In an apparent pressure from US President Donald Trump, the Justice Department overrode the earlier recommendation of up to nine years of a prison sentence for Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone. Senior department officials moved to seek a shorter prison sentence for Stone after Trump called the earlier recommendation ‘miscarriage of justice’.
The four prosecutors, Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando and Jonathan Kravis, withdrew from the case after Justice department’s highly unusual move. US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, whom Trump criticised for the handling of another criminal case involving his former campaign chairman, is due to sentence Stone on February 20.
Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer lashed out at the department’s move and called for an immediate investigation on why sentencing recommendations by career prosecutors were countermanded. Schumer, in a letter to Michael Horowitz, Inspector General of DOJ, said that the situation has all indicia of improper political interference in criminal prosecution. Schumer added that the American people must have confidence that justice in this country is dispensed impartially.
“I urge you to conduct an expedited review of this urgent matter and issue a public report with your findings and recommendations as soon as possible,” wrote the Senator.
Earlier on February 11, Trump tweeted that it was an ‘unfair situation’ after Stone was convicted, in November, for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the house investigation.
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! https://t.co/rHPfYX6Vbv— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2020
Stone became the sixth Trump’s aide to be convicted on the charges brought as part of Mueller’s report, based on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump’s informal adviser had denied any wrongdoing and called all the charges politically motivated but his lawyers had failed to call any witnesses in his defence.
(With inputs from agencies)