Reprinted with permission from Alternet
President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr have been receiving widespread criticism following the U.S. Department of Justice’s abrupt reversal on sentencing guidelines in Roger Stone’s case. On Monday, the DOJ was recommending a sentence of seven to nine years in federal prison for Stone — who, in November, was convicted on seven federal counts (including witness tampering and lying to Congress). But after Trump angrily voiced his objections and called the guidelines “horrible and very unfair,” the DOJ walked back its earlier recommendation on Tuesday. Some Republican senators have acknowledged that it was inappropriate for Trump to intervene in Stone’s case, but they are also rejecting Democratic demands for an investigation.
On Wednesday, Trump posted a tweet that didn’t mention his long-time ally Stone by name but appeared to be applauding Barr for intervening in Stone’s case. The president posted, “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. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (whose ardent defenses of the president are well-documented), did offer some mild criticism this week — telling reporters, “I don’t think he should be commenting on cases in the system. I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
Another Republican, Senate Majority Whip John Thune, commented, “You want to let the legal process move forward in the way it’s intended to. The president weighs in on a lot of things. He tweeted about it, I guess; so, people perceived that as him having weighed in. But in the end, the Justice Department and lawyers over there need to do what they need to do to make sure justice is being served.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who finds the DOJ’s sentencing guidelines reversal in Stone’s case to be highly suspicious, is calling for the DOJ Inspector General’s Office to launch an investigation. And the Senate’s most high-ranking Democrat is also asking Graham for an emergency hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Senate Republicans aren’t exactly lining up in support of Schumer’s suggestions.
Trump critics, both Democrats and Never Trump conservatives, have been citing Trump’s interference in Stone’s case as a prime example of why he needed to be removed from office. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, one of Trump’s most vehement critics on the right, slammed Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and other Senate Republicans on Wednesday morning — saying they were seriously delusional if they honestly believed Trump would clean up his act when they acquitted him on two articles of impeachment.
Collins has been asked if, in light of the Stone/DOJ controversy, she regrets her “not guilty” votes on February 5 — and the Maine senator told reporters, “My vote to acquit the president was not based on predicting his future behavior.”
CNN’s Manu Raju has posted a Twitter thread on Collins, Stone and the DOJ. Raju noted that during the week in which Trump was acquitted by the Senate, Collins said she thought he would be “much more cautious” and had learned a “pretty big lesson” (Collins later admitted her comments were “aspirational“). And when Raju asked Collins if she thought Trump had learned his lesson, she didn’t express any regrets over her impeachment vote — maintaining that she still doesn’t believe Trump’s actions with Ukraine rose to the level of being impeachable.
Nonetheless, Raju notes, Collins has said of Trump’s interference in Stone’s case, “The president should not have gotten involved.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is another Republican who voted “not guilty” on both articles of impeachment and is now being mildly critical of Trump’s interference in Stone’s case. When asked about the DOJ’s sentencing reversal, Murkowski responded, “I think it’s just bad.”