Trump Thanks DOJ for Lessening Roger Stone's Sentencing Recommendation, Denies Political Interference

President Donald Trump denied that he politically interfered in the Department of Justice's criminal case against Roger Stone, but thanked the department for lessening his longtime associate's sentencing recommendation.

"Not at all. He was treated very badly. Nine years recommended by four people that, perhaps they were Mueller people, I don't know who they were, prosecutors," the president said in the Oval Office on Wednesday. "I don't know what happened, they all hit the road pretty quickly."

Hours after Stone's prosecutors recommended seven to nine years in prison, the DOJ publicly announced they intended to back away from the lengthy recommendation and instead, seek a lower sentence. The DOJ's rare move to go against their own prosecutors came after Trump called the recommendation "very horrible and unfair" and resulted in all four career prosecutors handling Stone's proceedings to request to withdraw from the case.

Trump went on to insist that his tweets did not amount to political interference and insisted that he had not discussed the matter with the department. Nevertheless, he thanked them for taking a stand against the prosecutors' recommendation.

"I want to thank the Justice Department," the president told reporters. "They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence."

He added: "You have murderers and drug addicts that don't get nine years. Nine years for doing something that no one can even define what he did."

Roger stone
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters during a meeting with President of the Republic of Ecuador Lenín Moreno, in the Oval Office at the White House, on February 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty

The four prosecutors—Jonathan Kravis, Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, Adam Jed and Michael Marando—lodged their sentence recommendation on Monday night. DOJ leaders on Tuesday overturned their decision and said the department will pursue something "far less" than seven to nine years. They claimed that the prosecutors failed to notify the Trump administration beforehand of their recommendation that did not "accurately reflect" the Department of Justice's position.

The sentencing recommendation came after Stone was convicted of charges including witness tampering, lying to Congress and obstruction of a House probe, which resulted from his involvement in the FBI's investigation into whether Trump's 2016 campaign coordinated with Russia officials to influence the presidential election. If implemented, their length prison recommendation would have been the harshest sentence issued to any of the roughly half dozen Trump aides charged in relation to former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

The DOJ's move to go against their own staff, and the ensuing resignation of all four prosecutors from the proceedings, prompted Trump critics to lash out at Attorney General William Barr and the Trump administration for interfering in the criminal case. The DOJ has maintained that they made their decision before the president issued his tweet.

Many Democrats have denounced the events that unfolded, while even some Republicans have said Trump should not have made any public comments about Stone's case.

"I don't like this chain of events where you have a ... proceeding, a sentencing, a recommended sentence, the president weighs in and all of the sudden Justice comes back, says 'change the deal.' I think most people would look at that and say 'hmm, that just doesn't look right.' And I think they're right," GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said on Wednesday.