Editor's note: After our broadcast, Attorney General William Barr responded to President Trump's tweets about Roger Stone's criminal case. In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Barr said Trump's tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job." Read more here.
Four federal prosecutors in the case of former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone have pulled out of the legal proceedings, after the Department of Justice undercut their sentencing recommendations. We’ll look at the mix of politics and justice that brought us to this unprecedented point.
Donald Ayer, former Deputy Attorney General during the George H.W. Bush administration. He was succeeded by current Attorney General William Barr.
From The Reading List
The New York Times: "Prosecutors Quit Roger Stone Case After Justice Dept. Intervenes on Sentencing" — "Four prosecutors abruptly withdrew on Tuesday from the case of President Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. after senior Justice Department officials intervened to recommend a more lenient sentence for crimes he committed in a bid to protect the president.
"In an extraordinary decision overruling career lawyers, the Justice Department recommended an unspecified term of incarceration for Mr. Stone instead of the prosecutors’ request of a punishment of seven to nine years. The move coincided with Mr. Trump’s declaration on Twitter early Tuesday that the government was treating Mr. Stone too harshly.
"The development immediately prompted questions about whether the Justice Department was bending to White House pressure. The gulf between the prosecutors and their Justice Department superiors burst into public view the week before Mr. Stone was to be sentenced for trying to sabotage a congressional investigation that had posed a threat to the president.
"The prosecutors — one of whom resigned from the department — were said to be furious over the reversal of their sentencing request, filed in federal court late Monday. The Stone case was one of the most high-profile criminal prosecutions arising from the nearly two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III."
The New York Times: "These Are The Four Prosecutors Who Quit the Roger Stone Case" — "They’ve clerked for Supreme Court justices, served at the State Department and orbited Robert S. Mueller III.
"On Tuesday, the four main federal prosecutors working on the obstruction and perjury case of Roger J. Stone Jr. shared another distinction: they quit the case. The abrupt withdrawals came after the Justice Department overruled their recommendation for a stiffer sentence for Mr. Stone, a longtime friend and informal adviser of President Trump. One of the prosecutors resigned outright.
"The prosecutors had asked a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., to sentence Mr. Stone to up to nine years in prison for obstructing a congressional investigation, witness tampering and making false statements during the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election."
The New Yorker: "Did Donald Trump Just Get Roger Stone's Prison Sentence Reduced?" — "On Tuesday, four federal prosecutors withdrew from a high-profile case, and one resigned his position, after senior Justice Department officials overruled them and recommended that Roger Stone — a longtime friend and former campaign adviser of President Trump’s — receive a lesser prison sentence. Stone was convicted last November of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness to prevent investigators from learning how the 2016 Trump campaign tried to benefit from stolen Democratic Party e-mails.
"The highly unusual intervention raises questions about whether the President, or the Attorney General, William Barr, intervened in a federal criminal case to help an associate. (Late on Tuesday, NBC News reported that Barr had decided to 'take control of legal matters of personal interest to Donald Trump.') Last night, Trump tweeted that the seven-to-nine-year sentence prosecutors had recommended for Stone was too harsh.
"The group resignation comes less than a month after other prosecutors reduced a sentencing recommendation in the case of another former Trump associate, Michael Flynn."
This program aired on February 13, 2020.