Trump praises Barr for taking over Stone case as Democrats threaten probe


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised Attorney General William Barr for “taking charge” of the case against long-time Trump adviser and friend Roger Stone, as Democrats threatened to investigate the Justice Department’s actions.

The Justice Department on Tuesday reversed course and sought a lighter sentence for Stone after prosecutors a day earlier recommended that the veteran Republican operative face sentencing within federal guidelines of seven to nine years.

The highly unusual move, which came hours after Trump complained about the recommended sentence on Twitter, prompted all four U.S. prosecutors on the case to quit and Democrats to accuse Barr of political interference.

Trump later told reporters that he did not discuss Stone’s case with the department but called the sentencing recommendation “ridiculous.” A senior Justice Department official called the timing of Trump’s initial tweet and the department’s actions a coincidence. [nL1N2AB1AI]

Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20 after being found guilty in November on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering stemming from the government investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In a new court filing, the department on Tuesday said the initial recommendation on Monday was “excessive and unwarranted” but did not make a formal sentencing recommendation.

“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 early Wednesday.

House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler has said he would probe the reversal, while Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has asked the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to investigate.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Nick Macfie