- All four prosecutors overseeing the US government’s case against the longtime Republican strategist Roger Stone withdrew themselves from the case Tuesday after senior Justice Department officials publicly overruled their sentencing recommendation for Stone.
- The shocking public rebuke came after President Donald Trump weighed in on the prosecutors’ initial sentencing recommendation, calling it “horrible and unfair.”
- The four prosecutors who subsequently withdrew after the DOJ’s announcement are Aaron Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed, and Michael Marando.
- Zelinsky also resigned from the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC, but will go back to working at the US attorney’s office in Baltimore, where he is based. Kravis left the Department of Justice altogether.
- The DOJ’s new sentencing memo in Stone’s case was signed only by John Crabb Jr., the acting head of the criminal division of the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC.
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The four prosecutors working on the US government’s case against the longtime Republican strategist Roger Stone withdrew en masse Tuesday after senior Department of Justice officials publicly overruled their sentencing recommendation for Stone.
In a filing Monday, the prosecutors requested Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison. He was convicted last year of seven felony counts of obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and false statements.
But on Tuesday, in a shocking rebuke of the career prosecutors, senior Department of Justice officials told reporters they would seek a lesser sentence for Stone. Their announcement came after President Donald Trump publicly defended Stone and called the prosecutors’ initial sentencing recommendation “horrible and unfair.”
“That recommendation is not what had been briefed to the department,” a senior official told The New York Times and The Washington Post. “The department finds the recommendation extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offences. The department will clarify its position later today.”
The four prosecutors who withdrew after that announcement are Aaron Zelinsky, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed, and Michael Marando.
Zelinsky also resigned from the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC, but will go back to working at the US attorney’s office in Baltimore, where he is based. Kravis left the Department of Justice altogether.
The DOJ’s new sentencing memo in Stone’s case was signed only by John Crabb Jr., the acting head of the criminal division of the US attorney’s office in Washington, DC.
In their original memo, prosecutors wrote that “a sentence consistent with the Guidelines is appropriate based on the nature and extent of Stone’s conduct, the length of time it transpired” – nearly two years – “and the matter of significant national importance that it centered upon.”
Prosecutors also noted that they did not come to their decision lightly, saying that it came “after days of tense debate” within the US attorney’s office and that “a recommendation on the higher end prevailed.”
The new memo maintained that the original sentencing calculation of seven to nine years for Stone was correct. But at the same time, it said that the recommendation “could be considered excessive and unwarranted” and that the DOJ woulddefer=”defer”to the court about how long Stone should be sentenced.
It is extraordinarily unusual for prosecutors to withdraw from a case one by one as they did Tuesday, and the development raises immediate questions about whether the attorneys withdrew in protest of the DOJ’s senior leadership to overrule them, particularly in light of the president’s comments about the case.
“I don’t see how a prosecutor *could* explain this,” Renato Mariotti, a longtime former federal prosecutor, wrote on Twitter. “Yesterday they told the judge that a sentence of seven to nine years was appropriate for Roger Stone. Today they’re supposed to argue that they were wrong yesterday? Any judge would ask: What changed between yesterday and today?”
Susan Hennessey, the former general counsel at the National Security Agency, wrote on Twitter that while US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing Stone’s case, was unlikely to go along with the DOJ’s shift, the move “would still give Trump cover to pardon Stone outright which presumably is the long game here.”
The special counsel Robert Mueller’s office charged Stone in January 2019 with one count of obstruction of justice, five counts of making false statements to the FBI and congressional investigators, and one count of witness tampering, in connection with his contacts with people linked to the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks.
The charging document against Stone contained a slew of details about his false statements to Congress about his interactions involving WikiLeaks; his extensive communications with the far-right commentator Jerome Corsi and the radio host Randy Credico about WikiLeaks’ document dumps in summer 2016; and his prolonged efforts to prevent Credico from testifying to Congress or turning over information to the FBI.