While the president remains embroiled in the scandal surrounding his attempt to bribe Ukraine into investigating his domestic political opponents, a loose end from the investigation into Russia’s election interference continues to unfold. Now, the Justice Department has actually announced plans to essentially cave to pressure from the president in dealing with that loose end, which is the case of longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. Although they claim that the decision came before Trump publicly complained about prosecutors’ initial sentencing recommendation, the department is gearing up to decrease their recommendation for the length of a sentence for Stone in the ongoing federal criminal case over his obstruction of justice. Originally, the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. had requested seven to nine years.
Trump complained about the recommendation in an early Tuesday tweet, the day after prosecutors initially filed it. He commented:
‘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!’
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! https://t.co/rHPfYX6Vbv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2020
Some speculated that the tweet indicated Trump might pardon Stone, although he actually has not really used that power in relation to the Russia investigation, which has ensnared half a dozen of his current and former associates with a smorgasbord of criminal charges. Besides Stone, others whose criminal cases definitively disprove Trump’s allegation that the whole probe is a sham include his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his former fixer Michael Cohen, his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and more.
In this case, the Justice Department claims that “prosecutors had not spoken to the White House about” the decision to lower their sentencing recommendation for Stone. The Associated Press adds as an explanation that an unnamed Justice Department official claims that “authorities decided to step in and seek a shorter sentence because they had been taken by surprise by the initial recommendation” because supposedly, “prosecutors had told the department to expect a shorter recommendation.” It’s up to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who’s handling the case, whether to even consider any of these developments when delivering her sentence for Stone.
In the original sentencing recommendation filing, prosecutors had insisted:
‘Stone’s actions were not a one-off mistake in judgement… [He] decided to double – and triple – down on his criminal conduct by tampering with a witness for months in order to make sure his obstruction would be successful.’
Besides that case, Flynn is actually also still awaiting a sentencing after his plea agreement with the government fell apart under accusations from authorities that he was still not being forthcoming with them. Recently, authorities said that they “would not oppose a probation of punishment after initially saying that he deserved up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI,” as the Associated Press explains it.
So far, the only criminal charges related to the Ukraine scandal are for two individuals, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who helped Giuliani try and pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens and others. Besides that, they also carried out a federal campaign finance law violation scheme including the transfer of large amounts of foreign cash into the U.S.