WASHINGTON (AP) — President Trump is misrepresenting the Justice Department's handling of the legal case of his confidant, Roger Stone.
He's suggesting rampant bias in the department's initial recommendation to a federal court that Stone be sentenced between seven and nine years in prison, claiming that all four prosecutors are former members of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia team.
That's not true.
Trump also says the proposed sentence was put forth in secret. That’s not true either.
Trump’s lies came in an extraordinary week in which Justice Department leaders overruled Stone's prosecutors after a tweeted complaint by Trump and reduced the amount of recommended prison time.
Attorney General William Barr publicly scolded Trump, saying his tweets were making it "impossible" for him to do his job.
Meanwhile, Trump spread a variety of lies at a New Hampshire rally, including about the border wall and voter fraud, and still more in other venues. The release of his proposed budget prompted Democrats to wrongly accuse him of undermining Medicare.
Here’s a look at the past week's political rhetoric and reality:
Department of Justice
TRUMP: "Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn't ever even have started?" — tweet Tuesday
THE FACTS: He's incorrect on several fronts.
Four lawyers who prosecuted Stone did quit the case after Justice Department leaders took the extraordinary step of reducing their recommended sentence. Only two, however, were members of Mueller's team.
There was nothing secret about the proposed sentence for Stone that was purportedly "exposed," as Trump asserts. Each of the four attorneys had signed onto a public court filing last week that recommended seven to nine years in prison for Stone. The Trump adviser was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.
Nor was the Russia probe started illegally. Multiple court rulings upheld Mueller's appointment as special counsel.
While a Justice Department inspector general's report in December found "serious performance failures" in the FBI's Russia investigation, it said the FBI was justified in opening the probe. The report did not find evidence that the bureau had acted with political bias, a conclusion at odds with Trump's frequent insistence that he's the victim of a "scam" and witch hunt.
TRUMP, citing a quote by Barr: "'The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.' A.G. Barr This doesn't mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!" — tweet Friday.
THE FACTS: As president, Trump technically has the right to compel the Justice Department, an executive branch agency, to open investigations. But historically, when it comes to decisions on criminal investigations and prosecutions, the Justice Department has functioned independently, unmoved and unbound by political sway.
Barr made that sentiment clear last week, telling ABC News that Trump's tweets undermine the department's perception as independent.