President Donald Trump praised Attorney General Bill Barr after all four prosecutors overseeing the case of Roger Stone, Trump’s oldest political adviser, withdrew from the case after senior officials overruled their sentencing recommendation.
Prosecutors recommended Stone serve seven to nine years in prison after he was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice in November.
"Roger Stone obstructed Congress' investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lied under oath and tampered with a witness," prosecutors said in the filing. "When his crimes were revealed by the indictment in this case, he displayed contempt for this court and the rule of law."
The recommendation drew fury from Trump, who called the recommended sentence “disgraceful.”
"This is a horrible and very unfair situation," he tweeted. "The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"
"I thought that the recommendation was ridiculous," he later told reporters. "I thought that the whole prosecution was ridiculous. And I look at others who have not been prosecuted or where it is now. But when you see that, I thought that it was an insult to the country. It shouldn't happen. We will see what goes on there, but that was a horrible, aberration."
Prosecutors quit after DOJ intervenes:
A senior Justice Department official told the Associated Press shortly after Trump’s tweets that the recommendation would be reduced.
"The department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation," the official said. "This was not what had been briefed to the department and the department thinks the recommendation was extreme, excessive and grossly disproportionate to Stone's offenses and the department will clarify its position later today at the court."
The news prompted all four prosecutors to withdraw from the case, including two that worked on former special counsel Bob Mueller’s team. Prosecutor Jonathan Kravis added in a court filing that he also "resigned as an Assistant United States Attorney."
The DOJ submitted a new filing that does not recommend a specific sentence.
"It remains the position of the United States that a sentence of incarceration is warranted," the filing said, but added that the initial recommendation "would not be appropriate or serve the interests of justice in this case" and "could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances."
Democrats call for investigation:
Trump praised Barr after the news.
"Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought," Trump tweeted on Wednesday. "Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!”
But Democrats called for new investigations into the department’s intervention.
"It is outrageous that DOJ has deeply damaged the rule of law by withdrawing its recommendation," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"This situation has all the indicia of improper political interference in a criminal prosecution," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a letter to DOJ inspector general Michael Horowitz. "The American people must have confidence that justice in this country is dispensed impartially. That confidence cannot be sustained if the president or his political appointees are permitted to interfere in prosecution and sentencing recommendations in order to protect their friends and associates."