by Jordain Carney · February 12, 2020
Some Republican senators said on Wednesday that President Trump shouldn’t weigh in on pending sentences after he publicly criticized an initial recommendation from the Justice Department in the case of Roger Stone.
The comments come as senators are facing an onslaught of questions over DOJ’s decision to lower its sentencing recommendation for Stone, a Trump associate, overriding front-line prosecutors.
“I don’t like this chain of events where you have a … proceeding, a sentencing, a recommended sentence, the president weighs in and all of the sudden Justice comes back says change the deal. I think most people would look at that and say ‘hmm, that just doesn’t look right.’ And I think they’re right,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters.
Asked about Trump’s public comments on the initial Stone sentence, Murkowski added: “I don’t think the president should be determining what the sentences are, but he’s not. He commented on it.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters that Trump “should not have gotten involved.”
“I think the president would be better served by never commenting on a pending federal investigations. I said that back when the Mueller investigation was going on, and it’s certainly the case when you’re at a sentencing stage,” Collins said, asked about Democrats claims of political interference.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he didn’t think Trump was trying to “bully” the judge who will ultimately decide Stone’s sentence. But, he added, that he didn’t think should be publicly weighing on pending sentences either.
“I don’t think he should be commenting on cases in the system, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Graham told reporters.
The Justice Department on Tuesday asked a federal court to sentence Stone to “far less” than seven to nine years in prison — the time frame federal prosecutors had recommended on Monday.
“While it remains the position of the United States that a sentence of incarceration is warranted here, the government respectfully submits that the range of 87 to 108 months presented as the applicable advisory Guidelines range would not be appropriate or serve the interests of justice in this case,” the department said.
The decision from DOJ leadership came after Trump had publicly criticized the initial seven- to nine-year sentencing recommendation, calling it “very unfair.”
“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!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
Trump said on Tuesday that he did not instruct the Justice Department to change its sentence but that he could have and that he thought the initial recommendation was “ridiculous.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has emerged as a chief critic within the Senate GOP caucus, stopped short of directly criticizing Trump on Wednesday.
“The judge will make a decision and I have confidence in the independence of the third branch,” Romney told reporters. “[But] I can’t begin to spend time discussing the president’s tweets. That would be a full time job.”
Asked if he didn’t think there was political interference, Romney added: “I certainly hope not, and I think the appearance is unfortunate.”
The Hill · by Jordain Carney · February 12, 2020