Attorney General William Barr said in an interview Thursday that he was “happy” that Roger Stone was convicted at trial last year, but that he believes that prosecutors’ initial suggestion that the longtime Trump confidante spend up to nine years in prison was too steep.
“It was very excessive,” Barr said of Stone’s sentence recommendation in an interview with ABC News.
“And I didn’t want my department to be behind that. Because I believe that each individual as unsavory as they may be, and I’m not a fan of Roger Stone, but he’s entitled to the particularized and careful application of the law to his case.”
Barr’s interview was his first since the Justice Department revised its sentencing recommendation for Stone, a longtime GOP operative convicted with obstructing the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation and witness tampering.
The biggest headline from the interview was Barr saying that he was perturbed with President Trump’s tweets about the Stone case. Trump tweeted just hours after prosecutors’ submitted their prison recommendation that it was “disgraceful” and a “miscarriage of justice.” (RELATED: Barr Blasts Trump Over Tweets About Roger Stone Case)
Hours later, a Justice Department official signaled that Barr and other officials were “shocked” by the hefty prison recommendation and planned to revise it in a new court filing. Before that filing was submitted, four prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case.
Barr lamented that Trump’s tweets created the appearance that any change made to the sentencing proposal would be seen as him kowtowing to the president.
And that’s what happened.
Democrats and media pundits sounded off on Barr, accusing him of acting as Trump’s personal lawyer rather than attorney general of the United States.
Barr described what he said was a “miscommunication” that led the core team of Stone prosecutors to submit the heavy prison recommendation.
He said that Timothy Shea, the newly appointed U.S. attorney, “raised some questions” about Stone’s sentence because he was “concerned” that federal guidelines indicated that the sentence would be between seven and nine years.
Barr said that he, Shea, and other officials wanted to leave it up to the judge in Stone’s case to decide an appropriate jail term, rather than go by federal guidelines.
“I’ve heard very few people actually suggest that 7 to 9 year sentence would be appropriate in this case. Very few people,” Barr said.
“I think it was established, he was convicted of obstructing Congress and witness tampering. And I thought that was a righteous prosecution. And I was happy that he was convicted.”
Barr denied that Trump pressured him to relax the recommendation, saying that he did not need the president to tell him that nine years was too hefty a jail sentence for Stone’s crimes.
“And as I say, I could not support the 7 to the 9 year — and I didn’t need anybody to tell me that 7 to 9 years was an excessive sentence. You think I need the president’s tweet to tell me that 7 to 9 years is excessive? That was the reaction of you know the senior staff here that, you know, there’s not really a comparable situation where that kind of sentence has been used.”
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