Seth DuCharme, who has worked closely with Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham in another politicized matter.
Hours after, Trump would complain on Twitter. In the morning came Fox News reports that the Justice Department’s sentencing position in Stone’s case was expected to change. Around noon on Feb. 11, Cooney responded to a press inquiry from the Hill newspaper, asking to confirm whether the reports were accurate. “False,” Cooney said.
Crabb ended up being the one to sign the supplemental sentencing memo that would come out later that day, though during court proceedings he would not disclose to Judge Amy Berman Jackson who wrote it. But based on an email from Evangelista to Crabb that same afternoon with a version of the amended sentencing memo, it appears clear that Crabb and Evangelista were involved in the drafting.
Part of Investigation: