All four of the prosecution team from the Roger Stone case have filed notices to withdraw after Justice Department officials interfered in sentencing recommendations.
Aaron Zelinsky, previously a prosecutor in the Robert Mueller‘s office, Jonathan Kravis, Adam Jed, and Michael Marando, Assistant United States Attorneys, filed separate court documents this afternoon.
The move comes on the same day that the Justice Department said that it would back off from the prosecution team’s recommendation to sentence Mr Stone for up to nine years in prison, in favour of a lower sentencing.
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That announcement came after President Trump tweeted his objection to such a long potential sentence. This has raised the possibility of political interference in the work of the department.
Mr Trump denied instructing top Justice Department officials to recommend a softer sentence for Mr Stone – but he defied his detractors by saying he has the right to do so.
The resignations are likely directly linked to the department’s decision to overrule the initial sentencing recommendation as they came immediately after the new recommendation was submitted.
There is no specifically lower sentence mentioned in the revised recommendation, but it does say that the earlier version “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter.”
It goes on to say that the defendant “committed serious offences and deserves a sentence of incarceration,” and then backtracks on the initial recommendation by saying that based “on the facts known to the government, a sentence of between 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment, however, could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances. Ultimately, the government defers to the Court as to what specific sentence is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case.”
The court documents of withdrawal submitted by the four prosecutors are brief and do not give any specific reasons for leaving the case. Mr Zelinksy’s does cite a local court rule that requires the US government to designate a Justice Department attorney who will appear on behalf of the government.
A footnote on the notice states that Mr Zelinksy has resigned from the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia “effective immediately.”
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He remains an assistant US attorney in Maryland and a career Justice Department prosecutor.
Mr Kravis’ notice of withdrawal says: “Undersigned counsel hereby advises the Court that he has resigned as an Assistant United States Attorney and therefore no longer represents the government in this matter.”
Mr Jed and Mr Marando similarly say in their statements that they withdraw as “counsel for the government in the above-captioned matter.”
Senior Democrats have been quick to comment on the potential of presidential interference in the work of the Justice Department. Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for an Inspector General probe into the Justice Department overruling prosecutors to give Mr Stone a lighter sentence.
Representative Adam Schiff says that “the Trump Administration poses the gravest threat to the rule of law in America in a generation.”