The intervention of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), who undermined their own prosecutor’s recommendation of a sentence for Republican operative Roger Stone, has prompted outrage from Democratic legislators and some former DOJ officials.
The department stepped in on Tuesday and revised their prosecutor’s recommendation that Stone, who helped President Donald Trump rise to power, face seven to nine years for his conviction on charges that include lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House of Representatives investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
Instead of the sentence sought by their prosecutors, which was in line with federal guidelines, the DOJ chose not to recommend a sentence to the judge, who will make a final ruling on February 20.
The new filing came shortly after Trump derided the prosecutors’ initially requested sentence on Twitter. The DOJ and Trump both denied they coordinated on the decision, with the department claiming it decided to intervene before Trump had sent his first tweet on the sentence. Trump, however, praised DOJ officials after they announced their decision.
Four federal prosecutors withdrew from the case, with one resigning from the DOJ completely, shortly after the DOJ stepped in.
Christopher Hunter, a former federal prosecutor and nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, called the situation a “complete and total outrage”.
“To overrule [the prosecutors’ recommendations], to then go and file a document essentially making no sentencing recommendation at all, especially given the context of the case, is a complete and total abomination of the rule of law,” he told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, David Laufman, a former Justice Department chief of counterintelligence and export control, tweeted that the intervention is “a shocking, cram-down political intervention in the criminal justice process”.
“We are now truly at a break-glass-in-case-of-fire moment for the Justice Department,” he said.