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DOJ Asks Court For 'Far Less' Prison Time For Roger Stone After Trump Tweet

Roger Stone leaves federal court with his wife, Nydia Stone, on the day he was found guilty last fall.
Julio Cortez AP
Roger Stone leaves federal court with his wife, Nydia Stone, on the day he was found guilty last fall.

Updated at 5:31 p.m. ET

The Justice Department asked a judge to sentence Roger Stone to much less prison time than initially requested on Tuesday following an unusual intervention by leaders in Washington.

Three prosecutors working in the Washington D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office withdrew from the Stone case on the same day.

Officials at the Justice Department's headquarters were "shocked" when they saw on Monday night that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C., had recommended seven to nine years in prison in Stone's case, a senior Justice Department official said.

Department leadership found the recommendation to be "extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone's offenses," the official said. So DOJ ordered the submission of a second sentencing memo in the case, displacing the first.

The second memo, which appeared with court records on Tuesday afternoon, said that a sentence "far less" than the prospective 7 to 9 years in prison — the earlier recommendation — "would be reasonable under the circumstances."

Judge Amy Berman Jackson has the ultimate authority to hand down the sentence in Stone's case and the government said in its second filing that it deferred to her.

Trump criticism

The back and forth over the recommendation for Stone's sentence also followed a post on Twitter by Trump on Tuesday that faulted the recommended sentence.

Officials didn't make any explicit link between the president's tweet and the Justice Department's planned action. The senior Justice Department official said that department leadership had resolved on Monday evening to challenge the initial sentencing memo, before the Twitter post.

The president told reporters at the White House on Tuesday that he hadn't asked the Justice Department for a shorter sentence for Stone. Trump declined to comment when asked whether he was considering a pardon for Stone.

Trump's critics blasted what they called the president's attempt to influence what are supposed to be the independent workings of the Justice Department.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., vowed in his own Twitter post that the panel would investigate.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate the events leading up to the submission of the second sentencing memo.

"This situation has all the indicia of improper political interference in a criminal prosecution," Schumer wrote to Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

The Stone matter

Stone and his camp sought to serve as intermediaries between Trump's campaign and WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election, though Stone said he did nothing wrong.

He maintained that he had no inside knowledge about the Russian attack on the election or WikiLeaks' role and that he was only talking up his own importance.

Prosecutors, however, charged him with lying to Congress, obstructing its investigation and witness tampering.

Stone was convicted on all seven counts in his trial by a federal jury in November. The judge has scheduled sentencing for next week. Ahead of that, prosecutors and Stone's defense team filed their respective sentencing memos Monday, which prompted the subsequent reaction.

Stone's attorneys asked for probation.

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