Trump congratulates Barr for ‘taking charge’ of Stone case

President Trump on Wednesday celebrated Attorney General William Barr for “taking charge” of the case against Roger Stone, questioning whether the charges should have been brought against his longtime associate and friend in the first place.

“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

The message came one day after leaders at the Department of Justice reduced the prison recommendation for Stone after career federal prosecutors handling his case had recommended he serve between seven and nine years in jail for lying to Congress and witness tampering.

The department told a federal judge in a filing that the earlier recommendation “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position” and asked that the sentence imposed be “far less.”

Barr has not publicly commented on the developments as they relate to Stone’s case. Trump’s tweet on Wednesday seemed to suggest that the attorney general was personally involved in the decision to reduce the sentencing recommendation. 

The sentencing change, which came hours after Trump publicly objected to the sentence recommendation in a tweet by calling it a “miscarriage of justice” that should not be allowed, raised questions about the politicization of the Justice Department. Triggering further scrutiny, all four prosecutors handling Stone’s case withdrew from it Tuesday afternoon without explanation.

A Justice Department spokeswoman told news outlets on Tuesday that the decision to reduce the sentencing recommendation was made before the president’s tweet. Trump also told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he didn’t ask the Justice Department to change the sentence, but that he would have the “absolute right” to do so if he wanted.

“I didn’t speak to them. I thought the recommendation was ridiculous. I thought the whole prosecution was ridiculous,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “I thought it was an insult to our country and it shouldn’t happen.”

Trump’s tweet on Wednesday is likely to cause further criticism from Democrats as well as questions about the president’s interest and potential involvement in Justice Department matters and Barr’s own decisionmaking. NBC News reported late Tuesday that Barr had taken control of legal matters of interest to the president, including, but not limited to, Stone’s case.

Stone, a longtime Republican political consultant and informal adviser to Trump, was charged early last year in the course of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Stone was convicted last November of crimes stemming from his communications with the campaign regarding WikiLeaks.

Trump has consistently lashed out at Mueller’s investigation, which did not find evidence of a conspiracy between his campaign and Moscow, as a “witch hunt,” claiming associates like Stone who were charged in connection with the two-year probe were treated unfairly.

On Wednesday, the president also alleged that Mueller’s investigation was “improperly brought & tainted” — labeling it a “scam” — and claimed without evidence that the former special counsel “lied to Congress.”

A recent Justice Department inspector general review found that the FBI’s original investigations into Trump campaign associates — which preceded Mueller’s probe — were adequately predicated and not influenced by political bias.

However, the inspector general also uncovered serious errors and omissions in warrant applications filed by the FBI that were used to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser who was not ultimately charged in the investigation.

Updated at 8:09 a.m.

Tags bob mueller Donald Trump Robert Mueller Roger Stone
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