WASHINGTON (CN) — The four federal prosecutors who secured the obstruction conviction of longtime Trump ally Roger Stone withdrew from the case Tuesday – with two resigning from the Justice Department – after it dialed back their sentencing recommendation which President Donald Trump had called a “miscarriage of justice.”
Aaron Zelinsky, once an attorney on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team, notified the court he had withdrawn from the Stone case and stepped down, effective immediately, from his special assignment as a prosecutor in the District of Columbia.
Less than an hour later, fellow prosecutor Jonathan Kravis told the court he was resigning as assistant U.S. attorney, followed by notifications to the court that prosecutors Adam Jed and Michael Marando would also withdraw from the Stone case but remain on with the Justice Department in Washington.
The resignations came a day after Kravis and Jed signed off on a sentencing memo requesting seven to nine years in prison for Stone, who was convicted by a federal jury in November of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.
As the federal prosecutors dropped off one by one, the Justice Department filed an amended sentencing memo signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb Jr., who serves as acting chief of the U.S. Assistant Attorney’s Office criminal division and has now joined the case.
The new memo says the sentencing recommendation filed late Monday “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter.”
The memo asks only that Stone, 67, be sentenced to “incarceration far less than 87 to 108 months,” pointing to the defendant’s age and health as reasons for a lighter sentence.
While not proposing a specific incarceration range, instead deferring to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson – who will sentence Stone on Feb. 20 – the Justice Department suggests that appropriately applied federal sentencing guidelines would land Stone behind bars for three to four years.
Tuesday’s events came after Trump took to Twitter in the early morning hours to defend Stone and denounce the initially proposed prison time.
“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, with “the other side” presumably referring to Democrats.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Tuesday that department leadership had planned to amend the recommendation for Stone’s sentencing prior to the president’s tweet. The initial department recommendation was filed shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, while Trump’s tweet went out at just before 2 a.m. Tuesday.
Later from the Oval Office, Trump called the prosecution in Stone’s case ridiculous but said he did not intervene.
“No, I didn’t speak to Justice. I’d be able to do it if I wanted. I have the absolute right to do it. I stay out of things to a degree that people wouldn’t believe but I didn’t speak to them,” Trump said.
The career federal prosecutors had written in the first Justice Department memo that the recommended seven- to nine-year prison sentence was appropriate given the seriousness of Stone’s criminal conduct during his time as an informal adviser to Trump on the 2016 campaign trail.