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Democrats call for Graham to launch Senate probe into Roger Stone sentence recommendation

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mexican president breaks with other world leaders, refusing to acknowledge Biden win until election is finalized MORE (D-Calif.) are calling for the Senate Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation into the Justice Department's decision to reduce its recommended sentence for Trump associate Roger Stone. 

Blumenthal and Harris sent separate letters to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who chairs the panel, arguing that the committee should "immediately open an investigation," including holding public hearings, into the Justice Department's decision. 

"This highly unusual about-face by the Department is stunning and alarming, and smacks of dangerous political interference in law enforcement decision-making," Blumenthal wrote.

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"I ask that the Judiciary Committee conduct an investigation into this matter and begin hearings immediately," he added.

Harris, meanwhile, specifically called for Attorney General William BarrBill BarrClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day Redeeming justice: the next attorney general MORE to publicly testify as part of the panel's investigation. 

"We must review these events and assess their impact on the integrity of the Department and our system of justice. Failure to meet basic oversight responsibilities in the face of such alarming news would send a signal to this and future administrations that the Senate no longer conducts itself as a co-equal branch of government," Harris wrote.  

The Justice Department on Tuesday asked a federal court to sentence Stone to "far less" than seven to nine years in prison — the time frame federal prosecutors had recommended on Monday. 

"While it remains the position of the United States that a sentence of incarceration is warranted here, the government respectfully submits that the range of 87 to 108 months presented as the applicable advisory Guidelines range would not be appropriate or serve the interests of justice in this case," the department said.  

It added that the initial sentence recommendation "does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter."

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The U-turn has sparked mass outrage among Democrats and led to all four of the Department of Justice lawyers central to Stone's prosecution and initial sentencing recommendation to withdraw from the case.

Blumenthal called the resignations "an extraordinary act of courage" but also act that should "concern us greatly." 

"It is a bedrock of democracy that law enforcement decisions be made independent of improper political interference. The integrity of the Justice Department and the rule of law depends on such independence," Blumenthal wrote.

The reversal from the Justice Department comes after Trump publicly criticized the initial seven- to nine-year sentencing recommendation, calling it "very unfair."

“This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

Trump said on Tuesday that he did not instruct the Justice Department to change its sentence but that he could have and that he thought the initial recommendation was "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. 

The initial Justice Department recommendation, made in a filing on Monday, was in accordance with federal guidelines.

The government wrote that such a sentence would “accurately reflect the seriousness of his crimes and promote respect for the law.” 

Stone was convicted in November of seven counts of obstructing and lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016.

In addition to a Senate investigation, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has asked for a Justice Department inspector general (IG) probe. 

"The American people must have confidence that justice in this country is dispensed impartially. That confidence cannot be sustained if the president or his political appointees are permitted to interfere in prosecution and sentencing recommendations in order to protect their friends and associates," Schumer wrote in a letter to IG Michael Horowitz.