Update 6 p.m. EST Feb. 11: Four lawyers who prosecuted Roger Stone quit the case Tuesday after the Justice Department said it would take the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek for President Donald Trump’s longtime ally and confidant.
The four attorneys, including two who were early members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia team, had made up the Justice Department’s trial team and had signed onto a Monday court filing that recommended up to nine years in prison for Stone.
Original Report: After a flurry of prosecutor resignations in the case, the Justice Department submitted to the court Tuesday afternoon an updated sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a confidant of President Donald Trump’s and political consultant who was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction. In the new filing, the DOJ still recommends prison time for Stone, but is not seeking as lengthy of a sentence as the original sentencing recommendation submitted on Monday.
Sen. Chuck Schumer is asking for the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to open an investigation into the change in sentencing recommendations in the Stone case.
Reports of the controversy surfaced Tuesday after Trump sent an early-morning tweet criticizing the sentencing proposal from prosecutors, which called for between seven and nine years behind bars, as “horrible and very unfair.”
The Justice Department said the decision to shorten the sentencing recommendation was made Monday night — before Trump's tweet — and that prosecutors had not spoken to the White House about it. Still, the move was sure to raise questions about political interference and whether Trump's views hold unusual sway over the Justice Department.
An unidentified DOJ official told CNN the department was “shocked to see the sentencing recommendation.”
“The department believes the recommendation is extreme and excessive and is grossly disproportionate to Stone’s offenses,” the official told CNN.
A jury convicted Stone in November on several charges connected to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors said he lied to protect the Trump campaign from embarrassment and scrutiny in its quest for emails hacked by Russian officials and disseminated by WikiLeaks during the election.
Stone was a prominent figure in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He and Trump have been friends since the 1980s, according to The Washington Post.
Rumors have swirled since his conviction that Trump might issue a pardon for him, though he said in December that he hadn’t considered it, USA Today reported.
"I think it’s very tough what they did to Roger Stone compared to what they do to other people, on their side," the president added, according to the newspaper.
Stone is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.
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