Donald Trump was accused on Tuesday, February 11 of flouting the principle of the separation of powers, after an exceptional intervention by the United States Department of Justice to soften a required prison sentence against Roger Stone, one of his longtime friends.
This interference by the highest authorities of the ministry in this file caused a wind of revolt among the four prosecutors who were investigating the case: all announced in a resounding way to withdraw.
Roger Stone was convicted in November 2019 of lies to Congress in connection with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 American election. His sentence is to be announced on February 20 by a federal judge, after an advisory opinion from the prosecutors.
On Monday, in their sentencing recommendations, the latter suggested a sentence of 7 and 9 years in prison against Roger Stone, a 67-year-old political consultant and loyal to the Republican president.
“Miscarriage of justice “
But, on the night of Monday to Tuesday, Donald Trump responded by denouncing in a tweet a “very unfair situation” and a “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
Without a clear link between cause and effect, the four prosecutors who had requested the initial sentences, Aaron Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed, and Michael Marando, announced Tuesday their withdrawal from the Stone case in a motion sent to the judge. They did not give an explanation for their decision, but one of them resigned from his post.
Suspected of having pressured supposedly independent prosecutors, Donald Trump denied any intervention. “I did not speak to them,” he reacted from the White House, adding that he had “not been involved at all”.
But the recommendations were “ridiculous”, “shameful” and “an insult to our country,” he insisted. In the evening, the American president attacked the federal judge who will have to pronounce the sentence against Roger Stone.
” Abuse of power “
The opposition immediately denounced political interference in this judicial file and even raised the possibility of an “abuse of power”. The President (Democrat) of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, denounced a “scandalous” decision by the Trump administration which “affects the rule of law”.
Confirmation of orders from above, the Minister of Justice asked on Tuesday afternoon for a “much lesser” sentence against Roger Stone, on the pretext that the initial recommendations “would not be suitable or would not serve the interests of justice “.
In this document, “amended and additional recommendations from the government”, the ministry cites the example of a sentence between 3 and 4 years, “from 37 to 46 months”, a duration, according to him, “more suitable to the penalties typically imposed in obstruction cases ”.
“The Department of Justice and Minister Bill Barr are ready to ignore the advice of career prosecutors […] after a midnight tweet from the president attacking the proposed sentence, “ Adam Schiff said in a statement. Democrat who led the prosecution team during President Trump’s removal from office in the Senate.
Roger Stone lied to Congress and threatened a witness to cover up Trump campaign contacts with Wikileaks.
He was found guilty on all charges.
Barr overruling career prosecutors at Trump’s urging is a disgraceful attack on the rule of law.
Has DOJ no independence left? https://t.co/eMDGGmXXFi
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 11, 2020
The Justice Department has said that this decision was made before the tweet from Donald Trump.
Trump already accused of obstructing justice
The President has already been charged with obstructing justice in the Russian investigation, including the dismissal of FBI director James Comey, who was investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election, at the start of his term.
And if after twenty-two months of investigation, special prosecutor Robert Mueller had declared that he had found no evidence of collusion between Moscow and Donald Trump’s campaign team in 2016, he had not, however, exonerated the Republican billionaire on suspicion of obstructing justice.
In this case, the president also sacked his then Minister of Justice, Jeff Sessions, accusing him of not protecting him enough. The appointment of the current minister, Bill Barr, was seen as Donald Trump’s desire to put someone loyal to him as head of the Justice Department.
Roger Stone is among the six members of the entourage, more or less close, to the president to have been charged or sentenced in the wake of the Russian investigation.