Four prosecutors quit Roger Stone case after DOJ sentencing reversal

The four Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors who recommended Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneChris Christie: I wouldn't have commuted Roger Stone sentence Graham says he will call Mueller to testify before Senate panel about Russia probe Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to reopening schools MORE be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison left the case Tuesday after top officials sought to reduce their sentencing request.

Prosecutors Michael Marando, Adam Jed, Jonathan Kravis and Aaron Zelinsky all asked the judge in the case for permission to withdraw. Kravis left the DOJ entirely, announcing his resignation as an assistant U.S. attorney.

The four were involved in providing the initial sentencing guidance for Stone. But in a rebuke to the career prosecutors, the DOJ on Tuesday told the judge in the case to apply "far less" to Stone's sentence.

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"The government respectfully submits that a sentence of incarceration far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment would be reasonable under the circumstances," the DOJ wrote in a memo late Tuesday afternoon.

"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 memo added.

The DOJ decision and the withdrawal of career prosecutors from the case stunned legal watchers and Washington and raised questions about potential political interference in the sentencing of a longtime Trump adviser.

Reports of the DOJ reversal said top officials found the initial guidelines to be "excessive." Those reports also came after Trump blasted the guidelines on Twitter, saying that Stone was treated unfairly by prosecutors.

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

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Speaking with reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said he didn't tell the Justice Department to amend its sentencing guidance but that he would have been within his rights to do so.

“I'd be able to do it if I wanted. I have the absolute right to do it. I stay out of things,” Trump said.

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

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE (D-N.Y.) is calling on the DOJ's top watchdog to investigate the decision to suddenly recommend a lighter sentence for Stone, while the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is sending the Justice Department a Freedom of Information Act request for records related to the case.

"The DOJ Inspector General must open an investigation immediately. I will be sending a formal request to the IG shortly," Schumer tweeted.

Stone, 67, was convicted of seven counts of obstructing and lying to Congress and witness tampering over his efforts during the 2016 campaign to get the Trump campaign information from WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors made their recommendation of 87 to 108 months in prison to D.C. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee, based on federal guidelines. Stone's lawyers have asked the judge to give their client probation instead of prison time.

Jackson is slated to hand down Stone's sentence on Feb. 20.

Updated at 5:38 p.m.