President Trump praised Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday for “taking charge” of Roger Stone’s criminal case, seemingly confirming the ultra-loyal AG railroaded his own prosecutors to reduce a proposed prison sentence for the Republican trickster.
Emboldened by his recent impeachment acquittal, the president suggested Stone, his longtime friend, and political confidant, should never have been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller and gave Barr credit for stepping in Tuesday to shred the Washington U.S. attorney’s sentencing recommendation for the Trump ally.
“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” Trump tweeted. “Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!”
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on what exact role Barr has played in Stone’s case.
The president’s pat on the back for his toady attorney general came one day after all four line prosecutors on Stone’s case withdrew in apparent protest of the Justice Department’s extraordinary decision to urge a judge to sentence the Trump buddy to “far less” than their suggested seven-to-nine years in prison. That unusual move, in turn, came after Trump called the initial proposal “horrible” and “unfair."
Stone, a boisterous GOP operative infamous for his Richard Nixon back tattoo, was convicted last year of lying to Congress and threatening a witness in the Mueller probe to obscure his knowledge of WikiLeaks’ Russian-backed plans to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
It’s unclear what Trump meant by claiming Mueller “lied to Congress” and ran a “tainted” investigation.
Stone was one of six Trump aides and advisers convicted in the special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and possible participation in the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 contest. He’s set to be sentenced Feb. 20.
Fresh off his Senate acquittal, Trump has weighed in at an increasing rate on the Stone case, even entertaining the concept of pardoning him and attacking the federal judge overseeing his case over Twitter overnight Tuesday.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., is part of the Justice Department, and Barr’s apparent overruling of his own prosecutors in a case involving a close associate of the president rubbed even some Republicans the wrong way Wednesday.
“I don’t like this chain of events," said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who voted to acquit Trump of the impeachment charges despite acknowledging his scheme for Ukrainian investigations was inappropriate. “The president weighs in, all of a sudden, Justice comes back and says ‘change the deal.’ I think most people in America would look at that and say, ‘Hmm, that just doesn’t look right.’”
Democrats were more blunt.