Trump says he didn't order Justice to change sentencing for Roger Stone

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE said Tuesday that he didn’t instruct the Justice Department to change his longtime associate Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneJustice IG investigating Stone sentencing: report Romney says Trump's protest tweets 'clearly intended to further inflame racial tensions' Bannon trial date set in alleged border wall scam MORE’s prison sentence recommendation, while insisting he would be allowed to do so and calling the recommendation “ridiculous.”

“I'd be able to do it if I wanted. I have the absolute right to do it. I stay out of things,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked whether he asked the department to change the recommendation.

"I didn't speak to them. I thought the recommendation was ridiculous. I thought the whole prosecution was ridiculous,” Trump continued. “I thought it was an insult to our country and it shouldn’t happen.”

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The Justice Department on Tuesday lessened its sentencing recommendation for Stone, after prosecutors said in a filing a day prior that he should receive seven to nine years in prison.

The news came after Trump criticized the sentencing recommendation in a tweet early Tuesday morning, calling it “very unfair” and saying that such a “miscarriage of justice” should not be allowed.

The tweet triggered speculation that DOJ had reversed course on the sentencing on the president’s objection, resulting in a mountain of criticism from Democrats and some legal analysts.

Four prosecutors working on Stone’s case abruptly moved to withdraw from the case Tuesday afternoon before the new recommendation was filed, without providing any explanation.

Trump dismissed the prosecutors on Tuesday, noting that they worked on former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s Russia investigation, which Trump has regularly derided as a “witch hunt.”

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"These are, I guess, the same Mueller people that put everybody through hell and I think it’s a disgrace,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “No, I have not been involved with it right now.”

Stone, who served a brief stint on Trump’s campaign, was found guilty of lying to Congress and witness tampering last fall, crimes uncovered in the course of Mueller’s investigation into the campaign’s contacts with Russia. Stone’s conviction stemmed from his interactions with the campaign regarding WikiLeaks.

A DOJ spokeswoman said earlier Tuesday that the decision to change the sentencing recommendation was made before Trump’s tweet and that the White House and DOJ did not communicate on Monday or Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.

Trump made the remarks during a signing ceremony for legislation promoting veterans’ participation in STEM careers Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after he spoke to reporters, the Justice Department told the federal judge overseeing Stone’s case to apply “far less” to his sentence, in what was viewed as an unusual rebuke to career prosecutors working the case.

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Mueller’s investigation wrapped up last March. The investigation did not find evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, but it did ensnare six Trump associates who were charged with or pleaded guilty to various crimes.

Trump has been critical of the Justice Department’s prosecution of his campaign associates, at times triggering speculation he could look to pardon various individuals.

On Tuesday, Trump declined to say whether he would commute Stone’s prison sentence, before saying Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn had been treated unfairly.

"I don’t want to talk about that now,” the president said when asked if he would commute Stone's eventual sentence. “I think it was a disgraceful recommendation. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. … I think it’s a disgrace. We’ll see what happens.”

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December 2017 as part of a deal to cooperate with the Russia probe. Drama hit Flynn’s case last month when he made a bid to withdraw his guilty plea.