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Justice IG investigating Stone sentencing: report

Justice IG investigating Stone sentencing: report
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The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is investigating the department’s intervention in the sentencing of Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneFlynn spurs questions of who Trump might pardon next OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn MORE, NBC News reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The two sources said the probe will focus on a period in February when prosecutors have said they were told to recommend a lighter sentence because of Stone’s friendship with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE.

All four prosecutors working on the case quit after Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBarr breaks with Trump on claims of fraud Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel Barr says DOJ hasn't uncovered widespread voter fraud in 2020 election MORE overrode the prosecutorial recommendation of seven to nine years. Stone was sentenced to 40 months on seven felony convictions, including lying to investigators and witness tampering. However, the president commuted his sentence in July before Stone was to report to prison.

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Aaron Zelinsky, one of the prosecutors involved in the case, testified before Congress in June that he had been told to recommend a lighter sentence by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

The U.S. attorney, Zelinsky testified, was "receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break," and his sentencing instructions "were based on political considerations."

Barr defended his intervention in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in July, saying, "I agree the president's friends don't deserve special breaks, but they also don't deserve to be treated more harshly than other people." Barr also cited Stone's age.

A source familiar with the investigation told NBC that Zelinsky’s testimony was the trigger for the probe. The extent of the investigation or whether it has uncovered any wrongdoing was unclear. The sentencing was already the subject of an inquiry by the department’s Office of Personal Responsibility, the two sources told NBC. However, the OIG is required to report its findings to Congress and the public and can refer cases for prosecution.

A spokesperson for the OIG told The Hill it does not confirm or deny the existence of ongoing investigations.

—Updated at 6:16 p.m.